Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cousin Gus & The Dells Mill ....

I have very fond memories of Cousin Gus and the Dells Mill in Augusta, Wisconsin.  Recently, on Sunday, August 24, 2014, our Cousin Gustave Franklin Clark passed away.

It's really hard to talk about Gus without talking about the Mill because it wasn't like he just worked there, they were one heartbeat.  And even though the Mill still stands as a tribute to the man who devoted his life to keeping it alive, it's hard to think of it without him there telling his stories and singing with his banjo ....

The five-story Dells Mill was built in 1864 as a grist mill. Wisconsin had been a state for just 16 years and Augusta was a town for eight years. The area was barely settled and Augusta was just a pioneer community; there were no automobiles and almost no railroads. 

Another video of Gus singing the same song from the first video.

Here is a video done and put on YouTube of the top of the Mill Wheel - how it fills with water and starts to spin.

He was amazing at what he did.

We would go to the Clark Family Reunion ...  Gus was the brother of my Great Grandmother Eva.  And it was always out in Augusta somewhere.  I remember we'd always stop at the Mill in the Summers, we'd at least take one trip out there.  I loved that place, and it's probably where I fell in love with the sound of running water ... of waterfalls, waterwheels and just the general sound of rain falling.  It was always a calming sound to me.

Anyway, I remember, there is a gift shop across the driveway from the mill.  And it's mostly antiques, if I remember right, but they had the soda in a bottle that you needed a bottle opener to open, and this was always a treat for me.  So we'd go there and I'd get a soda in a glass bottle and it was always the coolest thrill for me.  Gus would take us around the mill and let me make ropes with the little hand cranking machine that would twist it up all tight.  He would tell stories and I had such an active mind that I wouldn't always hear them, now I wish I had.

What I really wish is that someone had videoed the tour as Gus gave it and shared it.  What a treasure that would be.  Especially since we no longer live in Wisconsin and I'd love to be able to show my kids.

In 2006 the Wisconsin Historical Society erected a plaque outside of the mill.

The Dells Mill

Water-Powered grist mills ground the wheat that dominated Wisconsin's Civil War-era economy. Built in 1864, the mill was one of the server serving area farmers. After wheat production moved westward, owners adapted the building to mill flour and grind feed.

A trip to the Dells mill could be an all-day family affair. Farmers often fished the millpond to pass the time. The millpond also provided a source for the winter ice harvest. A store, hotel, and school grew up nearby to serve the growing community

Creating a mill pond required the building of a dam to flood upstream land. The Wisconsin Territorial Legislature enacted legislation enabling dam construction in 1840.

Built along the dells of Bridge Creek, the base of the mill was carved into the sandstone bedrock. massive hand-hewn timbers secured with wooden pegs make up the structure of the Mill. Water turbines powered the milling process. A concrete dam replaced the original log structure in 1919. Dells Mill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, operated continuously until 1968

I am going to share more of the Dells Mill History in another blog, but right now.  I want to share a few things about Gus.

His Obituary....  found HERE.

Gustave "Gus" F. Clark, 71, of rural Augusta, passed away at his home on Sunday, August 24, 2014.
He was named Gustave Franklin Clark, named after his father and grandfather before him. His soul came to earth on Good Friday, April 23, 1943. The first breath for this little body came into his lungs at "the old" Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, WI. A few days later he was carried to a little place overlooking the Dells Mill Pond north of Augusta, WI. And it has been his lifelong home. It was a part of him; the old mill, the land, the pond, the sandstone cliffs, the air, the dam, the country school, the generation of people, the community, children, teenagers, young adults, middle aged to old. He was it and it was him. Totally complete.
Living from cradle to grave in one space is a special benediction which he cherished greatly. Perhaps it was his piece of heaven on earth.
Three Clark brothers married three Svoma sisters in a triple wedding on Sept. 6, 1937, in Cadott, WI. Malin and Mildred, Paul and Elizabeth "Riddy," Franklin and Bessie (his parents). They were forever best friends and born to the three couples were 8 children. They could not be called sisters and brothers to each other, so they gave their relationship the special label of "double cousins." Gus was blessed with an older sister Nancy, and growing up the two of them usually or almost always celebrated everything together with the double cousins. He was raised in this tribe. The children came to believe that they had three sets of parents. While their other relatives were important sources of love and support, the cousins came to rely upon one another like brothers and sisters. Gus' family and Paul Clark's family lived together during World War II. After the war a second house was built and they lived next door to each other. Their families and the double cousins from Cadott got together almost every weekend and usually at the Dells. Their activities included swimming, fishing, ball games, pretend games, skating, sledding, skiing, and tobogganing, along with cards, monopoly, puzzles, and occasionally movies. Living on the Dells Mill Pond (north of Augusta) was the focal point for much of their outdoor togetherness. Indoors, they created impromptu musical performances and recitations for their audience made up of parents and visiting relatives. These events remained vivid recollections until this day. The images and associated experiences of Gus' childhood remained the wellspring and inspiration the lingered with him all his life.
Gus attended a one room country school called "The Dells School" for eight grades. Much later he bought that schoolhouse and it is now part of his historical landmark and museum creation endeavor. After Gus graduated from Augusta High School in 1961 he took over the milling operations.
The operation of the Dells Mill by the Clark family spanned four generations. In 1894, Gus' grandfather J. Franklin Clark, along with his brother Robert and their father John Clark purchased the Dells Mill. Nine months later the property was owned by Gus' grandfather Franklin and Gus' great-grandfather, Gustave Gessner. In 1939, the mill was passed down to Gus' father, Franklin and Uncle Paul Clark. The two brothers operated the mill until Paul passed away in 1963, and Franklin passed away in 1964, from that point on Gus managed the property and helped in taking care of his mother Bessie and Aunt Riddy.
As Gus started to focus on a way for the mill to survive, he was encouraged to follow his dream. Being interested in history and after a great deal of soul searching and prayer he was led to change the game to historic preservation. The Dells Mill Historical Landmark and museum opened its door to the public for the first time on May 1, 1968, with the season ending November 1. Gus was currently guiding tours and educating the visitors, as he had done for the past 46 years, many of those early years with the help of his mother, Bessie. On Dec. 24, 1974, the Dells Mill was entered on the National Register of Historic Places by the Secretary of the Interior. The mill also became Wisconsin Registered Landmark # 117 at that time.
Gus was baptized at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Bears Grass just west of Augusta. He had been an active member of Grace Lutheran Church in Augusta all of his adult life. He had served on the Board of Elders for many years and sang with the church choir, called the "Men of Grace." Gus was currently a member of the volunteer community choir, sponsored through the Augusta Senior Center. Gus enjoyed performing with this choir throughout the area at various venues.
Gus will be dearly missed by his sister, Nancy, and her husband, William Scobie, of Chippewa Falls; 2 nephews, Timothy Scobie and Michelle of Chippewa Falls, Patrick Scobie and Priscilla of Denver, CO; 3 great-nieces and 2 great-nephews, Alexis, Lauren, Ian, Collin and Cameron Scobie; aunts and uncles, Eleanor and Cyril Amerling of Albany, Oregon, Lois and George Ramharter of Kissimmee, FL; double cousins, John (Jan) Clark of Augusta, Karen Rivers of Siren, Mary Olsen of Merrill, Sally Pfluger of Bella Vista, AR, Toni (Jim) Christenson of Madison, Tom (Mary Ann) Clark of Edina, MN; and many other cousins.
Gus was preceded in death by his father, Franklin on July 2, 1964, and his mother, Bessie, on March 13, 1994.
Memorial service will be held Thursday, August 28, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. at Grace Lutheran Church in Augusta, with Pastor Jonathan Wessel officiating. A visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Anderson Funeral Home in Augusta, and one hour prior to services on Thursday at the church. The family would like to suggest that memorials be given to Grace Lutheran Church in Augusta, or to the Grace Lutheran Church Augusta Community Choir.

Friends and family are invited to a gathering at the Dells Mill on Thursday to begin around 5:00 p.m. Supper will be served. We will celebrate Gus' life here in Augusta and we will celebrate the mill.

This is an article about Gus and the Mill (found HERE)

Life Story: Man was driving force behind historic Dells Mill

Posted: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 11:31 pm

It’s rare when a structure and a person become so inseparable that it’s difficult for people to think of one and not the other.

But that’s the way it was — for at least the last half-century — with Gustave Clark and the historic Dells Mill near Augusta.

Clark, the mill’s owner and tour guide, has managed the scenic property on the banks of the Dells Mill Pond since 1964 and has been giving tours of the facility since 1968. Four generations of his family have lived at the mill since 1894.
Clark’s sister, Nancy Scobie of Chippewa Falls, summed the relationship up best: “Gus was the mill, and the mill was Gus.”
But the mill lost its main cog Sunday, when Clark died in his sleep from heart-related ailments. He was 71.
His passing leaves the future of the 150-year-old mill in doubt, although Scobie vowed Wednesday to do everything in her power to preserve the mill’s history by keeping it open and accessible to visitors.
“I know people are anxious about the future of the mill, and the family is anxious about the future of the mill too,” Scobie said.
While she hasn’t yet formulated a long-term plan, Scobie said she knows one thing for sure: “I am dedicated to keeping my brother’s dream alive.”
In the short term, Scobie said, the family plans to shorten the mill’s public hours — Clark, who his sister called a “one-man show,” was on site to greet visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week from May through October. The mill will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, plus Labor Day, until the end of October.
“The mill is such a big part of the community, and I feel it’s important to sustain its presence,” Scobie said
Scobie plans to solicit suggestions from local residents and officials this fall about how best to keep the mill operating down the road.
“We’re dealing with a historical site,” Scobie said. “How do you work to make it not just one person’s responsibility or even one family’s responsibility? Those are the big questions right now.”
Gloria Cowan, a retired teacher from Chippewa Falls, said she is hopeful the Clark family can find a way to keep the mill open. She fondly recalled leading groups of second-graders from the former Korger-Chestnut Elementary School on field trips to the mill for at least two decades beginning in the mid-1970s.
“The kids loved it, and they couldn’t wait to get to second grade so they could go down to the mill,” Cowan said.
Dressed in his Civil War uniform, Clark would entertain the kids by demonstrating how to fire an antique muzzleloader rifle, singing Civil War songs while playing his homemade “git-fiddle” (a cross between a guitar and a banjo) and telling stories about the past.
“It was a fun way for the kids to learn about history,” Cowan said.
Dells Mill began in 1864 grinding the wheat that dominated Wisconsin’s Civil War-era economy and later was adapted to mill flour and grind feed. The base of the mill — containing 3,000 feet of belting and 175 pulleys, all powered by water — was carved into the sandstone bedrock.
Long considered one of the most photographed spots in Wisconsin, the mill operated continuously until 1968 and continued to clean grain until eight years ago. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes a museum that features photos, old machinery and antiques.
Photos of the classic red structure on the banks of the pristine mill pond have graced countless calendars and book covers, and Reader’s Digest even once ranked it as one of the top places to visit in Wisconsin.
Clark’s attachment to the mill and enthusiasm for its role in history was evident in comments he made several years ago to the Leader-Telegram in which he explained the mill was the basis for the local economy and that its original builders were the founders of Eau Claire.
“It’s a trip back in time,” Clark said at the time. “Our traffic comes from all over the country. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience in this state.”
The mill, Scobie said, was the place where Clark found his fulfillment and his purpose.
“It was the love of his life,” she said.
The above tribute to him was also one in the Minneapolis Tribune,,, found HERE ....

Gus wrote a book, which includes the history of the property and Dell's Mill, and a healthcare experience of his.  If you would like to print off the order form - you can do so by clicking this LINK.

This great article was in VolumeOne which can be found HERE ........ 

150 Years of History

Gustave Clark writes about iconic Wisconsin mill

Civil War enthusiast Gustave F. Clark has run Dells Mill since 1964,
conducting tours for about 44 years.
Gustave F. Clark was born in Eau Claire in 1943 on Good Friday.  Dells Mill Pond in Augusta has been his lifelong home.  He describes growing up on Dells Mill Pond as excellent, saying, “There’s nowhere else in the world I would fit in but right here.”  He graduated from Augusta High School and proceeded to take over the milling operations afterward.  
With encouragement from his sister, Gustave wrote a book that was recently published, The Civil War to America’s Health Care War: 150 years, detailing the history of Dells Mill Pond as well as his difficulties as an uninsured patient.  
Dells Mill has gone through a whirlwind of ownership beginning when two men, Stephen Marston and William T. Weber, bought the site around 1864.  Later, Gustave Clark’s grandfather bought the property.  Sadly, it was foreclosed in 1925, but not long after, the bank itself went bankrupt, and the Clark family was able to buy the property back.  When Gustave’s father died in 1964, Gustave took on the responsibilities of the mill at the age of 21.  Gustave says that because of the state of the economy and the politics of the time, the only reason he can see that the mill survived is that it was “an act of God that is still here.”
Rather than attempt to continue to have the mill be a functional business, Gustave decided to go the route of historical preservation.  Dells Mill Historical Landmark and Museum opened its doors to the public on May 1, 1968.  Gustave wanted to connect the mill with the Civil War time period and began to collect many artifacts.

The mill began to be well known by the public and even seen in publications.  It is said that Dells Mill is the most photographed property in Wisconsin.  According to Gustave, the old mill stands as a monument to industry, agriculture, energy, water power, privatization, work ethic, and the pioneers that tamed the wilderness to farm the land.
Gustave now lives alone at the mill and has been conducting tours mostly on his own for 44 years.  Dells Mill is open for tours every day between May 1 and October 31, from 10 am to 5 pm.  Two different tours are available for guests: a one hour tour guided by Gustave or a slightly less expensive, non-guided tour that can be as long or short as desired.  As an extra benefit, Gustave sings two country songs on his handmade banjo for all the guests that come through his doors.  
In the second part of Gustave’s book, he details his long fight with the health care industry.   Gustave believes that many comparisons can be made between our present political arena and the political issues of one hundred fifty years ago.  He thinks that the industry needs reform, stating that “going to the doctor should be no more stress than going to get groceries.”  For some procedures that he needed on his heart, he was charged about $31,000, and he had no insurance at the time.  This spurred him to begin writing letters to people in legislation because he thought the bill amount was unfair.  
During a five-year period, he sent a total of twenty letters in all to the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office, but was told they could not help him.  During the last seven years from now, he has fired off over one hundred letters, even sending one to President Obama.  
If you’ve got a hankering for history, stop by Dell’s Mill next summer.  You won’t regret it. And if you want to know more details, check out Gustave’s book. 

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