Revisiting the makeover of the 164-year-old Lone Rock Mill

John Oncken
The Halverson millhouse and the old barn which Ross rebuilt as a workshop.

I recently got to thinking about the old mill north of Lone Rock that had been transformed from a long-vacant, falling down shell of a building into a home. Something I saw then as totally impossible. 

That was in 2010 and I watched the transformation over five years until Ross and Theresa Halverson moved into the then almost completed “millhouse.” It seemed time for a visit.

At the time I wondered how come the building was still standing? Much of the siding was gone, the roof was rotting and and full of holes and it hasn't seen paint for maybe a 100 years — if ever.

The sudden appearance of the building was certainly a bit of a mystery to local folks who had previously only seen a partial farmstead — house, repair shop and barn; all apparently vacant — at that Mill Road location for decades.

Ross and Theresa on the lawn outside their five year project house.

The man behind the mystery was Ross Halverson who, with his wife Theresa, lived a dozen miles away on a farm near Bear Valley.

Needless to say, the Halversons have a deep interest in local history and seem to love challenges like remodeling old buildings. Ross has an eye for old buildings and likes to see them return to use rather than falling into decay or being demolished.

Ross purchased the old barn and a few acres on Mill Road in 1999 as a potential residence, along with a vacant house from the Civil War era, a former greenhouse and a concrete block building with a fallen-in roof that had at one time been a blacksmith shop.

The once dilapidated blacksmith shop now restored.

In about 2001, Halverson said he became aware of an old and long vacant flour mill about a mile away.

"I fell in love with the old building and wanted to buy it, " Halverson says. "But the owner, Homer Fieldhouse wouldn't sell. In December 2009 , Brady Sprecher who now owned the ancient mill contacted Halverson about some of the old machinery that remained in the old structure and that he was going to demolish the building."

Bought the mill

One thing led to another and Halverson became the owner of the 1858-built Lone Rock Mill with the provision that he move it off the property.  Halverson contracted Russell Chllds of Heritage Builders at Lone Rock to move the three-story structure across the fields while they were still frozen to Halverson's property just over a mile away.

Moving the old mill over a mile to the Halverson site.

Halverson added some reinforcing timbers to the building, had a foundation built and at 4:30 a.m. on March 8, 2010, the mill began its journey across the fields to its new home.

"By 9 a.m. it was sitting solidly on its new concrete base, with infra red heating in the floor," Halverson says. "Surprisingly, the 150-year-old structure with our extra bracing is solid as a rock. "

Vague history

The history of the Lone Rock Mill is rather vague at the moment although local historian Sandy Stiemke is working to figure out the past 153 years the mill has existed. For sure it was built in 1858, Stiemke says, and ended business in 1943. It was built by two brothers who had previously built a mill on the historic Sawle farm near Arena now owned by Madison's Joy and Bobby Hinds. (This structure burned decades ago.)

The old mill when still in operation.

It was a flour mill using wheat and rye as raw materials and later in life may have been converted to process sorghum.

"The mill ran around the clock during World War I," Stiemke says. "That was probably the peak of activity for the business.”

I’ll continue the story next week.

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