Grist Mill Has a New Home
ASHS Column for 02 02 06
Jerry Simmons

   What do the following have in common:
Ethel Gumm, Diane Belmont, and
Eileen Twain? These are all fake names
to make the people seem something they
were/are not. They are better known as
Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, and Shania
Twain, respectively. But what’s in a name? 
   Read on: 

   A couple of weeks ago, our president, Jerry Fischer, told me he’d been in touch with a gentleman who is to be our guest speaker for February, Mr. Don Newton. Mr. Newton, now in his 90s, once lived on Bradley Street in Century during the late 1920s and the 1930s. Now if I were to ask people in the area where Bradley Street is, how many of you would be able to tell me?

Street Names
   Bradley Street happens to be one block east of US 29, intersecting with Hecker Road. It was named for the Bradley family who once lived where the Leon Jones home is. Interestingly enough, there are several streets in Century named for residents and/or locally prominent people. I thought we’d try to name as many as we could: Alger Road, Ashford Alley, (Waldo) Blackmon Street, Bonwell (Barnwell) Street, Bradley Street, Briggs Lane, Carter Lane, Clancy Way, George Avenue, Gilford Avenue, Hadley Lane, Hecker Road, Hobbs Street, Hudson Hill Road, Kelly Field Road, Lewis Lane, Mayo Lane, Mayo Street, McCall Road, Mincy Court, Pleasant Hill Road, Robert Road, Rudolph Street, Sellers Road, Taylor Street, Upton Road, and Williams Street.
Jefferson Avenue and Circle are purposely left out of this list because they were probably named after Jefferson Davis, who was neither locally prominent nor a resident of the town.
   It caught my attention that only four of the 27 street names we came up with significantly reflect the history of Century. These streets were named after people who had a major role in the beginning of the town. Others were named much, much later, such as Clancy and Briggs. These two men were key players in the transition period between resident managers and distant corporate managers of the prominent industry in the town.
   You see, what is in a name sometimes is what it makes us think of. For example, both Mayo Street and Mayo Lane are enduring acknowledgments to the Mayo family, from whom the original land for the Alger-Sullivan sawmill was purchased. Of course, Alger Road is meaningful because it was named for R.A. Alger.

About Hecker, the road
   Hecker was an original major stockholder of The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company. To have a main thoroughfare given that name, a name that’s lasted over one hundred years, adds an association to the history of Century no other name or street in town can match. I lament the day when someone decided to rename a portion of Hecker Road "Highway 4-A."
   Change is expected, but some things should be left alone. I personally think it’s neat that a small number of streets are named after those people who played a role in the forming of our little town - as well as other streets named after locals who impacted the lives of their neighbors.

About Hecker, the man
   ("Colonel") Frank J. Hecker was quite wealthy but saw no reason to make a permanent home here, even to look after his holdings in the newly formed company. Instead he sent his playboy son, Frank C. Hecker, to resolve two problems. One was to have someone to watch out for the family interests; someone that would be completely answerable to the elder Hecker and him alone. The second reason was to get his son out of the high society in Detroit. Apparently, Frank C. caused Frank J. not a little consternation with his flippant and carefree way. So Frank J. directed Frank C. to go to the piney woods of northwest Florida.
   Now that proved to be a problem for Frank C., because his wife was not going to move to such a godforsaken place in the woods. So, Frank C. had to build her a home befitting her social situation – a mansion, if you will. Hence the beautiful home, Tannenheim, was built at the behest of Madame Hecker and ergo, the birth of the Hecker Road, the route from the Hecker place to the sawmill and Century proper.
   That’s one more item from the annals of the Alger-Sullivan Historical Society.
   Now aren’t you glad you read this?
The Grist Mill
   Gary and Chester Johnson approached me some time back about whether we wanted an old grist mill, presently sitting under a pile of rubble. The rubble once was a barn but hurricanes Ivan and Dennis made the barn into rubble! Neal Collier said he got the job of getting the mill for the Society partly because he opened his "big mouth with a few suggestions" (his words) and partly because he has a good bit of experience with these things!
   Neal had heard about the mill some years ago from his father-in-law, and wondered what happened to it. Having been a part of our history makes it worth the effort to save it, he says.
   Most of what follows is from an email sent by Neal: "We need to know all about it.  We need to know things like … who ran it, where and when did they get it, how long did they use it, mill name, what products were ground, etc."
Are there "any old meal sacks or stamps, ledgers or sales material?  Are there any photos? What was the power source?  Were there accessories like a fanning mill (seed cleaner) or sheller?" Is the dust collector/sacker still available?" 
   You, dear reader, may be able to answer some of these questions – your recollections of the mill, once operating near where Piggly Wiggly is today, will be quite useful.
   Collier continued, "What I have in mind will preserve the mill from vandals and weather AND allow a nice working display.  We plan to put a small shed in the garden of our Park in Century.  One wall will open up and display photos, literature and other things to interpret what the mill did.  It will be arranged so that the mill can actually be used.  We could back up an old tractor or I can belt up a large 1-cylinder engine I saved from an old mill in Butler County and actually grind corn.  This would be an interesting display and a possible fundraiser for us."
   We are excited about the restoration of a gristmill once actually used here. The funds for restoring it and providing shelter, however, need to come from you. There are lots of financial needs recently and the bank balance is getting quite low.
We recently learned the roof on the Leach House Museum is in dire need of replacement, and may cost in excess of $5,000.00. You may rest assured your generous contribution to the Society will be appreciated. Why not write out your check today and tell us where you’d like for us to use it?

   Come see us.

Jefferson was once called "Lover's Lane" from the mill northward.

This page last modified on Saturday, February 04, 2006