History of The Dundee
The Old Mill, located along
the banks of the River Raisin in Dundee, is an historic
landmark in the Village, not just because it is a large
structure, but because it was instrumental in the growth and
economic development of the community.
Over the years, it has served as a grist mill,
hydro-electric power plant, Ford factory and fabricating
Now it is has been restored by community volunteers to
create a historical museum.
The three-story frame mill as we know it was built in
1848-49 by Alfred Wilkerson, as a grist mill. The nearby dam
had been constructed out of logs in 1846.
The building is of Greek Revival design, popular in Monroe
County in the 1840s. "It is compact, geometric and of
exquisite proportion," according to the community's
Sesquicentennial Book, published in 1974.
The windows are double-hung with multiple lights. The
exterior doors are divided horizontally (Dutch) and the
overall design is symmetrical.
Hand-hewn beams, 10x10 inches for the main columns, support
the building. The roof, floors and other connections were
made with oak pegs. No longer existing are two smaller
additions at the rear of the mill which were used to store
flour barrels and milling tools during the building's grist
The Wilkersons sold the mill to Henry Smith of Berlin
Township, in 1880 for $8,000. Two years later, Captain R.B.
Davis purchased the mill. He built a new rafter dam in 1897.
Timbers were floated to the site of the dam from a railroad
bridge upstream which was unused and disassembled.
Capt. Davis ground buckwheat flour and feed. In 1910, he
sold the mill site to the Dundee Hydraulic Power Company,
which built a concrete dam.
In the 1920's Detroit Edison acquired the rights to power
the Village, and the mill stood abandoned and weather-beaten
until the 1930s. In 1931, Village officials voted to
demolish the building in a clean-up campaign. However, Henry
Ford informed them that he was the new owner.
In 1935, Mr. Ford began work on the Old Mill. He stripped
the building to its original timber frame. It was rebuilt
along the old lines, and timber for the mill foundation was
cut from adjacent land and hand-hewed.
Henry Ford also added a limestone structure in which he
installed a Leffel turbine-powered G.E. generator and a
steam-powered generator as well as a foundry and steam
boilers. His new factory was now part of his grand design
for dotting the countryside with village industries.
The Dundee plant produced welding tips for Ford's main
factories. In the Depression Era, the plant was of major
importance to the local economy.
After Mr. Ford's death, the company gradually withdrew its
support of the village industries and the plant was sold in
1954 to Wolverine Manufacturing Company. The company
converted the plant into a paper mill to produce gasket
In 1970, Wolverine sold the landmark to the Village of
Dundee for $1.00. The mill stood unused for the next decade
until 1981 when the Old Mill Restoration Committee, a group
of community volunteers, undertook the daunting task of
turning the mill structure, whose first floor was covered
with tar and chicken wire, into a museum.