I stepped into the Old Mill and my senses were overwhelmed by the blur of belts and red iron wheels, the smell of wheat dust, old wood and grease, and the sound of the grr and whirr of machines as they jarred the 100-year-old structure back and forth on its floating floor.
I tried to imagine what it might have been like to run up and down these rickety narrow steps or to dodge flying iron wheels and flapping belts.
The museum annually allows the public to tour the Old Mill in Lindsborg while it is operating, which is what my mother and I did in May.
I have a great interest in history, and to see history in motion was quite a thrill.
I also learned a bit about the history of the mill while I was there and was quite stunned to recognize the name of one of the former owners of the mill. Theodore Teichgraeber bought the mill in 1892. In 1897, the mill burned. In 1898, Teichgraeber built the current brick mill. After Theodore passed away, sons Emil and Carl Teichgraeber operate mill until 1910.
My mother related to me that my great Uncle Phil Teichgraeber had been a millwright and was likely related to the Teichgraebers that owned this mill, only some genealogical research would tell for sure.
I knew Uncle Phil in the later years of his life — a portly man with white hair who had a dirty miniature poodle that traveled with him wherever he went, riding shot gun on the bench seat of his mint green Chevy pickup.
At Christmas, Uncle Phil gave us puzzles and small trinkets he received free while ordering from mail-order catalogs or limited time offers on TV.
Grandma dutifully wrapped these presents. However, she shook her head at the appropriateness of a pocket magnifier as a gift for an 8-year-old girl. We loved the attention and jumped in our uncle’s lap and reached around his jolly belly as far as our little arms could stretch.
Uncle Phil, with the little poodle in tow, showed up promptly at 10 a.m. every morning at my grandparents’ farm house in Eureka to eat Keebler fudge cookies, drink black coffee and listen to talk radio with my grandfather.
My grandfather was infamous for telling larger-than-life tales of work in the oil fields of Oil Hill, Kan., blowing ditches with dynamite, surviving floods, flying in biplanes and racing motorcycles.
If you had a story, Grandpa could top it.
It is only now that I look back and realize that Uncle Phil rarely related any stories of his life — not of being a millwright or apparently his adventures in Haiti, where he also worked in a mill.
There were several brightly-colored painting depicting Haiti in my grandparents’ spare bedroom. The paintings hung above the bed. As I would drift off to sleep I would marvel by the moonlight at the Haitian people carrying bananas on their heads.
Page 2 of 2 - It seemed so far away from my prairie home.
Uncle Phil passed away many years ago when I was still a child.
I never knew of my uncle’s life in Haiti.
I never knew he was a millwright.
We have a saying in journalism that everyone has a story. After almost 20 years in journalism and hundreds of individuals interviewed, I would whole-heartedly agree with this statement.
As I stood there in the mill, watching the huge iron gears whirr and shake, I felt a sense of sadness that I had never heard by Uncle Phil’s stories.
Now they are gone forever.
I was quite pleased to learn last week the McPherson Museum plans to construct an oral history room in its new building.
People will be able to go to the museum, have their pictures taken and record their stories.
I wish there had been this service available for my Uncle Phil or my grandfather who had such rich stories to tell.
I would also like to send out yet another reminder the museum is still in need of donations to reach its $3.6 million fundraising goal.
To donate, call the museum at 241-8464. Go to mcphersonmuseum.com and click support. You also pick up a pledge form between 1 and 5 p.m. at the old museum location, 1330 E. Euclid.
Cristina Janney is the managing editor of The McPherson Sentinel. She can be reached at email@example.com.