ENTERPRISE — Before there was a city, Turkey Hard Red Winter wheat was being milled into flour on the banks of the Smoky Hill River what is now Enterprise.
This Saturday the Hoffman Grist Mill will demonstrate how it operated 150 years ago during Enterprise’s fall festival Kountry Klatter.
Joe Minick with Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad said pancakes, bread and pizza made from the original Turkey Wheat being grown near Navarre will be cooked in outside ovens. Also pancake mix, wheat flour, corn meal, white corn meal and grits will be available for purchase.
“If you are used to a nice big, soft, fluffy pancake, you probably will not like them. These are made like they were in the 1800s, a little courser, a little heavier,” he said.
The railroad which offers train rides from Abilene to Enterprise has restored a mill for the tourists riding the train on weekends..
“That is how Enterprise got started, was the Hoffman mill along the river there and the town just settled around it,” Minick said.
This mill was built by Christian Hoffman in 1868, four years before the town of Enterprise was started, according to the Kansas Historical Society. Its dimensions were 40 x 60 feet, three stories high and a basement. It has three run of buhrs (stones), and its capacity was 100 barrels of flour per day. The river makes a curve and contiguous to the frame mill and only a few feet from it is a large stone mill.
“The mill kept getting bigger and bigger,” Minick said.
Sometime in the 1930s the mill was taken down.
“So no one even knew that the Hoffman Mill ever existed in Enterprise,” he said.
He said someone came up with the idea of making a grist mill operational so the people that ride the train can see it and how Enterprise actually got started.
He said Reed Hoffman, a grandson of Christian Hoffman, helped fund the project at 105 N. Factory Street.
“In the mill we have the old-fashioned stone grinders, the old-fashioned bulker separator and it’s an original,” he said. “We also have the heritage grain that the Mennonites brought over, the Turkey Red Wheat.”
According to the Kansas Historical Society, Kansas was the destination of choice for many German-Russians.
These immigrants did not come empty-handed. Family lore states that Mennonite families loaded kitchen crocks and traveling trunks with Turkey Red Wheat seed before leaving Russia. Arriving in Kansas in 1874, they planted their first crop in the rich farmlands around Goessel.
“We found a small supply of that grain left. We not only grind it the way it was ground, it’s processed with the same wheat as the 1800s,” Minick said.
Saturday the mill will be operational and open for tours from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.