History of Adams Mill
John Adams of Pennsylvania settled with his family in Carroll County in 1831. Adams is reputed to have walked the Wildcat Creek from Lafayette toward what would become Kokomo, seeking a site suitable to build a mill. He selected a site where the Wildcat Creek forms an oxbow-shaped bend. There he built a dam, dug a millrace, and built a saw mill. The saw mill continued operation until the early 1840s.
In 1835 Adams started construction of a grist mill on the same millrace, beginning its operation early in 1836. The mill was a two-story frame building, 26 x 34 feet, with a single run of buhrs which ground both corn and wheat. The grist mill sometimes operated around the clock, with its machinery never stopping. In order to accommodate the increased demand and trade, Adams began the construction in 1845 of a larger mill, four stories high and 45 x 50 feet in size. The frame building had four runs of buhrs and two turbine wheels reaching a daily capacity of 40 barrels of flour. That building, completed in 1846, is the present mill. By 1848 an addition had been made to the large mill and the two-story grist mill was shut down.
The mill was a pivotal structure in the new platted settlement called Bolivar and a center of activity. In about 1850 the Wild Cat Post Office was located there, remaining in operation until 1894. John Adams, founder of Adams Mill, died in 1858, and in 1860 ownership of the mill passed to his son Warren Adams. In 1864 the Wild Cat Masonic Lodge, No. 311, was organized at the mill, meeting on the third floor until 1867, when it moved to the neighboring store.
With the traffic brought by the mill came the need for a permanent structure over the Wildcat Creek, one that would withstand the spring floods. In 1870, residents filed a petition asking for a covered bridge "over the Wild Cat at Adams mill." The petition was granted, and in 1872 the bridge was built by Wheelock Bridge Company of Fort Wayne. The company built the covered bridge nearby in souther Carroll County at New Lancaster that same year. Both bridges stand today, rehabilitated and open to traffic.
The nearby town of Cutler was platted in 1871 during the construction of the Logansport, Crawfordsville & Southwestern Rail Road through the area.
Warren Adams died in 1884, and in 1887 ownership of the mill transferred to Levi Bishop. Several improvements to the mill were made under Bishop's tenure, including converting the flour buhrs to rollers. Jesse Johnson, Bishop's son-in-law, bought the mill in 1911. An electric generator was installed in the mill in 1913. Powered by the mill turbines, the generator provided electricity for the surrounding communities for several years. The first electric street lights in Cutler were powered by the mill.
Over the next few decades the mill changed hands several times and likely ceased operation by 1938. Claude Sheets purchased the mill in 1942 and brought in John Pritsch, former miller at Adams Mill, to restore the mill operations. By 1943 the mill was once again in working order, operating as Wildcat Roller Mills. During the 1940s the large front overhang and sliding doors were added, giving it the appearance seen today. By 1951 stricter grain storage and rodent control laws made compliance too expensive for the mill to continue in commercial operation. From that point on, Adams Mill was opened as a local attraction, demonstrating the grinding of grain and exhibiting artifacts ofthe early rural Midwest.
The mill property was purchased by James Broadhurst in 1975 for preservation purposes and with the idea of turning the mill into a museum. Adams Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 as a significant and well-preserved example of a very early gristmill.
In 1993 the mill and grounds were purchased by Mark and Jill Scharer. They opened the mill to visitors with the assistance of many volunteers from the Friends of Adams Mill Valley. Most recently, in September 2011, the mill property was purchased by a new not-for-profit group called Adams Mill Inc. It was formed to acquire, preserve, and make the mill available for the education and enjoyment of the public.