By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

County commissioners, on May 7, accepted with sincere appreciation the gift of a grain wagon which will be positioned under the canopy of Phelps Mill. The gift was donated by the Claypool family whose family members hauled wheat to the flour mill which operated from 1889 to 1939.

Photo by Tom Hintgen
This grain wagon, given to Phelps Mill, is the exact style of a wagon which would have been used during the years the flour mill operated in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“My father, Warren Claypool, grew up here in Otter Tail County,” said Patricia “Pat” Claypool who today resides near West Lost Lake, just west of Phelps Mill.

Warren’s grandfather, Robert, built the Claypool farm and hauled wheat to Phelps Mill in a wagon similar to the one just donated to Phelps Mill. Otter Tail County has owned the mill and surrounding land since 1965.

“The donation of the grain wagon is in honor of Robert Claypool and his wife, Catherine,” Pat Claypool said. “The Claypools owned the farm for 138 years. Over the years many stories about delivering wheat to Phelps Mill were passed along from one generation to the next.”

At the height of the wheat grinding season, 25 to 35 wagons loaded with stacks of wheat would line up outside the mill. Nearby was a restaurant, general store and blacksmith shop. 

Located in Maine Township of central Otter Tail County, the mill built in 1889 was designed to produce 60 to 75 barrels of flour per day. By the 1930s the railway was in place and it became easier for county farmers to ship their grain to Minneapolis. Phelps Mill went out of business in 1939.

Phelps Mill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Hundreds of visitors to Phelps Mill each summer will no doubt appreciate seeing the donation of the historic grain wagon.