(Scroll down for a gallery of photos of Butte Creek Mill by Ezra Marcos)
“I have always wanted to own a historical building,” says Butte Creek Mill owner and operator, Bob Russell, as he strolls through his water-driven mill in Eagle Point.
The retired sales manager from Portland crossed over the battered metal threshold of the once-dilapidated mill in 2005 and knew he was home. Russell, who is also mayor of Eagle Point, and his wife, Debbie, together run the Butte Creek Mill, mercantile, and adjacent antiques store seven days a week.
“I have been a collector since I was 9 years old,” explains Russell as he stands in his office, surrounded by a lifetime of storied artifacts. “I always wanted a country store to display my country store collection.”
When the couple bought the mill, they were the fifth owners in the mill’s 140-year history. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “the last water-powered grist mill still operating this side of the Mississippi,” the former Snowy Butte Mill still grinds thousands of pounds of wheat with the original 2,800-pound mill stones imported from Paris in 1872.
A portion of Little Butte Creek flows through a millrace to the basement of the mill, where a turbine generates power for a series of belts and gears. All of the mill’s products come from farms in Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
Not only have the Russells renovated the mill and surrounding buildings, they also cleaned up the riparian zones around Little Butte Creek. Over the past few years, salmon have returned to spawn along the creek’s bed.
All gallery photos by Ezra Marcos.