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Old Mill Personages

If the Old Mill Inn could talk, it could tell of interesting people who have worked there or vacationed there. Frances Hillman, besides telling of her family's history, has shared accounts of some of these persons.

George Nichols built a sawmill and the grist mill at the inlet of Green Lake. In 1872 George and his family were living on a farm by Green Lake. George and his wife had six children, of whom a son, Edgar, fought in the Civil War and afterwards returned to Green Lake Village. A poignant reminder of Edgar's family is found in the Spicer cemetery; an old tombstone reveals this inscription:

"A child of Edgar Nichols Ida Marie died Sept. 2, 1869 Age 6 months & 8 days Blessed be the Lord that giveth

Blessed be the Lord that taketh."

Because George Nichols was in failing health in 1880, he and his wife moved to the home of their daughter, Fidelia Hubbard, in Meeker County. They both died there.

Samuel Adams, onetime postmaster of Green Lake Village, with his son John operated the Green Lake Flour Mill from about 1870 to 1887. The senior Adamses lived in a house west of the mill on the lake shore. For convenience for swimming, they had two flights of stairs down a tunnel leading to the lake.

Samuel Adams was born in Massachusetts in 1856 and moved west to the Green Lake area. He was the grandfather of Virginia (Mrs. Everett) Kruger. Virginia and Everett live on the north shore of Green Lake on a beautiful beach called Adams Beach.

Another Green Lake Village resident was the postmistress, Mrs. Sarah Ann Morrill. She was a widow who, with three sons, had arrived in 1867 and built a cabin from poplar logs near the mill site. She opened a store in the village in 1868 or 1869. David, the oldest son, was a sawyer; he suffered a severe hand injury that required surgery. He did not fully recover the use of his hand; he died eight years later of natural causes. The second son, Frank, died in 1874 of "consumption," The third son ran the general store with his mother.

Cushman Rice helped Oscar Hillman persuade the highway department to make an important decision. When the department built a road across the Crow River at the mill site, they were going to install only a culvert to let the water through. Hillman knew he needed a real bridge in order to let more water through for his electric generator and to let fishing boats go back and forth between Green Lake and Nest Lake. The highway personnel didn't want to listen.

Hillman went to Cushman Rice with his problem, and Rice accompanied Hillman to another meeting and persuaded the personnel to build a real bridge. Hillmans could offer a favor to Rice, too, because Rice didn't have a telephone and the Old Mill Inn did. The Hillmans would take calls or messages up to the Rice Estate, and Rice and his dog, Max, would come down to the Mill to finish the phone transactions.

Frances Hillman remembers some drownings on Green Lake near the Mill (there weren't so many, considering the great numbers of people using the lake over many years). C.P. Bates, an attorney from Sioux Falls; E.C. Kennedy, also from Sioux Falls; and Jack Benizer, a professional fisherman and guide, were in a boat that capsized one-third mile south of the Mill. By the time rescuers reached them, Bates and Benizer had drowned. Benizer's daughter and little grandson watched from the shore. In 1958 Richard Carey's plane crashed into the lake about one half mile from the Mill. Carey was flying back to his home in Willmar.

Frances remembers resort guests from Kansas, Texas, New York, California, and many other states. She recalls the young archeologists from the University of Minnesota, as well as the crew from the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company, who stayed at the Riverside Trailer Park while they rebuilt New London's round ball water tower after its collapse in early 1956.

Speaking of Kansas guests, some men from a dress factory there asked the Hillmans the dress size of each of the girls

employed at the resort. After the men returned to Kansas, they sent a lovely dress to each girl.

Then there was the fisherman at the spring opener. He sat on a bench, holding a baby on his lap, so he had only one hand free. Now how was he to get the worm on the hook? Well, he put the worm in his mouth and threaded the worm on and off the hook with his free hand. There was a lot of spitting after each time!

Another anonymous fisherman was so proud of the huge fish he had caught that Mr. Hillman put it in a large screened, padlocked box by the dock on the river. When the fisherman was ready to go home, he tried to catch the live fish, but the fish pulled the man into the box. After some scrambling, the man got out, used a deep dip net with a handle, and successfully captured the fish (again), and took it home to show off to his friends.