(Editorial Note: Part 173 of a series of further development in the early days that impacted Franklin County. Sources: Preston News, 1911; Franklin County Citizen, 1917, 1920; History of Weston, Idaho by Jay D. Schvaneveldt; Obituary of James Mack McCracken)
The first flour mill in this county was in Franklin, first settled in 1860, and the businesses of the town were major providers of supplies and needs as more settlers came to expand to the east, west and north of that community. Franklin remained a hub for many years as the population spread and development proceeded. The Franklin Milling Company was still going strong in 1917, when advertising in the Franklin County Citizen stated that the mill’s Sunlight Flour was responsible for lowering the prices of flour for the consumer. This prime brand of flour was sold through other dealers as well.
“The Franklin Milling Company has placed a stock of Sunlight flours and cereals in Johnson & Merrill at the Hobbs Flour Mill (also in Franklin). They will give you the same service as though you bought your wheat at the mill and will exchange on grist account, or buy your wheat as you may desire. Sunlight is the flour with a flavor. It is not bleached but has that rich natural flavor. Smellie’s Wheat Meal is a popular breakfast food. Try it.” Mr. Smellie represented the Franklin Milling Company throughout the area.
The Bear River ran north and south along the western side of the valley and with no bridge for easy access to Franklin the next mill to spring up was on the south end of those western mountains across the Bear.
James Mack, of Richmond, moved to the infant village of Weston with plans to construct a flour mill. The pioneers had started a town in the Cedarville Meadows.
James Mack McCracken, was born in Dunstocker, Scotland in 1836. He converted to the LDS church when he was 18 and left the British Isles to emigrate to America, the first member of his family to make that trip. He crossed the plains and arrived in Salt Lake City in the fall of 1855. He married Elizabeth Miller three years later and they moved to Cache Valley, and started farming in Hyde Park. Then crickets wiped them out. Mack returned to his occupation of carpentry in the Smithfield/ Richmond area. In 1864 he built the first thresher to come to Smithfield and with the money he gained from that endeavor James and Elizabeth moved to what would become Weston, ID, where he built a flour mill. At the time it was considered an “uninhabited district.”
Having come from Richmond, as did other Weston settlers, “Mack would have been well acquainted with these new settlers and the Weston Creek, which could be harnessed to provide water power to grind the grain of the mill he was planning to build. He came with a history of building and operating mills.” Those Richmond settlers were aware of his capabilities.“ Mack started building the gristmill in 1866, on Weston Creek in what became known as Mill Hollow. The rocks for construction were hauled from the Cedar Hills. Machinery for the new mill came from the Thatchers in Logan. The mill played a major part in the location of the “new’ town of Weston from Cedarville Meadows to the Mill Hollow location.
The Weston Flour Mill was successful for a number of reasons. First and foremost was the settlers’ own need for flour as well as a destination for the crops they grew — mostly wheat, barley, and oats, and all needing services provided by the mill. Its location on the west side of the valley was a plus with the population along that side of the valley, as well farmers from Cornish and Malad. Those developing little towns like Linrose, Roosevelt, Dayton, Clifton, Oxford had no obliging bridge crossing the Bear River for their access to the Franklin Milling Company or those in Cache Valley on the eastern side of the river.
“The Weston Flour Mill operated for about a hundred years and changed from water power and steam to electricity in the 1920s. The mill was upgraded, remodeled and refurbished many times.“ The world changed with the end of World War II. Bakeries produced sliced bread to be purchased for home use. The industrial revolution with the railroads and big trucks took trade away from small-town mills. Even the lifestyle of the home altered; no longer needing to take in their own wheat for grist, not so much baking was done at home. Adding to this, the bridges across the Bear River served to shrink the distances between the communities of Franklin County.