Mike and Karen Jean Roe purchased an old water-powered mill in Parke county, Indiana 22 years ago. It was in deplorable shape and many folks considered it an eyesore.
When they first saw it in the late 1970s, Mike told Karen Jean “This place looked like Disney World in the 1800s.” Karen Jean said, “That mess?” He explained how the mass of broken concrete in the creek was once a dam for the old mill. The dam created a beautiful waterfall to power the mill. The dam backed up water in the creek and made a wonderful mill pond under the covered bridge.
The building was once a proud waterpowered mill. The site would have been breathtaking. Karen Jean gave him “The Look”.
Years later Mike was visiting the site, and saw a hand-written For Sale sign tacked to the old mill. He made an offer on the spot. He rushed home to tell Karen the exciting news. She was less enthusiastic. He took her to see the property and again told her how beautiful the place would be, once it was restored. She once again gave him “The Look”. Then he told her how they were going to make enough money to pay for all this by operating a large arts and craft show during the Covered Bridge Festival. This festival started in Parke county, Indiana in 1957. It is one of the largest festivals in the country and draws millions of visitors to the county for the 10-day event. Now, she smiled and said, “This place is a gold mine”.
Mike has worked nearly every day for eight months a year, rebuilding the old mill. Karen Jean has spent many long hours helping him. Occasionally she allows him to work on it in the other four months.
In 2015, the mortgage on the old mill was finally paid off and the large bills Mike had built up restoring the mill site were almost paid off. Then, Mike found out the official miller at the Indiana State Fair was retiring. Karen Jean and Mike rushed to the State Fair and secured the position. The only problem was they needed portable, antique machinery to demonstrate milling at the fair. By chance they found a Meadows Mill (antique portable mill) and the original 1905 hit-and-miss engine that was installed in a mill in West Virginia.
It took five months to restore these historic treasures. The Indiana State Fair was a tremendous success. Mike created Gnarly, the old engine that runs the Meadows Mill grist mill at the Indiana State Fair.
Visit the Bridgeton Mill and the Indiana State Fair. Help Mike make Karen Jean happy!
[Author: Mike Roe]