Minneapolis became known as the "Flour Milling Capital of the World" in 1880, but smaller towns in Minnesota also had successful flour mills. In 1880, two Minneapolis businessmen built the Lincoln Flouring Mill in Anoka, Minnesota. The Lincoln Mill became one the largest country flour mills in the state, surviving until 1939 in spite of catastrophes like the Anoka fire of 1884.
From the 1860s to the 1880s, Anoka and neighboring areas were in search of new industries to replace the dying lumber industry. Many businessmen and speculators moved their investments from sawmills to flour mills. They also used their influence to expand the Soo Line railroad into Minneapolis. Two of Anoka's flour men were William D. Hale and William D. Washburn, brother of General Mills founder and Wisconsin governor Cadwallader Colden (C.C.) Washburn.
In 1880, Hale and William D. Washburn built a large, state-of-the-art mill on the Rum River in Anoka. They called it the Lincoln Flouring Mill, named after Abraham Lincoln because of the Washburn family's political support for him. The Lincoln Mill was not the first mill in Anoka, but it was the largest, with a capacity of 600 to 700 barrels of flour per day. The first flour mill in Anoka was built in 1854 and powered by water. Washburn purchased it several years later, but he built the Lincoln Mill because the first mill could not meet the day's increased demand for flour.
A great fire swept through Anoka in 1884, and the Lincoln Mill was destroyed along with most of the town's industrial area. The fire could have devastated the young town of Anoka, but the people of Anoka pressed on. The mill was rebuilt immediately with an increased capacity of 1,600 barrels of flour per day. It opened in time for the 1885 wheat season. The Washburn Milling Company, which operated the Lincoln Mill, received assistance from Anoka County for the rebuilding. After residents circulated a petition, the Anoka County Board decided to exempt the company from taxation.
In 1889, the Lincoln Mill was sold to an English company with interests in Minnesota flour. The sale was part of a bigger business deal. William D. Washburn and Charles A. Pillsbury merged their companies and created a business syndicate called Pillsbury-Washburn Flour Mills Company. It was owned by the English but managed by Pillsbury and Washburn. In 1910, the company was reorganized and named Pillsbury Flour Mills Company.
During World War I, the Lincoln Mill was used for corn instead of flour. After the war, the mill was reconditioned and used to make Durum wheat products. It was the first mill in the United States to manufacture Durum products, which are used in spaghetti and macaroni, among other things.
Most of Lincoln Mill was torn down in 1933, but the grain elevator and first floor remained. The grain elevator was used until 1939, when the rest of the structure was torn down. In 1950, the riverside tract of land that held the mill was sold to the city of Anoka. As of 2012, Anoka City Hall still stood on the former site of the Lincoln Mill.
Ferrell, Dick. "Milling Around." Twin City Postcard Club 3, no. 2 (February 1979): 4–5.
Goodrich, Albert M. History of Anoka County and the Towns of Champlin and Dayton in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Minneapolis: Hennepin Publishing Company, 1905.
"History of Mill Recalled as Wrecking Continues." Anoka Herald, February 14, 1933.
Kelsey, Kerck. Prairie Lightning: The Rise and Fall of William Drew Washburn. Lakeville, MN: Pogo Press, 2010.
Kuhlman, Charles Byron. "The Mauve Decade of the Flour Trade." The Northwestern Miller 159, no. 4 (July 31, 1929): 403, 431.
Stockhausen, Sharron. Picturing Anoka County: 150 Years of Anoka County History. Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Company Publishers, 2006.
Ward, Tom, "Anoka County History: No Anoka without the Rum River," ABCNewspapers.com, September 21, 2011.
Robert M. Frame Minnesota Flour Milling Research Files, [182-]–[198-]
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Background research files, notes, photocopies, and other material related to Minnesota flour milling, specific flour mills, flour milling technology, and specific individuals connected with the industry. Box 1. Materials on mills in Anoka County, including the Lincoln Mill.
After the Lincoln Flouring Mill is burned down in the Anoka fire of 1884, it is rebuilt immediately with the support of Anoka County.
The first flour mill is built in Anoka and run by water power; within a few years, it is purchased by William D. Washburn.
The Washburn Milling Company builds the Lincoln Flouring Mill to meet the day's increased demand for flour.
The Lincoln Mill is destroyed in a great fire that burned much of Anoka.
With help from Anoka County, the Lincoln Mill is rebuilt in time for the spring 1885 wheat season.
An English syndicate called Pillsbury-Washburn Milling Company buys the Lincoln Mill.
The company is restructured and becomes Pillsbury Flour Mills Company.
The mill's structure is torn down and flour milling ends, but the grain elevator and first floor continue to be used.
What is left of the Lincoln Mill is razed.
The last parcel of land remaining to the Lincoln Mill is sold to the city of Anoka.