Included in the 1940 Story City Herald Anniversary Book was an article written in 1906 by Charles Hill Keigley about the old Soper’s Mill. The mill was a pioneer landmark in Story County. Soper’s Mill was located on the south bank of the Skunk River about seven miles south of Story City.
There are differing historical accounts as to who originally built a mill on that land. Some believe it was Thomas Hughes that built a saw mill in 1856. In Charles Hill Keigley’s article from 1906, he describes T.K. Soper, who was one of the earliest residents in Story County, as the one who built a saw mill in the 1850s. During the fall of 1859, Soper tore down the saw mill and in its place he began building a grist mill. This grist mill is what became known throughout the county as Soper’s Mill.
J.G. Yelton was the first miller to be in charge of the mill. Mr. Yelton ran the mill for nine years and the machinery continued daily to grind out large quantities of buckwheat meal and flour. Grain was brought to the mill by settlers from surrounding counties. It was not uncommon for farmers to come a distance of 30 or 40 miles to Soper’s Mill.
In the summer of 1871, the mill changed hands and was conducted by Hipshear & Egelberger. It is said that at this time they equipped the mill with new machinery and began manufacturing a special brand of buckwheat flour which was known as “Soper’s Superlative.” The mill was very successful under Hipshear & Egelberger and was run at its full capacity day and night.
In the spring of 1882, Jimmie Noble took possession of the mill and the success of the mill continued. Rye and buckwheat were the principal products at this time. According to Keigley, “We are informed that buckwheat flour was then sold by Mr. Noble for $4.00 per hundredweight, and the daily output then was scarcely equal to the demand.” Noble operated the mill until 1894 when it was purchased by P.J. Swearinger. Swearinger partially reconstructed the old mill but by the 1890s the water supply had given out and there was insufficient power to run the machinery, except at certain seasons.
Soper’s Mill fell into disuse in the late 1890s. In the following years the area became popular for fishing, picnics, and celebrations. Today, Soper’s Mill is an access point for canoeing along the Skunk River Greenbelt. We hope you have enjoyed this history of a local pioneer landmark.