The logistics involved in bringing a steam engine and the milling equipment into North Texas in the 1850s is mind-boggling.  The machinery would have been brought by ox wagons from Jefferson, the nearest river port, or Galveston, the nearest seaport.

            In November, 1858, contractors John P. Cave and James A. Cave reported to Commissioners Court they had completed bridges on the lower Bonham Road across Pilot Grove and Sister Grove Creeks, but reported, “the bridge upon Wilson Creek is in process and that the Fitzhugh steam mill is broke so that they cannot get lumber to complete said bridge…” They asked for more time.

            Another mill was located at Millwood, south of the present town of Lavon.  This mill used an inclined tread wheel until the mid-1850s, when a steam engine was installed.  Tradition is the mill at Millwood was “burned down when the war cloud began to get dark…” There was talk of an abolitionist plot.

            Early settler, M.L. Foote said, “After the mill was burned, the boiler and engine were moved from here (Millwood) to the place known as Fitzhugh Mill, southeast of McKinney on Wilson Creek.  Here it was in service for many years.  The Fitzhugh Mill was considered the best mill in the country.”

            While Fitzhugh’s saw mill furnished the hardwood timber used to build Collin County, the gristmill was of primary importance.  One of the millers was Uncle John Campbell.  Campbell brought his family from Tennessee with kin, the Faires and Kirkpatrick families, and settled near Fitzhugh’s Mill.

            “At the outbreak of the Civil War,” according to an old newspaper article,  “he (Campbell) enlisted in the Confederate army, but as he was a miller by trade, it was considered that he could be of greater service to the Confederacy following his trade than in the ranks, and he was therefore sent back to run Fitzhugh’s Mill, which he ran many years.”

            The mill fell into disuse after Robert Fitzhugh died in 1872.  At that time too, the first railroad came to this country and larger mills were built in McKinney and other railroad towns.

            The 1870 Manufacturers Census shows the size of the operation of Fitzhugh’s gristmill.  The burr mill was powered by an 18 horsepower steam engine.  Two men and two women were employed.  The maximum capacity was 150 bushels per day.  In the year ending June 1870, the mill ground 3,300 bushels of corn meal, value at $2,200, and 65,000 pounds of flour, valued at $4,800.  Fitzhugh’s Mill was a thriving industry in its day.[1]

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[1] “Early Mill one of best in country” article from McKinney Newspaper, “Between The Creeks” column, by Gwendyn Pettit