by Kurt Hildebrand
T he Minden Flour Mill is the pushpin around which Minden has circulated in both time and space. Built in 1907 to store grain for transport to the rest of the nation, the mill predates most of Minden. It was one of the first functional structures in the town and established Minden as both a railroad and a factory town.
The decision to build the mill was part and parcel of the impending arrival of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad in Minden. Work was already under way on the track on March 13, 1906, when articles of incorporation for the Minden Flour Co. were filed with the county clerk at Genoa.
“The principal place of business is named as Minden, Douglas County, Nevada,” The Record-Courier’s March 16 edition reported. “The authorized capital stock of the new company is $50,000 divided into 100,000 shares with a par value of 50 cents a share. The amount of stock thus far subscribed is 37,300 shares.”
A majority of those shares were secured with Dangberg Land & Livestock Co. money. In addition to town founder, H.F. Dangberg Jr., the board of directors included W.F. Dressler, H.H. Springmeyer, C.M. Henningsen and R.W. Bassman.
“The above is suggestive of a good many things of interest to the people of this town and vicinity. It begins to look as though there is a great deal more to Minden and the building of the railroad than mere newspaper talk,” the newspaper reported.
Given the sincere hope that the railroad would go through to Gardnerville, news of the founding of the mill was perhaps the first concrete example of where the railroad was actually going to stop.
Construction of the mill would wait until after the train arrived in July 1906. By fall, work began on the structure.
The bricks which make up the mill were fired near its present location, so it is one of the first Minden natives.
The mill was built by F.G. Wezer of Oakland, who received the contract to build both the mill and the Dangberg warehouse in October 1906, five months after the first trains arrive in the town.
“Work will start on these buildings as soon as necessary arrangements can be made,” The Record-Courier reported on Oct. 19, 1906. “The concrete foundation for the mill is completed and the workmen have started the foundation of the warehouse. Both buildings are to be built of brick, which is being burned at the kiln near the location of the buildings.”
The mill’s construction brought electricity for streetlights to Minden and Gardnerville, according to a Nov. 14, 1978 story written by Joyce Hollister for The Record-Courier.
Don Keagy, who got the mill listed on the State Register of Historic Places in November 1978, said power to operate the mill was imported from Truckee River General Electric rather than a plant built on the Carson River.
The entire mill was not completed until 1909 when the four large silos were added to expand the building, according to Wynne Maule’s book “Minden, Nevada: The Story of a Unique Town.”
The mill manufactured flour until 1938, according to a 1956 R-C article celebrating its 50th anniversary. Then the mill converted entirely to producing feed for livestock using local grain. At the time of the 1956 article the mill’s storage tanks held up to 65,000 bushels. The mill purchased $100,000 in grain a year at the time.
The Minden Flour Mill served its purpose storing grain for nearly two decades after the V&T stopped running, finally closing in the late ’60s. The Dangbergs pulled up the public scales at the base of the building in the fall of 1974.
The Keagys, Don and Maria, planned to renovate the old building and hoped that the designation as a federal landmark would result in grants to create a restaurant with dancing, but by the time the building was named to the National Registry of Historic Places on March 4, 1981, talk of building a restaurant was gone.
The building has become a favorite among model railroaders, who are willing to pay $295 for the HO scale model built by CC Crow of the V&T Operating Co.
The property belongs to Don Bently today. It was discussed in 2001 as a possible frontage for a new community center in the Minden Plan for Prosperity, but it remains untouched.
As it has from Minden’s birth, the mill remains in the center of town, now a silent reminder of the town’s steel rail roots.