Shortly after arriving in Macon County, pioneers built mills to grind their harvests of grain. Miller’s Mill was one of the first. The mill and its dam were probably built between 1836 and 1839 on land that was bought by members of the Miller Family and Elisha Freeman in 1836. It is not known how long the mill operated, but by 1902 only the dam remained. Archaeological searches found metal and wooden pieces of the mill and dam in the riverbed. These artifacts confirm the location of the mill and dam, and give clues to their probable designs.
Like today, the Sangamon River in the 1800s was shallow and flowed slowly except during floods. Due to this, the mill needed a dam that could accommodate shallow water and low riverbanks. The dam was made by staking large pieces of timber to the river bottom anchored by large rocks. This dam formed a long millpond upriver to power the mill’s water wheel which in turn spun the millstones to grind grain. Most “low head” or shallow river mills in Illinois used a tub waterwheel which spun horizontally like a merry-go-round.
Today Miller’s Mill is gone but when the river is low, you can see traces of its dam. Any time of year is a great time to visit the Miller’s Mill Overlook by taking a hike along the River Trail. At the overlook you will find a bench to relax and a kiosk with more information about the mill.