The Prairie Mills

Golden, Illinois

“New Era” Steam Mill

In 1889, H. H. Emminga built the “New Era” steam mill across the street from the Prairie Mills Windmill.  The steam mill could operate continuously unless wheat was unavailable and could mill up to 200 barrels of wheat flour per day.


By the 1880s, milling and steam engine technology both matured which greatly increased the milling capacity.  Rollers were used instead of millstones to separate the flour from the bran.  “Purifier” and “dresser” machines sifted and finished the flour.  Six “packer” machines packed flour and bran into barrels or into 25-pound to 140-pound sacks.


A 90-horsepower steam-fed Corliss engine provided constant, reliable power that eliminated the need to wait for the wind.


The New Era Mill milled only wheat flour.  The Prairie Mills Windmill continued milling specialty grains such as buckwheat, corn meal and rye until ceasing all operations in the 1930s.


The first photo (above left) shows the New Era steam mill soon after its construction around 1890.  The smaller building housed the steam boiler and the engine.  The second photo (above right) was probably taken around 1900 and shows an expansion of the steam engine building, enclosing the area around the engine’s exhaust stack.  Also visible is an early railroad signal.  Note that additional wires have been installed on the telephone poles.


The New Era Mill continued flour milling operations until sometime around World War II.  After that, the building continued to be used to handle grain and process livestock feed for the Golden Elevator and Dearwester Grain Services.  The building was razed in 2011.

This is former mill building as it looked in 2004.  Although the steam building and engine no longer exist, there was still an earthen depression visible where the steam engine once rested.