Flour Power

BUSTI – The sound of millstones and grain elevators echoed throughout the Busti Grist Mill on Sunday.

For some, emotions were hard to handle at the dedication and grand opening of the mill, where more than 100 area residents turned out.

“I can’t even describe the excitement that’s going on in my mind and body right now,” said Joseph Gerace Sr., who as former supervisor of Busti helped restore interest in the once deteriorating mill. “It’s a dream come true. All the hard work that went into this is just amazing.”

Also present at the dedication were members of the Busti Shamrocks 4-H Club, who first received a $500 grant in the late 1960s from Readers Digest magazine to begin restoration efforts.

The Busti Historical Society now hopes flour produced at the mill, with the help of the annual and widely popular Apple Festival in the fall, will generate enough revenue to keep the facility operating.

“It’s the culmination of what we have been working on for 40 years,” said Norman Carlson, historical society spokesman.

Restoration efforts on the mill began in earnest in the 1970s, Carlson said.

Efforts kicked into high gear with proceeds from the Apple Festival.

“There was a lot of hard work that went into this,” he said, noting flour already was being produced, although widescale sales have yet to be established. “We want people to come out here and see everything that went into making this happen.

“We are looking for customers. Starting right now, there is stuff for sale.”

Residents Sunday were encouraged to join the Busti Historical Society, now believed to be 75 members strong.

“I first came here three years ago to the mill,” said State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-I-Chautauqua County. “They wouldn’t let me leave until I became a member.”

The mill, built by Frances Sowl, who died shortly after construction was complete, had been owned and operated by nine families until it closed in 1959. A decade later, efforts to get the mill in working condition began.

The three-story structure has two millstones, turbines and wooden elevator-chutes, all of which were on display Sunday. Intricate pieces from its early years have been incorporated in the new system.

The mill will run on electricity and not water like its predecessor.

“To see these folks here and to be a part of this is just truly exciting,” Gerace said.