Dillard Mill State Historic Site

The final stop on the St Francois tour was the Dillard Mill State Historic Site.  This turned out to be far more interesting than expected.  You can wander the main floor for free, but for $4 I got the 40-minute guided tour of the main floor plus the basement and upper floors.  A heck of a good deal.

No big paddle wheel and grindstones here, no siree.  This building is chock full of the most wonderful old machinery!

The interior was too dark to photograph well, and many of the machines are too big to fit in the frame so you’re gonna hafta see it for yourself.

Yep, that’s a wooden auger:

Lester Klemme’s Diving Helmet

Okay, you just know there’s got to be a good story here!  As best I can remember it, the dam developed a leak – water was going under it.  Lester had this helmet made and paid someone 25 cents to go into the pond and guide a large boulder into the hole.  The window is part of a car windshield, the gasket at the bottom is an inner tube, and of course the top is a funnel – to which a rubber hose was attached and air forced in via a bellows.

The electrical generator system is being restored and is expected to be operational soon.

This is a turbine like the one used in this mill.

Looking down through the floor at the turbine (not operating). 

Power is transferred up and through these large pinion gears.  The vertical gear has wooden teeth so if something seizes the teeth shear and limit the damage elsewhere.  All the machines are powered via numerous belts and drive shafts.

At the end of the tour, the guide opens the sluice gate and turbine louvers and the whole building comes roaring to life.  What a racket!  It is a marvel of engineering and construction and a highly recommended stop for anyone that likes that sort of thing.

Ah well, time to head home, catch-up on the stuff that’s been piling-up, and start thinking about the next trip.

About Michael R

I enjoy hiking, landscaping with native plants, nature photography, dark chocolate, fine dining, good movies, and old jazz.
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