Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fogarty Mill-The Davis County Dam in 1888

I was reading through some of the items on the research shelves in the Main Office when I again glanced at the jewel of a pamphlet, Description and Narrative of Davis County Kansas issued by Greene & Bartell Real Estate Agents in Junction City, KS and printed by George Martin, Junction City Union, in 1888.
Inside this pamphlet are descriptions of various things in Davis County extolling the geography, soil, rivers, and weather of Davis, now Geary, County, Kansas.  The descriptions are flowery and an obvious effort to persuade people to move to Davis County; however, while some of the descriptions are a bit flowery, there is a core of truth in them all and a rich history is contained in its pages. The description of Fogarty Mill for example is marvelous.
Fogarty Mill and Dam on the Smoky Hill
“Fogarty’s water-power mill is three quarters of a mile from Junction City. The dam is in a bend of the Smoky Hill. The river at this point hugs close to the foot of the great, rugged, romantic bluffs, on the south side. The dam has been built eight years, and it has stood several severe tests of its strength. A competent dam builder from Minnesota was employed to superintend its construction, and Mr. Fogarty himself was on the ground from daylight to dark, pushing the work to the utmost. It is what is known as a brush or timber dam, notwithstanding which there are over one hundred cords of rock used in its construction; and the western bank is well protected against washing by piles and rip-rapping.
“The water power is estimated at two hundred and fifty-horse, which drives a turbine wheel of fifty-six inches in diameter, equal to sixty-horse power. The capacity of the mill, with five run of stones, will be three hundred and fifty barrels of flour every twenty-four hours. The dam is nine feet high, which makes fifteen feet of water under the bridge.
“On the opposite side of the river from town, on a rugged bluff’s edge, built on solid rock, is located the mill. The building is four stories high, 36x46, with capacity for five run stones, of which but three will be used at present. These are of the best old-stock French burr millstones, well fitted up with glass globes, silent feeders, etc. The machinery is of the very best, and consists of a zig-zag oat separator and cleaner and two combined smutters and separators; six reels, each twenty feet long, covered with bolting cloth of the finest quality, and with numbers graded to do the best work. A Howe-truss bridge crosses the stream just above the dam, within one hundred feet of the mill.
“The hillside is a magnificent location for a number of manufactories. There is an abundance of power. With the unequaled advantages which our system of railroads, reaching north, south, east, and west, afford, may we not hope to see ere long the banks of the Smoky lined with factories wherein wool from New Mexico , cotton from Texas, and straw, flax and hemp from our own prairies can be profitably manufactured and exported. We venture to predict that in ten years Kansas will be one of the leading State of the Union, and Junction City its principle metropolis” (Description and Narrative of Davis County Kansas, 1888).
Today, as you travel down eastbound I-70, if you glance to the south while crossing the Smoky Hill River you can see the remnants of the Fogarty Mill, constructed in 1874 and discontinued in 1907. So remember as you travel the highways and back roads of Geary County that you’re driving past the foundations of this county, and if you look around at the right time you can see our past.
Fogarty Mill on the Smoky Hill River, photographed by E. Stahl 2000
If you have any questions about this or other Geary County History please contact the museum at 785-238-1666 or email