The Motor Dream

The Motor Dream story involves a Mill, Stable, Inn, Smokehouse, Cooperage, and a Bridge.

Motor was platted in 1867 with a Mill as the focal point. In early days of settlement settlers dreamed big and this dream involved three elements: the Turkey River, a limestone area, and available timber.

The Stable originally was intended to house horses and wagons of guests staying in the Inn nearby. The gambrel roof was added when it became a dairy barn about 1940. It was used as a dairy barn until 1983, when the site was acquired by the Clayton County Conservation Board. The Stable is being remodeled into a community gathering space.

The Inn (above) once provided rooms and meals to farmers who waited for their grain to be milled. It also served as a home for several farm families and now is being renovated as a Welcome Center with rooms for rent.

The six-story Mill was where farmers in the area brought their grain to be milled, powered by turbines turned by water from the Turkey River, which ran through the Mill on the basement level.

Only a hundred feet from the Mill was the Cooperage (above) where barrels were made that were used to store and ship the flour and cornmeal produced in the Mill. The barrels were made of staves of white oak from the nearby forest.

The Smokehouse, the last building constructed, was used to cure meat. It also may have served as an icehouse.

In 1899 a steel Bridge was constructed over the Turkey River that replaced the original wood-sided bridge built in 1868. This Bridge was necessary for farmers to bring their grain across the river to the Mill. One span was washed out during the flood of 1991, and it was totally destroyed in the flood of 2008. A replica, built in 2012, made the historic site again complete.

The town of Motor never materialized and the Motor Mill only operated for a few years. However, its history and its buildings live on and merit a prominent place in the history of Clayton County. The Motor Mill Historic Site is located at 23002 Grain Road, Elkader.

The Motor Mill Historic Site is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is preserved and protected by the Clayton County Conservation Board and Motor Mill Foundation at 29862 Osborne Road, Elkader 52043. (2023 photos) 

(Thanks to Larry and Margaret Stone for updates.)