Wrecking the flour mill in 1922 Jamestown

It took 2 weeks to make the repairs after an accident.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig
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It was a bad day at the flour mill in Jamestown back in September 1922.

The Russell-Miller flour mill was located at the base of Mill Hill and was a busy place grinding the wheat of the fields of the area into flour for markets around the region.

Except for the two weeks it took to make the repairs after an accident.

A switch engine, a small train engine used to move cars around on the sidings, was pushing eight box cars loaded with wheat to the mill that day.
That is about 320 tons of wheat on wheels.

It would seem the tracks had a bit of downhill slant as they approached the mill. The hitch between the switch engine and the first box car broke and the wheat-laden box cars rolled downhill with enough force to knock an empty car off the tracks before crashing into the mill building.


The cars crashed through the beltway, the area that connected the engine room to the floor mill. The belt was made of leather and was 36 inches wide and long enough to connect the two portions of the factory.
After the accident, it was broken into at least two pieces.

The crash also completely demolished the locker and toilet rooms for the employees.

The force on the buildings actually knocked over walls crushing three automobiles on the far side of the building.

Writers for The Jamestown Alert noted it was a Dodge and two Fords crushed under the ruble.

The description of the accident gave the engineer of the switch engine credit for blowing the whistle long and hard to warn the folks in the mill. The consensus was there was too much noise in the mill factory for the warning to be heard.

Fortunately, the accident occurred a few minutes before end of shift, and the locker room and toilet weren’t occupied although two men were said to be within 10 feet of the area when it was demolished.

With no one injured, I’m sure the workers had a few good stories to tell that night although the cleanup of the wreckage, aided by a crane from the Northern Pacific Railroad, started yet that night.

According to the newspaper reports, it was about two weeks later that operations began again.


You have to hope they put the toilet somewhere a little safer than right inside the wall where the tracks come to an end.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at

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