The development of the Iola Mills property began in 1854 when the first property owner, Silas Miller dammed the river to power a sawmill. When Silas Miller died in 1855 a series of owners and operators took over. These names included; Samuel Stoner, Samuel S Chandler and his brother Col. J W Chandler, Milton Baldwin, and John M Dewey. In 1857, Henry Wipf and his two sons, Jacob and Conrad 'rented' 2/3's interest in the mill property and by 1866 had become the sole owners. The Wipf family and their descendants continued to own and operate the mills for the next 100 years. Ownership history provides some clues to the true operators and builders. However, early names such as 'Chandler's & Baldwin's Mill', 'Chandler's Mills' (first name of village), 'Chandler, Baldwin, & Osborn Sawmill' (Osborn was a son-in-law of Chandler) provide the best indicator of the earliest mill operators.
In 1860 the Wipf family built the grist mill in the photo above. The original structure was only the two-story center section. The third floor of the center section was built to accommodate a 'flouring' operation. (The twin bolters used to separate the flour are still located on the third floor.) The other additions were built in the later part of the 19th century with the section to the right of the picture eventually becoming two floors. On the first floor of the section to the left is a 28" planer and 4-sided moulding machine...both water-powered and still in place where they were when last in service.
In 1860 the grist mill was powered by an 'undershot wheel' which was replaced by a used water turbine sometime in the 1880's. In the October 19th, 1899 issue of the Iola Herald, an article mentions an 'Edison Dynamo' which was purchased by the Wipf's and used to create electricity to light the mill. In 1999 current owners, Tom and Melody Fucik, rebuilt the water turbine and again are using it to create hydroelectricity!
This photo, c.1895, shows the extant of the commercial activity of the mill operations in the late 19th century. The railroad which came to the village in 1884 was extended to the mill in 1899 to accommodate loading the immense amount of timber which was being shipped out of the village.