THE STAR FLOUR MILL
A PLACE WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE
KEEP LOOKING AND YOU’LL FIND IT! – AMERICAN FORK
What is it that people search for? Some sort of Shangri-La or even a Brigadoon? A place where every hundred years or even every thousand, someone has a chance to get off this mad merry go-round called life,
and escape to a time and place, though imprisoned, where one can be happy forever? There is such a place, right here in Utah. It is called the Star Flour Mill. If you spend an afternoon there, you will come to understand its rich history. It’s a great place for every person who loves to hunt through giant junk and antique places. The Star Flour Mill has spirits who love the place. Watch townspeople and total strangers intermingle there and see the history of the place in the red brick floor display where the names of every owner or person involved in its history are carefully engraved on a brick. The present owner will tell you its story if you have time and the inclination to stand and listen to his narration, for he has it memorized. It is even possible buy a brick with your name on it to add to one of his future projects, a front patio of people’s names intertwined with the various historicaL owner’s names.
One can pick up a spoon from Wake Island or an old antique book or a piece of furniture or sheet music from an old song of the 30s. Downstairs in the “kitchen” are all sorts of things to improve one. Daniel Copper, the owner, plans to open up the basement door and install a bakery and cafe. Beyond the original mill are rooms and rooms – endless rooms – full of things that everyone brings to him. He bought all the stuff that was already there and his family collects for the store. Beyond the buildings is an outdoor yard with larger objects, an old log cabin and of course, the stream which contributed the power for the mill to do its work. Some people say that the owner will never accomplish his projected dreams. It is even fewer people who realize that he already has. One can see clearly what is essential to the heart, and like the Little Prince, someone very small and simple shows you the way.
A good example is the group of little children from the neighborhood who come into the store to buy something just about every day, especially in the summertime. They will have a quarter or seventy five cents and ask Daniel what they can buy with it. Knowing which children actually have the money and which do not, he will drop whatever he is doing and take them around the store and show them. Then when it comes time to select something and pay for it, he pretends that they really do have the money. When some of them don’t, he gets out his book. It is not a very big book, but it is his “1.0.U: book. Inside are the names of many children who owe Daniel money. He will patiently have a talk with them each time about the importance of paying off one’s debts, and they in tum will carefully sign their name in the book, each and every time. After they have signed he will then tell them that when they reach a million dollars to “pay it forward”. This makes sense because if they ever do have a million dollars, they just might.
There is an old Hollywood movie called Good Sam. Gary Cooper plays the lead. He is always helping others and giving away possessions and savings, you name it. His wife, Ann Sheridan, has the best part because she gets to strut around being very sarcastic and as a result, very funny. After giving away their money for a house twice, baving their borrowed car wrecked and losing his job over all this, he decides to end it all. Then out of the blue one of the young couples that he has helped comes back and pays him everything plus interest. I believe that someday Daniel will have the same thing happen to him. But then I am a believer and many people are not.
Daniel Copper is a 43-year-old transplant from Hood River, Oregon and spent a few years in Boston, Massachusetts working at an architectural firm after graduating from U.C.l.A. He was already interested in antiques because he used to go with his mother to antique shows and auctions when he was a child. He bought the Star Flour Mill in American Fork from Nancy Long, who had her own vision one day. Ms. Long or Mrs. Christiansen, bought the Gardner Mill and its surrounding property after watching some beautiful birds near the river there and realizing that this was what she wanted to do. People thought she was crazy for doing it, but she took out a loan, rebuilt, and eventually made a great success of the venture, and has been building and adding on ev~r ~ince. Ms. Long doesn’t really like to emphasize the ghosts and spirits in her many buildings, though you really can’t fight city hall as is often said, for the apparitions at the various Gardner mills have been talked about and written about for over a hundred years. Mr. Copper, on the other hand, talks freely about them, accepts their guidance, and is willing to take the ridicule that often accompanies belief in such things. Even the title of the article about him in The Salt Lake Tribune was a gentle reminder that one man’s (or woman’s) dream is another man’s folley. (“‘Spirits’ Help Architect Make Project A Reality, II by Mark Eddington, The Salt Lake Tribune, March 6, 2000, Section B, front page.) Still, the newspaper managed to tell his story quite nicely.
The first pioneer flour mills, just like the other types of mills built in Utah, were part of a well-organized effort on the part of the first Normon settlers guided by Brigham Young, to create a systematic and exttemely well planned network of industries and supplies for all Utah people. Four of them were built in the Salt Lake Valley first, but then others soon followed as LOS church members were sent out to settle various areas around the state. The land on which the mill now stands was originally homesteaded by Daniel and Eliza Allen. James Chipman, who was both American Fork’s mayor and the state of Utah’s first treasurer, established his mill in 1888. Four men – William Grant, Josiah Smith, Darius Allen and James Chipman – had gone in to business together and bought the land. James then turned right around and bought out all of his partners.
An interesting story about James Chipman’s mother, Stephen Chipman’s first wife, showing her strong will and independent streak, recounts that she, it warned her husband that if he ever brought a polygamous wife in the front door she would leave out the back.” (ibid, p.B3.) Amanda Chipman remained true to her word and Left her husband when he did, divorcing him. Stephen’s second wife was Phoebe Davis Chipman. But Amanda never could or would abandon her seven children, and when her new second husband wanted her to move out of state with him, she Left him and returned to her children. It is interesting that when we went to the graveyard, it was Phoebe’s side of the monument that I walked directly to without even knowing just where it was. It took me several minutes to discover Amanda’s name on the other side, because being a stranger to all of this, left me rather confused as to who was married to whom. Then I read the phrase: “Mourn not for me my rest is sweet,” and decided that I would have liked her a lot.
Amanda’s son, James Chipman, rebuilt the mill in 1908 adding the newest mill machinery, after the original mill burned down the year before. He also had two wives; his first wife was Sarah Annadelia Green and his second was Selena Huntsman. He had married Sarah Annadelia quite young, as she had 4 children by the time she was 21. She was also hauntingly beautiful. A rumored story is that one night she wanted to go to a dance in town and James could not or would not take her. So she went by herself in the dead of winter walking into town and back. James’ new wife, SaLena was quite jealous of Sarah and took this opportunity to lock her out of the house as it was quite late. By the time Sarah got into the house later that night she was iLL. She caught pneumonia and died shortly after that. Others say that there is not so dramatic a story as this surrounding Sarah’s tragic early demise, and even that Sarah never came. west with her husband but stayed back east, or passed away there. But then why, would she be buried in the American Fork cemetery? These are questions that perhaps, some day may be answered.
It is possible, either way, that it was her husband James who had a huge statue of her put in the American Fork Cemetery on a high pedestal, but no one knows for sure. It was not until we left the cemetery and drove down the hill to the mill that I realized that he had also had her statue placed so that it was looking directly across to where the mill was, so that she would gaze down upon it eternally. Over the decades, the statue which was the biggest and most unusual in the cemetery, attracted kids who began to vandalize it. Eventually it was completely destroyed and thrown away.
Daniel Copper wanted to get a new statue put up for Sarah Annadella in the cemetery. Right now an artist is creating the miniature version of the statue. It will look just like the old one with two important changes. It will be in bronze to assure a long existence, and the face on it will be Sarah’s, something that was rarely done in those days. It will be one of a kind in a way, because of this, though Daniel and his partners will have to raise the $45,000 dollars it will take for the bronze statue to be completed and placed in the cemetery. The town has an annual Living History presentation each summer where people go to the graveyard and stand by someone’s grave while someone else tells the story of this person’s life. This summer, Sarah’s story will be added to the list and people are hopeful that others will join in the fund raising for Sarah’s statue to be returned to the graveyard.
The artist was a bit frustrated because he did not know what the back of the statue looked like, how her long hair draped or how the folds of the long gown looked from behind. Just a few days later an older woman came into the store with pictures. She said that she had heard about what was going on and that she had taken pictures of the back of the statue some years before and handed them to him. Daniel looked at me and said, “Now whom do you know that takes pictures of the backs of statues in
James and Selena Chipman ran the mill along with his brother Henry. The Chipmans ran it as the Peoples Mill and Elevator for a while. But then in 1924, Sanford Walker bought it from them. In 1931, Sanford traded it to August Purduhn who operated it with other family members, his wife Augusta, and later, his sons Ernest and Herman Purduhn. It became a family affair when Henry and Mabel Parduhn, Don and Marion Parduhn, Leon and Laura Parduhn and Jay and Molly Parduhn all ran the mill together. Two of these grandsons, Leon and Jay, operated the flour mill officially, but some people thought that it was the four women who really ran it. On September 21, 1979, after almost 50 years of family operation, the Parduhns shut down and ceased operating the mill. It stood idle for only a few months and then Bill and Tammy Adams bought it and turned the old main mill into a craft store. They operated this store for about two years, had some difficulty and the Parduhns got it back. So for about ten years the mill stood idle and empty. If you go there you will understand what an Immense job it would be to maintain it, and how it could easily become the town’s scariest site, standing empty.
Teens and others vandalized the place, carried on strange explorations and clubs, and otherwise gave it a reputation that it really did not need. Nancy Long saw the mill one day and decided to buy it in 1990, probably both to preserve it and perhaps to start a second venture there like her other successful one in West Jordan. Then Daniel Copper came along in 1993 and bought it from her. The Star Flour Mill is considered by the experts to be one of the best preserved mills in the state. “It is extremely rare to find so much original milling equipment still intact,’ Smithsonian Institution milling expert Robert Johnson is quoted as saying: (Ibid, p.B3.) Mr. Copper, following his dream to convert the whole place into a hotel, restaurant and convention center, has worked tirelessly as a one-man team to bring this event about. According to him, he has had a lot of help, from the “spirits” in residence.
Copper says he has had a great deal of help and guidance from those who built, worked at and maintained the mill long before he became the owner. If everyone believed this, they might just find out that there is more help provided in this arena than most people are certainly aware of. Many great philosophers, inventors, scientists, mathematicians, artists and writers, just to name a few, were considered dreamers in their own time. Many of them had “aha’ experiences which provided them with information that they vitally needed for this plan or that invention, this great poem or that great philosophical idea. Each went to bed one night or maybe for many nights, puzzling over a theorem or a problem or some detail in their plans that made them incomplete and had the answer come to them either in a dream or a vision or even in words spoken out of thin air. The next morning an answer came or was written or drawn on the bedroom walls. If this is difficult to believe, study a bit; this has happened over and over again in every field of endeavor, where a person considered a dreamer, made his dream come true through the help of the “spirtts.”
Copper was obviously drawn to the old place like most intuitive people are. He knew that he had seen it before, perhaps even many times before, with every detail in its right place just as he had envisioned it. He first built his general store to support his work on the mill, which has been in operation since 1997. He began right away to hear footsteps walking around on the second floor when no one was there but him. He feels that the mill founder James Chipman and his mother, Amanda Chipman have helped him out on many an occasion, including saving his own life at one point.
In December of 1993, he fell 45 feet while working on the mill. He landed on his head, which sent him into convulsions; he also broke his ribs and right elbow. It took him about two years to recuperate from this mishap. After this, he consulted a psychic, to help understand what had happened. He also might have wondered if he had done the right thing in purchasing the mill, and if the residual energies and apparitions there perhaps did not want him to change anything or maybe that he was simply an unwelcome visitor. The psychic told Mr. Copper that his injuries would have been worse if he had not been helped by two angels, whom he says are James and Amanda Chipman. The psychic did call them by name after saying that they were … the eternal father of a big project I was doing,’ he recalls. The psychic said that the woman angel was a very independent woman who does whatever she damn well pleases. She told me her name was Amanda.’ (ibid, p.B3.)
Other things have happened to guide him that cannot be explained away, such as finding Amanda Chipman’s grave site. DUring the time that he was recuperating from what was a near-death experience, Copper read anything and everything he could find on the history of the mill, its founders and their families and even the town of American Fork and the history of flour milling itself. He hoped to gain a better understanding of the mill and its various previous owners. He also drew architectural plans of it from various angles, both of the mill now and then what he hoped that it would someday look like. A near-death experience, as many know, can set a man or woman on an entirely new path, as well as make him or her more of a humanitarian, and certainly more in touch with his own intuitive gifts and abilities. Copper visiting a psychic is a perfect clue that he was beginning his personal spiritual quest and gaining an understanding of his own innate intuition, though Copper was apparently already on his path long before. Eventually a person does not need others to use their intuition to tell him what he needs to know, because he slowly comes to realize that we all have these gifts to one degree or another.
He feels the presences and the changes of atmosphere in the building and wants to get more specific information using his intuition, because he now understands that he can. This may be the first step in understanding both the path of least resistance, and going with the flow of the river. He does his research in the world which we can see, and now he continues his explorations in the world which we cannot see so clearly, nor so chronologically. He has found out that all those “no trespassing” signs he sometimes runs into, mean that he has to travel these particular paths by himself. He also realizes that, no matter how much he works to fit into the world which we think of as the real one, he will, sooner or later, be a target for those who cannot not follow him. There are those who shake their heads and say that he will never get “it” all done. But the mill is only one of a thousand other such places where people go to find refuge of one kind or another. In the end, those of us who go there, cannot explain where we have gone, nor when we might be coming back for another visit.
Copper says that” … the spirits proved to be invaluable tutors. Historical photos of the mill, unavailable anywhere else, suddenly turned up on the doorstep of the former miller’s house next door to where Copper now lives. Whisperings, he says, have helped him uncover documents and to fill in other parts of the historical puzzle ever since.” (ibid, p. B3.) “Whisperings” is a kinder, gentler way of saying that Mr. Copper is hearing voices. It seems to be all right for the intellectual professional who abandons his lucrative career in the city, to follow his dream in the country. It is a legitimate thing to do, perhaps even the “in” thing to do, Unless of course this same professional, having had a serious fall and possibly head injury from this fall, begins to hear voices and follows the advice of apparitions from the past, while believing a psychic who tells him that they are his guiding angels. Being a member of the local culture which once accepted such things, he must sometimes be frustrated by both his neighbors and his on-going rehabilitation. Of course he is lucky to be a man and not a woman, because women intuitives who do this sort of dreaming are of course giving into their emotions or even worse, claiming an extra-natural power in the world. Perhaps it was fortunate that Daniel fell, and though he still struggles with the aftermath of his injuries, it gives meaning and reason for seeing things that others cannot.
“Gradually, Copper’s vision is taking shape. The 3-year-old general store specializes in antiques. He plans to convert the mill, miller’s house and several log cabins on the site into hotel rooms. The mill’s basement will become a bakery and cafe. The warehouse behind the mill will see double duty as a conference center for family reunions and other small gatherings. An 1872 barn he is disassembling in Salt Lake City and mOving to American Fork also could be used for meeting space. He is confident the investors and finances necessary to finish the project will come. The spirits will help out once the time is right.” (ibid, p.B3.) When I was there, I felt as though I was one of these several “helpers” yet to come. People will just show up to help out on the mill. It is my job to write about it, while another person might choose to capture photographs, and still others will come with ways to build and finance the project. The fact is that Copper is not going to find them or seek them out, they are just going to “come when the time is right”.
Sometimes, I marvel at the state and culture from which I sprang. The mysticism and spiritualism made very strong individuals take flight from other places to come here and build a kingdom of their very own. It is interesting how time and the need for power has changed all that. Where once there were wide open spaces, clean air and non-polluted water, there now stand highway construction roadblocks, fences, wires and no trespassing signs. Once, communities of families and friends, of both male and female persuasion, blessed and cared for each other in a world they thought magical. People now scurry about in fear and separations from those things which they love. Where once power, though compartmentalized, was still a shared commodity for all to enjoy, there are now power centers, telling the rest of us what to do and how and where to live, whether we are aware of these centers or not. Some of them have names, while others are hidden from view. Some of these power centers are hidden under the guise of religion or benevolence, while others show us outright that they do indeed mean us harm. Worse, a man marching to the beat of his own drum, may be somehow suspect.
The first time I visited the mill and surroundings, I knew nothing about the mill except for the article that I had read in the paper. I immediately knew that I wanted to write about the place, to try and tell its story as accurately and precisely as possible after meeting Daniel. The place is just full of feeling and mostly a loving one at that. After I had walked around a while, I was passing a door to the other attached rooms when it suddenly swung open, not a few inches like the wind does to it all the time, but at least a foot and a half. Then it just stood there suspended as if it was making sure that it had my full attention and then when it did, it swung ever so gently shut again. I’d had doors slam in my face before but never such an inviting “come in.” I went back and asked Daniel if I could go into the part that was off-limits to customers; he answered that it would be all right. I started in and went through room after room, feeling as if I would really get lost, even though one could only really walk in a straight line to the north with little aisles running east and west in each room. With so many items to be observed, the feeling was really overwhelming. When I got to the last room I didn’t want to go in and turned around and went back. Then suddenly there was Daniel standing before me, showing where he had fallen not far from where this door was located.
When I came back out I asked Daniel who Charles, Amanda, Sarah and Jim were. I told him that there were 6 men and 8 women and possibly two little children who had been involved with this mill at one time or another and that all of them were still around from time to time in spirit form. But the four mentioned above were the guardians of the mill and they were quite often. The little children would come up and tap on my legs to get my attention, but the others were just smells and feelings and images which I saw in my mind. Without hesitation, and this was long before I knew a single thing about this mill, he told me who he thought each of them were. Charles was James’s middle name and Amanda was his mother. These were the two “angels” who had saved him he said. Sarah, who seemed to draw me into her story more than the others did, was James’s first wife, though there was another Sarah, his second wife Selena’s oldest child. Jim is a mystery; either I misunderstood and it was really James, or they called him or his oldest son James Jr., “Jim.” Then there is always the possibility that “Jim” is someone else who came along later. Though I am really sure that Sarah Annadelia is who I felt around me as I walked about.
When I went back a week or so later, with two other people with intuitive abilities, to walk about and compare what we felt, the most interesting thing was how we all agreed on three areas in the building’s rooms. One area was the heart of the house and was warm and tingly. It was close to where Daniel fell. Another area had people in it . an old man who was sick and in bed a lot and a little girl who had a favorite spot by a window that was no longer there and a kitchen. This turned out to be the area where an old re-located log cabin had once stood and where some of the first settlers had lived. Back in the far northwest comer all three of us felt sick and could not breathe very well and did not like what we were sensing – danger and death. We learned afterwards that this area had been where dead animals had been kept for a side business. When we all sat down later, Daniel took out one of the maps of the place that he had drawn and we went through it room by room describing to him what we had felt, sensed, heard or seen. Then he talked about the healing that the mill has done for people who come there. We went off to explore the outside too. Later we visited the cemetery and without any directions walked straight to Sarah’s grave, and then Arza Adam’s grave, the first miller in the area, and finally to Stephen Chipman’s grave with Amanda’s name on one side of the monument and Phoebe’s on the other.
Daniel Copper’s mill has special good luck. One day while cleaning out an area on the second floor, he found in a piece of equipment something soft that he could feel with his hands and pulled it out. He realized at once that it was a petrified white owl. Before he was finished he had found three of them. They had apparently crawled in together and had somehow gotten caught. No one knows just how long they had been in there. He has them in a basket hidden in a drawer and jokes about one of them saluting like a cub scout. I guess they sort of symbollze the whole place, both frozen in time and yet so beautiful. They also represent two entirely different beliefs. In the tribal cultures, white owls can represent protection and good luck or wisdom and spiritualism. On the other hand they can represent a death that is coming soon or solitude and mourning. One can always hear the owl calling one’s name, for good or for ill. They shelter one’s home from the death of a community, or welcome its end.
Buildings have their own energy and soul it is said. They create communities of people and have a life span all their own. Sometimes after the death of a building, the community bands together to bring the building back to life. Or someone, usually a stranger from out of town, comes along with a vision or a plan, and with a little help and money, infuses the place with a new life and a new reason to be. Sometimes it is a brand new building and not like the old one. Sometimes, which may be even better, the people try to return it to its Original use or at least capture the flavor of it in what disposition is made of it. When the community is behind the project, or when someone from outside the community introduces a new vision, others catch on and join in. The building then has a chance once more to be considered a part of the community which breathes life back into the building’s own soul and in turn, that of the community.
If you go to the Star Flour Mill, be prepared for more than just a walk through a wonderland of things from the past, or even the spirits that reside there. Be prepared to meet yourself and your own dreams and failures and successes. Look in the mirrors inside and see what it means to be successful as a human being. There may be a little boy sitting on the steps examining his new purchase for the day or a housewife, weary from her day of children and family, wandering in her own memories about the store and feeling better about things when she leaves. Then there are the people who just seem to plain love these types of places, becoming all excited about the bargains that they have just found. Or perhaps one will see a mother and daughter sharing time together. There are men who stop in for a few minutes from a busy day looking for something specific, but really just loving the atmosphere and the chance to be themselves if only for a few minutes. Old folks also join in, loving to reminisce and tell their stories. Perhaps even an intuitive person or two, may be drawn to Daniel’s “angels.” Everyone is welcomed at the Star Flour Mill.