A mill was built about three fourths of a mile from Grape Creek on the bank of the Vermilion River in Vermilion County, Illinois. It was built by William Sheets and his brother-in-law, Thomas Scott Morgan. They had married sisters, daughters of Daniel and Ann (Henthorn) Kyger. William Sheets married Elizabeth Kyger on September 3, 1829 and Thomas Morgan married Brooky Kyger on February 20, 1834. In 1835 at the start of building the mill and the dam across the Vermilion River Sheets was 27 years old and Morgan 25.
The mill commenced grinding in 1834. It was known for a number of years as the Morgan and Sheets Mill. In connection with their grist mill they erected a saw mill and a distillery. The mill had customers for 40 miles around. They started with one run of stone but soon had enough business to add a second stone.
In 1850, Henry T. Kyger, son of John Kyger, bought the mill. In 1865, he formed a partnership with his brothers, Daniel and Tilmon and they made improvements to the mill at a cost of about $8000. In 1873, Daniel Kyger took full charge of the mill operation.
The huge grist mill ground corn and wheat night and day for more than sixty years. Power to run the grinding stones and saw mill was furnished by twin turbine wheels driven by water impounded in a huge fore bay or mill race. Water was forced into the latter by a dam built across the river at a right angle to the mill.
Lumber was cut by a gate saw fitted into a huge frame about 8 feet high and six feet wide. The saw mill turned out about 2000 feet of lumber a day. The price of sawing was 50 cents per 100 feet or a share.
Other buildings used in the mill business included a mill barn to house horses and oxen, a cooperage for making barrels to ship flour, a wheat granary, and a barracks for the mill hands. The customers who came for many miles had to wait their turn.
The mill continued in operation until about 1900 when the building weakened by age fell of its own weight into the Vermilion River.
Tradition says that Thomas S. Morgan was arrested on a complaint of men who wanted to use flatboats on the Big Vermilion river and objected to the dam at the Grape Creek mill. Morgan secured Abraham Lincoln to defend him when the case came up for trial at Danville. When the case was called, Lincoln asked the judge if the Big Vermilion River was considered a navigable river by the court. The judge replied that it was. Lincoln requested that the case be dismissed as the State of Illinois had no jurisdiction over navigable rivers and it was therefore a concern of the federal government. The court dismissed the case.
Posted: 23 Sep 2009