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MORMON MILL COLONY

MORMON MILL COLONY. The abandoned site of Mormon Mill is on Mormon Mills Road five miles north of Marble Falls and ten miles south of Burnet in south central Burnet County. A group of twenty Mormon families led by Lyman Wight founded the colony in 1851. Wight's band broke away from the rest of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in protest against Brigham Young's leadership after founder Joseph Smith died. Wight, who had been a prominent leader in the church, took his followers to Texas in search of a new Zion. The Mormons established a colony they called Zodiac near Fredericksburg on the Pedernales River, but after a flood and heavy debts drove them out, Wight led the group to a picturesque site on Hamilton Creek, where they established Mormon Mill Colony. Many of the Mormons were highly skilled artisans; they built a wooden dam and a three-story mill building with a twenty-six-foot waterwheel, using materials from the surrounding countryside. Hamilton Creek flowed year-round, providing power for the grain and sawmills, which served the Burnet, Marble Falls, and Austin areas. The colonists farmed and hunted, made willow baskets, spun and wove cloth, and raised gourds for storage of lard and dried fruit. Mormon Mill, with its population of about 250, also supported several blacksmiths and skilled furniture craftsmen. The colony remained apart from the civic affairs of the county; Wight and a board of elders were the sole governing body. Despite the Mormons' industry and ingenuity, the colony once again incurred heavy debts. Plagued by financial problems, mounting resentment of their unconventional theology by local citizens, and frequent Indian raids, the Mormons decided to move on. In December 1853 Wight led most of the group to Bandera County. They sold the Mormon Mill property to Noah Smithwick.

Smithwick quickly opened a store and built a school for the remaining Mormons who worked at the mill. He also modified the mill so that only breadstuffs could be processed, thus prompting local farmers to raise more wheat. A post office opened in 1856; Smithwick's partner and nephew, John R. Hubbard, was postmaster. Smithwick eventually sold out to Hubbard; thereafter, the mill passed through several other owners, including Samuel E. Holland, Joshua T. Moore, and Price Kinser. The mill continued operation, but as new mills opened in the area business gradually declined. The population dwindled until the post office closed in 1875. In 1901 the mill closed down, and one year later the flume and several surrounding buildings burned. Local farmers tore down the remaining mill buildings and used some of the materials for construction of a nearby barn. Finally in 1915 the remaining abandoned residences burned. In 1936 the state erected a historical marker at the mill site. The only traces of Mormon Mill left in the 1980s were a few building foundations and the Mormon cemetery.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Ida Babcock-Hall, "Memories of Mormon Mill," Frontier Times, July 1941. T. Lindsay Baker, Ghost Towns of Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986). J. Marvin Hunter, ed., The Lyman Wight Colony in Texas (Bandera, Texas: Frontier Times Museum, 1952). Heman H. Smith, The Lyman Wight Colony in Texas (MS, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin). Noah Smithwick, The Evolution of a State, or Recollections of Old Texas Days (Austin: Gammel, 1900; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983). Levi Lamoni Wight, Reminiscences (MS, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin).

Lea Anne Morrell

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Lea Anne Morrell, "MORMON MILL COLONY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/uem04), accessed July 31, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.