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A Flour Mill in Downtown Saginaw

“The walls of the Callam grist mill on Franklin street are nearly completed and will be ready for roofing next week.”

-The Saginaw News Courier, June 5, 1893.

Today, a parking ramp covers the lots on the west side of the 200 block of North Franklin Street in downtown Saginaw. However, it was once the site of a flour mill. Even when the mill was constructed in 1893, this was an unexpected site for a flour mill. Just one block south, the Bearinger Building, one of the city’s finest new office buildings, was just being completed. However, the paper announced the project with great enthusiasm:

Above: Images of today's parking ramp at the location of the old Callam Mill-1901 Sanborn Map from the time of the Mill's operation-1935 Sanborn Map after the Mill ceased to operate.

William Callam has let the contract for the mill machinery of his new flouring mill to the firm of Nordyke & Marmon, of Cincinnati, and proposes to have a model plant that will be a pride to this section. The plans he courteously displayed to a News representative this morning show a handsome four-story structure with a frontage on North Franklin street of fifty five feet and depth of eighty feet. It is located opposite Harry Bates’s sale stables and when completed will be quite an ornament to that section of the city. Every piece of machinery that goes into it will be of the very best material and most approved pattern. It will have a guaranteed capacity per day of 150 barrels of flour, twenty-five of buckwheat, twenty-five of rye, twenty-five of cornmeal and three tons of feed.

The stone and brick work has been let to contractor John Qualmand the carpenter work to contractor George Zwerk. Active operations are expected to commence in the course of a few days and as the contract calls for the completion of the mill by Aug. 1, work will be prosecuted with vigor from the start. It is enterprise of this kind that helps Saginaw and the business go and push that Mr. Callam infuses into everything that he undertakes augur most favorably for the carrying out of his plans. (The Saginaw News Courier, March 6, 1893.)

The facility was quickly completed. On September 6, 1893, The Saginaw Evening News announced:

“The Callam flouring mill will be in charge of J.N. Thomkins, for sixteen years head miller of the Mayflower mills and of late miller at the Knickerbocker mills at Jackson.”

The location of this mill was intriguing. Located on the edge of the business district, it was roughly two blocks from the nearest railroad track or siding. Although other tenants on the block included a wholesale grocery and laundry, these businesses did not have the industrial scale of a flour mill.

Part of the reason for selecting this site is hinted at in the papers. Articles highlight that the money paid by Callam for farmers’ grain stayed in the city. Another article proclaims:

“the Callam & Son mill, was highly praised as providing a market for wheat and other cereals for the east side of the river.” The Saginaw Evening News, October 2, 1893.

However, there were issues with having a mill in the city. An article describing runaway horses testifies to the challenges of operating in mill in an urban area:

“A team attached to a farm wagon ran from Callam’s mill this afternoon out on Washing avenue, and turning south made a dash for Brown and Grant’s large windows. Fortunately the uncontrolled pair were stopped on the sidewalk by the telegraph pole, having done no greater damage than to tear one of the Brown & Screen doors from it hinges.” The Saginaw Evening News, July 24, 1895.

Born in Toronto in 1836, William Callam’s name is more commonly associated with sawmills and lumbering than his success at farming; however, he had a keen interest in farming. And his holdings included a model farm of several hundred acres on Deerfield Road – today known as Janes Road. The paper noted:

“Mr. William Callam, the well known lumberman whose interest in all matters pertaining of agriculture is thoroughly recognized owns one of the finest fames [sic] in Saginaw county….” The Saginaw Evening News, April 21, 1893.

When William Callam passed away in 1907, the mill on North Franklin Street was left to his son, Franklin W. Callam. Franklin’s inheritance included partial ownership in William Callam’s flour mill in Clare.

The Callam Mill on North Franklin operated until about 1918 and in 1920, the boilers and engine were listed as being for sale in the classified section of the Saginaw paper.

The Recipe: Grandma's Banana Bread

½ cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 bananas, mashed

½ cup water

2 cups flour

1 tsp soda

Cream butter, sugar, eggs.

Add mashed bananas and water, mix.

Add flour and baking soda.

Bake at 350° until done, about an hour.


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