The Treasure of Thompson’s Mills

July 27, 2009 (Updated January 19, 2013)

If you like treasure hunts, you’ll love this week’s “Grant’s Getaways” to one of the newest – oldest – sites that Oregon State Parks Department offers visitors across the state.

There’s simply nothing like what you’ll find “down by the old mill stream” at Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Area.

When Park Manager Doug Crispin tells the unique tale of Oregon history at one of the newest state park properties the 19th century comes to life. It is history that dates back more than 150 years to a time when leather belts wrapped wooden wheels to move augers and elevators that carried grain that gave life to the earliest settlers of the Willamette Valley.

It was a time when the Calapooia River produced hydro power that moved all manner of machinery at Thompson’s Mills near Shedd, Oregon. Crispin said that Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department was so impressed with the treasured landmark that they bought the mill, the cottage and the surrounding property a few years ago.

“Every time I walk through this mill and see the axe marks on these original timbers, it comes alive to me. I just marvel at the craftsmanship, the hard work and the ingenuity of our pioneer ancestors. Plus, the fact that it still stands today.”

Restoration efforts at the site continue and offer hands-on exhibits that show you how tons of grain was moved and then milled with giant limestone millstones. It’s a remarkable site with many hidden nooks and crannies according to Crispin, who added it is: …”the sort of place that demands exploration.”

It’s a wonderful step back into an earlier time and place that’s pretty much like it was – and that makes it all worth a visit.

About The

Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.