Steam Engines, Mules and a Canal Boat

Steam-powered Mill brings History Back to Life


| March 2007



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Opposite page: A scenic view of the mill, which is right on the Erie Canal at Lock 44.

The scenic Isaac Ludwig Mill in Providence, Ohio, is a, restored, water-powered grist and flour mill, sawmill and power generating station. And better yet, the mill employs two steam engines - an Erie 60 HP and an 1880-1890 Star 5 HP oil drilling engine.

Adjacent to the mill, two mules, Molly and Sally, pull the Volunteer, a replica 1876 canal boat through the restored mile-long section of the Erie Canal and Lock 44. Along the way, re-enactors take tourist passengers back in time during their one-hour journey. It all adds up to a "must see" for steam engine fans and lovers of history.

Mill History

Situated alongside the Maumee River, the mill operated from 1868 to 1970 as both a sawmill and a grist mill. In 1974, the mill became the property of the Providence Metropark System of Toledo. The park system immediately began the restoration process, taking the mill, the adjacent Miami Erie Canal and Lock 44 back to the heydays of the early 1900s.

The mill was powered by water turbine under normal conditions, but when a flood occurred the water would rise and could no longer provide the head needed to run the turbines. To counter this, in 1900 the mill owner installed a steam engine, which could provide power and allow the mill to continue operating under flood conditions.

In small towns and rural farm areas everyone knows their neighbors, and sooner or later stories of anything of interest will spread throughout the community. This was the case with the two steam engines installed at the mill.

But those who knew of the engines didn't want to see these pieces of history end up in the scrap yard, and their location had remained hidden for many years. Until, that is, the Isaac Ludwig Mill restoration provided a place for the steam engines to be viewed and enjoyed by those interested in preserving these relics of the past.