If you turn east from the main highway at Buckhorn Lake and drive about a half a mile, you will come to one of the loveliest, most romantic spots around here. The waters flow gently over an age old dam, then trickle over the rocks into a deep ravine, overhung with trees. After crossing the old wooden bridge, you find yourself in a little valley, surrounded by hills. You see an old dwelling, several small weather beaten structures and brick foundation still standing at the further end. You hear no sound save the murmuring of the water as it moves along, or perhaps the song of a bird.
Here for nearly a century was located Rudd’s Mill, one of the liveliest industries in this section of the country. The farmers for miles around brought their grain to be ground into flour, and in the busy season, the machinery ran day and night.
“I can remember going to the mill with my father, as a boy,” says village president Homer J. Kelly. “It was quite an event and took up the greater part of the day. Twenty or thirty teams would be lined up waiting to take their place at the door of the mill. The farmers would gather together to discuss business and the news of the day.”
Rudd’s Mill was built in 1835 by Powell Carpenter from Scottsville, NY. Besides the mill, he erected three dwelling houses, a store, blacksmith shop and a cooper shop. He later turned the property over to his two sons, Charles F. Carpenter (father of Ira) and Ezra Carpenter. Charles later sold his interest to Richard Emmons, son-in-law of Ezra.
In 1865 Robert Rudd purchased the mill of Carpenter & Emmons for $16,000, paying down $1,000. That business was good and can be seen by the fact that in a few years he paid off the mortgage of $15,000. He took his son, Charles, into the business and the latter ran the mill later. In 1874, Rudd’s Mill was made a flag station on the railroad. In July of 1884, 70,000 to 80,000 bushels of wheat were ground at Rudd’s Mill.
C.W. Rudd sold the business in 1887 to David Swayze, Bethuel Flumerfelt and Robert Smalley, the latter buying out the interest of the first two. Luther Pierce purchased it from Smalley, who in turn sold it to W.E. Wilders in 1895. Mr. Wilders made many improvements in the machinery, making it a roller mill. Forty barrels of Golden Rod Flour was the daily capacity of the mill. Mr. Wilders relates how in the spring of the year when the water was high, he would sometimes have to get up in the middle of the night to open up the gates to keep the dam from being washed out.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilders and family occupied the large dwelling opposite the mill. All the rooms were large and it contained nine bedrooms. Several beautiful locust trees around the house made it a beautiful spot in blossom time. On Jan. 22, 1904, this house burned to the ground and the family moved to Lake Orin. Mr. Wilder continued his operations at the mill until 1924 when it was sold to Dr. Lennox of Detroit, and E. Freer, of Goodison. The mill was torn down in 1925. Since then the place has changed hands a number of times.
This picture has changed since 1931 when this story was first published in the Orion Weekly Review (today the Lake Orion Review). The structures are gone, and evidence of the mills remain in the form of concrete pylon foundation pieces, stone foundations, an artesian well, and dam ruins. But the beauty and serenity remains. Today walkers and bikers pass through this piece of Orion history as they enjoy the surroundings protected by the Paint Creek Trailways Commission and managers of Bald Mountain State Recreation Area.
A walker headed west on Clarkston road approaching the crossroads, might notice the trickle of water from the old artesian well flowing off the hill onto the roadside. The artist, who in 1877 rendered the drawing seen above must have been standing here. Continuing past the bridge and on up Kern Road, the walker should look for a small walking trail that connects down to the Paint Creek Trail. The mill foundation pylons can be seen from here. Our walker can now take that foot path to the main trail, cross it, and take another foot path which leads to the old dam ruins. This dam broke in June of 1946 when Paint Creek overflowed all the way into Rochester. In 1946-1947 Bald Mountain State Park was formed to include this site.
Back up on the main trail, and just east of the footpath, the walker can view the stone foundation of the old mill and another view of the pylons. Continuing on to some steps going down from the right side of the trail and before the footbridge, the old train trestle, depicted in the 1877 drawing, can be seen. The concrete bridge was built in 1924 and the railroad bed was converted into Paint Creek Trail in 1981.
By marking this place with a Michigan Historical Marker, The Carpenter-Rudd site will now be remembered in the story of the origins of Orion Township. The marker is located on Paint Creek Trail
in Bald Mountain State Recreation Area.