Sunday, August 24, 2014

Roller Mill

Pebble Roller Mill near Scribner, Nebraska
Pebble Roller Mill near Scribner, Nebraska

Postmark-1: OMAHA & CHAD.R.PO AUG 21 1908
Postmark-2: MONROE NEB. AUG -- --
Mr. & Mrs. William Brunken
Platte Center
MonroeRR No 3
Dear Brother & Sister
I dreamt of you last knight so I thaught I would drop you a few lines.  We are well   John is Bothered with boils this summer   why dont you folks ever write   how is Hilda and all of rest of you.
from Rika

Who's Who

  • "Mr. & Mrs. William Brunken", "Brother & Sister" are William and Clara "Mary" (Petersen) Brunken.
  • "John" is John Witt. Jr, husband of William Leopold Brunken's sister, Frederika (Brunken) Witt.
  • "Hilda" is Hilda Ida Brunken, daughter of Clara "Mary" (Petersen) and William Brunken.
  • "Rika" is Fredrika (Brunken) Witt, daughter of John and Johanna (Plath) Brunken.


A flour mill (gristmill) is shown in the picture on the front of the postcard. And, a wagon loaded with filled sacks (probably wheat flour - maybe cornmeal, graham flour, or stock feed ) is being drawn away by a good looking span of horses with knotted cord fly sheets.

According to the 1910 through 1940 US Census, my granduncle, John Witt, Jr., was involved in milling operations as a mill operator and later a mill owner. My first thoughts were that possibly the pictured mill was the Shell Creek Valley Roller Mill owned by Peter Schmitt in which John Witt, Jr. was a miller.
The Columbus journal., April 20, 1910, page 1

The Peter Schmitt Mill (Shell Creek Valley Mills)

"Peter Schmitt received his early schooling in Germany, and when a young man learned the miller's trade. After his father's death in the early 1880's, he inherited the milling business in Germany and conducted it a short time prior to his coming to the United States. ...
In 1891, he ... bought the Shell Creek Valley Roller Mill northwest of Columbus, and the forty acres of land on which it was located, from Joseph Bucher. He built dams on Shell Creek for water power and installed two mill wheels of thirty-two and forty-four horsepower."[1]

The Columbus journal., July 04, 1894, page 3
The Columbus journal., July 04, 1894, page 3
"The average output of Schmitt's Mill in 1918 was seventy-five to ninety barrels of flour per day. Besides wheat flour, Mr. Schmitt manufactured graham flour, cornmeal and stock food."[1]

John Witt's Biography

John Witt, Jr. did learn the milling trade from Mr. Schmitt as is noted in John's biography that I later found[3].  But he was operating another mill at the time this postcard was sent in 1908.

 "Shortly after completing Normal College[1896], he found a job at Peter Schmidt’s Shell Creek Flour Mill where he became acquainted with flour milling.  …
  At Pebble there was a sawmill and a flour mill.  There was also a Post Office and the town site was laid out but the railroad did not want to cross the creek thus Scribner came into being.
  John Witt looked up one of his classmates, J.L. Brunken, and then became acquainted with his future bride-to-be--”our mother”.   After marriage[2], our father and his brother Henry operated the Pebble Roller Mill near Scribner.  Later the partnership was dissolved. …
  In 1912, our father built a new flour mill in Leigh, Nebraska and January 2, 1913 his machinery was set into motion.  … Nine years later the mill was totally destroyed by fire.  $25,000 of new machinery had just been installed and was not yet covered by insurance, which was quite a financial loss in those days."[3]

So the picture on the postcard is probably of the Pebble Roller Mill near Scribner, Nebraska.


Postmark is August 21, 1908.


Scribner, Nebraska.  The postmark could be from anywhere along the Omaha and Chad Rail. However, the mill was at Pebble, Nebraska - just across the creek from Scribner, Nebraska. And, according to the 1910 US Census, the Witt family lived in Scribner, Nebraska.


  1. Curry, Margaret. The History of Platte County Nebraska. PETER SCHMITT. Murray & Gee, Culver City, California. 1950. page 883.
  2. John Witt Jr. married Frederika Mary Brunken, daughter of John and Johanna (Plath) Brunken, on 20 Oct 1898.
  3. George Witt and Clara Muir, "Biography of John Witt." 1977. page 12.