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Account: Albright's Mill
The following was compiled by the Annandale History Club secretary with information from William Fiedler, and the Cokato and Wright County Historical Societies.    

Middleville Township

1856:  The first road through the future Middleville Township (Mooer’s Prairie Road) was built east-west on the south line of the township (now U.S. 12).

1858:  Wright County was organized by county commissioners February 20, 1855.  Middleville Township was organized April 6, 1858.  Minnesota became a state May 11, 1858.

1862:  During the five-week Dakota Uprising (August 17-September 23, 1862), most of the settlers left. 

1869:  Railroad built at Smith Lake 3.2 miles south of Albright’s.  Depot and water tower built.  Smith Lake was entered as a town site of 65 acres.

1906:  Annandale Advocate, November 22, 1906:  Work on a road from Granite Lake to Albright’s Mill will start in the spring.

Albright’s Mill

1879:  Middleville Township Plat Map:  “Albrecht, Herman, Proprietor Albrecht’s Flouring Mills.  Merchant and custom work done; also feed grinding.  120 acres, Middleville Section 8.”  

Herman Albrecht (1846-1895) immigrated from Tuchtfeld, Germany, in 1870 with five brothers and settled in Glencoe and Plato, Minnesota.  He learned the miller trade in Germany.  Herman Albrecht came to the Howard Lake/Smith Lake area in 1879 looking for a place with water power.  He purchased 120 acres in Section 8, Middleville Township, Wright County, where there was a horseshoe bend in the Crow River.  Within ten years he completed a dam, flume, three-story grist mill, house, barn, and hen house.  Albrecht hauled many loads of stone for the dam.  The dam was at least 50 feet across.erman Albrecht was   Herman Albrecht’s daughter said he later bought 40 more acres because a neighbor complained that when the water was high, the Albright dam caused his land to be flooded.

Herman Albrecht’s grist mill on the Crow River was the only mill of its kind in Middleville Township at the time.  The mill had good water power and three run of burrs.  It was a substantial three-story structure and did a good business.  At times it was run day and night.  It could be run by steam when the water was too low.   Albrecht’s daughter, Dora, said, “The boiler was fired by cord wood.  There were rows and rows of cord wood in the wood yard.”    

The Albright’s Mill area was also called Crow River, Minnesota.  Crow River Roller Mills was painted on the mill.  Dorothea “Dora” (Albrecht) Riesberg (1890-1991) wrote, “When my father built the mill, it was a roller mill.  These rollers, I think, were on the second and third floor.  The grain was elevated up there on belts that had cups on them.  These rollers were fitted with bolting cloth of different grades (coarse and fine).  The grain would go over these rollers, coarse first, and then fine.  There was bran, cream of wheat and finer until flour.  The flour was shipped to many places.  Our nearest railroad was Smith Lake (three miles).  The men used to load big loads of flour and my mother would haul it to different towns.”  After my father was gone, at one time we rented the mill to a Mr. Deneen (or Danane)….  He put in a grindstone.”    

Albrecht added a second story with six bedrooms to the house and used part of the lower floor of the house as a store.  An Albright post office was established at the store in 1890 with Herman Albrecht as postmaster.  The Albright post office flourished for several years before it was discontinued in the early 1900s.

Herman and Henrietta (Emme) Albrecht (1851-1905) were the parents of nine children:  Fritz (died at age two months), Herman, Jr., Amelia (Lueck), Elvina (Moenke), Johanna, Mathilda (Luenow), Minnie, Dorothea (Riesberg) and Agnes (Lemke).

Albright is named for Herman Albrecht, although it is spelled the way people generally pronounced Albrecht in an Americanized version.

 1895:  Herman Albrecht, age 50, was killed by a bull on June 30, 1895.  He was found in the pasture gored several times.  His grave is at St. James Lutheran Church Cemetery in Howard Lake, Minnesota.

The mill was rented to Mr. Deneen (or Danane).

1899:  Howard Lake Herald, July 13, 1899:  “Having opened my mill again, I am prepared to do custom grinding for my customers.  Satisfaction guaranteed.  Thanking patrons for the past and soliciting future orders, I am – H. Albrecht.”  Note: Herman Albrecht, Jr. (1874-1902) died from accidental poisoning.  His grave is at the St. James Cemetery in Howard Lake.

1905:  Henrietta (Mrs. Herman) Albrecht died July 31, 1905, at New Germany, Minnesota.       

1911:  Cokato Enterprise, May 25, 1911:  Alec Stenson sold Albright Mill to J.A. Johnson, May 25, 1911. 

History of Wright County, 1915, Page 464:  John A Johnson (1863-1921):  …he located at Albrecht’s Corners and purchased the general store and the Crow River Roller Mills. After two years he sold out the store, and has since given his entire attention to the mills.  He manufactures the Riverside brand of flour, which enjoys a steady sale and is widely known for its excellence.” 

 1916:  Cokato Enterprise, May 18, 1916:  John A. Johnson sold his mill in Albright to Andrew Goldblom for $13,000.

Year?  The original three-story grist mill burned and was replaced by a feed mill.

1923:  The second mill, owned by George Spangler and run by Harry Sell, burned in April 1923.   Cokato Enterprise, April 19, 1923:  “Albright’s Mill is Destroyed by Fire – Early Thursday morning blaze well under way when discovered:  Fire of unknown origin completely destroyed the Albright Flour Mill early Thursday morning.  The mill was owned by G.W. Spangler and operated by him and Mr. Sell.  The building and machinery were entirely destroyed and the same are said to be only partly covered by insurance.  At one o’clock Jim Tomlinson, who lives a short distance away, noticed the blaze and gave the alarm, but the hamlet being without fire equipment, there was nothing to be done.  It was not learned whether the mill would be rebuilt as Mr. Spangler could not be reached on the phone.”

1927:  The feed mill was rebuilt in 1927 by Charles Moore from Howard Lake.  Ben Sarenpa operated it for Charles Moore for 13 years, until 1942.  Marie Johnson Holmberg wrote, “During the years the third mill was in operation, Charles Moore from Howard Lake hired men to operate the mill.  Some of them were Ben Sarenpa, Earl Strande and Carl Chaffins.  There was a house north of the store where the mill families lived.”    

1945:  Cokato Enterprise, January 11, 1945:  “Blaze Destroys Mill at Albright.  An explosion in a large gasoline engine in the basement of the feed mill at Albright started a fire that destroyed the structure early Monday afternoon (January 8).  Six members of the Cokato fire department, along with residents of the neighborhood, fought the blaze in sub-zero weather.  The cause of the explosion was unknown.  Charles Moore of Howard Lake owns the property, and Carl Chaffins operated the feed-grinding mill.  The building, about 18x40 feet and about 15 feet high, was erected in 1927.  When the explosion was heard, an investigation showed the entire basement in flames.  The fire department, along with a bucket brigade, saved a nearby shed and gasoline pump.”  Charles Moore (1867-1959) also owned the Howard Lake Milling Company.

Cokato Enterprise, January 18, 1945:  “…everything, with the exception of about 25 sacks of feed, was destroyed.  Mr. Moore had installed new hammers and a new engine in the mill this last fall.  There was some insurance.  Mr. Moore does not plan to rebuild the mill owing to the difficulty of getting any machinery at the present time.”

Cokato Enterprise, March 12, 1964: The Sarenpa house (miller’s house) was moved to the Reynold Koglin place in Cokato.

Albright Dam

1879:  Herman Albrecht built the dam to power his mill, hauling many loads of stone. The dam was about 50 feet across. 

Marie Johnson Holmberg wrote the following:  “At the chosen site, the river made a U turn. A channel was dug so the water would flow through the upper part of the U creating a flume.  Albrecht built a dam at the bottom part of the U, hauling in many, many loads of rock.  Lumber was used for the short platform approach for the water to reach the dam and also for the slope that the water fell down to the lower level of the river.  There were cement walls built on each side of the dam to keep the river on its course.”

The following was written by an August Johnson family member:  “Albright provided a built-in playground for their large family.  The area below the dam on the river was an ideal swimming place for all in the surrounding community.  At one time, there was a raft that someone placed there and was enjoyed by many.  Below the dam, rocks were laid, with a bit of an indentation in the center that created more river current there.  A favorite thing to do while swimming was to get to that space and ride the current as far as possible.  When the water was low, it was an adventure to walk across the river on the same rocks or wade on the boards at the top of the dam to the opposite side.

“The island that was created by the flume was a community park area.  Ball games were played on part of it.  There was a picnic area on another part, and trees close to the river for walking and enjoying nature.  The clay cliff that was located on the east side of the river was a fun place to climb.  Birds dug nests in the clay.”

 istory of Wright County, 1880 - Hist1964:  Cokato Enterprise, March 5, 1964:  “…The foundation of the mill-way and a part of the dam remain as traces of the once active business settlement.  The Albright Mill park site includes some over thirty acres extending across the dam to the bluff on the east side of the river.”  Note:  The remains of the dam were removed at an unknown date.

Albright’s Bridge

1879:  A bridge was built in the southwest quarter of Section 8, Middleville, Township, at Albrecht’s mill.  It was a crude bridge built of poles and brush and low enough to the water that it would be wet at times. 

1882:  The Albright’s bridge was rebuilt.  D.B. Farnham’s History of Wright County, 1880, Page 312 – “Another bridge was built in 1879 on the southwest quarter of section 8, at H. Albrecht’s mill; the bridge will be rebuilt this year, the county having appropriated $300.”

1956:   In 1956 a new road and new bridge were built 750 feet west of the original road alignment.  This is the current Wright County Road 5 and bridge across the North Fork of the Crow River.  The route no longer veered into Albright, across the old bridge and up a hill.  The new road follows the section line between Middleville Township Sections 7 and 8.

1989:  Wright-Journal Press, June 29, 1989:  The removal of the old bridge at Albright Mills County Park was again a point of contention for the Wright County Board this Tuesday, June 27.  As bids were about to be opened for bridge removal work, citizens argued for the preservation of the bridge.

“Commissioner Arlyn Nelson of Buffalo explained the board had visited the park during its annual spring road inspection tour and found the old bridge in an extremely poor condition.  She said the repairs needed to restore the bridge and make it safe would completely change the bridge.  It would no longer be the same old bridge, she said.

“The board indicated it is mostly concerned about the liability the bridge poses for the county.  People reportedly jump off the structure into the river for some summer fun.”

1990:  The decision was made February 24, 1990, to demolish the bridge.  The Albright bridge was an historic landmark of a once thriving area. 

Albright’s Store

Dora (Albrecht) Riesberg wrote about the store her father, Herman Albrecht, started at Albright.  “The store was a general store.  I guess it had everything -- hardware, groceries and yard goods.  There was a walk-in basement.  It was real cold in there in the summer.  We kept the milk, butter and eggs in there until they were sold.  The egg money usually bought the groceries then.  They didn’t buy many groceries then -- coffee, baking soda, baking powder, sugar.  Flour and cream of wheat came from the mill.  We always had sorghum and sauerkraut in the cellar.”

1890:  A post office was established at Albright’s store, Herman Albrecht, postmaster.  The post office was discontinued in the early 1900s.

Circa 1911:  History of Wright County, 1915, Page 464:  John A. Johnson,  a former owner of Knapp store, purchased the Albright’s general store and the Crow River Roller Mills.  He sold the Albright’s store after two years.

erman Albrecht, HJ1915:  Cokato Enterprise, November 4, 1915:  Sam Wicker sold his store at Albright’s Mill to S.O. Ilstrup.

1919:  August and Josephine “Josie” Johnson purchased the Albright store from G.W. Spangler.  Cokato Enterprise, March 5, 1964:  “…Business was so brisk in the Albright store that on ‘creamery days’ it was necessary to hire extra help.  Hitching posts were numerous around the store, the creamery, and the mill.  Members of the August J. Johnson family were the last owners of the store. The Johnsons came to Albright’s in 1919, but the original store dated back to the (late) 1870s.  Among owners previous to the Johnsons were Axel Stenson, Sam Ilstrup, and Robert Wood.” (Note:  Herman Albrecht was the first owner of the store.  John A. Johnson, Sam Wicker and G.W. Spangler were also owners of the store.)

The following was written by an August Johnson family member:  “The store was a general store.  They sold groceries, ice cream, pop, hardware, work shoes, work clothes (mostly for men), dry goods, including bolts of sewing fabrics, including the notions that went with that.  There were a few gift items.  When they first moved to Albright, much of the groceries were sold in bulk and there were huge bins behind the counter for items such as sugar, coffee beans, crackers, cookies, oatmeal.  The customer would stand on one side of the counter and the ‘clerk’ would bring the items requested to them.

“The lower level below the store had a dirt floor and housed oil that was pumped out of barrels into jugs.  In another larger room, there was a barrel of vinegar that was sold by the gallon or quart, rock salt, a few small tools such as shovels, bamboo fishing poles and some used miscellaneous items that August stored in case he would need it for some project at a later date.

“There were two tanks for automobile gasoline that was pumped by a crank to a container at the top.  When the required amount was pumped, the gas would be emptied into the car.  Before REA it was necessary to have bulk kerosene for the lamps that supplied evening light for many.  A similar pump and underground tank was installed for that.

“A hitching post was located between the store and creamery for the horses to be tied to.  The posts were large logs about four feet high and a foot across.  A heavy chain was placed through these logs.

“The store was often a gathering place.  Benches were placed on each side of the coal burning pot bellied stove where people sat, warmed up and visited.  Often, in the evenings, the younger men from the surrounding area would look for companionship at the store.  They seemed to congregate in the front part of the building, sitting on the dry goods side counter.  August and Josie took the evenings off and the younger family members were the clerks.

“The mill provided Direct Current lighting for the buildings in the area when the river water was high enough to do so.  When the water was low, Coleman type lamps were used.  These were hung on wire from the ceiling and seemed to provide brighter light than kerosene lamps… Rural Electrification early in the 1940s made life a lot easier for many, including the residents of Albright.  It was necessary to rewire the buildings from Direct Current to Alternating Current.

“Family time was at a premium.  They would try to have meals together.  August put a bell on the store door that rang in the house when the door opened…”

Mid-1950s:  The Albright store had been managed by Don Johnson for about a year.  When he started working full time in Minneapolis, the store was permanently closed.  August Johnson (1883-1945) and Josie (Anderson) Johnson (1885-1970) and family lived approximately 40 years in the house which was connected to the store.  The Johnson children were Doris Pinnick (1911-1941), Elaine Peterson (1912-2000), Russell (1914-1925) Frances Sandberg (1916-1999), Donald (1918-1991), Ken (1920-1982), and Marie Holmberg (1924-?).  August, Josie and Russell Johnson’s graves are at Highland Cemetery in Middleville Township.

1960:  Marie Johnson Holmberg wrote, “The August Johnson family lived in and owned the store until 1960 when Josie Johnson sold her three-fourths acre to Wright County to be used as part of the Albright Mill Park.  The store had not been in operation for a few years.  When the store was torn down, there were parts of it that were carried off and became useful treasures for many.  A frosted glass door window has been framed and is on display at the Cokato Museum.  A door from one of the rooms is used in a home, and its bricks can be found in numerous places.” 

Albright’s Creamery

Year?   The date the creamery was built and the builder are not known.  There were two creamery buildings.  The original frame building was replaced by a block building with a later addition of an ice house.

1908:  August Johnson was the butter maker at the Albright Creamery from 1908 until about 1913.  August and Josie Johnson lived in a new house that had been built on the creamery property.  They left Albright circa1913 and returned in 1919 when they purchased the Albright store.  Other families associated with the creamery and creamery house are Hayden Fleming, Axel Larson, and William Nichols.   

1926:   Cokato Enterprise, October 21, 1926:  Fleming Creamery (Albright Mills) sold to Axel Larson of Benton, Wisconsin.

1931:  Cokato Enterprise, March 5, 1931:  Axel Larson sold the Albright Creamery to William Nichols.

 c.1944:  Albright’s Creamery closed about 1944.  Marie Johnson Holmberg wrote:  “When butter making became less profitable, Billie Nichols started making casein for plastics manufacturing and finally chose to close his operation.    

Cokato Enterprise, March 5, 1964:  “…The last operator of the creamery was William Nichols, who closed the establishment about 20 years ago.   Soon after the creamery closed, the house was moved south of Cokato and became of home of Ferdinand Berg.

Pappy Rice’s Blacksmith Shop, Gunsmith Shop and Jewelry Shop

The blacksmith shop was operated by Elijah J. “Pappy” Rice (1854-1941).  He sharpened plowshares and did repair work. He was also well known locally for his skill as a gunsmith.

1902:  Pappy Rice built a house at Albright’s.  Part of it was moved from Smith Lake.  According to his son, Howard, Pappy moved his blacksmith shop from the south side of the Crow River to the north side near Pappy’s house.  Howard Rice said, oward H“He did black smith work and gun repair work, and he had the jewelry shop.  He sold jewelry and fixed clocks and watches…”

1941:  Pappy Rice died while on a visit to Kentucky and his grave is near his old home in Carter County, Kentucky.  His son Howard and wife lived in Pappy’s house at Albright until 1973.

1992:  Pappy Rice’s house and sheds were destroyed.  His land eventually became part of Albright’s Mill County Park, Wright County Parks system.        e quoted scrip

Maple Grove School

1879:  District 51 School is on the 1879 Middleville Township plat map.  The exact starting date is not known.  Number 51 was originally assigned to a school in Otsego that joined with another district in 1868, and the number was later reassigned to Maple Grove School.     

History of Wright County, 1915, Page 573:  “Dist. 51, Maple Grove School, is appropriately named on account of the beautiful grove of maple trees about the schoolhouse.  A good schoolhouse and a well supplied school.”  Maple Grove, Wright County School District 51, was about three-fourth mile north of Albright.  There were three different school buildings.  The original one-room, little red schoolhouse was still used in 1893.  The second schoolhouse was replaced in 1940.  J.L. Sullivan bought and moved the second building to his farm for a granary.  The new schoolhouse completed in April 1940 was also a one-room school, but it had a cloak hall, basement and chemical toilets.   Maple Grove School closed and consolidated with Howard Lake School District in 1971.   William Fiedler bought and moved the third schoolhouse to his farm located about a mile north and east and remodeled it into a home.  The beautiful grove of maple trees is gone from the former school site.

The second schoolhouse had one room, one teacher, and all eight grades.  Some of the teachers were Ida Burchett, Margaret Burchett, Vivian Swanson, Harriet Tiegen, Ruby Anderson Fiedler, Lorraine Kvam, and Frances Johnson.  August Johnson was treasurer of the Maple Grove School board over 20 years.

Sylvan Church and Cemetery

Sylvan Church and Cemetery are located east of the school.  Many from the Albright community attended services there and many are buried in the cemetery.  The church is gone, but the cemetery is still well maintained.  The church began in Section 5, Middleville Township, in 1879 as a Society of Friends (Quaker) meeting house and in 1892 became Sylvan Presbyterian, an outpost of the Howard Lake congregation.  In 1925 it was Sylvan Church of Christ with Press L. Sweany as pastor.  Other pastors included J. H. Cachiaras in 1923, Mrs. Earl Hayes in 1934, R. Tibbs Maxey, Jr. in 1935, J.J. Gabriel in 1937, and Rev. Purkhiser.  New Life Assembly met at the church from 1952 to 1954.  Sylvan Church closed in 1954 and was dismantled.  The lumber was used to build a cabin.  

Albright’s Mill County Park

1961:  Albright’s Mill County Park was established at the Crow River, mile 63 of the North Fork.  It was the first purchase of the Wright County Park System.  The Wright County Parks System was established in 1961 with the formation of an active Parks Advisory Commission. 

Cokato Enterprise, January 1, 1962: “Albright Mill property will be county park -- The park is on CSAH 5 and is 9.2 miles south of Annandale and 4 miles north of U.S. Highway 12.  There is a picnic area, canoe launch, toilet and primitive canoe campsite at the 40-acre park.”

In the past the area around the dam was a beautiful setting that was the scene of picnics and social gatherings.  Albright had a baseball team.  Annandale and Cokato schools held class picnics there.   Albright’s was a favorite destination for a Sunday drive.     

The park is the former Albright’s mill site, which at one time included a mill, miller’s house, store, creamery, Pappy Rice’s house, his blacksmith shop and gun/jewelry shop, two more houses, two barns, and two ice houses.  The site formerly included a dam, picnic area and ball diamond.  The flour and feed mill, store, creamery, and blacksmith shop attracted farm trade from a considerable area.

1966:   Herman and Henrietta ermanAlbrecht’s daughters gave a grill and other items to Albright’s park in memory of their parents.  They brought it to the park on a Sunday.  The five sisters were interviewed by reporters from the Cokato Enterprise newspaper.

“Albrights Mill County Park, nestled in nature, now offers a bit of solitude.  Gone are the busy days of the past.”  There isn’t anything left to remind visitors of the thriving hamlet it once was.


Notes by Annandale History Club Secretary