The Wilson Feed Mill was originally built and operated as a grist mill by Andrew and Robert Alexander in 1855. Following the construction of the OHIO & ERIE CANAL in 1827, the grain and feed industry in the WESTERN RESERVE grew exponentially. Able to more easily ship their products along the canal, grist mill owners like the Alexanders had access to larger markets for their product.
The mill was built in present-day VALLEY VIEW, Ohio, on Lock 37 of the Ohio & Erie Canal and was primarily used to grind grains for local farmers. Thomas G. Wilson purchased the Alexanders' mill in 1900 and began milling and selling flour, scratch feed, and shelled corn. The name of the mill was changed to the Wilson Feed Mill to reflect the change in ownership.
In 1913, the Wilson Feed Mill survived a major flood that destroyed much of the canal. Around this time, the railroad surpassed the canal in shipping, but the mill continued to lease Lock 37 to power its operations. The advent of the automobile in the 1920s allowed the Wilsons to easily sell their flour to commercial bakeries and restaurants in nearby Cleveland, Ohio. Despite this new market for their product, the Wilsons responded to an overall decrease in demand for flour by focusing on the manufacture of animal feed and the sale of farm and garden products.
Further changes to the Wilson Feed Mill in the 20th century mirrored changes in business and technology at the time. In the 1940s, the Wilsons added two electric mixers to the mill. By the 1970s, the mill was completely driven by electric power. In the late 20th century, the mill also ceased much of its production and switched to retail sales. Currently (2015), much of their product is purchased pre-bagged and pre-mixed from large animal feed companies like Buckeye and Purina.
As of 2015, the Wilson Feed Mill is still owned and operated by the Wilson Family and sells feed for pets and livestock, as well as farm and garden supplies. Located at is original location at 7604 Canal Road, it is the last surviving grist mill in Cuyahoga County. It was designated an Ohio & Erie Canal National Historic Landmark in 1979.
Jennifer Graham, Western Reserve Historical Society
National Parks Services