Amid pandemic, historic Indiana grain mill saw record year

BRISTOL, Ind. — A grain mill that opened more than 180 years ago in northern Indiana saw a sales boom during the pandemic after it opened a drive-through for customers eager to buy freshly milled grains.

The historic Bonneyville Mill was closed to visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, like many Indiana businesses. But staff at the 1830s mill converted its original horse and wagon bay that farmers once used to deliver freshly harvested grain into a drive-through for automobiles.

The drive-through helped the mill, located near the town of Bristol along the Little Elkhart River, rack up its most profitable year on record for grain sales, said Ronda DeCaire, director of the Elkhart County Parks system.

“This was one of the few places in the Midwest where you could still buy flour and other freshly milled grains,” she told The Elkhart Truth.

To prevent spreading the coronavirus, the mill’s staff used a pole with a bucket on its end to accept payments from drive-through customers. Packages of flour and other milled grains were then handed to those customers through their car windows.

“For the first time in over a hundred years, that wagon bay was busy again,” said Courtney Franke, the mill’s manager.

DeCaire said the Bonneyville Mill is the oldest continuously operating grist mill in Indiana. The mill is located just south of the Michigan border about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of South Bend.