Special Projects

Kister Mill

A Mill with an Important Place in Local History

Kister Mill is an important, unique asset with historic and natural resource value benefiting Wayne County and Ohio. Western Reserve Land Conservancy acquired Kister Mill and approximately 15 acres of surrounding land containing a fragile wetland ecosystem in the Village of Millbrook outside Shreve. We are working to restore the mill and provide public access to educational opportunities centered around a historic operating mill.

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Mill History

Kister Mill was built in 1816. Jacob Kister purchased the mill in 1845 and operated it as a woolen mill until the late 1870s. The property changed hands once more before John Kister (no relation to Jacob) purchased it in 1881. John’s family operated the mill for more than 85 years until Guy Kister, John’s grandson, sold it in 1968. It was shuttered in the late 1970’s until Rich Boyer – a professional engineer and toolmaker – purchased it in 1997. Boyer and his wife wanted to rebuild the mill creating a historical visitors’ destination, but faced challenges: The mill wheel was in complete disrepair, the roof had collapsed, and internal belts and wheels were rusted or torn. Mill repairs undertaken involved a trial-and-error approach, as would have occurred over 200 years ago when it was built .

Mill Significance

Kister Mill is unique because, unlike other mills that typically perform a single function, Kister Mill operated as a multipurpose sawmill, gristmill, cider press, woodshop and planing mill. Depending on the season, the mill would convert operations ensuring year-round operation. John Kister bought several upstream mills and moved the machinery to his property because he had the biggest water wheel in the county. By combining machinery at his mill, he made it possible to perform various tasks concurrently.

Kister Mill also houses special machinery built and engineered by John Kister, including custom-made parts called flutes for other grist mills that moved grain horizontally along an auger. His design was sought after by many other 19th century mills, and he sent thousands of flutes across the country. Wayne County’s mill could easily have touched thousands of farmers’ and millions of American lives during its time.

Mill Restoration 

The Land Conservancy has partnered with Vince Mariola Construction and Boyer to restore the historic Kister Mill. Our plan is to restore the mill to its original operational state and showcase Ohio’s agricultural heritage, attracting visitors and tourists coming to explore Wayne County’s Amish country. Restoration began in 2020 with installation of  required public/handicap access and safety features needed for a historic educational destination. Other improvements will be made to architectural and engineering design, and a new roof, doors and windows; restroom facilities; septic system and well; siding; electrical lines; and much more will be installed.

A Video Solves a Mystery

When Boyer began the restoration process in 1997, he focused on the water wheel, the mill’s most important feature. A critical piece at the wheel’s center continued to be inoperable and stymied his restoration efforts. After exhaustive searching in books, calling experts and asking farmers, Boyer found no answers – until he viewed a YouTube video originally recorded in 1979. It featured WKYC Action 3 News Reporter Del Donahoo, who traveled to Kister’s Mill to document its historic significance and its reflection of simpler times past. Boyer watched the video, and paused it for a close, essential look at the water wheel in operation. His mystery was solved.

Preserving a State Landmark for Visitors

Wayne County receives more than 20,000 visitors annually; they will soon be able to visit and experience one of the oldest working mills in the country. With the perseverance of dedicated staff at Western Reserve Land Conservancy and your support, we can rebuild and restore Kister Mill, a treasured state landmark.