The Forestville Dam and Gristmill

© Photographed July 9, 2014
Erected 2008 by Door County Historical Society
Sturgeon Bay, Door County, Wisconsin

In 1877, G.W. Youngs and John Fetzer hired millwright Charles Cofrin to build the first gristmill in Southern Door County. The Ahnapee River was dammed with earth, rocks, and logs, and the waste gates were wooden. A three-story frame mill structure was built, 24 x 64 feet and 35 feet high. Four-foot millstones were turned by waterpower with an American turbine. It took five bushels of wheat to produce one of flour, with about 100 pounds of byproduct to use as feed for livestock. The mill could produce 75 barrels of flour per day.

The mill was a success, drawing farmers from as far away as Egg Harbor. They sometimes slept through the night lying on their bags of grain while waiting their turn. The mill took a "toll" of one-fourth of the flour as payment and the farmer took the remainder home to make his "daily bread". In 1887 a steam engine was added and modern rollers replaced the millstones.

The millpond and its shores were also popular -- used for fishing, swimming, boating, ice-skating, hunting, picnics, and moonlit walks. Ice was harvested from the pond for use in the neighboring homes and saloons.

John Poh worked at the mill since its inception, and took over as head miller in 1886. He raised his family in a small house at the site. In 1901, he bought the mill from the original owners and operated it until shortly before his death in 1925.

The W.P.A. replaced the old dam with a new concrete structure in 1934. The new dam was dedicated in John Poh's memory, christened with a bottle of Door County wine as the "Poh Community Dam and Lake." In 1948 the Door County Board and Town of Forestville purchased the Poh property to develop a park. The name "Poh Community Dam" was lost and the dan became known as the Forestville Dam. The Wisconsin DNR replaced the W.P.A. Dam in 1982 with a modern structure.
Presented by the Door County Historical Society 2008

The marker is located adjacent to the public restrooms at Forestville Dam Park on southbound Mill Road / West Avenue, between Sleepy Hollow Drive (to the north) and County Highway J (to the south), Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin 54235.

Door County Advocate (February 18, 1988): Forestville mill opened to public 110 years ago 

Photograph of John Poh

Obituary of John Poh

Find A Grave: John Poh (September 22, 1856-May 5, 1925
(lots of information, including photos a chronology of John Poh's life)

Forestville Dam County Park

The marker is in front of the restrooms.

Photograph of John Poh (1856-1925)
(used with permission)

This is the earliest known photo of the Forestville Dam which harnessed the power of the Ahnapee River for John Poh's flour mill. The photo is labeled, "George Poh and Constant Vanderveld fishing at the first gate in the Spring of the year. 'Look out for the game warden.' (1918) Taken by Andrew Poh."George Poh, Andrew's brother, is on the left with the spear. (used with permission)
 Forestville Mill, circa 1900 (used with permission)

The marker is located at Forestville Dam Park
in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

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