In 1925, Bert Maxfield built the Wauneta Roller Mills in Wauneta, Nebraska, thus beginning three generations of Maxfield flour millers. Over the years the mill has seen great success with its Wauneta’s Best Flour. While many things have changed since 1925, what remains constant is the care and attention paid to the flour making process.
We are proud to mill Wauneta’s Best Flour in Nebraska’s last operating family-owned roller mill. We hope you will enjoy this little piece of Southwest Nebraska with your loved ones for many more years to come!
THE STORY OF THE MILL
As Told By The Maxfield's
It was 1912, when nineteen year old Bert Maxfield boarded a train in Michigan, North Dakota bound for Minneapolis, to take a job at Washburn Crosby Mill (now General Mills). Thus launched the career of a 3rd generation of flour millers in the Maxfield family.
Some three years later, on reading a trade journal ad by Athey Mills of Wauneta, Nebraska for a mill worker, Bert applied, was accepted and came to Nebraska in 1915. During the three years he worked for the Athey’s, he met and married the blue eyed darling we called 'MOM'. The adventurous young couple were offered an opportunity to work for the owner of a chain of flour mills in Montana and North Dakota. After some 4 years of temp milling at various locations, Bert moved to Haigler, Nebraska to run a flour mill for Sam Hoffer. When the Hoffer contract expired, and since the Athey mill in Wauneta, had burned, the Maxfield’s decided to return to Wauneta, and build their very own flour mill.
Blue prints for Wauneta Roller Mills were drawn by 'JCB' for XX Century Manufacturing Company, Decatur, IL dated February 10, 1925. Original blue prints still hang in our lab. Construction started later that year, and the 50 bbl mill, powered by a 25 horsepower Fairbanks Morse diesel engine, was in production by the end of that year.
Much evolved over the years, besides the arrival of three children. The diesel engine for power was replaced by electricity in about 1933. By 1935, feeding ideas for farm animals were changing, creating an opportunity to make formula feeds…for chickens can lay more eggs if their feed contains other ingredients than just grain, and hogs gain weight faster with protein supplements. One thing led to another and the first pellet and granule mills in the area were installed in 1950.
During World War II, mills of all sizes were invited to offer flour for UNRRA and Army/Navy contracts. The Northwestern Miller magazine listed government contracts awarded each term. Our usual offer was three railroad carloads. Three carloads appeared quite meager, compared to the millions of pounds offered by our fellow bidders, but we never failed to complete contracts on time.
There was an increased demand for flour since many small mills of the area had closed. In 1956, an extra roll stand was incorporated for more capacity. The same, self-contained, roll/reel machine that was installed in 1925 is still faithfully milling today. The 1893 Howes flour packer continues to proudly package flour in 10#, 25#, and 50# cotton and 50# paper bags. Flour is sold thru jobbers in Nebraska and eastern Colorado. It is also used to make pizzas that are sold nationally. The spring eye needle and 8 ply sewing twine were replaced by electric sewing machines. The two wheel buggy with 5-100# cotton or burlap bags, powered by a strong young man, have given way to the fork lifts, which handle ton pallets of neatly stretch wrapped flour and feed. Bulk bins for pellet animal rations and middlings (the offal of flour manufacturing) were added in the 1960's. A quality control laboratory monitors the flour thru the entire milling process.
The days of horse drawn wagons or little Model T trucks bringing wheat to the mill to barter for flour are gone. Being located in the heart of some of the finest wheat land in the United States, we can pick 'the cream of the crop' for our mill blend. Hard red winter wheat is trucked in from elevators in Colorado and Nebraska. Feed products are also sold from the mill to feeders and dealers in Nebraska and eastern Colorado.
After 8 decades, as the 5th generation of Maxfield flour millers starts production for the day, a beautiful overture erupts, with the turning rolls, the sound of busy wheat cleaners and scouring machines, the packers and sewing machines come in to harmony. Undoubtedly, a wonderful melody heard only by a milling family.
We, at Wauneta Roller Mills, feel our greatest accomplishment has been to grow with western Nebraska and be of service to our area and our neighbors.
Our sincere prayer, for the future, is that as we grow older and must give up our beloved business, another party may find the pleasure and adventure we have enjoyed all of these years.
As written by Raymond Maxfield, Emma Jean (Maxfield) Maris and Jim Maxfield in 2011.