Victoria’s Old Grist Wind Mill was once located at Victoria’s Memorial Square, a cemetery.
Early Spanish colonization requirements dictated that land be set aside as public burial grounds, and what we today call Memorial Square was set aside for that purpose. Therefore, the city block bounded by Commercial, DeLeon, Wheeler and Power streets has been a public cemetery since our city’s founding. While no longer used for new burials, Memorial Square nonetheless houses the earthly remains of many of Victoria’s pioneer settlers and more. One estimate several years ago placed the number of those interred in unmarked graves at almost 400. However, the documented number is lowe, at 230.
Disease epidemics swept through Victoria in the 19th century, and many of those who died were simply buried rapidly in mass graves.
A marker on the Wheeler Street side of Memorial Square tells us “many Victoria pioneers were laid to rest here, along with immigrants who never reached their destinations. During the Texas Revolution, members of Fannin’s Goliad command were brought to Victoria for burial. Also interred were soldiers from General Zachary Taylor’s army who died while camped in Victoria en route to the Mexican War. Many of Victoria’s sons lost during the Civil War came to rest here as well.
“…As new burials gradually ceased, the grounds came to be used for other purposes. Since 1899 it has been known as Memorial Square.” And in 1935, Memorial Square became home to a grist mill. The old mill would remain there for 76 years.
The mill was designed along the lines of a European-style windmill and built in 1860, originally in Goliad. The millstones, from Norway, were 48 inches wide and 9 inches thick. A story exists that when they were brought in through the port of Indianola, they were deemed too large to fit into a wagon or oxcart and were simply rolled overland to Goliad. Another story, which may not be completely accurate, says the rear wheels of a wagon or the two wheels of an oxcart were removed and replaced with the stones, with a large tree trunk serving as the axle, and the stones were rolled to Goliad in that manner.
By 1870, the mill had been moved from Goliad to the Spring Creek area of Victoria County and was owned at that time by Fred Meiss, whose farm was located on land that is today bordered in part by Lingo Lane and West Magruder Drive. Mr. Meiss rebuilt the structure on the side of a hill in a corn patch and made it about 15 feet taller than the previous structure in Goliad. The “cap” housing the axle and gears for the wind blades was movable so that it could be turned to face favorable winds.
One account tells us that grain was fed to the grinding surfaces through a 12-inch hole in the top stone. About 500 pounds of grain could be ground in a week if winds were favorable.
In 1935, the mill was deeded to Victoria’s Morning Study Club and moved to Memorial Square. In 1965, “the Old Dutch Wind Grist Mill” became a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark.
And finally, in 2011 the old mill was moved once again. The last known location of Victoria’s Old Mill is the Marragia Farm, south of Inez, on Farm-to-Market Road 444.
Special Thanks: Thanks to historian Sidney Weisiger, VPI Executive Director Jeff Wright and Marie Adcock of the UHV/VC Regional History Center for assistance in writing this column.