THE NIELSEN MILL
by EUGENE H. HALVERSON
HISTORIC GRIST MILL; RAINBOW VIEWS by A. SNOW; The Bicknell Grist Mill, located just off Utah Highway 24 by the Fremont River was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. This mill was built in 1890 and is considered to be the best preserved building of it's kind in the State. Hans Peter Nielsen, a miller by trade, came from Denmark to Utah in 1863 and to Thurber in 1890. With him came Niels Hansen, an emigrant and excellent carpenter. Mr. Hansen built the grist mill that stands today, beautifully weathered on the outside and nearly intact on the inside.
Hans Peter Nielsen was born in Kastrup, Denmark on 31 March, 1845, a son of Niels Isaksen and Maren Hansdatter. He came to Utah in 1863 with the help the Elders of the LDS Church. He was a carpenter and miller, helped build and run the flour mills in Richfield during the time of the United Order and after the order ceased. The United Order was started in 1874 by Joseph A. Young and operated for about four years, just long enough to build the town, the mill and it's industry.
Maren Catrine Nielson was also brought to Utah by the Elders of the Church in about 1868 or 9. She was born 20 May, 1850 in Rohde Skorring, Denmark. Her parents were Kisten Marie Pelsen and Hans Nielson who emigrated to Richfield several years later. The Hans Nielson family are the ancestors of my wife, Joyce Houghton Halverson on her Mother's side.
Hans Peter and Maren Catrine eventually met and married. They were married 29 September, 1873. Hans Peter and, Maren Catrina's eight children were all born in Richfield, with the last one born there in 1891, the family came to Thurber a year after the mill began operating. "Founded on Faith" history of Glenwood has a story of one of the Nielsen children living there, James Nielsen.
Hans Peter built a nice home for his family and his own flour mill on the banks of the Fremont River. It was a four story mill. The first floor and foundation are built of native cut rock and the rest of the mill was finished with lumber. The top floor was used as a carpenter shop.
I have found how their lives inter-mingled in two family stories; one in Treasured trails about when Jorgen (John) Smith was traveling from Richfield to Glenwood with Hans Peter Nielsen and family in the Spring of 1870? (1872), the Sevier River was on the rampage. They needed to cross this flood swollen river so Mr. Nielsen drove his horses with family in the wagon in. The horses were unable to swim and take the wagon and family to safety and it looked like all would be drowned. The wagon began to sink. Mr. Nielsen couldn't swim so John, quickly jumped into the water, unhooked the team from the wagon, got the family on the backs of the horses and got them to safety. I know this story is of the same people and the same river to be in both stories John had to a little older than 9 or 10 years old. (in 1870 the Indians the settlers were still at war, and the valley was still unoccupied)
I have a family story that states that John Smith and Hans Peter Nielsen went to Salt Lake City in the late 1880's to purchase the machinery for a grist mill. It states that John was half owner of this grist mill for many years. It was called the Nielsen Mill. John Smith's sister, Christena Marie Smith had also married into the Nielson family when she married James Nielson, Maren Catrine's younger brother. So by now both sides of our family has a historical interest in the old mill.
The first time I noticed the old mill was almost fifty years ago, just below the old dairy and its delicious ice-cream and the Fremont River with it's big old German Brown trout just waiting to be caught.