Jan 25, 2005

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George Peter Heath (1820 - 1875)

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Heath Grist Mill  1874


George P. Heath was a native of New York state who came to settle in Michigan about 1845.  He first settled in Van Buren county where he built his first grist mill. When it burned in 1866, he came to Saugatuck and built a new mill on the river between Hoffman and Main Streets. Heath was the patriarch of the Heath clan, which included Doc Heath who was his grandson and husband of May Francis Heath.

During the second half of the 19th century, Water Street was the primary location of Saugatuck’s mills. The photo (upper right) shows the mill, a large four-story structure which housed the grinding machinery and product storage. This is an enlargement of a small area that can be seen in the Remembering When ... headline photo above. The white plume and dark stain on the north wall of the mill is clear evidence that a steam boiler was the source of power. Note also the piles of wood in the yard.

In 1875, Heath received a lucrative offer to move the Saugatuck mill to Ludington, Michigan. He accepted the offer and proceeded to dismantle the mill structure and stack the material on his dock. Before it could be moved however, he died in an epidemic of typhoid fever that swept through the community. His sons, Calvin and George Jr. apparently did not share his desire to move to Ludington as they rebuilt the mill exactly as it was and continued the milling business until 1879 when the mill was destroyed by fire.

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