Tunnel Mill Park is now a single tract of land that is owned by the city of Winfield, Kansas. It was, at first, a portion of each of two, 160 acre, homesteads which adjoin each other.

One homestead is known as a tract in the northeast quarter of section 33, township 32 south range 4 east of the 6th principal meridian. For brevity this is generally written NE 1/4-33-32-4. This tract is known as "the Peninsula," site of Tunnel Mill and Tunnel Mill Dam. The first official record was made December 12, 1871. This was a receipt for $200 paid to the receiver of the U.S. land office at Augusta by Robert B. Cultra. The northwest quarter of section 33, township 33 south range 4 east of the 6th principal meridian was another homestead. This is generally written NW 1/4-33-33-4. It was homesteaded by Andrew J. Covert and Mary, his wife. The west edge of this homestead adjoins the east edge of the Cultra homestead.

This is confusing. Remember that the road to the Tunnel Mill Dam and the neck of the peninsula is on land originally owned by Covert while both ends of the dam and the west end of the peninsula is on land originally owned by Cultra.

Deputy County Surveyor Wirt W. Walton surveyed Andrew Covert's tract, for a mill-site on May 28, 1872.

Andrew J. Covert sold a one-half interest, in the parcel of land that lead to the peninsula, to Joseph C. Blandin. This was June 23, 1873.

Joseph C. Blandin had already founded and owned a "flour and grist mill," on the Walnut at the west end of Eighth Avenue. In 1872 he sold this mill to C. A. Bliss and Co. (a Winfield merchant) who named it the "Winfield Roller Mills." In 1880 Bliss sold his flour mill to B. F. Wood and later bought back a half interest. After the death of C. A. Bliss the mill was sold to J. P. Baden who later renamed the mill the "Consolidated Flour Mill." Blandin, too, was the original name of Thirteenth avenue.

Blandin conveyed his half interest in Tunnel mill to Ira E. Moore on February 19, 1874. Blandin's connection with Bliss and Wood mill is indicated in a statement in this deed. It reads "Together with all the right of said Blandin to raise the waters of said river above the stone mill of C.A. Bliss and Co." This clause was a source of litigation in after years when the owners of the stone mill (at Eighth street) went to court to keep Tunnel mill from backing water against the wheel-pits of the stone mill of Bliss. According to the records, the stone mill finally won.

It would seem that Covert was selling something he did not own, but evidently he had filed on his claim before making the deed; for Covert received a patent to the quarter, dated November 1, 1873, consideration $200. Filing of this patent in the county office was not made till May 13, 1877. Delayed filings seems to have been an old pioneer custom; filing the patent meant going on the tax rolls. Proving that thrift was not unknown in those ancient days.

Covert seems to have obtained purchase money for the patent by mortgage to Samuel D. Pryor for $212.50, May 4, 1872. This mortgage appears to have been discharged by another mortgage to Pryor, $250, October 5, 1872; released October 21. 1873. But, for some reason the first mortgage was not released till July 17, 1891.

Covert mortgaged the west 1/2 of the north west quarter to Francis Black for $2100 on November 23, 1872. Black assigned the mortgage to Soranus L. Brettun on May 13, 1873. Brettun later built the Brettun hotel. Brettun assigned the mortgage back to Francis Black on March 3, 1874, for $2163.

Again, before the patent came, Blandin and Frances, his wife, and Covert and Mary, his wife, mortgaged the mill on July 20, 1873 for $2577.72 to Stillwell and Bierce, who had furnished materials and machinery for the mill. This mortgage was included and satisfied in a judgment of foreclosure and a sheriff sale, June 1, 1877.

A new name, Ira E. Moore, appears in the record in a deed from Covert, February 19, 1874 for $500, to the quarter section except the mill; and on the same date a deed to Moore for Covert's half interest in the mill, for $7610. This lets Covert out of the mill ownership entirely. In this deed is the first reference to the mill as a going concern, though Walton's survey and other documents show the mill was built or building early in 1872. The reference is in the statement "Being a portion of the quarter section --- set aside, reserved and used and applied for a mill site, and upon which said mentioned ground as a mill-site, there is erected a grist and flouring mill, now in running order, together with an undivided one-half interest in said grist and flouring mill as erected ----."

Cultra sold his quarter of land to Signor S. Copple on December 20, 1875.

Ira Moore sold the tunnel mill property to Lewis Harter and Christopher C. Harris, for $10,000, on March 31, 1877. C. C. Harris leased his half interest, in 1879, to Lewis Harter and Virgil Harter for $1,500 per year. Lewis Harter mortgaged his half interest and July 24, 1883 this mortgage was foreclosed and A. W. Goodell became the new owner of this half interest.

The following appeared in the Traveler November 20, 1878. "Monday afternood at about 3 o'clock, a man by the name of Bailey was accidently killed by the caving in of the bank at the Tunnel Mills. Some two feet of the bank fell in, and as the men were about twenty-two feet below, it completely buried the unfortunate victim. One other man ws buried up to the waist, but was not seriously injured. The dead man was under the earth about one hour, thus completely extinguishing all life long before they could reach him. Doctor Black was summoned and came with all haste, but medical assistance was useless. The workers were engaged in walling up the bank, which should have been done years ago, whereby a life would have been saved. Ed.

P.S.CThis makes two men that have been killed in this manner at this mill."

June 19, 1879 - The Tunnel Mills are going through a thorough course of re-modeling. The water wheel has been raised, and the stones are being moved and adjusted. The present proprietors intend to do first-class work or none at all.

JULY 17, 1879. - A little boy by the name of Johnie Mills, aged about 7 years, was drowned in the whirlpool above the Tunnel Mills last Thursday afternoon. He had gone there with some boys, sons of R. B. Pratt, to swim, and getting beyond his depth, was swept into the whirlpool. The little boys immediately gave the alarm, but the body ws not found for some time afterward. Coroner Graham held an inquest and a verdict of accidental drowning was returned. This the second case of drowning which has occurred at that place.

J. L. Horning returned Monday from an extended tour in the Territory, in the interest of the Tunnel Mills. He visited the Kaw, Ponca, and Osage Agencies, and relates some interesting stories about the home life of the reds. The Tunnel Mills furnishes the first of August two hundred barrels of flour toward keeping the poor savage in food and idleness.

August 6, 1884, C. C. Harris sold his half interest to Ira and Charles Holmes for $4,000. The Holmes had a wholesale and retail meat business and a packing plant at 1101 Main.

A. W. Goodell made a deed to his half interest to Elam and Cynthia Harter on August 2, 1884 for $2,000. On the same date the Harter's mortgaged their interest to C. L. Harter for $2,500. October 29, 1886 the mortgage was foreclosed and title passed to C. L. Harter.

At this point Harter owned 1/2, Copple owned 1/4 and Dunn owned 1/4 of the mill.

Dunn sold his 1/4 interest in the mill to Copple, February 25, 1887, for $2,000.

August 26, 1889 Copple and Harter sold the mill to Ira and Charles Holmes for $5,000.

In July of 1899 the Holmes' families sold the mill to Adam Braik for $6,000.

August 31, 1899, Braik deeded the property to John Clarkson for $8,000.

For some years after the sale to John Clarkson, Tunnel mill appeared to be operating normally. John and Matt Clarkson, brothers, ran the business as the Clarkson Brothers Milling company. Additions and improvements were made, including steam power to supplement the water power. The water power, at its best, is said to have been not over 75 horse-power. Fluctuations in the river made this power uncertain. The mill became known as Tunnel roller mills.

While Tunnel mill was making its slow history, another milling enterprise had built up in Winfield, the Kirk and Alexander milling company. Kirk was a brother-in-law of Matthew Alexander. The mill started at first as a feed mill on West Eighth at the alley corner back of J. B. Lynn's store (now Lindley T V ). The enterprise grew into a flouring mill and ultimately covered the quarter block occupied by Jack Lane Motor Co.( now Jarvis Auto Parts).

Mrs. Kirk, sister of Matthew Alexander, was aunt of John and Matt Clarkson, who after the death of Mr. Kirk became partners in the Alexander Milling company. The purchase of Tunnel mill by John Clarkson was as a partner, the records show, of the Alexander Milling company. The two mills were run jointly by the partnership. For some reason dissatisfaction arose, resulting in a suit for dissolution of partnership and distribution of the property. The suit was brought by M. Alexander on June 30, 1904.

With demurrers, replies, demurrers to replies and amendments to petitions and replies, the case dragged on for years. J. Mack Love, of Arkansas City, was appointed referee. On his report, the court rendered judgment June 30, 1913, finding that the Alexander Milling company partnership formed in July, 1893, provided that Matt Clarkson should have 2/12 , John Clarkson should have 3/12 and M. Alexander should have 7/12 of the proceeds. Sale of the mill to Charles M. Wallace, for $2,900, was concluded September 30, 1913.

November 24, 1922 Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Wallace deeded the mill property to Joshua N. Wallace for $3,500. By that time the mill building, reduced to a skeleton, was empty and dismantled. Tempests and floods had got in their work. In 1923 or there about, a start was made toward its repair and use as a custom mill. But another big flood came along, and another and another. So the enterprise languished. Sometime in late fall of 1938 the building was torn down and the land became a rubbish dump.

In the summer of 1940 the city bought the mill ground from Josh Wallace, and also the west end of the Peninsula from C. A. Kitch. From Kitch was also bought the right to maintain a dam on the Kitch land west of the middle of the river, to which line the city owns. The purpose of acquiring this property and rebuilding the dam was to provide an ample supply of water for the condensers at the municipal power plant. Bob Kitch, who was living on the Kitch property at the time, states the dam was strenghtened and increased in height at that time. The underground tunnel was walled off, after a near tragedy, so water could no longer flow through. The play-ground and boating facilities are incidental.

Arkansas City Republican, June 28, 1884. DIED. A sad accident occurred at Winfield Tuesday. While bathing, Mr. Frank H. Wilson was drowned in what is known as Athe whirlpool of the Walnut.@ He was a young man of twenty-two years of age and highly respected by all who knew him. His parents reside at Jacksonville, Illinois.

Winfield Courier, February 28, 1884. Mr. M. A. Smalley, of Carey, Ohio, an old friend and school teacher of James McLain, was in the city Tuesday. Mr. Smalley passed through Winfield fourteen years ago on a buffalo hunt, when only one or two houses were here. The only thing he now recognized was the old ford near the Tunnel mill, which he remembered as the place where one of the hunting party of 1870 was drowned. Buffalo were not far from this point in those days.

Winfield Courier, June 26, 1884.


The Whirlpool Near the Tunnel Mill Ushers Another Soul Into Eternity.

DIED. Our community was shocked Tuesday afternoon by the drowning, in the whirlpool near the Tunnel Mill, of Frank G. Willson, one of the most promising young men of the city and a member of the real estate firm of Harris & Willson. He and C. C. Harris went to the river to bathe about three o=clock that afternoon and had been swimming in the water for some time when the accident occurred. The water in this pool is very deep and swift, though, with a little care, is not considered dangerous when the river is in a normal condition. It has several currents in a depth of fifteen feet and flows with a whirling motion, the current continually eddying around the pool. Frank and Mr. Harris had started down the current to swim around, the latter considerably ahead. When Frank got about half way through, he called for help and immediately went under. The current prevented Mr. Harris from swimming upstream to his rescue and the only thing to be done was to circle around and come down to him. But the body was held down by the undercurrent and only rose once after the first submersion, making all efforts at rescue fruitless. The alarm was immediately given and in a few minutes many willing hands were searching for the body. The swift, deep, and eddying water shifted the body in such a manner as to prevent its recovery until it had been submerged fifty minutes. Drs. Wright, Pugh, Taylor, and Wells were on the ground and everything within human possibility was done to resuscitate the body, but in vain. Its spirit had flown to the inevitable and voiceless Eternity. It is supposed that cramp or strangulation by a back-water wave caused the terrible result. Those acquainted with the water at this place don=t attribute it to the suction, though this undoubtedly increased the helplessness of the victim. It is hard to estimate the number of persons that have been drowned in this poolCfifteen or twenty. This alone is sufficient to brand this place as dangerous, and should warn people to go elsewhere to bath.

Frank G. Willson was about twenty-five years of age. He came to Winfield some seven months ago and associated himself with T. J. Harris in the real estate and loan business. During his short residence among us he won the esteem of all with whom he came in contact. His only relatives here are the family of his uncle, Mr. W. H. Thompson. His parents reside in Jacksonville, Illinois. They were immediately telegraphed the fate of their son and answered, requesting his remains to be sent home for interment, which was done yesterday. The father is a prominent banker of Jacksonville. Frank was one of those bright, progressive, and substantial young men whose future indicates great usefulness and advancement. The writer had many pleasant conversations with him and found him possessed of those finer feelings which indicate morality and refinement and are always agreeable. Nothing is sadder than the snatching away of a life buoyant with bright hopes for the future. Truly Ain the midst of life we are in death.@