Set in Stone: Seapo Mill

seapo1From The Belleville Telescope – June 8, 2016 –
By Cynthia Scheer Telescope News
It’s called the old Seapo Mill.
It was once a state-of-the-art steam flour mill. More than three decades ago it underwent an estimated $250,000 rennovation as it was transformed into a dream home for a well-to-do Alaskan. The longtime-empty home with broken windows now stands shrouded by trees along a dead-end road on the edge of The Great Salt Marsh. The now-144-year-old stone structure is all that is left of the once-booming town of Seapo.
Built to last
According to Doris Dewey-Smith’s 1975 article in Homeland Horizons, Seapo Mill was built in 1872 by A.W. Miller, who also operated the mill. The construction of the native limestone mill cost $12,000 and was financed by T.B. Hazen, who ran a store in Seapo. Miller “met with reverses and lost” the mill, Dewey-Smith said, and it was deeded to T.B. Hazen for $200 on Aug. 22, 1872.
The dimensions of the mill were 30 feet wide by 40 feet long by 28 feet high, and “its architecture plainly denotes that fact,” Dewey-Smith wrote. Large beams in the basement are twelve inches square and read ‘Chicago Lumber Company, Waterville, Kans.’ The base walls are three feet thick and 18 inches at the top story.
Dewey-Smith went on to write, “a creek full of water gushed along the north side of the building, a mill race provided power for grinding.”
“When it was found that water power could not be depended upon for grinding, an engine room was built on the northeast corner of the floor,” she wrote.
The large steam flouring mill had a 45 horsepower engine and first-class machinery in its day, according to a Jan. 12, 1978, article in The Belleville-Telescope. It had a capacity of 100 barrels of flour a day. It ran “night and
day,” and it took two tons of coal and one cord of wood to run the mill for 24 hours. There was a dock on the south side of the house, but it was replaced with a porch when the mill was converted into a house in 1898 by
the Hazen family, according to the Homeland Horizons article. The large burrs used for grinding were removed during the rennovation of the mill.
According to Dewey-Smith, George Krohn, who was a little boy at the time the mill was rennovated from a mill into a house, lived east of the mill and remembered the Hazens asking his father to bring his team of horses to the mill. The horses were hitched onto the burrs and dragged the burrs one at a time from the basement. Krohn said “it was a stiff pull for the team.”
For more than 75 years the mill was home to members of the Hazen family. Clifford Hazen, who was the son of DeLos
Hazen and the grandson of T.B. Hazen, was the last member of his family to live there. He moved to a nursing home in late 1974.
Retta Borchardt bought the property from the Hazen estate in 1973. It came with 100 acres, including a barn to the north of the house, which Borchardt had re-roofed, repainted and repaired. The barn is now
leaning severely.
Kansas to Alaska and back
Borchardt was born in 1925 in the Wayne area house now occupied by Stanley and Joan Krohn. She moved to Alaska in 1948 where, according to the 1978 Telescope article, she “was extremely successful in the office supply business in Anchorage.”
She returned to Republic County with companion Ed Wightman, who was a former Canadian and Welshman. With the help of contractor Abe Carlson, of Clyde, the pair remodeled the two-and-a-half story mill-turned-stone house, which has a full basement.
Borchardt named the property “My Tara Farm,” and started rennovations with the addition of a large kitchen onto the east side of the house. The downstairs was remodeled into one large living room measuring 27 feet by 43 feet, according to The Belleville Telescope article. A curling stairway was added to the west end of the living room. Borchardt added three large bedrooms on the second floor – Dewey-Smith said the Hazens used the upstairs as a ballroom – and the new floor was raised two feet. Some supporting structure was replaced, and heavy bats of insulation were added to
the ceiling, The Belleville Telescope article said. An Italian chandelier was installed in the new kitchen. A Bohemian crystal chandelier that measured 56-inches high by 48-inches wide was hung in the large living room.
A large veranda replaced the old porch on the south side of the house.
According to the 1978 Telescope article, Borchardt planned to build a fourcar garage with roof top terrace on the northeast corner of the house. The garage would allow cars to come in one side and go out the other. The garage was never done. Neither was a planned watering system or a flower and rock garden designed by a landscape architect.
According to the article, Borchardt also planned a “doorway of Nordic Oak” with a large peacock in stained glass, which was designed by an Anchorage designer who studied in Poland. Borchardt also said she planned to install a chip
and limestone “terrazzo,” or mosaic, floor. It is unknown if the doorway and floor were ever done.
Borchardt did have Rizek Plumbing, of Belleville, install a hot water heating system, according to the article, but thieves have since ripped the copper piping out and discarded the pipe insulation on the yard and porch.
Closing the doors
Borchardt died in 1988; her funeral was on the veranda she had built onto the stone mill-turnedhouse.
Wightman continued to live in the house for a short time. No one has lived in the house since.
A new roof was put on the former stone mill a few years ago, but several windows remain broken. According to Quentin
Smith, of Concordia’s Farm Management Services, the property, along with 1,000 acres of land that goes with it, is now owned by Borchardt’s son, William Borchardt, of Anchorage, Alaska. Farm Management Services manages the property, which includes about 730 acres of wetlands.
“[William Borchardt] doesn’t want anyone to live in the house,” Smith said. “He doesn’t want to rent it out.”
Town of Seapo
The now extinct town of Seapo was located two miles south of Wayne on the eastern edge of the Great Salt Marsh. The area that was once platted into city blocks is now nothing but open crop field.

The post office at Salt Marsh, which was the original name of Seapo – was established July 9, 1866, and was the first post office in Republic County. It was also one of only three post offices between Manhattan and Denver. The post office was discontinued Sept. 25, 1889.

Click below to view other ‘Set in Stone’ features.