When Elizabeth M. Garrett married George Mifflin Dallas Robinson on February 25, 1864 she brought together 500 years of milling experience.
By that time there had already been five generations of millwrights from the Garrett family and three generations from the Robinson family. The history of these two families is a fascinating story of faith, courage and determination that continues at present-day Lehi Roller Mills in Lehi, Utah.
The Robinsons: “They Must Have Flour In Their Veins”
William Robinson established a family tradition of milling, according to the History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. That tradition has been handed down from father to son for six generations. In 1782 William recognized the potential of milling in the area near Wilmington, Delaware called the “Millcreek Hundred.” William married Lydia Harlam and together they had two children. A veteran of the War of 1812, William Robinson died on January 22, 1815 and was buried in the Old Kennett Cemetery in Fairville, Chester County, Pennsylvania.
William “Billy” Robinson was born on June 29, 1810. He married Elizabeth Davis on January 9, 1834 in Wilmington. Elizabeth’s family were traditional Quakers and attended the Hockessin Meeting. The Robinsons moved to Kennett Square in neighboring Chester County, Pennsylvania. The Robinsons raised a large family of seven children.
The 1860 and 1880 Census records list William “Billy” Robinson as a miller. He followed the milling trade in various parts of the State of Delaware, and in both Chester and Delaware Counties in Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Davis Robinson died at the age of seventy-nine on March 8, 1884. Her husband died on September 15, 1893 at the age of eighty-three. They were both buried in the Friends Meeting Cemetery in Hockessin, Delaware.
William Davis Robinson was born on August 19, 1836 and was the oldest son in the Robinson family. Like his father and grandfather before him, William Davis Robinson became highly skilled as a millwright. He began his apprenticeship in 1852 and later was employed as a journeyman miller in Centreville near Wilmington. While living in Centreville he became familiar with the Titus Mousley family and their cousin Ellatheria Dupont Peria.
In 1855 the Mousely family and Ellatheria joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through the efforts of two Mormon missionaries, Angus M. Cannon (younger brother of George Q. Cannon), and George J. Taylor) son of LDS President John Taylor. William Davis Robinson also converted and joined a Mormon wagon train heading west to Salt Lake City. Before embarking on the 1,100-mile overland journey William married Ellatheria by the authority of President Erastus Snow.
Upon their arrival in the Utah Territory, Robinson’s skill as a millwright became well known. W. D. Robinson, as he was called in great demand in the new pioneer communities springing up everywhere in the territory, was hired by LDS President Brigham Young to work at the mill in Parley’s Canyon. In 1859 he was asked to supervise the operation of the 19th Ward gristmill in Salt Lake City. During the next ten years W. D. built more than a dozen grain mills.
Because of the influx of more than 4,000 U.S. troops who were sent to establish Camp Floyd during the Utah War, the communities of Lehi and American Fork prospered enormously. W.D. Robinson worked for Samuel Mulliner for nine years and then acquired full ownership of the American Fork Roller Mills.
In 1887, after an absence of more than thirty years, W. D. Robinson and his wife, Ellatheria, returned to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. During the visit W. D. told his brother George Mifflin Dallas Robinson, of the marvelous opportunities for experienced millwright in the Utah Territory. He explained some of his milling innovations and encouraged his brother to come out to Utah. William Davis Robinson went on to become an influential community and church leader in Utah. He died on September 10, 1901 at the age of sixty-five.
George Mifflin Dallas Robinson, a younger brother of W. D., was born on August 1, 1845 in New Castle County, Delaware. In 1864 he married Elizabeth Maxwell Garrett, daughter of Silas and Jemima Garrett of Centreville and Fairville, Pennsylvania.
George M. D. Robinson was very prosperous with his mill in the Millcreek Hundred area of Delaware until the economic depression of the early 1890s. According to his daughter, Martha R. Collins, “Grandpa Robinson’s mill failed because he gave out too much credit because folks were starving. Grandma wanted him to take out bankruptcy, but he said it was not honorable.”
When his brother, W. D. Robinson, visited the Robinson family members in Pennsylvania in 1889, George M. D. Robinson decided to travel to Utah with his sons, George Garrett Robinson, to see about mill work. In 1891 they both traveled to American Fork to help W. D. construct one of the first full roller mills in Utah. George Mifflin Dallas Robinson returned to the East and died there on June 5, 1910. He and his wife were buried in the Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware.
George Garrett Robinson was born in New Castle County, Delaware on October 20, 1869, but he found “his real home” in American Fork, Utah in the 1890s. While working with his father constructing mills, George Garrett Robinson found Utah and the milling opportunities there very much to his liking. On January 2, 1894 he married a local girl, Beulah Adams, who was also from a family with a long milling tradition. Together they had a family of five children. In 1910 George purchased the Lehi Roller Mills and in 1913 he enlarged and modernized the mill, increasing its daily production from 50 to 110 barrels. Around the original brick building a large warehouse, grain elevators and loading docks were built.
George operated the mill until his death at age sixty-seven on November 10, 1936. His two sons Raymond G. and Sherman D. assumed the management from that point. They increased the grain storage capacity from 3,000 to 7,000 bushels.
Sherman Dallas Robinson, the son of George Garret, was born on October 11, 1908 in Lehi, Utah. Working from 4:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night five days a week, Sherm applied all that he had learned about running the mill from his own father. Not only could he operate the Lehi roller Mills, Sherm was also the best grain buyer and flour salesman around. He specialized in customer service, which was demonstrated by his willingness to make an urgent Sunday delivery of flour to a small time restaurant owner named Pete Harman, who never forgot Sherm when he became the first and largest franchisee of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
On September 24, 1930, Sherman Dallas Robinson married Doris Cunningham of American Fork. They had three children. During hard times when small flour mills were failing, Sherm survived because he was just very good at what he did. During World War II, Lehi Roller Mills milled tons of flour exclusively for the government. After a lifetime of hard work and the satisfaction of keeping the business alive and well, Sherman Dallas Robinson died on January 26, 1980.
R. Sherman Robinson represents the sixth generation of Robinson family millwrights in American since 1783 and also the current generation of Garrett family millwrights who brought their skills to the American colonies from Britain in 1683. He is proud to carry on a tradition of milling that goes back more than 300 years and beyond.
At a Glance: Lehi Roller Mills Milling Heritage
Six Generations of Robinson millwrights:
- William Robinson (1777-1815). A miller/farmer in Delaware
- William Robinson (1810-1893). A miller in New Castle County, Delaware.
- George Mifflin Dallas Robinson (1845-1910). A miller and flour merchant in Delaware and Utah. *Married Elizabeth Garret, daughter of Silas Garrett. Father of millwright sons, W.D. and George G. Robinson (founder of Lehi Roller Mills)
- George Garrett Robinson (1869-1936). Migrated from Delaware to Utah to work with his brother, William Davis Robinson. Purchased the Lehi Roller Mills in 1910. *Married Beulah Adams from the Arza Adams Milling family of American Fork.
- Sherman D. Robinson (1908-1980). Continued the family milling tradition in the operation and expansion of the Lehi Roller Mills.
- R. Sherman Robinson (1948- ). Modernization of Lehi Roller Mills and the creation of new product lines.
Five Generations of Garrett millwrights:
- Thomas Garrett (1652-1702). Immigrated in 1683 from the British Isles. Continued the family-milling legacy in America.
- John Garrett (1609-1770). A millwright for a paper mill in Chads Ford, Chester County, Pennsylvania.
- John Garrett (1739-1807). A farmer/miller in Kennett Square, Chester County, Pennsylvania.
- Joseph Garret (1767-1849). Flour merchant in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
- Silas Garrett (1810-1890). Owned flour and snuff mills in Chester County, Pennsylvania. *Daughter, Elizabeth, married George M. D. Robinson.
Three Generations of Adams millwrights:
- Joshua Adams (1780-1863). Owned and operated five separate mills (saw, grist, carding, oat and fulling) in Glen Tay, Ontario, Canada.
- Arza Adams (1804-1889). Migrated with the Mormons to Nauvoo, Illinois and later to the Utah Territory. Built and operated a series of mills in American Fork.
- Joshua Adams (1883-1906). Continued the family milling operations in Utah County. *Daughter, Beulah, married George G. Robinson (founder of Lehi Roller Mills)