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History of the Reist Mill at Amherst State Park

    The early 19th century Reist Mill complex site is situated along the southwestern limits of the property. By the mid to late 19th century, the Reist Milling Company complex included the flour mill along with coal and wood sheds, a mill barn, 12 foot high water wheel, mill ponds, embankments, raceways, a large farm house, two family mill house, carriage house, ox and horse team sheds, tenant houses, cooperage. hemp mill, forge, smoke house, chicken house, and saw mill.

    The picture at the right shows the Reist Mill Barn, located just left of center, before the fire of July 19, 2008. The two pictures below show additional views of the barn before the fire. All that remains of the Reist Mill Barn is a grassy mound outlining the foundation. The Reist Mill area is located on the west side of the park and offers a point of entrance to the Park for local residents to the west.  The Reist Mill was a local historic landmark.

Historic Reist barn gone, but not forgotten by neighbors

Amherst Bee

July 23, 2008

by David F. Sherman, Managing Editor

Williamsville firefighters prepare to attack flames shooting from the historic Reist barn shortly after 4 Monday morning. The former mill, built in 1821 as part of a large commercial operation, was a total loss. Photo by David F. Sherman.

    The last remaining building of a prosperous 19th century Williamsville milling company was destroyed by a suspicious fire early Monday morning.

    The Reist barn, once part of the Reist Milling Company, was built in 1821.

    Williamsville firefighters were called to 265 Reist St. at 4:11 a.m. and found the two-story structure wrapped in flames. Chief Rich Maddigan ordered a second alarm to assist in water supply, which activated the Snyder and Main-Transit fire departments.

    Intense radiant heat melted the globes of nearby streetlights.

    The Getzville Fire Company provided an additional pumper at a hydrant on North Union Road to feed large-diameter hoses connected to aerial trucks almost 1,500 feet away at the scene of the fire. The Eggertsville Hose Company filled in at Williamsville's hall for the duration of the incident.

    According to the late Sue Miller Young, Amherst town historian and author of "A History of the Town of Amherst," the Reist Mill once produced 100 barrels of flour a day.

    The company was formed by John Reist and his brother-in-law, Abraham Long, in 1808. They acquired a steamboat to sail on Lake Erie and a smaller vessel for use on the Erie Canal. Through these resources, they were able to buy wheat in Detroit, ship it to Buffalo, grind it into flour in Williamsville, and sell it in New York City.

    Work was completed around 1870 on an improved waterway, taking advantage of nearby Ellicott Creek and an expansive millpond.

    The barn lost in Monday's fire was described as the main building of a complex which included grist and flour mills, a sawmill, a cooper shop, farm house and smaller dwellings, a carriage house and sheds for ox and horse teams. 

    Its trademark products were Grade A flour varieties known by such colorful names as "Golden Eagle," "New Era" and "Stars of the West."

    The barn was a strictly utilitarian building, lacking the amenities of other mills of the same time period. Some timbers measured 8-inches square and bore the notches made by carpenters from an era long since gone.

    Hundreds of square-head nails littered the ground as Amherst Highway Department personnel used a Gradall truck to flatten the west wall, which had withstood the flames without a structural failure.

    A stone-lined cellar contained little of value: bales of hay, roofing material and metal drums. It was not immediately determined what was their contents.

    The barn was part of the Amherst State Park. Amherst Highway crews secured the site after the fire was extinguished. Monday night, a steady stream of neighbors filed past the debris pile to view what remained of the landmark.

    Damage was estimated at $60,000. The Amherst Fire Inspectors office and Amherst police are investigating the cause.

    Although not officially declared an arson fire, they noted there was no electrical service to the building and no machinery stored inside.

    Representatives from the town's Historic Preservation Commission and Amherst Conservation Advisory Council spoke at Monday's meeting, seeking information on the future of the site. They were told details were pending the conclusion of an investigation.

    Mary Shapiro, acting chairman of the Amherst Historic Preservation Commission, said the site still has historic value and anticipates extensive archeological study in the near future.

    The barn was granted historic designation status by the Town Board in 1998 which prevented demolition or any changes to the exterior without review by the commission.

The Reist Mill, also known simply as the "Red Barn," stood at the western edge of Amherst State Park adjoining the Sisters of St. Francis property. It was the last remaining building in what was formerly a thriving commercial enterprise run by two pioneering Williamsville families. Photo courtesy Cindy Munschauer

   Below are sixteen pictures of the remains of the Reist Mill Barn.

Articles from The Buffalo News about the Reist Mill fire at Amherst State Park.

Fire destroys historic barn designated as a landmark, Buffalo News, 7/22/2008

Mill fire draws harsh criticism of Town Board, Buffalo News, 7/23/2008

Mill ruins in village leave town with problems, Buffalo News, 9/9/2008

Arson is shameful idea for beautiful landmark, Buffalo News, 1/7/2009

Williamsville arsonist ordered to pay $15,000 for '08 cleanup of Mill, Buffalo News, 12/30/2009

A History of Reist Mill ahistory.html

Click on one the pictures to view a larger view of that picture and a manual slide show of the album.

Early History of Reist Mill reistmill.html