- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

GOLDEN, Ill. (AP) - Busy cleaning out the attic of her father’s home in Clayton, Carolyn Ware disposed of no-longer-needed papers accumulated over the years.

Sifting through one box, Ware found checks and receipts to discard. Then, what looked like just some old papers caught her eye.

The papers — rolled up and brittle after years in the attic — turned out to be letters tied to the history of Golden and its landmark Prairie Mills Windmill.

Ware is a great-great-granddaughter of H.R. Emminga, who built the windmill, which opened in 1873. The letters to H.H. Emminga, who took over the business after his father returned to Germany in 1878, came from customers for the mill’s three grades of stone-ground flour — F.A. Clairmonte and Co. in Barbados, and Eugene M. Janssens and Co. in Antwerp, Belgium.

“It’s been kind of a find,” said Ware, who lives in Camp Point. “It’s interesting that in 1890, he was looking at shipping his flour all over the world.”

Even though the letters are in English, Ware admits they’re a little difficult to read, but they tell part of the story of an international business thriving in Adams County in 1889, 1890 and 1891.

The letters from Belgium talk about poor prices and bad weather for the wheat crop not only there, but also in Russia, which didn’t plan to ship, or export, any wheat or rye.

“It looked like even though (Emminga) was shipping a lot of stuff over there, he must have been getting something in trade. They still owed him money. He still came out ahead,” Ware said. “In one he talked about how Russia had a rough time and would not ship any wheat or rye.”

The letters may have been tucked away in the attic 50 years or more, Ware said, and likely were passed down to her dad, Roger Glenn Buss, with other papers after his mother’s death.

“I cannot believe they survived all this time,” Ware said. “I don’t know why they’re still up there. I guess nobody thought they were important enough to do something with.”

Ware recently donated the six letters and accompanying documents — a record of how many bags or barrels of flour had been bought, what items were available to trade, and the $2,100 stilled owed Emminga — to the Golden Historical Society, which plans to put them on display in the museum at the mill, the only restored U.S.-built windmill operating with its original millstones and wood-gear mechanism.

“I just thought they should be in the museum where others could enjoy them,” Ware said.

Historical Society President Ken Flesner said the donation will spur interest in the museum, which already has other papers from the 1890s and early 1900s connected with H.H. Emminga, who died in 1915.

“It’s nice to receive these kinds of things every so often,” Flesner said. “It helps to give us renewed or extended interest, and helps keep people focused on something that we have in the community that’s very rare.”

That kind of local history appeals to Ware.

“History really wasn’t that interesting to me when I was in school. It was world history, some American history,” she said. “I just think there’s so much local history we could be teaching. To me, that would make it more interesting.”

Ware and her siblings — Sherry Moore, Gary Buss and Marilyn Buss — say they’re also finding other pieces of interesting history in the attic.

“We’ve got a letter we can’t even read, but it looks pretty important, with gold embossing. We can make out the date ‘1875’ and ‘Buss,’ my maiden name. It’s a family thing, too,” Ware said. “We found some other things that are in German. We’re working on getting those deciphered.”

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Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://bit.ly/1Qr1uhS

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Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com

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