While the early arrivals (to Mt. Carroll) were vieing for real estate and launching their projects, back in eastern Pennsylvania and Maryland were four young men, three of them millers by trade, dreaming of joining the westward migration.
All four were Whigs politically, but each had a different religious affiliation; a Baptist, a Presbyterian, a Methodist and a Dunkard. They determined to go to northern Illinois, find a mill site, build a flour mill, and start a town.
One newspaper version said the four got together in 1839 back East and decided to pool their resources. This seems to be questionable for Nathaniel Halderman was from Montgomery county PA, while David Emmert came from Washington Co MD near Hagerstown, some 200 miles or more farther west and south, though close to the Pennsylvania line. It is true, however that both Halderman and Emmert arrived at what is now Mt. Carroll in 1841. Both were interested in starting a mill. It was natural that they joined hands.
John Rinewalt, third member of the foursome, arrived at the Carroll county millsite in 1842 from Chester County PA and joined Halderman, according to Kett's 1878 Carroll county history, and "they built the mill." John Irvine, the last of the four, came to Mt. Carroll September 1, 1845 from Pittsburgh PA and his biography acknowledges that he "was interested in the mill property." There seems to be no question that the four worked for the mill whether or not they knew each other before going westward.
One account said Emmert and Halderman considered buying the Bowen mill site on Plum river east of Savanna but for some reason negotiations fell through. At any rate, "Emmert, Halderman and Company," purchased the claim of Christian, Swigley, Hitt and Swaggert, the mill site on Carroll Creek for $3,000, and the company, by pooling the collective funds of the founders, bought more land and played a commanding part in bringing the county seat to Mt. Carroll and encouraging the founders of Frances Shimer Seminary and numerous small businesses to locate on the hills overlooking the Waukarusa.
The winter of 1841 was an open one and very favorable for work at the mill," wrote Joseph Welty, pioneer carpenter (in his reminiscenses) who came from Maryland and worked for Emmert before migrating to Illinois. "In the meantime Mr. Emmert took into business with him as a partner N. Halderman, a man with some money. Emmert had the oversight of the works and boarded the workmen, and N. Halderman furnished the funds. During that winter another log cabin was built on the old claim, near one that was on the claim, and they were about 14 feet apart, then another frame building was erected between the two cabins for a dining room.
The men that did the work were Harry Lowman and Abraham Beeler, they also built a store house where Mrs. I.P. Sheldon now lives. Mr. Emmert went to Galena and hired Daniel Hurley, John Herrington, Michael Mahan, Patrick Silk and Hugh Sley to build a dam and build a race, they completed this work early in the spring. Then Jonathan Meyer came on to lay the rock, his force was Emanuel Morrison from Adeline, Thomas Reed from New Dublin, M. Reed and William Nicols. Now they wanted the millwrights so they found Mr. Chapman and his two sons, William and Mordicai who took the contract for doing the mill work.
The mill shaft was cut on the Mississippi bottoms on the land owned by the heirs of John Tomlinson, and the next thing was to find a man to dress it and put in the burrs so they sent for a young man living in the east by the name of Robert Kennedy who came and being assisted by Abram Beeler did his part of the work. By this time some of the workmen had completed their task and wanted their pay, but the mill company having been to a great deal of expense were a little short of funds, paid Hurley whos bill was $1500 in land to the amount of 160 acres which is still the family homestead. Herrington also received a tract adjoining Hurley's and containing 80 acres, which he fenced and in a short time sold it to Hurley for $600.
When the mill was completed and in running order, the farmers came with their ox teams, loaded with grain, for which they received from 25 to 50 cents per bushel; very frequently their wives or daughters accompanied them, sitting on top of a load of grain.
....(Mirror Democrat 1898) -- Nathan H. Halderman (Jr) was born in Mt. Carroll Feb. 21, 1853. He attended the public school and the Seminary and the old Chicago University until his 18th year when he went into business for himself in Milwaukee. He joined the Milwaukee Board of Trade and was the youngest member of that body. In 1872 he went into partnership with Will Graham, the firm doing a general commission and livestock business. In July 1879, he returned to Mt. Carroll where he took charge of the large grain elevator at the depot, buying grain and live stock for the Chicago market, and has ever since conducted the same business. After the death of his father in the fall of 1880, he took charge of the large flouring mill and the same has been under his management ever since. He was married to Mary Eliza Crummer Dec. 27, 1875, the result of the union being two boys, Frank H. and Nathaniel, both living. Mr. Halderman is one of our foremost citizens, progressive and always wide awake to the best interests of the city. Has served the city as a member of the board of aldermen for several terms and is counted among the best financiers of the city. The old stone mill at the foot of Market street is one of the old land-marks, and is still in the best of repair and one of the leading industries here. It is one of the oldest mills in the state, being built in 1842. Mr. Halderman’s father being the prime mover in its erection. The mill was run under different managements until 1888, when the J. M. Shirk company was incorporated with N. H. Halderman, president and J. S. Miles, secretary. The mill was changed to a roller mill in 1886, and is a modern mill in every detail, having a capacity of 100 bbls per day. The leading brands of flour are Golden Sheaf, Fancy Patent, Pride and Gilt Edge. The mill company also do a general Halderman Residence custom and grist business.
(Goodly Heritage).......Nathaniel Halderman (son of the original owner of the Halderman mill) who died December 2, 1931 at his home in East Carroll lived in the house which had been built by his father of the same name, one of the three founders of Mt. Carroll. He was born in 1853 in what is known as the Weinlander block and psent most his life here. On finishing school he spent several years in Milwaukee in the grain business, then returned to Mt. Carroll and ran an elevator at the railroad station buying grain and livestock.
Later he took charge of the J.M. Shirk mill, the old stone mill originally built by Emmert and Halderman (his father) when Mt. Carroll was platted and became a city.
In the early days the mill ran day and night, Jesse Shirk (1833 - 1888) worked twelve hours a day. The mill dam had washed out many times but was always repaired. Then came the storm which took it out for the last time. Steam power and gasoline engines were replacing water power and the old dam was permitted to lie broken. The night the dam when out Mr. Halderman worked hard to save it. He was everywhere on the "breast of the dam" directing the men. The fire department was called and nearly the entire town was out in the pelting rain, wind, thunder and lightning for hours. The dame went out and Mr. halderman undismayed, started work the next day to keep the wheels moving.
In 1911 the Shirk mill was still doing a thriving business using modern machinery. Farmers drove long distances to patronize it as they had done for years. The mill not only did a big business grinding grists but handled flour by the carload and feed of all kinds in wholesale and retail lots. Country stores were supplied by team. George Arm, one of the earliest settlers worked continuously in the mill for more than 40 years.