Founder Fought Bravely During Mexican War In Chihuahua
On the American bank of the Rio Grande near the viaduct just west of El Paso are the crumbling adobe walls of an old building, soon the remaining walls will be beaten down by wind and rain. A sleepy, melancholy atmosphere hangs over the old ruin. Motorists speed by on U.S. 80 without giving the place a thought.
But once the building was a famous southwestern institution. It was Hart’s Mill, the center of pioneer life over an area that extended from West Texas to Arizona and as far north as Santa Fe. In those days few persons passed it by. It represented hospitality, culture, and the necessities of life.
The mill ground flour for forty-niners, two-gun men, Civil War troops, Indian fighters, stage-drivers, and many others who passed through the ancient gateway of Paso del Norte.
It was established about 1849 by Capt. Simeon Hart, one of the city’s real pioneers.
BORN IN NEW YORK
Simeon Hart was born at Highland, N.Y., March 28. 1818.
With his family he went at an early age to St. Louis, Mo. He was educated to be a civil engineer. He also had literary tastes.
In 1847 he volunteered for service in the Mexican War. He became adjutant of the Missouri Horse under Col. John Ralls.
He was commended for bravery at the battle of Santa Cruz de Rosalia. While in Chihuahua he met a woman of intelligence and refinement, Senorita Jesusita Siquieros, daughter of a wealthy Rosales man.
He married her in 1850 and they had six children: Juan, Leonardo, Antonio, Catalina, Paulina and Corina. Juan was one of the founders of The El Paso Times.
Capt. Hart died Jan. 19, 1874, at the mill, and his tomb stands near by. Recently members of the family have considered moving the tomb to Evergreen Cemetery.
POWER FROM RIVER
Hart built the walls of the mill of adobe blocks, nearly three feet thick. For the roof he laid heavy sycamore beams across the top of the walls, covered the beams with peeled branches of willows, and on top of the branches packed four inches of adobe.
His power came from the river. The Mexicans – at that time Juarez (El Paso del Norte) was a city of 10,000- had built a dam across the river and permitted Hart to take out what water he needed for his mill.
“It was the chief industrial enterprise in the valley,” wrote W.W. Mills in 1858.
GIVES FT. BLISS SITE
After Col. Hart’s death in 1874 his son Juan Hart, took charge of the mill. Soldiers then were engaged in Indian campaigns and in 1880 Juan Hart donated a site adjoining the mill for a military reservation, and there Ft. Bliss was established. Two of the old army buildings are now used as private residences. The mill supplied the post with flour.
When the railroads came in 1881 they brought keen competition. New plants with modern equipment and steam power were established. By 1895 the old mill went out of business and the millstones were shipped to Mexico.
The late Brig. Gen. T.F. Davis, who married two of Col Hart’s daughters, lived for some time in the Hart homestead adjoining the mill. In 1934 it was rented to the Federal transient bureau. Now only a caretaker lives there.