Craigie Flour Mill Near Ottertail


Scottish immigrant James G Craigie settled in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, along with his wife, Margaret, and daughter Annie in 1861. Their settlement along Otter Tail Lake was dubbed Balmoral, a nod to their homeland. Craigie soon built a flour mill in the center of his land and launched Snow Flake Flour. The business was an overnight success. The mill location was ideal for farmers in the area who had been hauling their grain to mills in Alexandria. 

By 1870, the mill was worth nearly $10,000. Annie eloped and moved to Detroit with her husband in 1871. A little over a year later, in September 1872, Craigie and Margaret went sailing on Otter Tail Lake with a female friend around Annie’s age. It’s unclear exactly what happened on the lake that day, but neighbors found Margaret and her friend floating dead in the lake the next day. They had drowned. Craigie’s body was found the following day. Their sailboat was found upside down at the bottom of the lake. 

Annie returned home with her husband to bury her parents. Since they didn’t have a will, Annie was assumed to be the sole heir until Craigie’s siblings arrived in town and took possession of the mill. They claimed that since Annie was born to Craigie and Margaret out of wedlock (they married after Annie was born), she wasn’t his legitimate, lawful daughter. Therefore, she couldn’t be named his heir. Annie was like, “oh, heck no!” and took the matter to probate court.

Otter Tail County probate court found in Annie’s favor. But guess what? Her aunts and uncles appealed the decision all the way to the Supreme Court, which handed it off to circuit court. They, too, ruled in Annie’s favor. Annie was finally made the sole heir of Craigie’s estate in 1876. She operated the mill and lived at Balmoral with her husband for several years. 

The mill was razed in the 1930s. The first historical marker was placed near the site of the mill near Otter Tail Lake in 1940. It was later expanded to include two milling stones and an iron water wheel salvaged from the mill before it was demolished. 

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