Hodgson Mill, Inc.
Hodgson Mill, Inc.
Sales: $100.5 million (2005 est.)
NAIC: 311211 Flour Milling
A private company owned by family members and employees, Hodgson Mill, Inc., is a milling company devoted to producing whole-grain foods. Products include whole wheat pastas, couscous, organic flours and corn meals, all natural flours and corn meal, breakfast cereals, bread mixes, pancake mixes, and baking ingredients such as dry yeast, wheat bran, and pure corn starch. Hodgson also offers gluten-free products, soy products, and flax seed products. Under the Kentucky Kernel brand, the company sells seasoned flour and cornbread mix. Another brand, Don’s Chuck Wagon, offers mixes for fish and chips, baked or fried chicken, onion rings, mushrooms, and buckwheat pancakes. While Hodgson maintains its headquarters in Effingham, Illinois, milling is done in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri where the original Hodgson Mill was established. A new five-mill facility near Gainesville, Missouri, continues to rely on traditional grind stones made from North Carolina red granite. Unlike the steel blades used by large contemporary milling operations, millstones, according to the company, preserve the germ, bran, and natural oils of the grains, and create a flour with a unique texture. Just as important, Hodgson uses the best available wheat, oats, corn, rye, and other grains, and relies on just-in-time delivery to ensure that the final product is as fresh as possible.
The man who gave birth to Hodgson Mill was Alva Hodgson, a master millwright. The mill that would bear his name was built out of a limestone bluff on the banks of Bryant Creek in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri over one of the largest springs in the state. It would become the most photographed mill in Missouri, and grace the packaging of the present-day company. The site was originally used to power a grain mill in 1837. After it was destroyed another pioneer mill was built there in 1861 but closed during the Civil War. Following the war, around 1869, a third mill was constructed on the site by William Holman. After his death in 1879, the mill changed hands a few times before Alva and Mary J. Hodgson bought the property, which included a cotton gin, in 1884. Hodgson knew that the most profitable use of the facility would be to mill white flour. In order to replace Holman’s pioneer mill with a new one, Hodgson traveled to Louisiana during the mill’s off season to earn money working in a sawmill. It would not be until 1897 that Hodgson, mostly working alone, completed a three-story mill, which began producing unbleached flour and cornmeal. Along the way Hodgson built a general store, which also included a post office, along with a sawmill, family homes, and a number of other buildings.
Hodgson sold an interest in the mill complex to his brother George, and then turned his attention to another piece of mill property the brothers purchased on North Fork River in 1901. Hodgson rebuilt the dam and constructed a three-story roller mill, the Dawt Mill, which became operational in 1909. As was the case with the Bryant Creek property, Hodgson also built a cotton gin, general store, post office, and blacksmith shop.
Hodgson and his family sold the Dawt Mill complex in 1909, and he then moved to Harrison, Arkansas, to run a sawmill he owned there. When he began having problems with his vision he returned to Hodgson Mill, and although nearly blind he turned his still-considerable energies to improving the operation. He imported traditional French buhrstones from the Pyrenees Mountains. Hodgson also added a water-driven turbine to produce electric power to light the mill and the general store, as well as to run half-a-dozen sewing machines above the store which were used to produce overalls for a time.
Alva Hodgson died in 1921, and his brother followed six years later. Hodgson Mill was then sold by a nephew in 1927 to Fred O. Foster, who kept it until October 1934, when he sold it to Walter Rolley. Less than a week later Rolley sold the property to Charles T. Aid. The Hodgson Mill became known as the Aid-Hodgson Mill. For the next 15 years, Aid leased it and the mill was used sporadically. Then, in 1949, when most stone mills had shut down, the mill was put back into full operation when a man named Fred Leach assumed the lease. Although he had lived in Detroit for many years, he had grown up in the Ozarks where his family had been millers.
Leach repaired the machinery and made improvements to the building, but perhaps more importantly, he was a smart businessman with a flair for marketing. In advertising the white and yellow meal and ground flour he produced, he emphasized that the mill’s buhrstones preserved the nutrients. Leach also chose to package his products in small amounts to ensure freshness. While he mostly relied on food wholesalers to distribute his products, he also began selling directly out of the mill. He took advantage of the scenic mill’s status as a tourist attraction to open a gift shop and provide picnic and camping areas.
INCORPORATION IN 1969
In the early 1960s Leach gave up the lease on the Hodgson Mill to L.A. Horton, who ran it for about a year before turning it over to Harold Stott and his family in 1963. In addition to grain meals and flour, the Stouts began producing rye flour as well. Several years later a family illness forced Stout to give up the mill, and the lease was taken over in 1969 by Ken and Teena Harrington. The Kansas City couple, however, were more interested in using the backdrop of the picturesque mill to sell antiques, their primary business. Nevertheless, they recognized that demand was growing for traditional ground meal and flour. The 1960s brought a back-to-nature culture and a growing interest in non-processed foods such as whole-grain nutrients, wheat germ, and fibers. In 1969 the Harringtons formed Hodgson Mill, Inc., and made the mill operational once again.
Hodgson benefited from consumer trends, and business thrived in the early 1970s. By 1973 the mill was turning out about one million pounds of product. The Harringtons installed two more buhrstones in 1974, but the old mill simply could not keep up with the growing demand. In 1975 the Harringtons acquired a site for a new plant at the Gainesville Industrial Development Corporation Park, only a few miles away from the original Hodgson Mill. A modern new facility then opened in Gainesville in 1976. Hodgson Mill, the company, was able to expand its product lines and grow the business. Over the next dozen years the plant was expanded and new equipment installed. The old mill, in the meantime, ceased production in 1977 and was then leased by the Aid estate to a series of people who operated it as a tourist attraction. The property suffered considerable flood damage in the 1980s and in the 1990s the mill was acquired by Hank and Jean Macler, who raised money in the community to rebuild it.
At Hodgson Mill, our family is working hard to make food that’s the very best for your family. Our cold-grinding grain mill and “just in time” production creates healthy food full of all that nature intended. It’s about healthy food you can feel good sharing with your family—including organic and low fat foods full of fiber and whole grain nutrition.
The Harringtons sold Hodgson Mill, Inc., in 1988 to Siemer Milling Company, which had its own rich history. Siemer was founded in Teutopolis, Illinois, in 1882 as Hope Mills, Uptmor & Siemer, Proprietors. With the Uptmor family providing the money, John Siemer, who married into the Uptmor family, ran the mill despite having no background in flour milling. His father-in-law, Clemens Uptmor and his brother, on the other hand, had built the town’s first flour mill, a windmill operation. After the mill was destroyed by a windstorm, the Uptmor brothers became merchants and opened a general store. It was the success of Teutopolis’ largest general store that provided the funds to start the new mill.
In 1906 Joseph Siemer and his son, Clemens J., bought out the Uptmor interests and Hope Mills was renamed Siemer Milling Company. It was not a particularly thriving concern, and often the Siemers resorted to selling hay and coal to make ends meet. In time Clemens J. Siemer assumed management of the mill, and in 1928 Joseph Siemer passed away. Just four years later a third generation became involved when the son of Clemens J., Quintin A. Siemer, joined the company. He took over in 1948 and for a time moved away from flour milling, due to overcapacity in the industry and weak demand for flour, in favor of feed milling, an activity the family had begun in the late 1930s. Quintin Siemer was on the verge of dropping flour milling entirely by 1960 when he learned of a new technology in Europe, pneumatic stems. He realized that with a pneumatic system he could produce a cleaner product while running a more efficient operation, thereby giving the mill a competitive edge. He reversed course and invested in flour milling while deemphasizing feed milling, and eventually dropping it in the mid-1980s.
Starting in the 1960s Siemer Milling added to its flour milling capacity through a series of capital investments. While other family milling companies fell by the wayside, the company was able to take advantage of its location to survive despite competition from national giants like General Mills and Pillsbury. Not only was Teutopolis located close to wheat fields, as well as bakers and other customers, it was within 400 miles of such major markets as Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Nashville, and Louisville. To keep up with demand for the company’s flour, a new and larger mill was opened in Teutopolis in 1979.
In addition to the flour mill, Siemer Milling included a number of other businesses. Two years after Quintin’s death in 1984, they were divided among family members. His son, Richard C., took over the flour milling business, which had become one of the largest in the country specializing in soft red winter wheat. Although he earned a law degree from Duke University in 1975, he always intended to work for the family business and returned to Teutopolis to work his way up through the organization, eventually becoming president in 1986 when the family assets were split up. Under Richard Siemer’s direction, starting in 1988, Siemer Milling began acquiring small specialty food manufacturers, focusing on grain-based foods. One of those acquisitions was Hodgson Mill. The company began to sell its grain-based specialty consumer products under the Hodgson Mill banner as well as the Kentucky Kernel and Don’s Chuck Wagon retail brands. Not content with sales to natural food stores, Siemer Milling made a concerted effort to “mainstream” these products and to get them not only into supermarkets but also out of the specialty food sections and into the regular aisles.
Siemer Milling continued to grow in the 1990s. In order to meet rising demand the company opened a new state-of-the-art mill in 1995 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where the operation was better situated to serve the growing markets in the Southeast. Demand continued to grow, leading to more expansion in Hopkinsville and eventually the leasing of a smaller mill in the area. In 2000 Siemer Milling instituted an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, so that a large portion of the company’s stock was placed in a trust and all eligible employees became beneficiaries.
- Alva Hodgson acquires pioneer mill in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains.
- Hodgson Mill opens.
- Alva Hodgson dies.
- Charles T. Aid acquires Hodgson Mill.
- Fred Leach takes over the lease of the mill and returns it to full production.
- Ken and Teena Harrington form Hodgson Mill, Inc., to run mill.
- Milling operations moved to Gainesville, Missouri.
- Siemer Milling Company acquires Hodgson.
- Hodgson Mill is spun off by Siemer.
HODGSON MILL SPUN OFF: 2006
Hodgson Mill grew steadily within Siemer Milling, adding a wide variety of whole wheat pastas, organic pastas, hot cereal, mixes, and soy products in addition to flour. After 15 years Hodgson sales had increased six fold over what they were in 1988. To meet rising demand, in the early 2000s the operation expanded its production capabilities by adding new equipment and doubling warehouse capacity. Hodgson Mill became independent once again in May 2006 when it was acquired from Siemer Milling by Robert Goldstein and Cathy Siemer, Richard Siemer’s sister. For the previous 15 years Goldstein had served as the unit’s vice-president of production and took over as president. He told Milling & Baking News, “We have grown to the point where we can easily stand on our own.” He added, “We will benefit from our strong identity with whole grain foods—increased consumption of whole grains was recently endorsed by the federal government’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” The company was in the hands of owners committed to the mission of selling healthy foods and well positioned to take advantage of the growing demand for whole-grain products.
PRINCIPAL OPERATING UNITS
Don’s Chuck Wagon; Hodgson Mill; Kentucky Kernel.
Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods; Nature’s Path Foods, Inc.; Spectrum Foods, Inc.
A History of Ozark County, 1841–1991, Gainesville, Mo.: Ozark County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1991, 634 p.
“Hodgson Mill and Spring History,” Sustainable St. Louis Newsletter, February 3, 2003.
Robins, Ruby M., “Aid-Hodgson Water Mill in Ozark County Grinds Meal and Flour Daily,” White River Valley Historical Quarterly, Fall 1969.
“Siemer Guides M.N.F. Affairs and Family Business in New Directions,” Milling & Baking News, May 19, 1992, p. 1.
Sosland, L. Joshua, “Flour Millers Gearing Up for Greater Whole Wheat Demand,” Milling & Baking News, December 28, 2004, p. 27.
_____, “Hodgson Mill Spun Off from Siemer to Manager Family Member,” Milling & Baking News, May 22, 2006.
_____, “Successful Partnership Brings Siemer to Hopkinsville,” Milling & Baking News, August 15, 1995, p. 30.