One year later: Remembering the Butte Creek Mill

Eagle Point, Ore — For more than a century the Butte Creek Mill has been a centerpiece of the Eagle Point community.

After a devastating fire last Christmas, those who remember the mill as it once was are a year closer to having the cornerstone of their community back up and running.

“It’s pretty amazing to think of what it looked like here 144 years ago,” said Bob Russell.

Nobody knows the history once held within the blackened walls better than the Mill’s owner, Bob Russell.

“It’s pretty awesome when you see all the little marks from the axes they use, you also can appreciate a strong structure, even after this fire, it’s in pretty good shape,” said Russell.

Going on 145 years old the Butte Creek Mill was a testament to the pioneer spirit, hand hewn lumber put together with hand made square nails, the mill was the centerpiece of Eagle Point until the fire on Christmas morning of 2015.

“I was alerted, I lived just across the street and at 4:12 I came down the stairs and could see the flames, and it just ripped my heart out,” said Russell.

4:12 am. An electrical fire spread quickly throughout the Mill. Torching the structure and the history it held within.

“By about 9:30 Christmas morning we had couple hundred people out here crying, and you had to stand way across the street because you could feel it, it was so hot you had to stand 50 feet away,” said Russell.

For many mill was more than an old building.

For Jon Vait and his grandsons, it was part of the family.

“It was really sad, because we use to get ice cream, and it was really hard to not be able to after we’d walk back from the park,” said Vait’s grandson Jaxon.

Vait is a firefighter for Fire District 3, his home, right across the street from where the mill once stood.

“It was really hard to not be able to do anything, I didn’t have my protective, I couldn’t do anything, so I just stood there, with the rest of the people,” said Vait.

While he couldn’t help save the mill that day, he is part of the effort to return it to its former glory.

“What and awesome opportunity to be able to rebuild it, make it back into a community center, make it back into a hub, make it back into an attraction,” said Vait.

An effort that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and support for a new mill, just like the old one.

“I can close my eyes at night and picture myself walking into this building and seeing the hand hewn timbers and the planks, and everything is going to be identical,” said Russell.

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Matt Jordan is the Chief Meteorologist for KOBI-TV NBC5. Matt joined the NBC5 weather team in 2014 after a year as a reporter and anchor in Alexandria, Louisiana. His experience with the severe weather of the Deep South and a love of the Pacific Northwest led him to pursue a certification with Mississippi State University as a Broadcast Meteorologist. You can find Matt working in the evenings of NBC5 News at 5, 6 and 11 as well as online. Matt also has a degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon. In addition to being passionate about news and weather, Matt is a BIG Oregon Ducks fan. When not rooting for the Ducks or tracking down the next storm over the Pacific, Matt can be found outdoors in the Oregon wilderness with his wife, his daughter and their dogs Stanley and Gordi.
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