In 1846, Oregon Trail pioneers Richard Howard (originally from Ohio), his wife Cynthia (of Kentucky), and their six children, staked a 640-acre Donation Land Claim around the oxbow of Milk Creek. That claim led to the founding of Mulino, and provided a livelihood for three generations of the Howard family.
Howard’s Grist Mill
Within a few years of the Howards’ arrival, water-powered industrial development and a successful milling business had transformed the oxbow meadow. The most prominent feature was Howard’s (Mulino Flour) Grist Mill, erected in 1851, just across the highway. Much of the 2 1/2 story post and beam structure remains intact, with original hand-hewn frame timbers and tongue and groove siding. Evidence suggests this mill is the oldest industrial building in the Pacific Northwest. In 1982 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Harnessing River Power
Even before they built the grist mill, the Howards had already begun to tap into the power of Milk Creek. by 1848, Richard Howard had built a water-powered sawmill to supply lumber for himself and other settlers. To capture the water’s power, the creek’s flow was diverted into a millrace controlled by a pair of headgates. Water entered the 19-foot-wide millrace channel on the east. It passed through a headgate, flowed back into Milk Creek through a headgate to the west. Over the years, several dams were built, only to be washed away. Trace of two– an early pole dam and a 1917 concrete and timber dam–remain near the top of the oxbow.
A Name for the Community
Charles T. Howard, Richard’s son, succeeded his father in the business. He also served a s postmaster, in the post office attached to mill’s south side. When naming hte post office, Charles proposed the familiar “Howards Mill” already in use for the community, as well as the Spanish Molino, meaning “mill.” After postal authorities rejected both– the first for being too long and the second for potential confusion with Molalla–Charles and the postal service settled on Mulino. The Mulino post office operated at the mill site from 1882 until 1958.
Sign installed in 2012 by Oregon Department of Transportation.