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Frederick M. Kesler was an important figure in the development of many of Utah’s early industries. Kesler, a native of Crawford County, Pennsylvania, had been apprenticed to a millwright at age 15 and had begun building mills at 19. When his family converted to Mormonism and migrated to Utah in 1851, he was in great demand as a mill builder for the Mormon Church. Most of the mills he constructed were in or near Mormon settlements in northern Utah. Usually his mills were the first industrial buildings in their locales. A distinctive feature of virtually all of Kesler’s mills, including the Box Elder Flouring Mill, is their gabled clerestory roof.

Kesler’s importance as an industrial designer is summarized in the following description of his career:
He was a self-reliant craftsman as well as an industrialist, inventor, architect, engineer, and man who took advantage of the available resources or opportunities. His talent in building mills and machines and operating them are attested to by the number and variety he either constructed, superintended the construction of, or drafted plans for others to build. These include over twenty flour and sawmills, oil mills, foundries, a nail factory, sugar and molasses factories, carding and weaving mills, a paper mill, blacksmith shops, grain-cleaning machines, a button factory, and others. He also designed and constructed churches, schools, bridges, canals, private homes and shops“.

Most of these projects were completed prior to an accident in 1867 which left Kesler an invalid. Only two of Kesler’s industrial buildings are known to be standing today: the Chase Mill in Salt Lake City and the Box Elder Flouring Mill. The Chase Mill was listed in the National Register in 1970. A c.1980 rehabilitation of that building stabilized it and restored its appearance, but covered over most of the original exterior materials. The Box Elder Flouring Mill is considered the best-preserved Kesler mill in Utah today. (update, 2021 it was demolished.)

Known Industrial Buildings of Frederick Kesler

Box Elder County

Davis County

  • Linseed Oil Mill – Bountiful – Built in 1859 – Unknown
  • Flour Mill (Kimball) – Bountiful – Built in 1851 – Ruins
  • Sugar Mill – Bountiful – Built in 1861 – Unknown
  • Carding Mill – Farmington – Built in 1856 – Unknown
  • Flour Mill (Richards) – Farmington – Built in 1856-3 – Altered

Cache County

  • Flour Mill (Benson) – Center & 100 West in Logan – Built in 1866 – Ruins
  • Saw Mill – Unknown – Built in 1860 – Unknown

Millard County

  • Flour Mill – Fillmore – Built in 1860 – Unknown

Salt Lake County

  • Saw Mill – Big Cottonwood Canyon – Built in 1855 – Demolished
  • Saw Mill – Big Cottonwood Canyon – Built in 1855 – Demolished
  • Saw Mill – Big Cottonwood Canyon – Built in 1857 – Demolished
  • Saw Mill – Big Cottonwood Canyon – Built in 1857 – Demolished
  • Saw Mill – Big Cottonwood Canyon – Built in 1857 – Demolished
  • Saw Mill – Big Cottonwood Canyon – Built in 1857 – Demolished
  • Saw Mill – Big Cottonwood Canyon – Built in 1857 – Demolished
  • Flour Mill (Empire) – City Creek Canyon – Built in 1862-63 – Demolished
  • Saw Mill – City Creek Canyon – Built in 1855 – Unknown
  • Saw Mill – City Creek Canyon – Built in 1858 – Unknown
  • Flour Mill (Upper) – Parley’s Canyon – Built in 1851 – Demolished
  • Wood/Cotton Mill – Parley’s Canyon – Unknown – Unknown
  • Sugar Mill – Sugarhouse – 1860 – Unknown
  • Nail Factory – Parley’s Creek in Salt Lake City – 1859 – Unknown
  • Paper Mill – Parley’s Creek in Salt Lake City – 1860 – Unknown
  • Flour Mill (Chase) – Parley’s Creek in Salt Lake City – 1849-52 – Still standing

Summit County

  • Flour Mill – Hoytsville – Built in 1860s – Ruins

Wasatch County

  • Saw Mill – Midway (Deer Creek Canyon) – Built in 1857 – Unknown
  • Saw Mill – Midway (La Bonte Canyon) – Built in 1857 – Unknown

Weber County

  • Flour Mill (Farr) – Ogden – Built in 1860-61 – Demolished
  • Saw Mill – Ogden – Built in 1860 – Unknown