Historic 119-Year-Old Sandstone Mill Saved And Rebuilt In Shadow Of Devils Tower

When the 119-year-old Toomey’s Flour Mill in Newcastle was torn down to build a gas station, Ogden Driskill bought the remains to save it. A stonemason has spent the last decade rebuilding the structure on Driskill's ranch in the shadow of Devils Tower.

AR
Andrew Rossi

January 13, 20246 min read

This old, unfinished sandstone building looks like it's been in the shadow of Devils Tower for a century. It's the historic old Toomey's Flour Mill from Newcastle, which was built in 1905 and torn down in 2012. Ogden Driskill bought it and had it rebuilt on his ranch.
This old, unfinished sandstone building looks like it's been in the shadow of Devils Tower for a century. It's the historic old Toomey's Flour Mill from Newcastle, which was built in 1905 and torn down in 2012. Ogden Driskill bought it and had it rebuilt on his ranch. (Courtesy Ogden Driskill)

The midlife crisis is a natural experience for many and often manifests in unusual ways. That’s how Wyoming Senate President Ogden Driskill describes an active building project on his ranch near Devils Tower.

A 119-year-old historic sandstone building is being rebuilt on Driskill’s ranch, and he’s footing a hefty bill to finish the project. But saving and restoring the building is testament to Cowboy State history and the spirit of northeast Wyoming, not a money-making venture.

The building has been “just something I've always admired and liked,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “No Corvettes, no girlfriends, but I’ve got an old stone building I like a lot.”

Toomey's Flour Mill

The sandstone structure now standing in the shadow of Devils Tower was built more than a century ago in Newcastle. It was Toomey’s Mill, a 100-barrel flour mill built with sandstone from a local quarry in 1905.

The Newcastle Milling Co. and Electric Light Plant built it to process locally grown wheat as part of their growing business. It was the largest flour mill in Wyoming when D.J. Toomey bought it in 1919 and kept it operating until 1965.

The mill remained standing unused for decades while more buildings were built around it. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, but has since been removed from it.

When Maverik Inc. bought the property to build a new gas station, Toomey’s Mill had to go. Despite a local effort to preserve the mill, it was torn down in March 2012.

That’s when Driskill dropped into Newcastle. He came to pick up air conditioners and left as the owner of Toomey’s Mill — some assembly required.

Bidding Blocks

Driskill has a soft spot for stone buildings.

“I've loved stone buildings forever,” he said. “Some buildings throughout the hills are built out of that quarried sandstone, and they're all just spectacular buildings. I've always admired them. So, when we had the opportunity to come up with one, we went ahead and jumped on it.”

Driskill came to pick up the air conditioners he had bought from the construction site of Newcastle’s new Maverik station. He admired Toomey’s Mill and had supported the local effort to preserve it, but he didn’t know the dismantled structure was “for sale” until someone at the site approached him.

“The guy there asked if I was buying anything else,” Driskill said. “I said, ‘I think you've sold everything,’ and he said, ‘No, we've got the stone and all the beams that held up the flour mill, and we're going to bid it if you’re interested.’”

Driskill was interested. He bid on the remains of Toomey’s Mill, getting for “next to nothing.”

Before the sandstone blocks and support beams were transported to the Driskill Ranch, local stonemason John Francis sketched the entire building and numbered each stone. Brick buildings are designed for simple assembly, but sandstone is a different animal.

“Bricks are coarse,” Driskill said. “They're all in layers, and they're even-sized. This is all hand-cut sandstone, so every stone is a different size and shape.”

Toomey’s Mill was just a bunch of sandstone blocks on pallets for several years before they would fit back together again. And Driskill had the perfect place to put them.

  • A few bison hang out at the old Toomey's Mill rebuilt on a ranch near Devils Tower.
    A few bison hang out at the old Toomey's Mill rebuilt on a ranch near Devils Tower. (Courtesy Ogden Driskill)
  • Ogden Drisill reassembled the old sandstone mill on his property, with a new stone addition over the door frame.
    Ogden Drisill reassembled the old sandstone mill on his property, with a new stone addition over the door frame. (Courtesy Ogden Driskill)
  • Newscastle stonemason John Francis, left, mortars the sandstone blocks of Toomey's Mill back together on Ogden Driskill's ranch near Devils Tower. Right, Toomey's Mill as it looked before it was torn down in 2012. The mill, built in 1905, was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2008, but was removed in 2013.
    Newscastle stonemason John Francis, left, mortars the sandstone blocks of Toomey's Mill back together on Ogden Driskill's ranch near Devils Tower. Right, Toomey's Mill as it looked before it was torn down in 2012. The mill, built in 1905, was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2008, but was removed in 2013. (Courtesy Ogden Driskill)
  • A shooting star over Devils Tower with the historic Toomeys Mill building in the foreground.
    A shooting star over Devils Tower with the historic Toomeys Mill building in the foreground. (Courtesy Ogden Driskill)
  • Toomey's Mill is reassembled.
    Toomey's Mill is reassembled. (Courtesy Ogden Driskill)
  • Flour Mill IMG 0156 1 13 24

Building Blocks

When Driskill decided to begin the monumental effort of rebuilding Toomey’s Mill, he again enlisted Francis' professional skills. Thanks to his meticulous work of numbering the blocks, it was much easier to reassemble them into the mill's shell.

“John Francis is an incredible stonemason,” Driskill said. “He made wheelbarrows of mortar and poured the foundation. Then he just started setting (the blocks). They were all numbered, so he would pull out the right numbers, and they went stone for stone.”

By the time the last block was in place, Francis had rebuilt Toomey’s Mill precisely as it stood in Newcastle for more than a century. As for the location, Driskill felt comfortable placing the reconstructed mill near Devils Tower, where locals and visitors could see it.

“We're so used to modern construction these days. That building aesthetically fits into Devils Tower. It looks ‘Old Western,’ like it's been there for 100 years. And it's got a real appeal to it,” he said.

If the numerous photos of Devils Tower looming over the roofless shell of Toomey’s Mill are any indication, most people agree with Driskill’s aesthetic assessment. The structure will be completed eventually, an endeavor Driskill simultaneously anticipates and dreads.

“The hard part of the stonework is done,” he said. “The next part is going to be even more expensive, and that's getting roofs and windows and all the things that go inside.”

If Driskill could do it tomorrow, it’d be done. Reconstructing Toomey’s Mill has been a labor of love, but he guesses it could take another $1 million to finish the job.

“It's probably not going to happen overnight with my cash flow,” he said. “But it's not about the money.”

A Bit Of Church, Museum And Wedding

When Driskill bid on and bought Toomey’s Mill, he didn’t know what he would do with it. Even as it nears completion, he’s not entirely sure.

“It'll need some more building on it,” he said. “It’ll probably end up being a bit church, a bit museum and a bit wedding all rolled into one.”

Driskill believes a historic building with a picturesque backdrop will make Toomey’s Mill a desirable venue for many events once it’s finished. He also envisions the mill and the surrounding property as a concert venue.

The romantic nature of historic sandstone structures on Wyoming’s landscapes is how Toomey’s Mill ended up on Driskill’s ranch. He believes others with the same affection will naturally be drawn to the structure once it’s restored to its humble grandeur.

“It’s second-to-none stonework in an unbelievably nice location,” he said. “I'm sure we'll end up doing a lot of weddings there once it gets done.”

  • Toomey's Flour Mill was a Newcastle landmark for 60 years before it closed in 1965.
    Toomey's Flour Mill was a Newcastle landmark for 60 years before it closed in 1965. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Toomey's Mill is torn down in 2012.
    Toomey's Mill is torn down in 2012. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

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