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Future of Morley Grist Mill looks brighter; donations and support may save vintage landmark

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MORLEY — The historic Morley Grist Mill will be getting a new lease on life, thanks to a generous funding donation and a groundswell of support from the public.

After learning that the grist mill faced property foreclosure for unpaid back taxes, Jay F. Stone and his wife, Dawn D., contacted volunteers with the Morley Heritage Grist Mill Association. The couple owns Hyde-Stone Mechanical Contractors, which has offices in Potsdam, Watertown and Plattsburgh.

The Stones offered to pay the $770 tax bill owed to St. Lawrence County, according to association President Ralph C. Krise.

“It was a huge surprise,” Mr. Krise said. “We thought it was too good to be true.”

Although the grist mill is not charged property taxes, it is required to pay annual fees for being in the Morley light and fire districts. Those fees had been left unpaid for three years and prompted a warning from the county earlier this year about potential property foreclosure.

The association, which had been defunct for the past few years, has responded with a new strategy for preserving the 19th-century stone mill along the banks of the scenic Grasse River along County Route 14.

Plans include reconstructing a barn at its original site and using it as a place to showcase memorabilia from the mill. Repairing the mill’s foundation and roof are other priorities.

A fundraising raffle is underway and new volunteers have stepped forward to serve on the board. Mr. Krise said members of the Grasse River Heritage Association and other organizations have contacted him to offer support and advice.

“There’s been a lot of interest. People are talking about our plans and the future of the mill,” he said.

Residents are concerned, he said, about preserving the mill that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

People will have a chance to visit the gristmill property from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 23 during the Morley Community Summer Festival. A display case will feature vintage photographs and other memorabilia from the mill. Old-fashioned games will be set up for young and old, including a ring toss to win a soda bottle. A bottle and can drive will also take place that day.

Also, Charles R. LaShombe, association vice president, will demonstrate how his portable grinder operates. A refurbished vintage dresser will be raffled, and volunteers will be available to answer questions.

“If we get enough interest, we may walk people through the gristmill, a few at a time,” Mr. Krise said. “It should be a great day.”

The Morley Community Summer Festival kicks off on the evening of Aug. 22 at the Morley Fire Department Recreation Hall with an ice cream social and music by the Charlton Brothers band. Younsters that evening can attend stories and a movie at the Morley Library’s Great Stuffed Animal Sleepover.

Saturday’s events begin with a pancake breakfast offered by the Morley Weslyan Church at the Morley Activities Building. At noon the fire department will hold a take out chicken barbecue.

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