About BSM Mill History
History of our namesake:
A year after the 1836 Texas Revolution, William “Uncle Billy” Barton patented the land near four springs that were located just south of present-day downtown Austin. He named the three main springs after his daughters: Parthenia, Eliza, and Zenobia. In 1870, Barton leased a portion of his property containing Zenobia Spring to Michael Paggi for the purpose of building a gristmill for milling corn. Paggi’s grist mill was described in an 1871 Daily State Journal account:
“We visited yesterday Barton’s Springs immediately opposite the city. In our ramblings along the stream we came across Paggi’s Grist Mill, which is doing an extensive business. He has one of the springs dammed up, with the waters escaping through a narrow passage which runs his mill, equal to about five horse power. Mr. Paggi turns out about five bushels of meal per hour, and has ready sale for all he can grind.”
Later, Paggi would build dressing rooms for the many visitors who came to swim at the mill site.
In 1878, Michael and Robert English would build a larger mill downstream from Paggi on Eliza Spring for the purpose of milling wheat into flour. The facility boasted two 48-inch mills capable of 100 barrels (1960 lbs.) a day. A fire destroyed the mill in 1886. Andrew Jackson Zilker would later purchase the land in 1906. He built an amphitheater around Eliza Spring, which now protects one of the habitats of the Barton Springs Salamander. In 1917, Zilker donated the land surrounding all four springs to the Austin School Board, setting in motion the events that led to the construction of Barton Springs at Zilker Park.
About the Owner
James A. Brown received his B.A. in Organ and his M.A. in Choral Conducting from the University of Houston. He recently retired after a 30+ year career in church music, including more than 15 years as the Director of Worship and the Arts at First Presbyterian Church of Austin. James also has a culinary degree from the Art Institute of Houston and worked at the Houston Country Club under the direction of Certified Master Chef Fritz Gitschner and as the chef de cuisine at the Hotel Sofitel in Houston.
His love of the culinary arts led him to begin bread baking as a hobby while still working in the church music field. Upon learning there were no viable local options for freshly milled landrace and heritage grains and gauging interest of local chefs, James came up with the concept of starting his own mill. He found farmers who were willing to grow organic heritage grains, as well as sources for seed, and opened Barton Springs Mill for business in January 2017. Barton Springs Mill provides artisan flours, cornmeal, and grits to wholesale and retail clients throughout the Austin/Hill Country area and to Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.