Rikard's Mill Historical Park is a site owned and operated by the Monroe County Heritage Museum (MCHM). Located on Flat Creek in Monroe County, it has operated as a grist mill in several incarnations since 1845. Built by Jacob Rikard (1806-1880), the mill and the park are open to visitors from mid-April through January.
The mill was designed and constructed by Jacob "Jake" Rikard as a way to supplement his income as a blacksmith. The first mill featured a tub-style water wheel and two 48-inch millstones. Unfortunately, soon after the mill was completed, a flood on Flat Creek completely demolished the original structure. Sources are at odds about when the mill reopened, although it appears to have been in service by 1868.
Upon Jake Rikard's death, the mill passed into possession of his daughter Mary and her husband, Holly Forte. The mill continued to be operated by the Forte family through at least the 1960s. With an eye toward preserving the mill for future generations, Mack Albert Rikard and Maurice Forte restored the mill and donated it to the Monroe County Heritage Museum. The mill reopened in 1994, with complete restoration by about 1999.
Today, Rikard's Mill Historical Park includes the working grist mill as well as a number of other structures. A blacksmith shop opened in 1995, and a barn and a mule-driven cane syrup mill opened in 1997. A carriage house was moved to the site in 1999, and a "pioneer" cabin was built in 2000. Each year, on the second Saturday in November, the Mill is transformed and visitors flood the site for a Cane Syrup Making Day. Also in November, the park holds Pioneer Days for student groups, during which people in period dress demonstrate skills such as quilt-making and fabric-weaving. Approximately 1,000 students attend these demonstrations, which are held over a two-day period.
Rikard's Mill Historical Park is under the umbrella of the MCHM operating budget and employs one full-time miller, under the direction of MCHM's Executive Director. Funding comes from a variety of sources, including Rikard family descendants and a variety of foundations. Approximately 2,500 visitors a year tour the park.
The other sites that make up the Monroe County Heritage Museum are the Old Courthouse Museum, the Alabama River Museum, the C. L. Hybart House Museum and Cultural Center, Bethany Baptist Church, in Burnt Corn, Monroe County, and the Faulk Property.
The Heritage of Monroe County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2001.
"Jake Rikard: A Mechanical Genius." Legacy: The Magazine of the Monroe County Heritage Museum (Spring/Summer 1998): 1-2.
James P. Kaetz
Published May 2, 2011
Last updated April 4, 2013