THE HEMP MILLS OF WISCONSIN
The War mills: The architecture of the mills built in 1942-3 is quite uniform: concrete or cement block construction, usually with a rounded roof. The buildings are long with a drying tunnel joining the receiving building to the decortication unit. High catwalks or the remnants thereof can sometimes be seen (Hartford) from which the guards watched over the German POW and Japanese-American labor force.
The war mills are said to have been designed by Andrew Wright, the UW Ag Extension person who shepherded the Wisconsin hemp industry.
Beaver Dam: was on De Clark St. Burned.
Brandon: West side of hwy 49 between Brandon and Ripon. Old pre-war Rens company mill. Buildings are delapidated. Original boiler unit is still inside. The Rens Co. was last to grow hemp commercially in the US. It closed its doors in 1958. The last crop year was '57. Willard Rens is still alive, retired in Arizona. His father Matt testified at the Marijuana Tax Act hearings in 1937.
Clinton: Current status uncertain.
Cuba City: the only war mill on the west side of the state. North of county H on the east edge of town. The structure is delapidated and unused for years.
DeForest: On Hwy 51 (west side). Now part of Ball company.
Darien: Immediately north of interstate 43 on west side of highway 14. Now Walworth Foundries, Inc.
Fairwater: Interesting story of mill and waterwheel in electricity production; smoke stack still standing.
Hartford: At edge of town, south side of West State St, across from cemetary. Large mill, now a storage facility.
Juneau: south edge of town off Hwy 115. Now Glasfloss Co.
Markesan: now Robin II foundry, this is an original pre-war mill site, soon to be razed
Ripon: outside of town, east on county KK from Hwy 44 south of town., is now Equity Livestock Auction facility. One of the largest mills.
Sun Prairie: location, current status uncertain.
Union Grove: Now M &W Shops, a foundry, on Durand Ave (Hwy 11), west side of town.The reception area displays a wonderful aerial photo of the mill in its heyday.
Waupon: uncertain, may have been attached to prison.
Roberts near Baldwin: a mill operated here until 1928. Nothing remains.
There were also mills before the war at Milton, Palmyra, Waterford, Picketts, Iron Ridge, Fond du Lac, Fairwater; and possibly also at Waterloo, Brownsville, Randolph, Rosendale, Oak Centre, Oak Grove and Alto. (These latter sites may have had hemp acreage but no mills.)
Anyone with corrections or additional information please contact: EMAIL This information has not been updated since May of 1994. A tour of Wisconsin Hemp Mills on DVD is available. Use email link to inquire.