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The first dam was built with stone as opposed to the more commonly used timber. The Perrine brothers – Reuben, David, Solomon and George – built their six foot high dam in 1860 with wooden rollers for the passage of watercraft. The water ran a sawmill used to make wooden handles for tools such as pitchforks and hoes. In 1889, William Smith bought the property, rebuilt the dam and built ice houses, a planing mill, factory, boarding house and horse barns. The operation used enough Northern pine logs that they were delivered on a spur of the Michigan Central RR into a boom area above the dam. Later, Lucas J. Smith, William’s brother, became manager and the firm evolved to specialize in wood cases for eggs under the name L. J. Smith & Co., averaging 500,000 per year at its peak. It burned in 1923; never rebuilt. In 1936, the Miller Dairy Farms bought the dam and installed hydroelectric generators and two diesel electric generators, supplying power for their ice-cream production and for neighboring community. As of 2013, electricity is still produced by three water generators capable of a total of 562 KVA. With the dam, they are owned by the Commonwealth Power Co., of Concord, CA.
–Squires, p. 110 and http://commonwealthpowercompany.com/smithville.html.
This site originally contained a sawmill which operated during the last three decades of the nineteenth century. It was first used as a hydro-electric plant by the City of Eaton Rapids around 1900. The wooden powerhouse burned in 1920 and was replaced with a brick building. How-ever, the three Leffel turbines, producing 700 H.P. altogether, are extant. Miller Dairy Farms acquired the property in 1936 and added two 500 H.P. diesel engines to supplement the available water power. The dam which is now standing was built in 1944 and raised in 1950 to increase the head from nine to twelve feet. The brick power-house was also enlarged in 1950. The concrete dam, approximately 100 feet long, has a single vertical lift waste gate at each end. The 1920 powerhouse is a one-story structure, 30 feet square, with a flat roof. The 1950 powerhouse, also a one-story building, is 40 feet wide and 120 feet long.