The King Milling Company has been family owned and operated since 1890. From our humble beginnings using the stone grinding process to today’s fully automated network of steel rolls, we have always pushed to be on the leading edge of milling technology to produce the highest quality flour and wheat products for our customers.
The first mill in Lowell, Michigan, the Forrest Mill, was built in 1844 on the east bank of the Flat River. In 1867, it was joined by the Superior Mill on the west bank. When the Superior’s owners filed for bankruptcy in 1890, the mill was purchased by a local lumber company owned by Francis King, his son Frank T. King, Reuben Quick and Charles McCarty. Thus, the King Milling Company was born.
The group quickly set to work updating the mill to the new “roller” system, which more than doubled its capacity to 500 cwt. (1 cwt. = 100 lbs.) of white flour a day. The company eventually purchased the Forrest Mill and converted it into a corn mill.
In 1900 another local lumberman, Thomas F. Doyle, purchased part-ownership of King Milling and his three sons, Charles, Renis and William, went to work for the company. In 1936, William Doyle assumed management of the company. Under his direction, significant operational improvements were made, and King Milling’s volume of business increased substantially. William directed the construction of new water turbines under both mills. He also supervised the construction of a new concrete dam across the Flat River to power the mills.
In 1943, the old Superior Mill burned to the ground. Instead of buckling under this setback, William used this as an opportunity to improve operations. On the site where the wooden mill once stood, William built a new state-of-the-art concrete mill equipped with all the most modern milling equipment of the time. When completed in 1945, the new mill produced 600 cwt. of flour per day and could store up to 80,000 bushels of wheat.
Tragically, William died ten days after the new mill commenced operations, and sons King and Mike assumed ownership. At the time, King, 23, was serving as an Ensign on a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Pacific theater of WWII; Mike was 15. The Navy granted King a 90-day emergency leave while his ship was being repaired following a Kamikaze attack, and he returned home to put his father’s accounts in order. By the end of the 90 days the war was over, and King was released from active duty. He became president of King Milling Company. Mike joined him as vice president after duty in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict.
King and Mike continued to look to the future as they increased the capacity of the mill to 5,400 cwt./day and added a mill capable of producing 4,000 cwt./day of whole wheat products. They also increased storage capacity to approximately 2.8 million bushels of wheat. During this time, King Milling was among the first to switch from the old bucket system for conveying flour to pneumatics. The company also introduced newer transportation systems including bulk trucking capabilities and a system capable of loading a truck with 50,000 lbs. of flour in just under four minutes.
King Milling developed a proprietary process in the 1960s that deactivates wheat’s enzymes for a longer shelf life. We made further refinements to the process in the 1980s. This wheat is milled and sold under our Ceres® line of products.
Our progressive approach to milling continued with King’s son Brian, and Mike’s sons Jim and Stephen. With King’s and Mike’s help, the next generation of the Doyle family worked to fully automate operations, making King Milling among the first mills to do so.
In 1995, Brian became president, Jim senior vice president, and Stephen vice president. Since then, they have worked tirelessly to keep King Milling on the cutting edge of their industry, employing the newest machinery and milling techniques.
In 2004, the mill added a fifth floor and much of its equipment was removed and replaced. Improvements and additions brought capacity up to 8,000 cwt./day. While the same exterior structure built by William Doyle in 1945 remains, the mill is now 85 percent more space efficient and produces 13 times the amount it did when originally built.
A “B-mill” built in 2013 boasts all of the latest milling technology. It is capable of producing 5,000 cwt./day of white flour, increasing King Milling’s total white flour output to its present capacity of 13,000 cwt./day between the two mills, as well as 4,000 cwt./day in the whole wheat mill. Additional grain storage built in 2017 brings the company to its present-day total storage capacity of 3.6 million bushels.
Notably, the City of Lowell’s centennial book of 1931 cites the King Milling Company’s daily capacity at 495 cwt., with an annual grind of 250,000 bushels. Our mill now produces the 1931 daily capacity in approximately 42 minutes and grinds 250,000 bushels of wheat in about 18 days. It’s also interesting to note that in 1890, Michigan had 700 flour mills. That number dropped to 534 by 1900 and 28 in 1958. Today, only six flour mills remain in Michigan.
While times may change, the Doyle family remains a constant at King Milling, as the fourth and fifth generations, including brothers Patrick and Regan, work side-by-side with their father and other family members.
At the King Milling Company, we take pride in our history but always look to the future. We strive to stay ahead of the technological curve to produce the consistent, high quality flour and wheat products our customers expect.