History of the Hastings mill
Hastings New Prague
Hastings Mill

In the early 1900's, brothers Fred and George Shane were the owners of the Millbourne Mills in Philadelphia. Millbourne Mills at that time produced a flour branded, "King Midas Flour." In 1912 Fred and George Shane teamed up with W.J. Wilson, a talented salesman, and together they purchased the flour mill in Hastings. This mill was called at the time "Gardner Mills." Most likely, the Shane brothers and Wilson were out after a mill closer to the source of the expanding midwest grain production. Although Gardner Mills had fallen into economic difficulties, it was a flour mill with an illustrious history and a high quality product.

The flour mill purchased by Wilson and the Shane brothers in Hastings had been started in 1853 by Harrison H. Graham and it was at this mill that Graham flour, popular even today, was developed. In 1863 the mill came into the possession of Stephen Gardner who renamed the mill, "Gardner Mills." Gardner is credited with many innovations in flour milling. He developed a reel sifter connected to a fan. With this system, lighter bran was carried off with a blast of air, while smaller particles were sifted through silk cloth. These purified middlings are the basis of so-called "patent flour" which is the primary bakery flour of today. In 1878, Gardner's daughter married Charles Espenschied, who assumed management of the mill in 1885. Espenschied, too, brought many advances to the operation of Gardner Mills and to flour milling in general. Espenschied was the first to use magnets for taking wire and other metal out of wheat. He also developed a patented barrel, constructed with thin but hard staves alternating between thick soft ones. Because the soft staves were thicker, a shoulder was formed at the joints by the hard staves pressing into the soft ones when hoops were driven down around the barrel. Because of this tight seal, flour shipments in these barrels experienced little loss during transportation. In 1897, the Gardner Mills came under the ownership of Seymour Carter who greatly enlarged and expanded the mill's operations. Although initially successful, it may have been this rapid expansion that led to the mill's economic difficulties in 1912. After its purchase by Wilson and the Shane brothers, Gardner Mills was renamed the King Midas Mill - the name taken from the brand name of the product that had been produced at Shane and Wilson's Millbourne Mills in Philadelphia. King Midas Flour was also used as the name of the flour produced at their new mill.

Starting around 1914, the King Midas Mill began processing hard durum wheat flour for pasta. In the aftermath of World War I, when the government price supports of grain and flour were withdrawn, the Shane Brothers and Wilson were caught with a huge inventory. This may have been one of the factors leading to the mill being sold in 1924. The new owners, two men named Van Dusen and Harrington died within one month of each other in 1928 and the mill came under the ownership of the Peavey Company, a large and powerful Minneapolis-based flour company. The Peavey Company retained the King Midas name for the flour being produced in Hastings as King Midas had gained a reputation of being an excellent durum flour for pasta, spaghetti and noodles. The slogan used in King Midas advertising for many years was, "The highest priced flour in America and worth all it costs." In later years this slogan became a matter of concern to company executives more atuned to the fine points of advertising lore and they sometimes had it retouched out of pictures. In 1939 the Peavy Company moved the production of King Midas durum wheat flour to a mill in Superior, Wisconsin and the entire Hastings production was converted to bread wheat flour. Durum production returned again to Hastings in 1969-1970 after the construction of a durum semolina and pasta flour unit was built on site. The building housed not only the milling unit but also the flour storage, blending and loading systems.

In 1982, the Peavey Company merged with ConAgra Inc.

In 2014 ConAgra, Cargill, and CHS, joined their mills to form the independant milling company Ardent Mills