Yates Cider Mill: Generations of Tradition

A trip to a Michigan cider mill for some apple cider and donuts is a true sign of fall in Pure Michigan. As Rochester Hills-based Yates Cider Mill celebrates their 150th anniversary, owners Mike and Katie Titus take us on a trip back in time to learn how Yates Cider Mill came to be a fall favorite in Michigan. 

Celebrating 150 years of operation, Yates Cider Mill was born in the days of Lincoln, years before the electric light bulb made its debut.  Six generations later, Yates continues to be a gathering place for many in and around the Rochester area.  Yates is a place where people come to share traditions, memories, and a special sense of community.

The Yates mill operation spans six generations.  Three generations of the Yates family and then three generations of the Posey family, have continued to keep the original turbine water wheel and machinery running, which operate the Mill to this day.

A Look Back at Yates’ History

Only a few pioneers attempted to venture to the Michigan wilderness until the mid 1820′s when the Erie Canal was complete and provided a dependable route from New York City to the Great Lakes.  Thanks to the canal, travel time from New York City to Detroit fell from one month in 1800 to two days in 1860.  By 1863 Michigan had more than 800 lumber mills and was also producing 3/4 of the Nation’s copper.

First Known Photo of Yates Cider MillIt was during this time in 1863, William Yates from New York, purchased an 84-acre tract of land and constructed a wooden dam across the Clinton River and built the original Yates Mill. The Yates family began the Mill as a lumber mill and soon after expanded as a grist mill, grinding grain into flour for local farmers.  As William’s client customer base began to grow, he recognized the need for a cider press.  Around the year 1876, Yates began to press apples for cider; first for local farmers who brought in their own fruit and paid a pressing fee, and then for the general public. Even grapes were pressed at the Mill.  Cider production continued to increase and with the demand, Yates needed to grow.

In 1894, the larger, existing Mill was built.  A 26-inch water turbine wheel from James Leffel and Company in Springfield, Ohio was installed with this construction and to this day, provides the Mill’s pressing power for cider production. The existing water-powered cider press was installed in 1924.

Today, Yates Cider Mill enjoys visits from thousands of people annually and is known all over the country for its rich history, premium apple cider, and delicious bakery products, including Yates very own legendary donuts.  In a world that seems to be changing faster every year that goes by, Yates Cider Mill remains a place to many where the clock seems to tick a little more slowly.  Where friends and families come together and make memories.

Have you been to Yates Cider Mills? Tell us about your experience.

9 thoughts on “Yates Cider Mill: Generations of Tradition

  1. I love Yates Cider Mill. My parents would take My siblings and I to Yates when I was a child. This was one of the Thompsons’ family traditions. Every time I go to Yates I get the home-like feelings of great memories and it is very comforting to know that I can one day take my children there to start a new family tradition. Yates always smells so good. The Cider and Donuts are second too none. Thank you Yates for helping my family build lasting memories.

  2. I grew up near the mill in Stoney Creek at VanHoosen Farm. During the 1960′s, I worked after school and on weekends at Yates Cider Mill. I started off doing a lot of small jobs and finally “graduated” to the position of apple press operator and cider maker. This was a key job that required an eye for mixing the correct apple varieties to get just the right taste of cider. As the press operator, I was responsible for sampling the batches. I remember the sound of the fruit being ground up and the sweet smell of these chopped apples. There was a trick to folding the cloth that contained the apple mash so the apples would not bulge out the sides and create a mess on the floor. I also recall the water sluice that was used to operate the presses. These were good times and I got to drink as much cider as I wanted. Thanks for refreshing the memories…I have not been back to the mill in 50 years. I’m glad the place is still open for people to get fresh cider.

  3. I grew up close to the cider mill and its where I had my first job making cotton candy in that small wagon back in the 60′s

  4. I’ve been to Yates Cider Mill once, and it was a great experience. The woman inside of it, was so kind to us, and the cider and donuts were great. I also bought a present for my boss there, (I am from Calif.) We walked around the grounds a little and found some beautiful spots along the river. My best friend Lori Jo Anderson of Southfield, and her boyfriend Roger Dingman, also of Southfield, took me there. It was an experience that I will never forget and treasure. Please do go if you have the opportunity. Dan R.

  5. This was always our families adventure into the country. A favorite place where my wife and I would love to visit while dating. Such good memories.

  6. We have been attending Yates since my kids were young….37yrs. now. We (my husband & I) are originally from NY…moved here to Michigan 5mos. married in 1973. We have 3 children…David 38….Lauren 36 & Alysse 25. When their grandparents would visit….we would take them too. In 1989, my parents (Laura) & brother, wife & baby moved here also. We still come to Yates today….many pictures in my memory album. My Dad especially loved the kielbasa, of course the cider & donuts. When we were done munching….we’d walk the trail. One year we carved our names in a tree log that fell down near the creek and would go back to visit it thereafter. My parents had never been to a cider mill until Yates…means so much to us that they were able to experience that wonderful time with us. Now, we continue the tradition with our 3 grandchildren. We love & appreciate Yates Cider Mill!!!! <3 HAPPY 150th YATES <3

  7. Two great memories come to mind when I think about Yates. “The smell” my mouth starts watering with the donuts and pressed apples. I also think about fly fishing in the Clinton River. Good Times – Thanks for rekindling them.

  8. Our family started coming to Yates Cider Mill in the 1950s. We always looked forward to the trip. We could watch the apples being pressed and the juice coming out. Then we would buy a couple of gallons of cider and a bag of doughnuts, sit on the grass and enjoy our treat. One year we bought a couple of extra gallons of cider, took it home and put it in the fruit celler in the basement, hoping for cider for Christmas. One day we heard this big explosion and found that the fermenting made the bottles explode. I think to this day there must be cider still in the fruit celler. When we come to Michigan we always try to visit the cider mill and recall fond family memories.

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