Yates is the “Granddaddy” of Rochester Area Cider Mills

The nation was in the throes of the Civil War when William Henry Yates and his wife, Caroline, bought 80 acres of land on the Clinton River in southeastern Avon Township. It was April 1863, and the Yateses, with their nine-year-old son, Frank, made the trip to their new home in Michigan from Madison County, New York.

People go in door of two story building

Customers have been lining up for cider at Yates for generations – Photo Courtesy of Yates Cider Mill

Settling on land at what we know today as the intersection of Avon and Dequindre roads, William Yates used an existing dam on the Clinton River to power a lumber and gristmill. Thirteen years later, he decided to open up to a new market and began pressing apple cider. The editor of the Rochester Era made the happy announcement on August 24, 1876: “W. H. Yates has begun to gush—that is he is squeezing the gentle apple into cider, and he has invited us to bring down our “little brown jug” and get it filled. Look for us at any moment.”

Newspaper ad for Yates

This newspaper ad for the Yates mill appeared in the Rochester Era in 1916.

The editor of the Era wasn’t the only fan of William Yates’s cider. The sweet, refreshing beverage attracted attention and accolades from early days. Yates was a charter member of the State Cider Makers’ Association of Michigan, for which he served as treasurer. He won a second-place ribbon in the association’s “Best Refined Cider” category in 1877.

Fortunately for Yates, the Michigan Central Railroad brought potential customers to his doorstep. When the railroad came through Avon Township in 1872, Yates granted right-of-way for the tracks to traverse his land on the condition that the railroad maintain a mail stop there and call it Yates Station. Another condition of the agreement was that all passenger trains on the line were required to make a stop at Yates Station.

In 1894, Yates replaced his original mill with a new, larger, state-of-the-art structure powered by a 26-inch-wide, water-driven turbine. That building still houses the cider mill today, and 125 years after it was installed, the same water-powered turbine is still in use.

William Yates died in 1911, and the cider mill business continued in the hands of his son, Frank, who passed it on to his own son, Harry Yates. Harry Yates introduced doughnuts to the mill’s offerings in 1939, and the same doughnut-making machine that he installed in that year is still working overtime every autumn.

A train stops at the Yates barn

Early view of Yates Mill with the train passing by – Photo Courtesy of Yates Cider Mill

In 1959, William Yates’s grandson, Harry, retired and sold the cider mill to Charles and Ruth Posey, who at that time ran the Posey’s Isle snack shop just across Dequindre Road from the mill. As the years have passed, Avon Township—now Rochester Hills—has continued to evolve around the property that serves as a window into the community’s rural history. The passenger trains stopped running past the mill in 1964, and traffic on the railroad line was abandoned altogether in 1976. Through it all, the Poseys have continued to press cider and make doughnuts in the time-honored tradition, and throngs of people still line up for fresh, sweet apple cider as soon as the leaves begin to turn each year. The old railroad tracks were removed, and the former route is now a recreational trail that is enjoyed by thousands of visitors to the mill every autumn.

Mike and Katie hold the plaque

Cider mill owners Mike Titus and Katie Posey Titus receive a Michigan Milestone Award in 2013 – Photo by Deborah Larsen

The third generation of the Posey family—Mike Titus and Katie Posey Titus—operates Yates Cider Mill today, and celebrated the business’s 150th anniversary in 2013. The Historical Society of Michigan presented a Michigan Milestone Award to the cider mill in that year, and in 2016, a Michigan Historical Marker was erected there.

Yates Cider Mill opens August 30 for the 2019 season. Open Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. Weekend activities will include pony rides and feeding farm animals. Also, the Fudge Shoppe and Apple Tent will be open. Besides their signature location in Rochester Hills, Yates has an outlet location at Canterbury Village in Lake Orion.

Yates Cider Mill

1990 E Avon Road

Rochester Hills, MI 48307

info@yatescidermill.com

248-651-8300

Photo of Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills

Yates Cider Mill Opens – Photo by Michael Dwyer

Yates Store at Canterbury Village

2375 Joslyn Court

Lake Orion, MI 48360

canterbury@yatescidermill.com

248-481-9203

www.YatesCiderMill.com

 

About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen recently retired after 34 years as local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She currently serves as the research chairperson for the Rochester-Avon Historical Society, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

Comments

  1. Donald Worrell says:

    Thank you for yet another thoroughly researched and beautifully written historical treatise by Deborah Larsen! I’ve eaten many a donut with cider at YCM over the decades! Terrific article!

  2. John Berney says:

    Can you bring in the story about the canal that is on their property, I’m thinking this would be a great addition to your story as it was in my Michigan History lesson (Brown Book) that we all had to take (graduate of RHS 1966) and I think it was in our 8th grade….canal was discontinued when the trains started….

    • Deborah J. Larsen says:

      Stay tuned for a discussion of the Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal in a future article about the history of Bloomer Park!

  3. Great writing!

  4. Kathy Little says:

    What a fantastic article Deborah Larsen. Was not aware of all of these facts. Interesting read.

  5. Tim Cenowa says:

    Deborah, Great article on Yates. Thanks for showing us the early days of the area through your articles.

  6. Dan Celmer says:

    Love their cider and donuts. Miss them since I moved to Alabama 15 years ago and almost never get to Michigan during season. Great story with so many facts I didn’t know about. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to getting some cider this October when I bring my wife up for a fall color vacation.

  7. Denise Davis says:

    I miss Yates Cider. Can’t seem to get it here in Oregon. The article is great by the way

  8. When I moved to Rochester in 1967 to teach at Michigan Christian College, now Rochester University, you could still bring your own jug and save a quarter. And they would give you a sample to drink while you waited. I went to Yates many times in the ten years I lived in Rochester, always loving the cider and the experience.

  9. Donna Griffiths says:

    Yates’ Cider Mill was my playground as a child as my father Norm Altz, was Harry Yates’ wife’s brother. They lived in the small house south of the mill and in all the years spent there my dad and sisters worked at the mill on the bustling weekends when city folks came in throngs for their cider “fix”. I sold sweet corn off the back of a 49 chevy next to “the honey man” who had assorted sweet honey confections which we drooled over but never got to enjoy. Harry himself came out and stopped traffic when the train came through Sunday afternoon as cars were bumper to bumper. Corn was 40 cents a dozen cider was sold in glass jugs washed by hand and apple skins were dragged out back by wagons and dumped far behind the mill. During the winter business slowed but my dad had small batches crushed which he sold at his factory job at General Motors. He strongly opposed adding preservatives so we had to drink it quickly before it fermented. Not sure if today’s cider has additives or not. Harry and my dad sat for hours around a pot bellied coal stove in the off season solving the world’s problems while us bored kids explored the upper levels of the mill. These were our “good old days”.

    • Great article!! My grandparents owned 130 acres on Mead and Winkler Mill where they farmed after moving to Rochester form the old country (Russia and Poland). I grew up on the north end of the property on Winkler Mill where my folks built our home and I remember hearing stories about my mom and uncles going to Yates. They knew the family. Everyone knew everyone back then. Folks helped each other with farming, etc. Yates was always a main focal point in the community and has remained.

  10. Lynn Anderson says:

    The existing dam on the river that they used was a remnant of the Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal (1838-1848), which started here at Clinton River and Canal Roads, and ended just across the street from the mill. You can still see the remains of the aqueduct built over the river at Yates Park.

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