West Florida had a significant water-powered mill industry in the Early American and Colonial Periods. The largest water-powered mill complex, known as Arcadia, has been extensively investigated by the Institute archaeologists and students, and scores of historic water-powered mills have been located and recorded.
The idea for a reconnaissance level archaeological survey of mill sites in the western Florida panhandle grew out of an exchange between archaeologists and visitors to the Arcadia Industrial Complex during the 1990 and 1991 excavations conducted by the University of West Florida. The grist mills and lumber mills of the area enabled the pioneers to settle northwest Florida. The archaeologists developed contacts with several informants who were willing to work with UWF to locate these unrecorded and significant archaeological sites.