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Basic Knowledge Base: Description of an Early American Mill as Found in Central Pennsylvania.

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Basic Knowledge Base: Description of an Early American Mill as Found in Central Pennsylvania,
by Dr. W. B. Bigler, of Dallastown, Pennsylvania, written before November 1909.

John S. Scouller's Mill

John S. Scouller's Mill, circa 1762-64. Rebuilt in 1780, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

In these old mill all the wheels were of wood, from the large undershot (breast shot) water wheel to the smallest cog-wheel. The body of the wheels were made of hard, well-seasoned oak and the cogs of dogwood and would last for many years, even half a century of constant running. That section of the mill containing the large wooden water-wheels was called the wheel house, that of the gearing was the husk, on the top of which rested the Burr stones. The wheels found in the husk wee the master-wheel, placed on the shaft of the water wheel that was geared into the wallower. Next to the wallower shaft was the counter-wheel and it was geared to the trundle head, a small wheel placed on the upright iron spindle that passed up through the bed stone, or stationary stone of the grinding burrs, and that spindle revolved the running or upper burr. There was another wheel in the husk, or cog-pit, usually geared to the counter-wheel attached to an upright shaft that connected with the other machinery of the mill, and this wheel was known as the spur-wheel. This spur-wheel shaft formed the motive power that operated the smut machine, hopper-boy, the bolting reel and the hoisting machinery. The grain was shaken down into the eye or central opening of the burr by a small steel upright divided into four wings, which in revolving against the shoe made a musical sound in regular rhythmic time ( and who does not remember the tick-tack of the old mill?) and any change in the rattle warned the miller of change of speed. This little steel arrangement was called the "damsel," comparing it, no doubt, with the regular and frequent motion, or rattle, of a woman's tongue. The damsel is still in use in chopping or feed mills, but since the introduction of the roller process in the manufacture of flour, the merry voice of the damsel is no longer heard. In the old mills, before the introduction of elevators and conveyors, as the ground wheat left the burrs by the forespout (chute), it fell into the forechute (meal bin), whence it was shoveled into a large hoisting bucket, provided with wooden castors, and hoisted into a circular bin having a flat bottom, in which an iron arm attached to a revolving shaft kept it in constant motion (hopper-boy) and pouring down a spout into the "bolt." The bolt was a revolving reel from 18 to 25 feet in length, covered by three grades of raw silken cloth of a fine open web. About two-thirds of the bolt from the point of entrance was covered with a finer cloth that the other part; next came a coarser grade and still more coarse or open mesh cloth was at the tail or end of the bolt. That which dusted through the very fine cloth was "super-fine flour," that which fell through the coarser mesh was "ship-stuff;" that though the most open mesh was "shorts," and what dropped from the tail of the bolt was "bran." The chest or close box in which the bolt revolved was known as the "bolting chest." As the flour fell from the bolt it was not considered finished until it was thoroughly mixed by a great wooden tool somewhat like a large hoe (another hopper-boy), after which it was ready to pack in barrels, each to contain 196 pounds of flour. The question is often asked in these days why 196 pounds established as the lawful barrel. The millers of "ye olden time" could have promptly answered this. The weight of a barrel of flour originated when the old English measure of weight called a "stone," was in use. A stone was 14 pounds and 14 stones was established as the measure of a barrel of flour (being the average weight of a man). The old weights used on scales in mills were: 1 pound, 1/4 stone, 1/2 stone, and 1 stone - 14 pounds.

The mill office was the rendezvous for all of the philosophers of the neighborhood, and the question most profound were here discussed and champion games of checkers played, attached to the office was a bunking room where the men in attendance slept. It required three men to run the mill, whose "tricks" were divided onto eight hours each, as the  mill ran constantly from midnight Sunday to 12 o'clock Saturday night.

An important accompaniment to the mill and distillery was the cooper shop, and lucky was the apprentice who escaped having himself coopered in. When under instruction he was placed inside the barrel to hold up the head to show him how it was put in (a flour barrel could also contain the average size man).


Enk's Mill

Enk's Miill was constructed before 1815 by Michael Edge. After 1815, the mill operated at Chamber's Mill. The mill remained in the Chambers family ownership until 1867. The mill is a molinologist dream. The center of the mill contained two breast shot water wheels 8 feet wide. The left side of the mill was a corn or custom mill and the right side contained the larger flour or merchant mill. The circa 1900 photo shows Cumberland Roller Mill in which the water wheels gave way to turbines and the millstones were replaced by roller mill. One notable feature of this mills is the round turned support post inside of the structure. The mill has a mill race a half a mile long since the fall of the Yellow Breaches Creek in Cumberland County is very slight. The mill which stopped operating in the 1940's is still standing and should be restored to its former glory.

An exact blueprint for the mill is found in Andrew Gray's millwright book, "The Experienced Millwright; or, a treatise on the construction of some of the most useful machines, with the latest improvements. To which is prefixed, a short account of the general principles of mechanics, and of the mechanical powers." Printed in Edinburgh, by D. Willison, for Archibald Constable & Company in 1804 and 1805. It is a large format book of 73 pages with 44 detailed engraved plates of mills and other machinery. Andrew Gray (millwright) did several books on agricultural engineering, and either designed or supervised in their actual construction.

Enk's Mill is perhaps one of the most unique mills in America, i have found no other mill that utilizes this design. The second most unique mill design in America is if it had an attached miller's residences, and there are only two mills in American that have that design An attached millers house which would be common in Great Britain and Europe. One of these mills is Gulden's Mill on Maiden Creek, in Blanden, Berks County, Pennsylvania, and the Obadiah La Tourette Mill in Long Valley, New Jersey.

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