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The Duty of the Miller

Two Millers at the Wayside Inn Grist Mill, in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Construction on the Wayside Inn Grist Mill was begun in 1926, by the Fitz Water Wheel Company of Hanover, Pennsylvania, and ground its first grist on Thanksgiving Day of 1929.

The Grist Mill is not based upon that of a mill which was originally located in the vicinity of the new Grist Mill, and eventually razed by Henry Ford in the 1920's. In fact, it wasn't based upon any New England mill of the period. Instead, hydraulic engineer and millwright John Blake Campbell built a Mill whose appearance was inspired by architectural influences far South of New England, in the Delaware Valley of Pennsylvania. The eighteen foot diameter water wheel powers two sets of millstones stones capable of grinding, but also a complex elevator system similar to that put into a flour mill in 1787 by Delaware inventor Oliver Evans. This system represented the first time in history that an industrial process was completely automated. The mill is the oldest mill museum in the United States.

The above post card (The Old Grist at Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Massachusetts) from circa 1932 refers to the mill as being "old" but in fact it was a relatively new flour mill. The mill was used by Pepperidge Farm for their Whole Wheat Breads and it was also used by the Wayside Inn Grist Mill in Sudbury, Massachusetts. When the family sold Pepperidge Farms the new owners could not bother getting flour from small milling operations. Afterwards the mill is where King Arthur's stone ground whole wheat flour was first milled. The success of King Arthur's stone ground whole wheat flour is statistically even more impressive. The company started selling whole wheat flour when it operated the Wayside Inn Grist Mill in Sudbury, Massachusetts. The big selling point was that the mill is a replica of an 18th century grist mill. The two pound bags milled in Sudbury and sold by King Arthur "but went nowhere," Frank E. Sands II recalled. "My wife, Brinna, convinced me that serious bakers interested in using whole wheat flour weren't about to bother with a small bag." So, in 1981, the company switched to five-pound bags. It took only several years for King Arthur to become the predominant seller of whole wheat flour in New England with a current share that exceeds 80%. Sands, Taylor & Wood Co. was founded in Boston in 1790, whose best-known product line is King Arthur Flour. They have never owned or operated a mill in the companies long history but have made their business from the resale of flour under their label that is actually made in small rural mills like the Wayside Inn Grist Mill. The Wayside Inn Grist Mill was constructed as a typical flour mill of early American and that meant producing white flour. The intrusion into the mill's original fabric by Pepperidge Farms and King Arthur mean the removal and destruction of a lot of white flour making machinery.

"The Duty of the Miller," from Chapter XVIII, "
Directions for keeping the Mill, and the business of it, in good order." Article 116.
The Duty of the Miller, from "The Young Mill-Wright and Miller's Guide,"
Oliver Evans.

The Duty of the Miller

The mill is supposed to be completely finished for for merchant work, on the new plan; supplied with a stock of grain, flour casks, nails, brushes, picks, shovels, scales weights, etc., when the millers enter on their duty.

If there be two of them capable of standing watch, or taking charge of the mill, the time is generally divided as follows. In the day-time they both attend to business, but one of them has the chief direction. The night is divided into two watches, the first of which ends at one o'clock in the morning, when the master miller should enter on his watch, and continue till day-light, that he may be ready to direct other hands to their business early. The first thing he should do, when his watch begins, is to see whether the stone are grinding, and the cloths bolting well. And, secondly, he should review all the moving gudgeons of the mill, to see whether any of them want grease, etc.; for want of this, the gudgeons often run dry, and heat, which bring on heavy losses in time and repairs; for when they heat, they get a little loose, and the stones they run on crack, after which they cannot be kept cool. He should also see what quantity of grain is over the stones, and if there be not enough to supply them till morning, set the cleaning machines in motion.

All things being set right, his duty is very easy- he has only to see the machinery, the grinding, and bolting, once in an hour; he has, therefore, plenty of time to amuse himself by reading, or otherwise.

Early in the morning all the floors should be swept, and the flour dust collected; the casks nailed, weighted, marked, and branded, and the packing begun, that it may be completed in the fore part of the day; by this means, should any unforeseen thing occur, there will be spare time. Besides, to leave packing till the afternoon, is a lazy practice, and keeps the business out of order.

When the stones are to be sharpened, every thing necessary should be prepared before the mill is stopped, (especially if there be but one pair of stones to a water wheel) that as little time as possible may be lost; the picks should be made quite sharp, and not be less than 12 in number. Things being ready, the miller is then to take up the stone; set one hand to each, and dress them as soon as possible, that they may be set to work again; not forgetting to grease the gearing and spindle foot.

In the after part of the day, a sufficient quantity of grain is to be cleaned down, to supply the stones the whole night; because it is best to have nothing more to do in the night, than attend to the grinding, bolting, gudgeons, etc.

Interior of the Old Watertown Mill, torn down in 1898.

Duty of the Miller

"The American Miller and Millwright's Assistant,"
William Carter Hughes.

On the Amount of Help Necessary to be Employed in a Mill
of Four Run of Stones,
with the Duty of Each Respectively.

It requiring mechanical skill and art to conduct a flouring mill as it should be, we here give the proper management for conducting the same with propriety. It should have have a head miller, who should act as superintendent of the establishment and all pertaining thereto; also, a second and third miller, whose duty it is to perform all the duties assigned them by the head miller, or superintendent. The second miller should be capable of taking charge in the affairs of the mill in the absence of the head miller. When the mill runs steady, a run of stone should be dressed every day. The second miller, and third, if capable, should preform that duty, which should be done by three or four o'clock each day. In the morning, as soon as the head miller returns to the mill, which should be after breakfast, he should first examine how each stone is grinding, and then the offal, by which means he is able to ascertain how the grinding was preformed since he left the mill in the evening, when his watch was off at eleven o'clock. If he detects any alteration, he should inquire into its cause, and give the necessary instruction how it might have been avoided. By so doing, he preforms his duty as an instructor, and saves any further occasion for neglect; or otherwise, then he should continue in change of the grinding and other business, such as may come to his knowledge during the day, allowing the other miller to perform the stone-dressing, sweeping, and etc. When the stones are dressed and put-down, one of the hands there employed should take the oil-can and supply every journal in the mill with a fresh supply, which will last all night; then, early in the morning, it should be renewed before taking up the stone, which will last all day. Under management of this description, all things will move with a degree of order, so necessary to the conducting of the business as it should be. Mills that do a large retail business, should have a person for that purpose, who is also competent to take in wheat. The flour should be packed by a careful person, expressly for that employment alone. The night should be divided into three equal parts, of four hours each - the head miller watch first, and etc.

Interior of a Roller Mill, showing the white costume of the miller.
A Library of Congress collection photo.

"The Duty of the Miller," pages 89 to 91, from
"The Miller, Millwright's and Engineer's Guide,"
Henry Pallett,
Henry Carey Baird & Company, Philadelphia, 1890.

Duty of the Miller

We suppose that the mill, in all its various departments, is completely finished and ready for grinding, and supplied with a stock of grain, flour barrels, nails, brushes, picks, shovels, scales, weights, etc., when the millers enter upon their duty (properly speaking: I have therefore thought it both right and proper, in a work of this kind, to add the following remarks, in order to show of what the duty consists.

In a large mill, where three millers are employed, there should be one head miller, to whom is entrusted the whole management of the mill, and who directs the other millers and work hands about the mill the work they have to do. The head miller should be at the mill early in the morning, and take, charge of it during the day;see that every part of the mill is doing its work properly before he leaves at night, and that there is sufficient wheat cleaned to last throughout the night, as the other millers, when on watch during the night time, should have nothing else to attend to by the grinding and bolting. In the day time, however, it is best to take up one pair of stones daily and have them dressed. The head miller can test the face of the stones with the staff, and give instructions to the other millers in which way he wishes them dressed; while in this manner, each of the other millers dresses a stone in his watch. The night is divided into two watches, the first of which ends at one o'clock in the morning, and belongs to the second miller; the third miller then takes the watch, and continues on till one o;clock in the day.

When the mill has only two millers, one of these is called the head miller, being responsible for all the work done in the mill; therefore, he should have full management of it, and his instructions the second miller should observe attentively, and do the work accordingly, The head miller should, however, consult and be agreeable with his partner; thus they will work cheerfully and pleasantly together, each taking his watch, and having charge of the mill, time and time about.

The miller should not be entirely governed by the mill owner as to the time the stones should be dressed, the owner often wishing them to run a long time without dressing, thereby loosing no time in the working, but very, very often loosing a great deal otherwise by spoiling the flour. A miller should therefore, stipulate to have it in his power to take up the stones and dress them whenever he thinks they want it.

The mill should be kept clean, as nothing looks much worse than a dirty mill.

To make the machinery run easy and smooth, the cogs should be well greased with a mixture of black lead and tallow every day, and the gudgeons should be oiled in each watch. A few drops of oil are better than pouring on a large quantity; when a few drops only are applied, they stop there and serve for purpose, whereas a large quantity runs off, is wasted, and creates dirt and filth. When a large gudgeon takes to heating, it is often stopped by laying a piece of rusty bacon on the top. The cause of the gudgeon heating is from the friction of the parts rubbing together, and the velocity with which the move. If grease will not stop heating, cause a small quantity of water to drop on the gudgeon, but not so much as to destroy the polish made by the grease.

If the owner of the mill is not a practical miller himself, yet he may form some idea of the capability of the miller from examining the quality of the flour made; if it is white and free from specks, and the offal light and clean, he may feel satisfied that the mill is doing good work.

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