Wheel Album: Page Eight
Photograph of the old-fashioned Gearing in Mr. Henry Ford's Grist Mill,
Wayside Inn, South Sudbury, Massachusetts. The Gears are made in the old-time
way, but of such fine material and with such excellent workmanship that
they are very efficient. Some of the Gears have iron and some wooden teeth.
Mr. John Blake Campbell is standing in the left of the photograph.
John Blake Campbell was born in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1890 and was the
son of a Presbyterian minister. Growing up all around him was the moving
power of water and the numerous rural mills. This inspiration led him to
study hydraulic engineering at Cornell University. During 1915-1916 he returned
to his mountain roots to study the old water-powered mills which survived
near his home in Virginia. In 1916-1917 he was an engineering salesman for
the Fitz Water Wheel Company of Hanover, Pennsylvania, a firm that specialized
in small hydropower installations. He soon however began to lock heads with
Mr. John Samuel Fitz of the Fitz Water Wheel Company about how they constructed
with water wheels with its hundreds of drilled holes and rivets that held
the pieces together. After his parting from Fitz, he served in the Army
Engineers during 1917-1919. John Blake Campbell then moved to Philadelphia
and founded his own company in 1920. During this time he designed overshot
water wheels in welded steel, essentially applying modern production technology
to a relatively primitive device. He also worked on turbine installations,
municipal water systems and flood control, but he came to specialize in
traditional water wheels and was particularly interested in them as esthetic
elements in the landscape. Consequently, much of his work was for decorative
power plants for private estates or for historic restorations. Mr. Campbell
said that he wanted to work for the people who had the most money and could
afford to pay him. His customers included Henry Ford, numerous Rockefellers
and du Ponts, as well as the Hagley Museum and Batsto Furnace restorations.
In later years, after he closed his manufacturing company in 1962, Mr. Campbell
traveled the countryside and worked out of his car. He traveled around the
countryside working from one mill to another. At first John B. Campbell
would have on the average of 7 jobs a month, but as the years passed on
these numbers were reduced to perhaps only 3 jobs per month. When he would
run out of his own catalog to pass out to potential customers, Mr. Campbell
would apply his round orange Campbell Water Wheel stickers with its camel
logo onto Fitz bulletins. In the later years of his life, he saw the world
only through his pop bottle thick glasses repentingly saying at each mill
he visited, "This is the finest example of a mill that I have ever
seen." It became true for a lot of mills that he would visit as potential
work was taken out from under for this aging hydraulic engineer and millwright.
If you read his catalog, it reads in the same manor that he spoke. I remember
him driving his old car and wearing a dark heavy coat and hat, and those
wonderful glasses that could only see the world the way that Mr. Campbell
saw it. I remember his ad in the early issues of Old Mill News, and our
paths crossed on more than one occasion. The little man with a big heart.
Wayside Inn Grist Mill, Sudbury, Massachusetts. There had been a mill
on the property since David How's time, that old mill deteriorated and was
taken down completely shortly before the new mill was erected. The new mill
ground its first corn on Thanksgiving Day, 1929. Today, it is a place for
visitors to watch the grinding of corn and wheat for use in the Wayside
Inn's bakery and for sale in
the gift shop.
The mill was built as a idealized grist mill with money from Henry Ford
and his friends. Unfortunately they thought if they gave the Wayside Inn
a grist mill they could quietly walk away with the one room school house
that the schoolgirl wrote "Mary had a little lamb." Then they
could remove it the school house to Ford's Dearborn village. Their plan
did not work and in turn got their new grist mill and kept the one room
From 1926 to 1929 the Fitz Water Wheel Company and a former employee John
B. Campbell began to construct this new mill. It is a replica of an old
mill and was constructed from plans drawn by John Blake Campbell. It was
built near an old mill site built by David Howe circa. 1744. The mill was
built to produce flour and meal for the inn and also serve as a tourist
attraction for visitors. Much of the interior wood was chestnut. Four fresh
water quartz millstones, weighing a ton apiece, were shipped from La Ferte
sous Jouarre, France, at a total cost of $238.00, and an 18 foot diameter
overshot water wheel was purchased from the Fitz Water Wheel Company, although
a wheel of Mr. Campbell's own design soon replaced it. All in all, this
mill was built to be, according to Campbell who said".. it was the
finest mill ever built."
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 producting 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.
You can't tell the difference between a Fitz Water Wheel and a Campbell
Water Wheel from a distance. You have to get close enough to see the raised
letters on the hubs to know if it is a Campbell or a Fitz Water Wheel.
Much of the product line of the J.B. Campbell Water Wheel Campany was similar
to that of the Fitz Water Wheel Company. Possibly some of Campbell's products
were subcontracted by the Fitz Water Wheel Company. Mr. Campbell seemed
to stretch the limits of hydraulic engineering and try and make his water
wheels more efficient that the classic I-X-L Fitz Steel Overshoot Water
Two 9 foot diameter by 8 foot wide Overshoot Water Wheels being delivered
to the Borough of Media, Pennsylvania, for pumping water at their Municipal
Water Works. The Wheels are installed side by side and drive one pump. Together
with the Borough Engineer, Mr. Carolus M. Broomall, we planned and installed
the complete equipment.
Overshoot Water Wheel 30 feet in diameter and 1 foot wide, planned and
installed by the Campbell Water Wheel Company for Andora Nurseries, Chestnut
Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Wheel is operated by a 1 1/2 inch
pipe of water. The Water Wheel pumps water to a 20,000 gallon reservoir
on top of a hill 250 feet above the Wheel, and from this point is distributed
to all parts of the Nursery. The Wheel is mounted on ball bearings, which
make it operate very efficiently. The bearings have to be greased only twice
Overshoot Water Wheel 30 feet in diameter by 10 inches wide, planned
and installed by the Campbell Water Wheel Company for the Estate of Mr.
Louis R. Page, Conshohocken State Road, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. For seven
years this Wheel has been used to pump water, not only to Mr. Page's Estate
but also to the Estates of his two sons, Mr. L. Rodman Page and Mr. Edward
C. Page which adjoin his Estate. The water to operate the Wheel is carried
to the top of the Wheel in a 4 inch pipe. The pump inside the house draws
its water from a Spring 12,00 feet away and forces it to a high tank on
the hill, from which it is distributed to the three Estates. The Wheel is
mounted on ball bearings, which materially increases its efficiency.
Our Overshoot Water Wheel, 11 feet in diameter and 1 1/2 feet wide, at
the John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasston, North Carolina, solved the problem
of pumping spring water to a high reservoir. A shaft further utilizes that
power for a saw, lathe, and sander in the Wood-Working Shop.
Overshoot Water Wheel, 6 feet in diameter by 18 inches wide, which pumps
water for the Henry Prices, Mountain Home, Monroe County, Pennsylvania.
Before the Water Wheel was installed, The Henry Prices had tried hydraulic
rams and gasoline engines, which had caused them no end of trouble and expense,
and many times left them without water. The Water Wheel has not failed them
in ten years and has been the greatest pleasure and comfort to them.
Water Wheel Pump Plant supplying spring water to "Runnymede,"
the Hunting Box of Mr. J. Stanley Reeve, Doe Run, Pennsylvania. A beautiful
stream, flowing in front of the house, turns the Wheel, and the spring water
is supplied to the pump from four fine springs which were located for Mr.
Reeve farther up the Valley on his Estate. On top of the hill above the
house the Campbell Water Wheel Company constructed a 15,000 gallon concrete
reservoir. A continuous stream of fresh, pure water flows into the reservoir,
and the overflow goes down the hill and back into the stream again.
Note: The photographs and their captions are taken from the 1932 Campbell
Water Wheel Company Catalog.
For Primary Material for the J.B. Campbell Water Wheel Company (1920-1962)
See: Hagley Museum and Library,
Greenville, Delaware. Manuscripts & Archives are located in the Soda
House, archival and manuscript material, description: 105 linear feet, 3,000
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