Site hosted by Build your free website today!
The Page Begins Here

How & Why I Became a Miller.

Ziegler Mill: A Molinological Study.

Eidenau Mill or Ziegler Mill which later became known as the Eidenau Roller Mill, which was located on the Connoquenessing Creek in the village of Eidenau, now Harmony Junction in Butler County, Pennsylvania. The mill was constructed in 1811, and torn down in July of 1914. When John Melish (1771-1822) a Scottish mapmaker toured Harmony, he observed the Harmonists building a large mill on the Connoquenessing Creek in their village of Edenau. "We crossed over the valley, which abounded with grain, clover, and hemp, about a mile, to Large Conaquenesing Creek, were the masons and labourers were building a very elegant mill of hewn stone, which, when finished, wil be a most important addition to the society's improvements. It is impossible to convey any adequate idea of the diligent industry and perseverance of this extraordinary people." [1] The mill had two pairs of millstones and after the Harmonist departure it was owned by Abraham Ziegler, Jr., and then by his brother John, and then Abraham Ziegler, Jr., again. During this time the mill was damaged by fire, and rebuilt, and then later became the Eidenau Roller Mill. The mill was demolished by the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler & New Castle Railway Company's concrete dam project for a stream driven electrical generation plant. The 1811 dated keystone laid there for decades along Pennsylvania Route 68 until it was relocated to the Harmony Museum.

The mill is a very interesting molinological study for the following reasons: (1) I have never seen a mill with a curved or round archway door opening with a date stone. (2) Mills that had internal water wheels would have curved archways for the head and tail race. (3) So when the mill have been remodeled and converted to steam power the archway may have been converted to a doorway opening. The archway had double curved doors. (4) The upper wooden structure of the mill has an English mill appearance to it. The Dutch doors and sack hoist projection above the stone foundation double doorway makes it appear like an English mill. The mill has windows on the sides of the Dutch door openings to allow in additional light. (5) It seems that the mill would have had a trap door in the floor behind the first Dutch door to lift sacks from wagon beds which were parked underneath the overhand. (5-A) This shows the great pit falls of custom, batch or barter grinding. This system of milling requires a great deal of under the attic eaves space for rows of separate bins for each customer or farmer. (6) The mill has an early American very high gable roof. (7) The miller's office chimney in the corner of the mill has a chimney which is too short for modern fire standards. (8) There is a French runner stone propped against the front exterior wall of the mill. (8-A) The two round objects to the right of the French millstones, are they hemp stones? (9) There is some stone wall deterioration on the gable end of the stone foundation. Was this from the fact that they mill once had an external water wheel or from lack of proper structural maintenance of the mill. (10) The basement gable end has two basement windows and the first floor has three windows. Did this end of the building house the two pairs of millstones while the roller mills were located closer to the exterior chimney. And why was the mill still using an exterior sack hoist at the date of this photo?

Floodwaters surround the mill and spread across the fields in Harmony Junction in the 1905 picture.

1. Page 328, Melish's Travels through the United States of America, in the years 1806 & 1807, and 1809, 1810, & 1811, by John Melish, volume 19, Applewood Books, Carlisle, Massachusetts, originally published in 1812.

The Millers' Review: Devoted to Milling, Millwrighting, and Mill Furnishing,‎
Pennsylvania Millers' State Association,
December 1920.

The Millers' Review: Devoted to Milling, Millwrighting,

How & Why I Became a Miller,
B. F. Isenberg

Editor's Note: Colonial Isenberg needs no introduction to the readers of The Millers' Review, as he is one of the best known and most popular members of the milling trade in this eastern territory. During the nearly forty years' existence of this journal he has been one of its warmest supporters and we highly appreciate this friendship. After repeated efforts we have finally induced him to relate some experiences of his business career which had been extended through a period of considerably more than half a century and we feel sure that all our readers, and particularly the elder generation, will be interested in his contribution which follows. Colonial Isenberg concludes his paper somewhat abruptly, but we hope to persuade him to continue the story in following issues of this journal, as he must have a large fund of recollections to draw upon, both serious and amusing, that will interest his readers.

I was born at Spruce Creek, Huntington County, Pennsylvania, on the banks of the beautiful Juniata River, on the 24th day of June 1844. Before I was fifteen years of age I started to take care of a small store and a set of double entry books for Jacob F. Steiner, who was located within a mile of Phillipsburg, Center County, Pennsylvania. Mr. Steiner had, at that time, one of the largest sawmills in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. There was no railroads in the county then and what lumber was not hauled over the mountains was rafted down Moshannon Creek in what was called a three platform raft to the mouth of the Susquehanna. There a number of small rafts were joined together and run down the Susquehanna River to the eastern markets.

I was getting along nicely and thought I was a man because I had charge of a small store and a set of double entry books. Then the Civil War broke out and caused lots of excitement, especially with the log and lumber employes. A town meeting was held one night to raise a company for the war. A number of Mr. Steiner's men went to town and enlisted and I was one of that number.

I boarded with Mr. Steiner and at the breakfast table the next morning I told him what I had done, that my trunk was packed and that he should see that it was sent home on the first wagon that would be going that way. He replied that he would attend to that, so I bid the folks goodbye and off I started. When I got to the town the captain told me I had made a mistake in handing in my age (this was very fashionable for the period: I was not the only one).

Mr. Steiner was always a very early riser and that morning he was unusually early, because he had seen the captain before I got there.

Well, I turned back, unpacked my trunk and that settle the case. A few months later I received a letter from my brother who owned and was operating a water mill two miles below Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. My brother wrote me  his miller had gone to war,; that the mill had to run night and day, and asking me to assist him and learn the milling trade. I showed the letter to Mr. Steiner (who, by the way, was intensely patriotic) and he said, "I do not like to give you up, but you can do more good for your county by going to your brother."

Now, then, here it where I begin - the story just told explains how and why I became a miller.

First Milling Experiences.

The mill I learned my trade in was on the banks of what is called the Big Juniata River. It was, at that time, one of the largest mills in the county, four stories hight, with three run of French four-foot buhrs, and one four-foot stand stone chopper. There wasn't an elevator in the mill. The wheat meal ran into a chest and was shoveled into an oaken barrel by a wooden hand scoop. The barrel was well bound by hoop iron and well riveted. This barrel when filled - if the grist was large enough to fill it - was hoisted to the fourth floor and dumped into what we called a hopper-boy. This hopper-boy had an arm in the shape of an "S" attached to a small upright shaft and revolved slowly, it being so arranged that it fed the meal gradually into an opening in the bottom of the hopper-boy, until the meal had all passed from the hopper-boy into the bolt, which consisted of a reel about 14 to 16 feet long, octagonal in shape, with different grades of cloth, the bran falling into a chest by itself at the end of the reel.

We cut off with our hand scoop, just as our fancy dictated; that is, we had to learn to know our customers. If the farmer wanted a big yield of what he called flour, the dividing line would start in rather close to the tail end and when the division was made the flour was pretty thoroughly mixed - that is, the shorts that went in with the flour. It was then ready to put in bags, ordinarily three bushel hemp or linen bags; it was then tied and wheeled out on a bag truck made of wood, including the handles the wheels, and even wooden pins, instead of iron bolts; the linch pins were even made out of wood. We were always very careful to set the bags up straight and very gently so that the grist would look big. The average grist was three bushels, sometimes five or ten bushels; it depended on how far the farmer had to come and how large a family he had to feed. Occasionally, just before harvest and after corn planting a farmer would turn in with 15 or twenty bushels.

Harvesting in those times was all done with a cradle and it took more men, but the average grist was three bushels, and the farmer would come to the mill with on horseback.

In taking in a grist, either from horseback or a wagon, we had to go to the fourth floor with it, and in the grinding, as I described putting the meal in the barrel, we had to go to the attic to hoist it. Before starting up we would attach the rope, and once in a while, say twice a month, the rope would become detached, and as I lived in a Presbyterian settlement, we did not swear, but trotted down the stairs to the bottom and made the adjustment. This always took a lot of traveling up and down.

We got our pay with a toll dish. I haven't seen one for years. We had one cleaning machine, a vertical one, and I have been puzzling and quizzing my brain trying to recall the name of it. These buhrs, the cleaning machine, and the hand scoop, together with the barrel were about all there was in the mill as far as making flour went.

The chopping process was as primitive. All grain was hoisted by a rope outside of the mill to the fourth floor, and if for stock it was emptied through the floor into bins, one hole for each bin, and the bin when full, would hold from 300 to 500 bushels. The grain was set on a platform in bags, and the scales were old style steelyards. There were two platforms, one to set the bags on and the other to set the weights on.

Improving the Processes.

After my first year the era of improvement began to bud. My story up to this point is all grist work. We bought wheat and put the flour in wooden barrels (sacks at that time were not used). We had to pack this flour by hand with a paddle made from wood, about 10 to 12 inches wide, with a blade about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick and about 16 inches long, the corners rounded off and the point leveled down to about 1/2 to 1/4 of an inch.

We would shovel in 50 to 75 pounds of flour and then go to it like your mothers used to work the old fashioned up and down churns, and after vigorous punching put in another patch of flour until we got to the top. Then it was necessary to put  a vessel the same diameter as the barrel on top and fill that, then put it under a large lever, sometimes similar to the principle out great-grandads used in making cider. This thing worked for a while and then we got a packer, which consisted of a small upright shaft, with three balls. These balls were about 6 inches through the outer end, about 6 inches in diameter and tapered down to about 2 inches at the end next to the shaft. The shafts at the bottom end had three iron shafts, about one-half inch in diameter, set at right angles to uprights and triangular and the balls had holes bored through them large enough so that the balls would go on these triangular shafts; this upright shaft traveled about 30 revolutions per minute, as the flour came from the bolt and struck the barrel these balls packed the flour in fairly good shape. We had to be very careful to have the speed of his shaft and the flow of the flour to equalize, or the result was the flour would be packed too tight or vice versa, not tight enough. It did not matter so much if it were packed too tight, but look out if it were too loose, we had then to put it under the cider mill pressure.

A three ball or roller flour packer similar to the one discussed in this story. The chute that feeds the packer is just to the upper left of the photo. The top or bottom of a flour barrel is 16 inches in dameter. This one is located in the Kennedy-Wade's Mill, circa 1750, Raphine, Rockbridge County, Virginia.

How times change. I spoke of many grists coming to the mill on horseback. I built my present mill in 1889 and I never saw a farmer bring grist to my mill on horseback and I never saw a toll dish in my present mill.

The McFeely Diamond Millstone Dresser

Speaking about making flour on buhrs being back vivid recollections of our beloved and much esteemed friend, Tom McFeely. In the beginning of his reminiscence I said I went to my brother to learn the milling trade. I did not say I had learned it with him. I was young and active and was ready and willing to do anything but dress buhrs, so I shirked that duty, and my brother seemed to be willing because he was a fine buhr dresser and very particular. He got it on me, however, on the choppers. He played miller and I played buhr dresser when it would come to the chopper.

Well, what I started to tell you was about Tom. The hurst in our mill was up about feet feet above the grinding floor (not the second floor). I was sweeping and Tom drove up the door in his automobile of that day. He hitched his horse and came in, and if Tom ever wore a silk hat he had one on that day; that is my recollection, at least. He sized me up quickly and decided I was not the man he wanted to see. He came at a very opportune time for my brother was dressing a pair of buhrs. I said the boss is up there dressing buhrs.

Tom put in about three hours and went away with a good country dinner and a check on the First National Bank of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, for $175. This paid for the first diamond mill stone dresser in Blair County. I do not know what ever became of it and the advent of rolls knocked the market on diamond dressers, but it did not cause Mr. McFeely to lose any sleep, because he turned his talents in another direction. Poor fellow, he has turned in his checks and I hope to meet him sometime in the distant future in Heaven.

 Happenings in an Old-Time Mill.

Well, I have given you a fairly good description of a mill over half a century ago and could go on and tell you many, many incidents. I think I will give you a few.

A Spoon Water Wheel. A water wheel like this one was used at the old Washington Township Planning Mill in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, but larger in diameter. The mill dam just next to the mill was a concrete structure about 4 to 5 feet high. Perhaps it was an old Van Dyke or Kupper photograph. I have seen an old photograph of this water wheel. This is a common type of water wheel used in the tidal powered mills in Portugal.

First, i told you this was a water power mill. We had a home-made wheel with an upright shaft. I think there were fifteen and possibly twenty-five arms and, as I recollect, the points of the arms back about 12 to 15 inches had the edges flared (say something like an Irishman's spoon). These arms and buckets were incased and in hoisting the gates the water would strike the points of these arms and discharge in bottom near the center or underneath the end of the shaft. We had a great many eels in our river and in the fall of the year, the season that they begin to migrate down to the ocean, these eels, many of them, would get fast in the buckets and stop the mill.  Many a time we would have to draw the forebay off and get down and clean the paddles, getting loads of eels, some cut in pieces, while others seemed to be unharmed.

Another trouble that keeps fresh in my mind was a certain spindle to one of our buhrs. We always had trouble with it getting hot. We had it off to the machine shop, time and time again, but for some reason it would not stay fixed. One night it got so hot that I had to stop and while waiting for it to cool off I conceived the idea of putting a large old style copper cent in the step in which it rested. That worked like a charm and always after few weeks we would raise the spindle up and put in a copper cent. (I haven't seen one for a good many years).

Garlic frequently bothered us. We would have to take up the buhrs and wash them off. We ran day and night, all the time, starting Sunday night at 12 and closing Saturday night at 12; and semi-occasionally we ran all day Sunday in war times. A "Trick" was breakfast before 7 A. M., work all day and up to 1 o'clock at night or rather morning. The other fellows got up at 1 and worked until breakfast, got breakfatst and then back to the mill and worked until 6 P. M., got supper and went to bed. So it went day after day. One thing that tried out patience was to shut down about midnight, take up the buhrs, wash off the garlic I spoke about, get the buhrs down and start up again. Generally it would be about 2 o'clock A M. before things were going right again.

One of my rules was, in fact it was a general custom, that you would have your mill running in good shape before you called your relief.

One Man - Two Shifts.

One winter, or fall, rather, my brother went down with typhoid fever. I ran the mill night and day for five weeks. I think I hear some one say how could he do it? I milled wheat in day time and at night ran the choppers on a Government contract, one hundred bushels of corn, rye, oats, one-third each. In the afternoon I put the grain on for grinding. I shoved the big chest away and let the chop run on the floor; the next morning the driver would hold the bags and I would scoop it up. I had an alarm bell rigged up that would ring should anything get in the spout leading to the chopper and cut the flow off.

I slept propped up against the hopper, sometimes an hour at a time and possible sometimes longer.

Water Power By Day and By Night.

Another experience in the fall of the year, when it gets dark so quickly about 6 o'clock, while we would be at supper, it was a common thing to find our return to the  mill, the mill running wild. We would then have to put on more feed and take off the water pressure. The same thing would occur in the morning . While at breakfast, daylight would appear and we would find the mill mill nearly choked up, then we had to take off the feed and add more water. This question does the change from daylight to night have any effect on water mills or on water pressure had been discussed in the milling journals ever since I saw the first one. I always thought it did.

Now, about time  and half time, you young fellows; if the occasion occurs that it becomes necessary to put in a few extra hours, don't get a pain. Work does not kill a fellow, it is worry that does that. If milling 18 to 24 hours a day would kill anyone I would have been dead long ago.

Another Try At Enlisting.

I spoke in the early part of this story about enlisting, but was turned down. I got the war fever once more and Judge Smith's son, our nearest neighbor and myself figured out that we would take French leave and enlist. We decided we would go in the navy. To do this we had to go to Harrisburg to enlist, and to do that we had to get up at 4 A. M., and walk to Hollidaysburg to take the cars. In going to Hollidaysburg we had to cross the river. A flood having taken the bridge away, a foot bridge had been erected by stringing logs from one section to another. The logs were hewed, giving about ten inches of flat surface to walk on, the time was the month of October and there was a very heavy frost. The moon was about full size, but about ready to pass over the hill. Well, we got about half way across and the frost making treacherous walking, Smith slipped off and as he was going over, caught hold of me, and the result was we both landed in about five feet of water, and that was the end of that enlistment, for that period.

We went back to hour homes and I got interested again in the mill improvements and induced my brother to get a millwright and we put in an elevator to carry the meal to the attic or fourth floor from the buhrs. This elevator had wooden buckets and was set so that we could spout from two runs of buhrs. This innovation worked so nicely that a few months later we had a conveyor to gather the meal from the three runs and empty all in one elevator. You see, we were gradually progressing and we were getting a great mill.

News and Politics.

Millers in those days were looked upon as being a little superior to the common herd. We took the Philadelphia daily North American, published then by Morton MacMichael. We got it by mail and it was always one day old when it arrived. We took the pater for the grain markets, and at that time it was the only daily newspaper received in our valley. Farmers would come or send some of their family to learn the news, especially when there had been a hard battle fought. The mill office was packed full many times to learn the war news.

My brother was what is frequently called a ward politician. He was king bee of the township, always a delegate at the conventions and was looked upon as the township boss. Conventions in those days were quite different from the present ones. If a man were a candidate for office he traveled over the different townships soliciting votes. After the primaries the follow who could capture the most township delegates was supposed to get the nomination at the county convention. It did not always turn out that way, however, for my brother and eight or ten other leaders, always got busy with the delegates the night before the convention, and very frequently a fellow who had 75 per cent of the delegates was put on the shelf. with some moral persuasion and frequently a pot of money, the county delegates, many of them, changed their minds over night and when the roll was called the next day at the convention the fellow who had come into the county seat with the fewest delegates, got the nomination.

This system would be termed today corrupt practice, but it seemed to work all right in those days, for a matter of fact it was not always the best man for the office that got the most delegates. It was frequently the fellow who could tell the biggest stories, and give out some money in each township, presumably to get out the volte.

Enlists At Last - He And Sherman End The War.

Well, matters went drifting along and the Civil War still raging, one day on the side of the Union and the next on the side of the Confederacy. The boys who had enlisted in 1861, many of them were coming home, some minus a leg or an arm, and some who had been shot through, but had their wounds healed. I again began to scent excitement in the air, and one morning in August, 1864, while eating our breakfast, my brother asked me if I would drive the team to Hollidaysburg with a load of flour (the regular driver was on the sick list). he said he did not like to leave home that morning, that Colonel McAllister, who was setting up his pins for Congress, was coming over the mountain to see him.

I took the load of flour to town, and after unloading it, I tied up my team, went to the recruiting station and enlisted. i got a furlough of 24 hours to take the team home and report for duty the next morning.

At that period of enlistment a soldier could enter any branch of the service he would elect. I choose the Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry. I knew it was in Kentucky and Tennessee. I landed all right and about that time the regiment was put in a division of cavalry under General Kirkpatrick and made the cavalry escort for Sherman's Army and away we went from Atlanta to the sea.

I want to tell you right her that as soon as Jeff Davis learned that General Sherman and Corporal Isenberg had started through Georgia, the Confederacy soon got cold feet and it took us just a few days less than eleven months to finish the job.

After the war I put in four years as teller in the First National Bank. Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Had I stayed at that job I would either have been the president of the bank or a book keeper in the Western Penitentiary by that time. However, neither happened.

I had saved a little money each year, even the first year in the mill, when I got three dollars a month, together with my boarding, washing, mending and the free use of a horse and buggy or sleigh on a Sunday night to take my best girl out to view the moon and stars. You may wonder how i did it, but my brother gave me the sweepings of the mill, and with them I always had two good fat hogs for sale each year.

i quit banking and with my savings bought a third interest in a general store, coal yard, lumber yard, etc., letting my profits go towards paying for my interest in the business. I had no lost my interest in milling, and the first year I persuaded my partners to buy a mill, which at that time was all buhrs, but a few years later was converted into a roller mill.

Now my story is ended, and if I do say it myself, I have as complete adn up-to-date mill there is in the State of Pennsylvania.

Return to HomePage

mail to

Copyright 2009 by T. R. Hazen.