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 Mossy Mills, Mossy Machines, Mossy-Back Millers, and Mossy Flour of the Eastern Mills.

The Mossy-Back Millers. "Where's Dusty?"

A man named Newton ran a small grist mill (above) in what is now the town of Orangeville Ontario, Canada, in the 1870's. This is commercial milling in Ontario, and perhaps much of the East. The mill had no smutter (machine), and consequently the smut and other rubbish as well as the wheat was turned into flour. So mossy was the mill and mossy was their flour.  It could grow more than just raised bread. They have referred to us as being no better than "mildew!" They called our flour, "the Rotten Reel,"and said flour made with a plainsifter was best.

Mossy Mills, Mossy Machines, Mossy-Back Millers,
and Mossy Flour of the Eastern Mills,
Theodore R. Hazen

Mossy are the mills, and mossy are the millers who work in them. So this must mean that the flour and meal they produce is mossy too, old fashioned, and out of date. The old mills are moss covered to the point that their water wheels are even covered in moss. They can even be haunted by the spirits of the Old World in the dark mossy colored waters, and the dark interiors of the mills. [1] This is often the main theme of the state of mills found in nineteenth century poems. [2[ The voice of the large factory-like mills, was William C. Edgar. He said of the old Mills of the East,  "The few followers of the old method of milling, as moss-grown, out of date, and decrepit as the crumbling and neglected mills they owned." He would hammer away at the backward and unprogressive mills in the East in American Miller, "A miller whose back was of moss..........." [3] So the Mills of the East are Mossy Mills and the Milers are Mossy-back Millers. This was in direct contrast to the modern mills of the Midwest. The Mills of the Midwest are Progressive in Minnesota. Everything is new, the process is new, the machinery is new, and even the wheat they mill is new. They turned the warm green romantic image of the old mill into a bad thing.

In contrast the Mills of the East tore themselves apart to install the Oliver Evans system which is now outdated, and grind that old English wheat.  During the Nineteenth century they would tare themselves apart again in an effort to keep up with the newer and cleaner mills of the Midwest. So very little of the Mills of the East is original other than that is where the milling revolution in America happened, and the world began with Oliver Evans.

Edgar became the Voice of Minneapolis Flour Milling which in his time meant, "Progressive Milling." Edgar wrote in 1892, "That an American mill properly located, equipped according to modern ideas of mill building, and operated with skill and intelligence can outstrip that of any other country on the face of the earth in the production of wholesome flour at a very lowest cost." The was the low-cost mass production ideology of the big-city progressive millers and milling business. [4] This meant that the mills of the East were directly opposite that of the progressive mills of Minnesota, and Minneapolis. [5] It makes one wonder how many old millers of the East knew about this campaign to smear their mills and their good name. They were not just happy with the federal government railroad subsides they had to put us down and our products.

So why have you never heard about Mossy Mills, and Mossy-Backed Millers? Well if you only read milling journals whose audiences was composed of the smaller, and more rural millers then you may never have heard about the derogatory term. Why would the old-time miller in the East not pass this bit on information on to the younger-generation of miller? Why pass on gossip and information spread by the milling industry of the Midwest that we were not the progressive millers in America. It was bad enough that the American housewife was brainwashed into thinking that Minneapolis style white flour was the best. For the most part, the mill restoration field which was begun in the 1930's have primarily tried to preserve only the old mills, and for the most part the old millers were never interviewed as to what they knew, and if they made daily entries in a journal they might be reduced down to simple terms, and say, "ran the mill today, or "fixed the mill!"

1. Anonymous, Along the North Shore of Long Island, page 167, The Century, and Scribners Monthly, Volume 22, 1881.

2. Gold-Pen, Poems, Edition 2, 1856, The Cheerful Mind, page 23, "The mossy mills, like sentinels, are posted to its source." Gold-Pen,Poems, Edition 2, 1856, The Things Around Us, page 171, "The mossy when turns dripping round." Rothernberg and Robinson, Jeffrey, Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Romantic and Postromantic Poetry, volume 3, 2009, Fragments From the Gutch Notebook, page 211, "Sabbath day - from the Miller's mossy wheel the water drops dripped leisurely -" Kenyon, James B., An Oaten Pie, "An hour-Glass," 1895, page 88, "A mill whose mossy wheel has ceased to go," in The Critic, Issues 776-80, page 40, 1897.

3. Stork and Teague, Flour for Man's Bread, page 256. "The Growth of Eight Years in Years," in American Miller, March 1, 1881. Edgar, "The Miller and His Mill," in Chautauguan, November, 1892. Poem line from a clipping in William C. Edgar Scrapbook, circa 1880-1896, in Edgar Papers.

4. Along the North Shore of Long Island. . Edgar, William C., "The Miller and His Mill, in Chautauguan, November, 1892.

5. Frame, Robert M., III, Minnesota History, Winter 1978, page 152-162, Mills, Machines, and Millers: Minnesota Sources for Flour-Milling Research.

 Bonus Article: Milling on a Short System.

Milling on a Short System,

SINCE the spread of the process of reducing wheat to flour by means of roller mills there has been a great deal of effort to concentrate the details of the process and to limit to as great an extent as possible the machinery and cost of production. This has been done with a view to the needs of " small " millers, whose trade or location does not warrant the erection of large and expensive mills, but who feel the necessity of retaining local custom by the adoption of the best methods, if they can be brought within the limits of their means and opportunities. To this end what is known as the "short system" of milling has been applied, and this has several gradations, the general idea being the same. An illustration is given of a diagram for roller milling on an improved short system, the arrangement being specially made for small mills grinding or reducing eight to ten bushels of wheat per hour or producing forty to fifty barrels of flour in twenty-four hours. The arrangement of the machinery for such a mill is clearly shown in the diagram, which includes everything save the building and power, and the machines required consist of four pair of roller mills, corrugated in a special manner ; four reels for bolting flour, &c.; one reel for scalping-breaks, four elevators for flour and meal, one elevator for grain, one elevator for smut mill, one smut mill or wheat scourer, one purifier for middlings, one bran-duster.

This machinery, arranged as shown, will enable parties with limited means to operate a mill of the capacity stated, so as to compete with the extensive,elaborate and costly roller mills, and such an arrangement is said to have produced results as to quality of flour and economy and simplicity of construction unsurpassed by any plan yet devised. The power required is at least 25 to 30 per cent, less than that needed to treat the same quantity of wheat with millstones, and all skilled labor and loss of time in dressing stones is dispensed with, as none are used. Any intelligent miller can understand the diagram and follow the wheat from the wheat-bin to the finished flour and feed. The power required is from 15 to 20 horse-power. The machines specified are for a complete new mill, and parties who have any of these machines in their mill will find that the cost will be reduced just so much. All of the machines required for such a mill will be furnished in New York, boxed for ocean shipment, accompanied with drawings of the plan, showing the necessary elevators, spouting. &c., to place the same in working order in the mill building, by addressing the office of this paper.

Diagram for Roller Mill on Improved "Short System."

Short System of Bolting.

A SHORT system of bolting is described as follows : One rescalper or grader for combined product of break scalpers, tailover to go to coarse aspirating purifier, product to break-flour reel below. The reel should be clothed in a fine flour cloth at the head and dusting cloth at the tail. The flow of the reel should be to clean flour, to first centrifugal, and to fine middlings purifier.

The work of the second section of the mill should begin at this point. All germy middlings should go to first smooth rolls, and be floured and scalped at once. Send product of scalper to first centrifugal, and tail to bran duster. Send fine purified middlings to smooth rolls No. 2, and product to centrifugal No. 1. This completes the first reduction on middlings. It will be observed that three streams of stock are here sent to centrifugal No. 1. They differ but little, if any, and no damage to the flour need be apprehended, while a great saving in bolting machinery may be effected. The flow of reels should be to patent to clear flour to self, to keep it so full, and tail-over to second reduction rolls, the product of which send to second centrifugal to clear flour to self, and tail-over to third reduction rolls, the product of which send to third centrifugal. The flow of this reel should be to clear flour, to low grade, cut-offs, back to rolls, and to ship-mil

If plenty of roll surface be used the foregoing plan will give good results in mills of any capacity up to seventy-five barrels. For larger mills it will pay to make more reductions on middlings and to make some changes in the flow of stock.

Source: The American Mail and Export Journal: A Monthly Paper Devoted to the Interests of American Manufactures and Producers, Volume 20, page 42, 1887.

Note: This Web Page Dedicated to the Conversations with My Long-Time Friend William (Bill) Foshag, at Heishman's Mill.

Copyright  2009 by T. R. Hazen.