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Addition to the Interpretation of Old Mills (part 3)

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

One of the biggest debates about doing living history demonstrations is the problem or lack of real "interpretive trash." Interpretive trash is the worthless waste matter that would accumulate in an actual operating mill such as: layers of dust; cobwebs; dirt; filth; rodent and cat excrement; grease; flour and grain refuse; dirty grain sacks; etc. Today's modern mills in an historical mills in a park setting would be free of rubbish and trash for visual quality, health standards, visitor and employee health guidelines. There would also be no modern safety percussions such as lighting, handrails, belt guards, devices for modern health regulations such as bin covers, sneeze guards, visitor fences or railings, etc. Floor boards cracks would be full of grain and other refuse. Some mills would have batten strips attached to the underside of the floor board cracks to prevent material from falling through but the accumulation would not be regularly cleaned out. Millstone cover would not be regularly removed and cleaned out around the millstones after each days grinding or between each batch ground. Cobwebs and other extraneous filth would be hanging on the ceiling above the millstones and could at anytime fall into the grain and contaminate it. At the end of the days work the mill would be left as they was when it was stopped, squirrels and other rodents could eat of the grain in the hopper or spilled on the floor. Road and boot mud would be left where it was deposited upon the floors. It was a work environment producing a commercial product and they were more concerned with the cleanliness final product that was packaged in containers that would be shipped out of the mill and not by the physical condition of the facility or the mill where it was manufactured.

Interpretation for Old Mills
Effective Interpretive Programs to make the "same old grind" come alive again,
Theodore R. Hazen

Addition to the Interpretation of Old Mills

Nathan Cooper Mill, Washington Turnpike (Route 24), Chester, New Jersey
The drawing is from the Morris County Parks, Natham Cooper Mill folder.

The illustration of "How it Works," in the mill site folder should not be too technical or stylized so that it difficult for people of any age group or level of understanding to comprehend. The following is not a description of how the mill operates just some important interesting facts about the mill:

The mill originally had two water wheels and each operated two pairs of millstones. The 16 - foot steel Fitz Water Wheel weighs 6 tons, yet it takes as little as 1 to 2 cups of water in less than half of the wheel's 48 buckets to keep it turning at 4 RPM. At 8 RPM, the most efficient speed, the wheel produces 45 horsepower. The two sets of grinding stones presently operating at Cooper Mill can produce up to 800 pounds of flour or meal per hour.

Visitors to 1826 by Nathan Cooper Mill can watch the massive water wheel power shafts and gears that turn 2,000-pound mill stones as the master miller- in period costume- explains the history of the mill and the vibrant community once also known as Milltown and Milldale. Also available are seasonal events and exhibits such as stone dressing, a demonstration of how millstones are sharpened, and the rare opportunity of seeing both mill stones being run at the same time.

Mill Tour at the Lee Mill at Stratford Hall, Virginia.

The Lee Mill (circa 1743) at Stratford Hall, was restored in 1939 by the Fitz Water Wheel Company. Several years before Fitz Water Wheel Company used mill parts from the Baughman's Mill near Linesboro, Maryland, in the Peirce Mill restoration in Rock Creek Park. The other half of the mill works (the millstones and gearing) was then used in the Lee's Mill restoration.

The miller explains the grinding operation of the millstones to a tour group (left). A modern intrusion upon the living history scene, a fire extinguisher attached to the front of the hurst frame (right). It should be mounted on something other than the (vibrating) mill machine.

The Grist Mill at Waterloo Village (Andover Forge), Stanhope, New Jersey.

This mill was restored by the late Charles Howell with a grant from NABISCO. The condition that the money was donated for the restoration, was the top floor of the mill had to become a museum to vintage NABISCO product boxes and advertisements.

The miller demonstrates his craft of operating the grist mill (left). Milled corn pours out of the chute for students to see (right). In photo in left, the historical site made the decision to fence off historical displays, turning machinery, and crafts exhibits from public spaced in the historical buildings. There are may "pros" and "cons" for such a decision, as long as it does not separate the visitor from the interpreter or make the interpreter feel that he is on a stage performing for the public.

The Grist Mill at Waterloo Village (Andover Forge), Stanhope, New Jersey.

The Miller's Goose greets the school groups and visitors outside the grist mill and escorts them to the doorway of the mill (left). The grinding stones for the working grist mill (right). Beyond the far wall is an attached saw mill. The miller is standing to the extreme left of the photo (the back of his red waistcoat can be seen in the photo). Who watches the mill or the miller's back with he is busy presenting a program to a school group? When I worked at Peirce Mill, the rule was one adult per every 10 children in a school group, or visitors had to be older than 14-to-16 (it was up to my discretion to ask them to show a driver's license), or be accompanied by an adult because of the turning machinery. This is a big problem in presenting programs and demonstrations is the safety of the other visitors, the miller, and the building if the miller is the sole person stationed at the site.

A Post-Visit Activity for a School Group

Mrs. Wallpe's fifth grade of Jac-Cen-Del Elementary, Osgood, Indiana, recently studied the Middle Colonies. Students have built models of grist mills to show how grain was ground into flour. The flour was then sold to settlers throughout the English colonies. This is how the Middle Colonies earned the nickname "The Bread Colonies." Below are two of the grist mills that were created. Sometimes such models and art work is donated or given to the mill visited for display or exhibit in those appropriate areas. Amanda is on the left and Eric is on the right.

Interpretation for Old Mills (part 1)
Supplement to the Interpretation of Old Mills (part 2)
Addition to the Interpretation of Old Mills (part 3)
Addendum One: Footnotes and Selected Readings on Living History Interpretation (part 4)
Addendum Two: Selected Readings on Living History Interpretation (part 5)

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Copyright 2001 by T. R. Hazen