Site hosted by Build your free website today!

The Page Begins Here

Basic Elements of a Mill that makes a Mill look like a Mill

Workings of an "Early Grist Mill," before Oliver Evans inventions and automated milling system.
Drawing from: "Mills on the Tsatsawassa: Techniques for Documenting Early 19th Century Water-Power Industry in Rural New York,"A case study illustrating the coordinated use of maps, deeds, and archeological survey to reconstruct the locations of interrelationships of early industrial sites and to reveal previously undocumented elements of local water power technology," by Philip L. Lord, The University of the State of New York, Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, New York, 1983

Basic elements of a mill that makes a mill look like a mill
Theodore R. Hazen

Basic elements of a mill that makes a mill look like a mill

A. Main elements and primary machinery are: Water wheel, gear pit wheels, and the millstones. If it is a millstone mill. A roller system means much more machinery.

B. Secondary elements or secondary machinery are: These are the bolters (sifters), grain cleaners, sack hoist, etc., perhaps a hopper-boy if correct for time period.

C. Third most important element is what is a mill? A mill is a business, a factory, a place were grain is processed into flour, it produces a food stuff. It process a staple of life. It is part of a larger chain that begins with the farmer and his farm, and leads to the mill and possibly onto a bakery or some sort of store or export facility.

D. The fourth most important element of what a mill is how it is tied into the community? At one time almost everyone had to make a trip to the mill. You met your neighbors there and may be fell in love. Not with the mill or the miller but someone's daughter who happened to go to the mill with her father. "Down by the old mill stream that is were I first met you............." What were we all doing there taking our grain to be processed into flour or meal.

What is the element that ties the mill into the community?

A. The miller's office. It is the first place a farmer would look for the miller.

B. It was a place with a warm fire to warm the miller and the farmer, a place for food and drink. It is where the business records were kept. Miller's log books and ledgers are a record of the farming community and business of the mill.

C. Storage place for important tools and books. Some tools used in a mill would be used nowhere else in the community, and the mill may have the first books and writing material in the community. Schools may only have blackboards and slates and a book brought from home.

D. The mill may have a work bench or work found somewhere else in the mill but the miller's office was a gathering place for the community. It is where you asked the miller questions about grain, farming, machinery. Local news was told. Cards and checkers played. Sometimes this also served as the first town bank, post office, power company, etc.

E. The mill had the first and only scales for weighing things in a community.

F. The mill might have been the first industry of a community. The miller and the blacksmith are early town fathers. To build a mill you need a millwright and a blacksmith.

G The mill may have been the best place in a community to find employment. A blacksmith shop is hot in the summer and if you grew up on a farm you already knew something about grain.

H. You took grain to be ground at the mill and only then might the miller let you go fishing in the mill pond, mill race, mill stream, ice skating, and picnicking.

What type of milling operation was the mill?

A. Was it a merchant mill, a custom mill or a combination mill (it did both). Many early mills were plantations mills, these operated much like the medieval feudal mills of Europe. Plantation mills usually had two pairs of millstones, one millstone for grinding wheat and for export, and the other millstone for grinding grains for plantation usage by classes. A good example of this type of mill is the George Washington Grist Mill, Historical State Park, Route 1, Jefferson Davis Highway and Dogue Run, Fairfax County, Mount Vernon, Virginia.

B. Most custom mills had one or perhaps two pairs of millstones. One millstone for corn and another for wheat. Custom mills would have one or two pairs of millstones but usually not more than two pairs of millstones. The machinery is very simple, usually the millstones and little or no other machinery. The grain was not usually cleaned and it was often not bolted. If it was bolted it was done by hand or carried to a bolting mill where another toll would be collected by that miller. Custom mills operated seasonally mainly at harvest time and the miller did something else most of the year. That is maybe why the mill also had a saw mill and a fulling mill. The miller may also have been a saw miller. Some times with the saw mills the miller also collected a toll for custom saw milling. The owner, builder and the miller usually may be the same person.

C. Most merchant mills had two, three or more pairs of millstones. Most merchant mills had French millstones for grinding white flour. With merchant mills the man who constructed the mill was a millwright. The mill was owned by a mill owner and that would have been his only function in the operation of the mill. He would employ millers to operate the mill. These mills were larger and had more complicated machinery. These mills would operate year round grinding flour and usually packing it into wooden flour barrels. Larger merchant mills employed millers, millstone dressers, millwrights, oilers, cleaners, packers, warehouse personal and office management. These mills would buy grain from grain dealers and make a profit or loss upon the sale of the flour.

D. Some mills had millstones that were used for reason other than milling grain. They had hulling stones for oats, buckwheat and barley. Some early mills used ending stones for cleaning grains, and some later used millstones in 'new process' milling to regrind middlings.

E. How does the other mill operations tie into the mill story and history? Such as a fulling mill, carding mill, saw mill, plaster mill, etc.

F. Can the artifacts tell us more about the mill? What type of milling operation was it? And perhaps how did the machinery and the power source change over the years of operation?

Minimum requirements of representational milling machinery:

A. Have one set of millstones complete with all furniture, and have one that set apart for millstone dressing (with millstone dressing tools and millstone crane) and explanation, and have possibly one possible pair of millstones made to see through or cut away to understand the action of crossing and cutting furrows, and gearing below.

B. Hurst frame (husk frame), gears, water wheel, sack hoist, bins.

C. Small milling related artifacts, displays, recorded sounds of an operating mill and visual images, and exhibits.

What is the theme or mission of the Mill?

A. Milling along the millstream. Historical uses of the waterway and how it is used today. Locate all of the mills and water powered industries along the millstream. Molinology is the study of mills and milling. Molinolography is the geographical study of the distribution of mills, mills along one stream or water shed.

B. The mission of the mill is to help each visitor rediscover the vital role that grist mills played in the early communities of the area Mills provided efficient processing of grain into flour and were centers of community life. The miller provides demonstrations of the processing of grain into flour and how mill streams and ponds supply mechanical power.

How to interpret the mill.

A. Maintain, restore, or build the mill dam. What is a mill or what are the features of a mill? The dam, the water course (head mill race, sluice box, overflow, head gate, sluice or control gate, trash rack, and tail race), mill with machinery and water wheel.

B. Eliminate the water supply or sever the connection to the stream and it becomes difficult or impossible to interpret the story of how the mill operated.

C. How the mill fits into the story of how millstream is used today. Construct, restore or rebuild mill dam. Construct head race to mill with bulkhead to stop flow of water into the mill, but water flows bypasses mill by the overflow. The traditional mill race overflow is constructed as a fish ladder. This will demonstrate the adaptive usage of mill dams today and show that mill dams do not have to be eliminated. In some historical mill usages the fish did swim up the overflow and thus bypassed the mill dams.

D. And you will maintain the water course to the mill. If you ever want to install a water wheel to turn- free wheel or to ever make the mill function again you will have all of the elements in place. Why spend 30-35 thousand a year to operate a recirculation pump to just turn a water wheel when you could use the stream to do so.

E. What did all the mills along the millstream do to benefit the waterway? What could mill do to benefit the stream yesterday and today? And greatly help to interpret the process of milling to visitors? Have a water wheel that will function. A water wheel that just free wheels or turns independently of any other machinery. The turning water wheel mixes oxygen into the water-stream and greatly benefits aquatic life in that stream. Also the mill dam and overflow acting as a fish ladder will mix oxygen into the water of millstream.

F. Elimination of the mill dam and water course to the mill will not eliminate the chance of flooding in mill. Mills were generally constructed in flood plans. This is part of the story, mills were powered by the streams. They provided them with power or life and they also took it away. Mills were effected by the streams, too much water and the mills could be carried away or the dams washed out, and too little water and mills added an alternative power source like a steam engine. Turbines do not operate when the water levels are low.

Drawing of Peirce Mill, Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC, by T. R. Hazen, 1986.

Note portions of the text from Forward Physical Space or Characteristics of Barnitz Mill of the FEASIBILITY RESTORATION STUDY for the BARNITZ MILL (JAMES WEAKLEY MILL)Yellow Breeches Creek, Dickinson Township, Cumberland County, Pine Road and Barnitz Mill Road, Mount Holly Springs, Pennsylvania., by Theodore R. Hazen,1999.

Return to Home Page

Copyright 1999 by T. R. Hazen