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First Person Interpretation for Old Mills

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The Last Miller of The Linchester Mill, Captain Frank Langrell.

Once known as Murray's Mill, was built in 1681. The mill was originally built on a lake, it was washed out by a flood and relocated to its present site near Preston in Linchester, Caroline County, Maryland. Captain Frank Langrell, the former miller of Potters Mill (also called Williston Mill circa 1778), upon leaving the mill he purchased the mill's roller mills, hominy equipment and Fitz Water Wheel and reinstalled it in the Linchester mill. Frank Langrell with the help of his son-in-law, operated the Linchester Mill for over fifty years from 1919 until a portion of the dam washed out if February 1973. Hopefully one day this mill will be restored. The one problem I see with me doing first person interpretation as Frank Langrell, there is a big difference in our stature. I am 6 feet 4 inches tall, and I remember him as being over a foot shorter than myself.

First Person Interpretation for Old Mills,
by Theodore R. Hazen.

Important Note: Please read-"Interpretation for Old Mills, Effective Interpretive Programs to make the "same old grind" come alive again," before reading this section.

Table of Contents

The Miller's Apprentice
Getting History Correct
Building of the Mill
Types of Mills
The Art of the Miller
Mills in Folklore
First Person Living History
Books of Interest to First Person Interpreters Working in Old Mills

The Miller's Apprentice

One of the long standing points of discussion that the late Charles Howell and I had was over the apprentice system in America. Neither one of us had a definite answer to this question as to how long it lasted. The question that I posed to Charlie was, "When did the craft system in the English Colonies, America, the United States change from the traditional system of apprenticeship between the master craftsman, journeyman and the apprentice. Because of the rules of the craft (millers were considered so dishonest they were not allowed to form guilds like their counterpart baker), in the apprentice system there would be no sharing of information and knowledge with others. A master would only provide knowledge or information to an apprentice when he felt he needed it. If a master had two apprentices each apprentice would be taught a different phase of the craft, and it would be years before the apprentices could make an interconnection in the information each one was separately taught. Others outside of the craft would not given knowledge, understanding or be able to witness a craftsman practice his craft.

The answer or better understanding of this point, would have effect upon how first person interpretation is done in an historical mill, or even perhaps places like Colonial Williamsburg. Because Colonial Williamsburg and Sleepy Hollow Restorations were both begun as Rockefeller foundations and Charlie Howell would take training courses at Colonial Williamsburg, I thought this one point might have been discussed. This would mean if someone outside of that craft walked into a craftsman's shop, all tool boxes would be closed and all work in progress would be covered or hidden. The subject of conversation would be anything but the craft or what happened in that shop. If this was correct then this would also effect the way milling is done in first person interpretation of old mills.

This is the way the miller's craft would have operated in the time of Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," in the telling of the miller's tale as found in "The Reeve's Tale." The common idea was that the miller kept his nose to the grindstone. So if one eye is towards the millstone, then where is the other eye looking? The miller's other eye would be looking in the direction of the "road." The miller would keep a constant lookout on the road for the coming of customers to the mill. When the miller saw someone approaching the mill with a cart, wagon, or a sack of grain turned over the back his back or a horse, the miller would stop all work and turn off the mill. The farmer or the customer would never see the mill operating, nothing would ever be apart, the miller would never explain the workings or operation of the mill to anyone. Because the miller would not want to reveal his trade or craft to anyone. The farmer would be told simply told to leave his grain, come back later, or tomorrow, and you will get your flour or meal. In this way a dishonest miller could steal or collected more than his allowed toll by law. During medieval times people got away from eating brown flour because dishonest millers could easily adulterate brown flour with sawdust. A dishonest miller when questioned by a farmer, who asks is this all I get from the quality of grain that I brought to the mill? (1) The miller would answer, only I know the grain (corn or the wheat). The last time you brought me better grain, and this time the grain was far inferior, and this is all you get. Meanwhile the miller has decided to steal more than he did the last time. It was up to the miller to pick and chose the portion which he would take the toll. It could be the raw grain, or the best part of the white flour. The miller knew that the raw grain would keep longer than the ground flour. In England or Europe, if they caught a miller taking excessive toll, they would hang the miller's apprentice, and not the miller. A master was too valuable to hang no matter what his crime was, and it was in hoping that he would learn his lesson by hanging his apprentice. The master's word was law and the master could get away with murder (of his apprentice). This would often make it harder to get a new apprentice if the miller lost one too many by hanging. Sometimes the public gallows were in front of the mill or in the case of a windmill, they would hang the people from the sail arms of the wind mill. This is one of the reasons the mill was often the center of the community in medieval Europe because the gallows was just outside of the mill.

The miller would do his work on the machinery late into the night after everyone would be off the roads. (2) The miller would invent stories to keep people away from the mill at night to prevent them from seeing the mill with his millstones uncovered, apart or working on the machinery. It was after all easy because what was found around the mill? Water, and the spirits of the water were often very nasty to humans. To add double security to the mill, the miller often said that a brownie would live in the mill at night. (3) He would help the miller do his work and in return for the miller giving him a place to live at night he protected the mill from harm. The miller often went so far as making up stories (mainly about other mills) and how the brownie protects the mill from harm at night.

Since mills or pre-Oliver Evans mills of the Colonial era were very much like the mills of medieval Europe, then the laws that governed the apprentice system much have been very much in effect. Traditionally what Colonial Williamsburg has portrayed is the demonstration of crafts or trades, so the answer to my question to Charlie Howell would seem to effect them the most.

Oliver Evans could not get a patent to protect his earlier inventions (in 1772) in the wool carding industry because he was a person living in an English Colony. This is one method that England prevented the spreading of the industrial revolution to the English Colonies was by the English patent laws. Then later when Oliver Evans developed his improvements in the flour milling industry we became the United States and he could get a United States patent to protect his inventions. (4) The modern down fall of this system in the copyrights laws it that some materials is about to become public domain, and these companies or corporations they have influenced the federal government to continue the copyright laws until eternity.

So for the most part, with the coming of Oliver Evans improvements in the milling industry American mills ceased to look like English or European mills. So when did the apprenticeship change with the safeguarding of knowledge and information about how the mill operated or worked? Did it change after the American Revolution? The War of 1812? The Civil War, or when there became milling schools where people could go to learn to be a miller? Oliver Evans wrote the first manual for a craft or a trade, published in 1795. There was no previous book that tried to explain the operation of a trade, a craft or a process in a text book format. It was not until around the mid-1800's did the first books come out that explained the craft of the blacksmith, and provides such information like the formulas for tempering metal.

One of the things we forget to realize about, is that people did not necessarily have the ability to chose what they wanted to be or do. My grandfather who later became a millwright, first learned his families trade of violin making. He wanted to go to school and learn another trade, but his mother had other plans for him. A short while later he ran away from home. Benjamin Franklin who was apprenticed to a printer who treated him very badly and ran away. (5) Later Benjamin Franklin tried to pawn him self off as a journeyman, knowing more than what he had learned. Sometimes when an apprentice would run away from a bad master, the apprentice they would take things with them. Usually an apprentice was not worth taking back once they ran away, but the former masters would place newspaper articles that basically say, if found please return the great coat they stole, I don't care what you do with the apprentice. A newspaper ad dated the 18 of February, 1839, was for an agreement in which a mother allows her son to become a bound apprentice until he is 21 (approximately 7 years of service). The son is to be treated "kindly and humanely for said space of time." According to the indenture, the apprentice will further be provided with "good, warm, and substantial every day clothing, also with good and wholesome meat, drink and lodging". Upon "the expiration of his term of service", the apprentice will receive "a new suit of clothes to be worth the sum of sixty-five dollars, one new Bible, and the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars in cash." (6)

The master was expected to cloth and feed the apprentice besides giving them a place to live. Sometimes they slept in the masters house as if they were their own children. At times if they were a different sex than the master's own children they would sleep elsewhere. An apprentice to a blacksmith would often would sleep in the rafters of the blacksmith shop and was expected to have the fire in the forge going before the master arrived for the days work. An apprentice in a mill was also expected to have the fire going in the miller's office, if it was that season of the year. The apprentice was also expected to have the gudgeons and gears lubricated and ready for the days work. It often became the apprentices job to check the balance of the water wheel as well as doing most if not all of the cleaning in the mill. The apprentice would learn to fix the leather belting and well as learn to do other jobs. The new person always got the worst jobs, the ones that others would rather avoid doing if at all possible. (7)

Oliver Evans apprenticed to a wheelwright at the age of 14. His master thought it was wasteful to spend his money to buy candles so Oliver could read and study books at night. So Oliver was forced to save wood shavings and burn them for light. I am not sure if Oliver Evans ever practiced his trade. At the age of 22 he developed machines for the wool carding industry, and perhaps Oliver build the heavy duty wagon wheels that his amphibious dredge moved through the streets of Philadelphia on. Isaac Peirce who later build Peirce Mill apprenticed to become a millwright and married his master's daughter, Elizabeth "Betsy"Cloud. In the telling of the Peirce Mill story part of that is the life of the millers. Some of the Peirce Mill's millers were "Donald, Tennyson, Gaskins, Fleckker, Donald again, Gaskins again, and then finally the White Brothers." The millers over the years seem to have gotten in the habit of when they got upset at the mill owner, one day they would suddenly walk out and quilt. Then they would go to the next mill along Rock Creek and get a job as their new miller, until they got upset and quit once again. Often the cycle would eventually repeat itself when they would return to a mill they had worked in before and beg for their old jobs back. (8)

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Getting History Correct

Civil War first person living history is interpretation at its extreme as to its sense of values and ideas of what they think of man's history. (9) I have been in contact with several mill groups who want to restore their mills to what they looked like during the American Civil War period (they were originally constructed much earlier date), but they feel that event is the most important one that occurred in all of American history. Mills were important in other wars and not just the Civil War. The Chapman Mill that burned to a hollow shell in October 22, 1998, in Thoroughfare Gap, Virginia, on Broad Run, now that the mill has burned for a second time, they have gotten the history of it completely mixed up. (10) The Chapman Mill, the seven story mill that just burned was build in 1858. The older Chapman Mill that was built in 1742 and its ruins are located just upstream and across the railroad tracks from the second mill. They are now saying that the mill that just burned was built in 1742, which is just not the case. But if it gets them money to say that it made flour for every war from the French and Indian War to the Korean War, then who am to raise a fuss. The original Meadowlands home is also in ruins just down from the Chapman Mill, also on the other same of the railroad tracks as the first mill. When I talked to my mill friends about the mill before the recent fire, we always agreed that someone would have to live on site to keep an eye on the mill so something like this would never happen it. I remember when it became the "in thing," if your mill was standing at the time of Washington's Army camped at Valley Forge just upon that assumption to claim that your mill may have supplied his troops with flour. Years ago this became many mills claim to fame, like the Wye Mills (circa 1671) and Upper Hunting Creek Mill (circa 1681) both still standing on the eastern shore of Maryland.

The Chapman Mill, a.k.a Beverley's Mill in Thoroughfare Gap, Virginia

On the other extreme is the field of Industrial archaeology, those who basically feel nothing is important in the history of mankind before the coming of the industrial revolution. Other types of mixed up living history is found in a American historical theme park that does reenactments of the English Civil War, or American Revolutionary parks (were nothing happened during the American Civil War) but they are doing regular Civil War reenactments because right now it is popular among people. I became interest in the American Civil War when I was 10 years old because it involved my two other main passions in life, mills and steam locomotives. But I grew up, got over it, and went on to other things and interests. There is more to first person Civil War Living History than just recreating the drama of the battles and camp life that just goes through the motions that does not involve any actual dialog with the visitor. I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania (my father growing up in Waterford), there where all of these forts of the French and Indian War were located such as Forts Presque, Le Boeuf, Venango, Niagara, Erie, and Duquesne. I had father and son relatives who fought in the American Revolution and the son fought in the War of 1812. I also grew up were Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry Naval Base in 1813, and built his flight to fight the Battle of Lake Erie. The Underground Railroad went through Waterford and Erie on its 27 mile journey across Lake Erie to Canada. It seemed like growing up every time the city dug up the streets around lower State Street, they found a tunnel where the railroad actually went underground from building to building. General "Mad" Anthony Wayne's Blockhouse is located in Erie. There was also the Erie Extension Canal that went from the Allegheny River to Presque Bay. These two relatives was my last relatives to serve in the military or fight in an American war. My grandmother's great grandfather John King, a freed slave owned and operated a saw mill east of Waterford at French Creek in a place called Juva. My great grandfather William George Hazen was the right age but he may not have served in the Civil War for a number of reasons.

I have taken or been with a number of people to St. Mary's City, Maryland. They spent 10 years doing archaeological digs to make sure they had the site of Maryland's first Capital dating from 1634. Then they covered up the digs, and stepped aside and build reproductions of some of the buildings so they could do first person living history. Many of my friends have said that the English accent that they are portraying incorrect for that particular area of England where they claim the people of St. Mary's City came from. That the accent actually belongs to another part of England, this comment has been made by many of my English friends. So I have let them take up the issue with the folks at St. Mary's City, after all they may have a better ear for that sort of thing that I do. Even with all of this argument the people at St. Mary's City say that all of their research shows that this is the correct accent for the area of England that they are portraying, and they do not want to hear or are open to anything different. Most people don't know that they began much of their archaeological work to locate the site for the original St. Mary's City with a road grader. Well if you have a large area and little time you just skim off the surface and then look at the interesting spots. I think they may suffer from one of the problems the National Park Service has, they paid one person to do all of the historical first person research, and right or wrong they aren't going to change it for anything. I think it all was done about the same time as the Public television series, "The Story of English," was being put together. The main thing I don't like about visiting there is that if you make eye contact with the interpreters they feel they have to interact with you. As an interpreter when I am on vacation I don't want to go talked to or be forced to go on tours. This is just the way I am, when I am off work I want to leave some things of the workplace behind, and just enjoy looking with out being talked to.

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Building of the Mill

Graves Mill in Lynchburg Virginia, one of the local stories about mill says it was built by slaves. Christopher Johnson, a Quaker had freed his slaves several years before the building of the mill in 1774. (11) Since slave labor did not build the mill another alternative such as community cooperation was utilized to build the mill. The best description of such community cooperation is found in Marshall Fishwick's "Virginia: A New Look at the Old Dominion." The following is a complete account of how the settlers of the Shenandoah Valley build a complete grist mill. The settlers of the Valley of Virginia were different than the Piedmont area of Virginia. The religion is also different, they are Presbyterian rather than Quaker. The following is Fishwick's description of the building of a mill:

"Having asked God to give them their daily bread, these Valley men set out to help Him by building grist mills. The landscape suggested it. Fast-flowing streams were everywhere, wood and limestone were plentiful for construction, and every family needed ground grain. The Valley's first communal structures, except for churches, were mills. Many of them stand today, just as they were erected, with not one stone out of place.

Building a mill took weeks or even months of labor. No machinery or standardized parts were available, only human strength and ingenuity. Except for a few parts the blacksmith might forge, everything had to be made from wood and stone. This is how they did it.

A good site was found and a building writ got from the court. (For a while nobody bothered about writs.) Limestone foundation walls were erected, topped by a long, or perhaps a stone superstructure. Then it was time to call in the neighbors. Everybody who would came, men, woman, and children, with axes, saws, augers, and ready muscles. The men, working in teams, hoisted the huge logs into place as the leader shouted:

"See that ye carry your corners up plumb. I couldn't stand to see 'em leaning over whopper-jawed. Easy, now. Shake it back, boys, jest a hair!"

Occasionally a hand spike would slip and a long would drop. A scathing un-Presbyterian oath would go rolling across the Valley as a hand was crushed. The rest would keep on building. The woman and boys did the lighter jobs, such as fashioning shingles for the roof. To do this they sawing longs into blocks, took them out of the heart, and worked the slabs with frows and mallets. The boys kept busy with the ax, and the woman with the kettle, so that the logs and victuals were always on hand.

Then the millwright, called in for the job, was ready to take over. Under his supervision two pillars went up, one inside and one outside the basement wall, to support the wheel shaft. A section of a white oak tree, about four feet long, would be brought to the site, trued up, and punctured with mortised openings into which the hewn-oak spokes of the wheel could be inserted. Yellow locust journals, upon which the wheel revolved, were fitted into each end of the shaft. They rested on hardwood blocks topping the piers, and were lubricated with tallow.

"How we gonna git that shaft into place, mister?" a strapping farm hand might ask the millwright.

"By main strength and awkwardness, young'un, and muscle in your back!" The shaft would be put in place, arms fitted on, timbers sawed to make water buckets, millstones put into place. A hopper would be build to carry the precious golden grain to the stones, and the millrace flooded. Finally the mill would be in operation. Simply sweaty farmers would watch, silent and proud as knights at a coronation, as the first corn was ground. They didn't have to ask for whom the wheel turned. It turned for them." (12)

In 1782, Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Burwell of Carter's Grove built the mill to process and export wheat and corn from his own rich farmlands and those of his neighbors. He hired Brig. General Daniel Morgan, the Revolutionary War hero, to oversee the construction and management of the Burwell-Morgan Mill. I have photographs taken of the interior of the mill before the first restoration began in 1964 and it bears no resemblance to how the mill was originally laid out. There were four pairs of millstones on the first floor with the corn cob crusher in the middle and an external wooden "Fitz" water wheel on the exterior back wall of the mill. I would find it difficult to do first person living history in that mill today that bears no similarity to the way it was originally. This merchant mill that was built with the labor of Hessian prisoners. They also build "Carter Hall" for Lt. Col. Nathaniel Burwell of Carter's Grove Plantation on the James River, for Burwell's partner in the milling venture was Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan, home at "Saratoga," near Boyce,Virginia, and many other buildings in the area. Flour was taken in barrels to the Shenandoah and the Potomac Rivers where it find its way to the seaports such as Georgetown or Alexandria where it was exported. Sometime later a custom mill was constructed just down stream to grind the grain for the local farmers. Isaac Peirce built his Peirce Mill with the ad of his son Abner Peirce who was a stone mason, and his labor force of indentured servants or apprentices and slaves.

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Types of Mills

Traditionally farmers would line up outside of a "custom" or "grist" mill with their wagons and wait there turn to see or talk to the miller so they could get their grain ground. (13) Often the father would leave the wagon to go see the miller, and the children were told to stay with the wagon, for one reason the mill contained dangerous machinery. Many of a grist mill would have a bell atop a pole outside of the mill so the farmer or the customer did not have to enter the mill and search out the miller. Often the only place in a mill that the farmer interacted with the miller was on the loading dock area of the mill. The farmer often was helped by the miller's helper to unload the sacks of grain from the wagon onto the loading dock or onto a hand truck where the helper would take them into the mill. So the farmer or individuals would only perhaps walk inside of the mill from the loading dock door to the miller's office. That was basically it, if the farmer was interested in purchasing an item from the mill, the farmer would wait near the doorway while the helper when to get it from the storage areas of the mill.

The reason that custom mills went out of fashion with the coming of modern heath regulations in the 20th century was because of housekeeping, and because of the following scenario. Custom mills traditionally would not clean up the mill or take up the millstone cover to clean around and between the millstones between customers. One person brings in grain to have it ground, that is fairly clean and free from filth and extraneous matter. The miller grinds it, takes his toll, and the person goes home to feed his family, and everybody is happy. Another person brings in grain to have it ground, but the grain is old, it may be rancid, buggy, and full of filth and extraneous matter. The person wants it ground to feed his pigs and the miller does not care because he has pigs to feed also. Then when the next person comes into the mill with perfectly clean grain to have it ground to feed his family, it gets contaminated from the previous batch. As if anyone ever got sick from eating products ground in grist mills, but the National Center for Disease Control, believe in their premise is that many of the nations ills and diseases that effect Americans are caused by problems associated with old mills (including such operations as grist and cider mills). The traditional custom was that the millstone cover was not taken up and cleaning between the millstones did not happen until the millstone spindle bearing needed lubrication, or when the millstones needed dressing. With a small rural custom mill this may happen once a year when the mill was closed down because it was not seasonally efficient to operate the mill. Many times millers would describe to me in very colorful detail what they would discover when they separated the millstones.

During this time "merchant" mills or milling was a was very capital intensive operation. In the Middle Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) and the Upper South (Maryland, Delaware, Virginia) large scale commercial milling developed. New England given the poor soil and short summers had only subsistence farming and milling developed. So these types of milling operations such as merchant mills would not be accessible to the general public. In Virginia and in Delaware, merchant milling became so successful that the millers stopped grinding grain for local farmers or individuals. The farmers forced the state to pass laws that said that the millers had to set aside one day a week to grind the grain for the locals. The millers simply said quietly to themselves, we will do it on Sundays. The farmers would not be caught dead hauling their grain out to the mill on Sundays. So it became catch-22 situation, dammed if you do and dammed if you don't. (14)

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The Art of the Miller

Since craft guilds developed in medieval times so these groups could form associations or merchants of similar fellowship. Millers were not allow by law to also form guilds because of their dishonesty. Their closest associated craftsman the baker was allowed to form his own guilds but not the miller. This meant that the baker could decided to make what he wanted and to establish is own prices, along with setting up booths in open market places. Trade unions that came later were not developed for the protection of the trade but of the rights of the workers. We are still left with the answered question of when the apprentice system of protecting information break down in the milling industry. Perhaps it was a topic left up to the individual mill, and may be this is the difference between an honest and dishonest miller? (15)

This is the one thing about being in America that was different than in England or medieval Europe, was that you had the freedom of chose. (16) In early America when they were still trying to recreate the old feudal system here that would have been the case with plantation mills, but for the most part you had the freedom to go to what ever mill you wished. If the miller was cheating you, and not collecting his fair toll then you could go elsewhere. This is why an honest miller was something to spread the word about so others could avoid any dishonest millers. Many in the milling field will tell you that Abraham Lincoln got the name "Honest Abe," from the time he worked in a grist mill in New Salem, Illinois, and not because of some store transaction from the business that the same mill owner also owned. This mill was a combination grist and saw mill. This was a problem with grist and saw mills, was that they had the ready availability of saw dust around, and to add to milled to the flour when the customer was not watching. Anything that was also white similar to the white flour, like plaster, was more valuable than the value of the flour so the millers normally would not adulterate the white flour with something else. There still are stories of farmers accidentally seeing millers adding white stuff from other sacks into their white flour.

Several United States Presidents owned mills, Thomas Jefferson owned a mill at Shadwell, and John Quincy Adams. Jefferson's miller Jonathan Shoemaker (who was close friends with Dolly Madison), went to work at Adam's Mill on Rock Creek in Washington, D.C. John Quincy Adams who was influenced to spend his Presidential retirement and children's inheritance on a mill that never prospered in his lifetime. Adams Mill suffered from mechanical design problems and was always breaking down, and only towards the end of its operation was it ran on break-even system. Remember the man who could not tell a like, George Washington, he was not so honest in his dealings at selling flour from his mill at Mount Vernon. George Washington may have been basically an honest business man. But he was not above the traditional sharp practice of a shrewd miller. In 1772 he sent a shipment of flour in wooden barrels (the standard shipping container of the day) to his agent in Barbados, West Indies. Along with these instruction to his agent in Barbados: "I recommend its being lumped off, rather than sold in small parcel's for trial, as it was ground out of indifferent wheat, and will I fear, look better to the eye than it will prove agreeable to the taste, being a little musty." George Washington basically said, find or locate a barrel of good flour and show the potential customer that opened barrel. But if they purchase a barrel of flour make sure they go home or you ship to their home a barrel of mildewed flour. Then if the return to complain about being sold a barrel of mildewed flour. The traditional miller's practice was, if the flour went bad. It must be the shipper's or the seller's fault, not the miller. "It was good when I shipped it," perhaps it maybe the buyers fault, because of the way it was stored improperly. This is a centuries old ploy of a dishonest miller who always pushes the blame on the customer. If it went rancid or mildewed, the miller could not be responsible!

Isaac Brickerstaff's poem trying to improve people's attitude about millers, the general attitude towards millers had been inherited from Europe. It was one of accusation and suspicion. Many dishonest millers had their own tricks of the trade, as you might say in stealing flour from their customers. One of the classic methods was to have a multi sided cover around the millstones that would trap more of the customers flour so they would have a larger loss than normal. Another was to have a separate hidden chute attached to the underside of the millstones that lead to a separate bin or hidden room area of the mill. This is one of the reasons that I have long said normally people were not allowed inside a mill to see what was really going on. With a separate chute the miller would have a control gate and siphon off the amount he wished to steal and where he wanted to steal it from the freshly ground grain to bolted product. Another means was sometimes called the "miller's mite," the stuff that would get lost to the system or fall between the cracks. The miller's boy or helper would carry or hoist the freshly ground flour to an upper floor, where he would dump the warm moist flour onto the floor. Here he would rake it back and forth to cool it. The miller or the baker of course, would then again take another toll for sifting or bolting it for the customer. The miller would say that he could not send you home with that warm sack of flour, it will quickly turn rancid. I must cool it for you in the correct manner that my master taught me to do. The area on the floor that would be used to cool the flour could have been specially build to make it easier to steal the customers flour. The floor boards would have planned edges either cut on a 90 degrees or 45 degree angle so a crack or opening in the floor boards would be less apparent. Below that area would be a secret room that would sometime be made to look like a grain bin on the floor below. The miller's helper would then rake the flour back and forth across the floor to cool it, and each time that he did, a little bit more would disappear out of sight. A toll board often had holes in it similar to a mill paddle and what remained on top of the board belong to the miller. Some millers often had a secret toll board with no holes they pulled out when the customer was around. Another means besides using the toll dish or measure besides twice, was have a custom made one with a false removable bottom that could be removed to increase the amount that it would hold. This was the old slight of hand, and the miller removed the insert when the customer was not watching. It could be easily removed in the process of filling it with grain or flour from a bin or a sack and the insert spacer removed later. Another method of fooling the customer was to have a larger cover around the millstones than the diameter that the millstones would normally have. An actual 42 inch pair of millstones might have a cover placed over it that would normally fit around a pair of 46 inch millstones. Thus doubling the miller's mite or what would be lost to the system. Even if the farmer or individual came into the mill and saw it grinding all he would see is a turning millstone in the center opening of the millstone cover or vat.

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Mills in Folklore

There were many superstitions in the milling trade in the preindustrial society. It was commonplace not until after the 1830's when people stopped talking about being "overtaken" by the night when they went out after the hours of darkness. (17) As long as superstitions existed in the milling industry and other phases of everyday life, I don't think that the explanation of "how the mill worked," went beyond a couple of rocks mashing up the grain. These misconceptions can either be attributed to superstitions or lack of being provided with correct information on how the mill worked. Sometimes the miller and his children who helped in work in the mill or dressed the millstones would be the only members of the miller's family to ever see the stones apart. There were many superstitions that prevailed in the milling industry during the colonial period. Many of these centered around the millstones themselves.

1. Millstones become folklore: The reason that millstones left a mill were, they wore out, got too thin for grinding and lift up and float, and they cracked or broke. Another reason in a time period when people had more superstitions than sense, because they were considered unlucky or evil. Until the 1700's millers did not have cranes in a mill to move and lift the millstones for dressing. So people lifted and flipped them with large wedges and pry bars. If you dropped them they would end up in the mill's basement taking out everything downward in its path. So for a long time millstones that hurt or killed any one were considered unlucky or evil, like a wild animal in a cage. Once it tasted human blood, it would wait around to attach some one at the next chance it had. So perfectly good millstones were retired out of the mill and became tombstones to mark the graves of the last person they killed. They also became door steps so others would step on them and carry their evil away with them. So for a long time a millstone removed for a mill meant that it was evil or had killed someone.

2. Grain and flour become folklore: An example of this is that grain or flour should never come in contact with metal. Metal taints the taste of the flour, so all things that the grain or flour comes in contact with should be made out of wood. So shovels and grain scoops were all originally made out of wood. In this way a superstition created something for the good. A wooden rake, shovel, barrel hoop on a flour barrel, or scoop would never strike a nail head thus creating a stark that could suddenly ignite all of the flour dust in the mill and hell fire would happen. The air would become suddenly full of flame or fire and no one would get out of the mill or escape the fires of hell. Basically it was not until a major dust explosion blew up a seven story limestone mill to a gaping hole on the ground and leveled the whole milling district of Minneapolis did they know for sure that it was the flour dust that was causing mills to blow up. Close to that time period they began to have their feeling that it was just more than ghosts, demons and evil spirits that suddenly and violently took way all life and the mill with it. (18)

Tragedy was associated with most mills in Franklin County. When Page La Prade last rebuilt the mill dam in the 1920's a kid drowned there shortly afterwards. The first mill in the County to convert to roller mills the Stevens Mill (built originally in the 1700's) on Chestnut Creek. (19)The Steven's Mill was a turbine powered mill and they ran a leather belt across the stream to power a saw mill on the opposite side. (20) In 1954 Lester Stevens sent his 9 year old son to the mill's third floor to stir the corn. He suffocated in the corn before Lester could get to him. (21) A traditional story is of Charles Pickard when during a freshet, mounted his horse and rode down to his mill. He cut out a notch on a sycamore near the creek and dared the Celestial Powers that be to possibly raise the waters to reach his mark. Regardless of the traditional story his mill was washed away. (22) According to local tradition Jim Angle lost an arm while operated the Angle Mill and his arm was buried in the family cemetery. Despite his misfortune, he was an accomplished bicycle rider. (23) Between Dugwell and Retreat two young men, brothers and deserters from the Confederate Army, were executed by a firing squad in the yard of Charity Chapel after having threatened to burn down the then new Hickman's Mill. (24) And at the mill south of Sloan mill at the intersection of Saw Mill Road, the miller climbed on his horse one day with a bottle of acid (used for making moonshine) and the bottle broke. The acid burned into his behind and killed the horse.

I have been in one Pennsylvania mill that is occupied by three ghosts, two men and a woman. You can hear them talking at night on the mill's main floor, involved in a conversation of their daily work. They are not angry or upset, and it seems like they are just reliving their normal lives. One of the mills that I worked in in Pennsylvania, I had to ask the mill owner Harry N. Moffatt if anyone had ever been hurt or killed in the mill. Of all the mills I know in the area where I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania, F. A. Drake's Mill, in Drakes Mills, was the only one in which someone got hurt and killed. A man who was working in the mill was missed one day and they went looking for him and found him laying in the spill way unconscious. A young man with a beautiful wife and new child who had worked in the mill at the time slipped and fell off the turbine pit building roof falling upon the concrete spill way between that and the steam engine building. This man got into the habit of climbing out an open window by the roller mills and millstones, walking over the roof of the turbine pit and jumping the spill way to tend the steam engine, instead of walking out the door and around the road to it. He never regained conscious and died several days later. There was not sense or talk of his spirit ever haunting the mill. At Peirce Mill there was a spiritual presence there. I would hear it either walking on the first or second floor when I was on the opposite floor, but I never saw or heard it during the day light hours or at night when I worked long hours cleaning the mill.

3. The mill becomes folklore: One example of the mill becoming part of folklore is Musgrove Mill in South Carolina. The local folklore says about the mill, besides it being the scene of a Revolutionary War Battle, was that at the mill there was no bridge or ferry across the river at that time. So for the people living on the other side the river the miller strung a rope across the river that held a bucket which could be pulled back and forth from one side to another. The people simply placed their sack of grain in the large bucket and the miller would pull the bucket to the mill side of the river. When the grain was ground, the miller collected his toll, and the miller returned it to the sack. Then he or his helper placed it in the bucket, and then it was pulled back over the river. (25)

4. The miller becomes folklore:
Some of the Dorman Sloan's verses that sung about his father's mill went like this: "If you want to get your eye knocked out, If you want to get your fill; If you want to get your corn tolled twice, Just go to Esom's Mill." (26) This song has a traditional origins found in the ballad, "The Miller and His Three Sons." (27) Where a dying miller asks his three sons what toll shall they take when his his gone, in order to determine which son to leave the mill to. The first son says, "I'll take a peck, and live fine." The second son says, "I'll take a half, and live most fine." And the third son says, "I'll take it all, and swear the sack." "Your are the man," the old man said, "You have learned the art of trade; For by that means a man can live: And I to you my mill will give." Dorman Sloan also mixed in a little bit of Chaucer's miller who had a thumb of gold. (28) Interpreted by some to refer to his stealing of other peoples grain. (29) In Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," it says, "Well could he stole corn and tollen thries." This proverb about the miller who takes double his toll to be sure, and tolls more than once to be sure. Chaucer describes the miller again, "And yet he haddle a thumb of Gold." This is a parody of the miller who has not only a thumb skilled in testing grain and flour, but more important it was self aggrandizing, by giving false weight and measure by using his thumb to gage the size of a kernel of grain. In "Canterbury Tales" we are reminded of the folk tale of the double cheating miller who then confesses, when challenged that he has an over sized measure and agrees to get a sampler one. He then measures back the flour from his bin. Then the second time uses the smaller measure or scoop. Stories of the dishonest miller go back to the late middle ages, when the craft was associated in the public mind with dishonesty. It was common for a peasant to believe a miller takes hefty portions of his grain after visiting his lord's mill. The miller doing so with the lord's "Soke Rights." (30) Corn is the English generic word for all grains, most of the time a "Corn Mill" in England means a mill that grinds wheat. The American Revolution caused Americans to disassociate themselves from English terminology.

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First Person Living History

First person interpretation is the act of portraying a person from the past (real or a composite of many individuals). A standard form is one in which the interpreters refer to the past in the present tense, and to employ a combination of techniques including storytelling, demonstration, question and answer, and discussion. (31) The first person interpreter encourages verbal interaction from the audience, and always avoid breaking character even with intrusions of the modern world such as over head aircraft or traffic sounds. Since these things did not exist in their time period they do not acknowledge their existence.

The living history performances which costumed interpreters portray a day in the life of a miller in the first person is not that common. (32) Most living history interpretation is third person costume demonstrations and nothing more. The rare"Living History" which features costumed interpreters who interact with visitors and transport them back to the colonial era by portraying a miller, a miller's wife, the miller's apprentice, and other characters in the first person takes a lot of work to prepare before hand.

The miller's costume must be correct. Millers often wore aprons to protect their clothing and wore hats without brims. These hats were traditionally like the round flat top hat that other craftsman would wear but white in color. A miller would never have worn a three-cornered colonial hat in a mill because of the brim hitting on this and catching flour and cobwebs. Sometimes they would take the brims off of other types of hats such as a straw hat. Brims on hats in a mill would get in the way of working in and around the chutes and machinery. They would get knocked off or covered with grease. In the years that I have worked in a number of mills I have always had the problem of banging my head against rafters and other machinery because of my size and the close quarters found in many mills once it is full of machinery. Millers also traditionally wore white clothing. The reason being that for many years the millers did not have a means of cleaning grain. So if their wore white and could maintain a white appearance to their customers perhaps what they were producing was relatively clean and free of contamination. Millers also tend to wear full beards to protect their faces from stone chips in dressing millstones and from the cold of the mill in the winter.

Apprentices would often wear their regular clothing. The miller's wife sometimes would help her husband working in the mill, or make the smocks or aprons the miller wore. Sometimes the miller's helpers or apprentices were the miller's own children. The interaction of the miller's wife in the business of the mill was perhaps more commonplace in England and Europe where the mill building and the miller's house was connected in one common structure. The problem with mills and houses or cottages connected together, is that mills tend to blow up and catch fire, not to mention they are located in flood plans. It England and Europe it was common to find a mill and the miller's dwelling connected together but in America there was more land so they could become separate. (33) I have only see two mills in the United States were the mill and the house are connected together, the Gulden's Mill along Maiden Creek, Blandon, Berks County, Pennsylvania, and the Obadiah La Tourette Mill, Long Valley, New Jersey, a few miles down the road from the Cooper Mill. The Gulden's Mill (circa 1791 mill and circa 1792 miller's house) has two doors that connected the mill and the house together on the first and second floor, while the mill in Long Valley has only one connection of the mill's main grinding floor level. In a custom mill the miller's wife may have some sort of interaction with the mill's customers but it becomes very unlikely with a larger merchant milling operation. (34) The miller's wife was often unseen and had her own work to do at home, especially if the miller also owned a store, she would be more likely connected with that type of business rather than the mill.

The Argyle or Blagdon Mill that stood above Peirce Mill on Rock Creek in Washington, D. C. was originally two separate mill operations. A paper mill and a flour mill in separate buildings. The paper mill later became a bone mill grind the bones of dead farm animals. The smell of the bone mill could be smelled a long distance away and operations separate because of the maggots on the putrefying flesh could not contaminate the flour. It was common for a flour mill to also contain a plaster mill, because after all the mill needed plaster to repair French millstones. Like the Argyle Paper Mill machinery that was later used to grind up animal bones instead of rags, a plaster mill could also be used to grind up corn cobs or tan bark. Adams Mill below Peirce Mill along with Chapman's Mill also contained a plaster mill.

There were some woman millers, like there was a famous woman blacksmith in Chicago, which people would write poems about. Depending upon the type of business and location of the mill, the miller's helpers may or may not have worn shoes while in working in the mill. If shoes were worn then the shoes would have soles that would not slip on the flour polished floors, and also be able to hold on the wet ground around the mill. A miller would know enough to not be working in the mill with his suspenders hanging down around his waist because of the turning machinery. Mills can be very cold places to work in the winter so the miller and his helper would be warmly dressed in the winter months often wearing all of their clothing. Workers in the mill would have dust covered hair and skin, and thus the nickname for the miller, miller's apprentice, and or the mill cat with the name "Dusty." (35) Millers or workers working in a mill would have the common miller's cough, which was a common ailment from breathing in the flour dust. There were all sorts of cures that claimed to cure this ailment, the main ingredient was usually turpentine. The bakers would also suffer from this somewhat. The potters would suffer from "gray" lung, and the coal miners would suffer from "black" lung, while the millers suffered from "white" lung.

The miller in Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," is basically going around in life, fat, drunk, and stupid. While he was thinking he was outwitting his customers, and the two local students, they were making love to his wife and daughter. (36) The miller's if they operated their mill by a system of barter charged very little over a long period of time. Because of the miller's character he was influenced by the sober nature of the milling process itself. Found in literature are many descriptions of millers. Many of them are jolly, warm-hearted individuals, who became important members of their communities. The miller's are often a little wider of girth compared to that of farmers, blacksmiths, and sawyers, but generally well content with their lot in life. (37) Milling is a trade that has been traditionally exempt from military service perhaps this is why so many Quakers have been attracted to the profession. (38) Mills are full of gossip and news of the area brought far and wide by the customers of the mill, but this does not mean that the miller is a gossipmonger, his business is more of the grain and how it is ground. (39)

Besides the group of farmers or individuals that would be the mill's customers, the miller would have contacts with other trade or craftsman in the area. Some of these people would be a millwright, perhaps a millstone dresser, and the blacksmith. If its a merchant mill then the mill would have its own millstone dresser or if large enough would have a crew of men who did nothing but dress millstones. The miller had to deal or barter with the blacksmith to have the mill picks tempered, and other metal parts repaired or made. A merchant mill would also either have its own copperage or purchase dry coppers from a local copper. The miller would also interact with a weaver who would make cotton flour sacks for the mill. These are seamless with no side seam, and their only seam is sewn along the bottom. If the miller's wife did not make what candles that was used in the mill, the miller would have to buy or barter for candles, sack tying cord, ink, and grease such as tallow made from animal fats. The miller would also have to deal with the local tannery for leather belting and leather lacing, besides perhaps the local woodworker to make him wooden replacement gear teeth, cogs, and rungs or staves for wooden gears. The miller or the craftsman making these replacement parts would have to boil them in a large pot or cauldron in raw linseed oil to impregnate the wood with a lubricant and to harden the surface of the wood. These and other the individuals would interact with the miller, his wife and apprentices along with the visitors. Portions of the grain or flour the miller collected in his tolls were used for barter for items he needed for the mill or his family. Some mills also served as post offices like the country or general store. So the mill was often the one place in a community that people or individuals would go to more to than any other place. (40)

Mills because they grind grain sometimes are located near whisky distilleries. George Washington when through a series of three drunken millers over a 30 period. He had a whisky distillery near the mill at Mount. Vernon, Virginia, and every time Washington turned his back, the miller was getting drunk at the distillery while ships were at the wharf waiting for barrels of flour to be exported to the West Indies. When Washington was away from home in the service of his country, he was always writing home asking how is the mill is doing. Washington provided a house, a salary, animals, a meat allotment per year, and a miller's helper. He even gave the miller an added bonus at Christmas time. Washington through his secretary wrote Oliver Evans for recommendations to hire a sober miller. They exchanged letters back and forth but Washington would not fire any of his drunken millers and hire a sober miller. This problem that lasted for a 30 year period eventually lead to Washington's death. He had to make daily trips to check on the miller when he was home at Mount Vernon. One day he got caught in a cold rain and sleet storm, and got a bad cold and strep throat. George Washington died from the cure but it was because of his miller.

Across from the Peirce Mill there was also a whisky distillery that made rye whisky and peach brandy. I have seen one of the bottles from the 1811 Still House, and understand that it was the best peach brandy produced in America at that time. At the Washington's Mill at Perryopolis, Pennsylvania, there was also a whiskey distillery, besides a fulling mill which was build later. Many rural mills also had distilleries or supplied ground corn to moonshine stills. The common place thing for a mill that suppled a moonshine still was for it to either be hidden in the woods away from the main roads or sit along the road and look derelict during the daylight hours grind only at night. This does not mean that most millers had a drinking problem. Millers knew enough that it was not safe to drink while around the turning machinery. I know someone from Denmark who once told me they had a relative who owned a windmill. When day when their relative was working at the windmill they got caught on the sail arm, and carried around in the air several revolutions before he got tossed off onto a wagon landing on his back. She said he was never right after that experience, but I suspect that he may never have been right before that. Of the two commercial mills I worked in in Pennsylvania, only one of them we kept liquor around. We never touched or drank any of it, we had it under the counter so the owner could give a salesman a drink once and a while. I have been to a lot of mills and studied their histories and for the most part miller's don't have a drinking problem.

The Dusty Miller, French Canadian, Monsieur Felix Fortin, Miller.

For the most part most millers, I think enjoy what they do. They may have been born or married into a milling family. There are different levels of interest in their trade. Like anything else, there are some people to whom it is just a job and when they walk away from it for the day they do not want to hear or speak about mills. Most miller's in generally enjoy what they do, have a good living, and always have a story to tell. History can be told in the form of storytelling, but how can you discover the "truth" in what really happened? This may be the difference between the stories that make history and the stories that make folklore. (41) Many millers know about other mills in their area and stories that happened in other mills. A horrible thing may never have happened in their mill but they may know of some mill that had a tragedy occur. With the coming of the modern era, there were milling journals and millers societies (ones of state organizations and national groups) that meant millers would travel to conferences and get to know other millers in their own state or nationally. (42) The mills that I was connected with in Pennsylvania, they belonged to a Pennsylvania millers association, and knew of many other mills and people across the state. We would receive publications annually that listed the operating mills. Charlie Howell was much like Clarence "Red" Moffatt who worked at F. A. Drake's Mill, every time you saw him, he had a new story or joke to tell you. (43)

There is a bizarre book by Vance Randolph, which is titled, "Pissing in the Snow & Other Ozark Folktales," University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Illinois, 1976. This book was originally published in 1955 as, 'The Devil's Pretty Daughter." The book is full of "bawdy" off-colored country humor that departs from the academic prudery that until recently has restricted the amount of bawdy folklore available for study, which has no place in interpretation. Most of the stories have to do with the miller and the size of the male genital. (44)

It is far better to tell ghost stories rather than resorting to off-colored humor. (45) Even if the telling of ghost stories can get you in trouble. After Graves Mill on Graves Mill Road closed in Lynchburg, Virginia, was closed down entirely shortly after 1956. The mill became a popular as a local lovers lane hangout at night. The owner of the mill paid someone every Halloween for several days to run around covered in a sheet using a flashlight underneath. Some say that Graves Mill was burned down because stories got published in the local newspaper that the mill was haunted. People would stop the owner and threaten him on the street that one day they were going to burn down the mill because it is haunted. Then finally one hot summer night in July of 1967 two teenage boys burned down the mill to the ground. It seems that in the South the attitude towards ghosts and what ghost do in local stories is more sinister than in the North. If you feel that it needs to be part of the regular program at Halloween or other times of the year, make sure the programing guides say the miller will be telling ghost stories (collected from the area), and not to specifically state that your mill is haunted.

First person interpretation can be very interesting and exciting in an old mill, but it is difficult to do and do correctly. It takes a lot of research to do correctly, and to plan out. You have to plan out the interaction with the visitor, besides the interaction with other characters, who is the visitor? Is this stranger a potential customer of the mill, who has brought no grain to be ground by the mill. Or can the miller (in his historical character) would simply say go away don't waste our time. Modern visitors in strange clothing and strange speech who come into a mill without grain to be ground could be interpreted by the character of the miller as spirits because he stole one too many excessive tools, or visions from his drunken state.

One of the big pit falls of doing first person interpretation is that may mills today just do not look like they did in any time in their historical history. I just picked up the current issue of the "Blue Ridge County," and in an article it talks about the miller in Mingus Mill barely making a living doing grinding using a system of barter. Basically this mill was made to look more rural country and old timey. Some of the interior machinery in the Mingus Mill (on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) was also removed for the same reasons. Here they turned a flour milling to a grist mill. On the second floor of the Mingus Mill is a large flour bolter that occupies almost the entire second floor. This bolter has 4 separate reels in it side by side, two at the head and two at the tail. This mill was not a rural custom mill but a flour milling operation, and I suspect the machinery that supplied the large bolter with material was a number of roller mills. Historically when the water turbine and roller system was installed the millstones could have been abandoned as outdated and obsolete milling machinery.

The Wye Mill, in Wye Mills, Maryland, is a mixture of different periods of milling machinery. The mill has a modern rebuilt Fitz Water Wheel and a roller milling system. In colonial times the mill would have had a wooden water wheel operating two pairs of millstones. A saw mill was next to the mill with its own water wheel. And then not to mention all of the other modern intrusions upon the scene. The Wright's Grist Mill in Old Sturbridge Village, is a wonderfully constructed mill in appearance. The mill is located in a setting with other historical buildings as part of a living history park. The mill was constructed in 1938. The machinery came from the Porter Grist Mill, in Hebron, Connecticut. The millstones and original water wheel from a grist mill, in South Egremont, Massachusetts, and is powered by a wooden breast shot water wheel. In a grist mill the millstones should always be on the inside wall where the water wheel is directly on the outside. The millstones require 60% of the power that the water wheel generates. For some unknown reason the millstones were placed on the opposite wall away from the water wheel. An additional shaft that would not have been in a mill originally was installed. This mill has had nothing but operational problems since it was constructed and for the most part does not operate but does living history programs. Too much power is lost before it ever gets to the millstones with this "erector set" approach to mill gearing that is totally incorrect. The way the millstones are placed in the mill, they might as well be located in the mill's attic. This mill has become a picturesque part of the New England landscape with its saltbox shaped roof. The breast shot water wheel was the most common water wheel type used in the United States at the time. There are only 9 mills that retains their original configuration so this may be a limiting factor in doing successful first person interpretation.

Another pit fall is imposing your values of today upon the millers of yesterday. An example of this is a person that was doing research on the daily life of the miller historically has presumed that the miller would always go to church on Sundays. If you would do some digging into folklore and history he might have discovered that the miller traditionally has problems going to church on Sundays because he would rather be working at his mill on Sundays. A big part of this is found in folklore, the miller's Easter Sunday, which ends up not being on Easter because the miller was busy working in his mill. When the miller was questioned, he might have answered I went last Sunday, or I will go next Sunday. Another example is that the Jewish Sabbath is on Saturdays which is different from the most Christian faiths having the Sabbath of Sundays. The Seventh Day Adventist's Sabbath is on the traditional Saturdays and not on Sundays. (46)

Flour miller Lorenzo Recanzone, Northern Nevada Flour Mill, circa 1922.
From colonial to modern millers they tended to wear torn dust covered clothing.

I don't think that interpretation should begin and end with first person living history interpretation. After all it is an abstraction of life. It is the interpretation of history and events by us, today at our time and with our current knowledge and understanding of how we think things happened. Some times it becomes a trap that prevents us from doing other types of interpretation. I am sure that if an historical figure were to come back today and find himself being portrayed in first person, they would find it disturbing and somewhat evil or perverse. I think that Hal Holbrook performance first person interpretation of Mark Twain, in "Mark Twain Tonight," is perhaps the best first person interpretation that I have ever seen. I saw the original television airing of the program, I have record albums, audio tapes, video tapes, and I have seen it performed by Mr. Holbrook several times on stage in Washington, D. C. He began doing this interpretation in college and has researched it enough that the information he presents each time varies, and is not just a set scripted program. First person cannot be based upon historical novels or characters as Johnny Tremain, unless you are trying to create a composite character. One of the problems with basing first person upon historical novels is that you create character in a storyline with either heroes or villains, much like the original author would create characters that were used in the novel. All good histories are written on the basis of evidence, but historical novels take liberties with ideas and opinions and often put a spin on reality to sell books. In the process you would end up creating little dramas that are based upon either actual events in the mills history or events that would have happened in the day to day operation of the mill. If you create events or dramas that are fictional make sure that you inform visitors that these are only conjecture and not part of the mill's real history. (47) In doing first person you need to make it known, that this is a belief common in their the day, or times, and or common folklore. (48) There is much mythology and folklore that surrounds the mill, the miller, the process of milling, bread and bread-making. This is often was is done in first person mill interpretation they fill in for lack of evidence or history with folklore and sayings. (49) Common history books of an area or source reference books just does not have enough information to do effective first person mill interpretation.

Artist drawings of mills are not very technically accurate especially in how they represent different types of water wheels. Artist sometimes based their works not upon reality but upon spiritual world and matters of the heart. Today people have seemed to have forgotten that for centuries construction was not based upon plans or drawings of what something looked like. The accepted method of construction for ships and even for water and windmills, was first build a model of what you want to construct. Then you take the model apart and scale up the parts to a larger size or full size. Many ships were constructed in this manor well into the 1700's with out any plans. The average person who had the money to invest in such things did not have the basic understanding of building plans, but if you showed them a model of what you intended to build. Early millwright's shops were full of all sorts of models from water wheels to complete mills. This worked as long as mills remained very simple machines, or you captured an enemies gun ship and want to make that design your own. History, with its facts and evidence, is also an interpretation of the past. (50) There is more than one cause for an event, more than one kind of outcome, and more than one way of looking at their relationship. I recently told someone that it takes a lot of hard work to do first person interpretation effectively, and when it is not done in that manor, it can be very badly done. First person should also has to be tailored to the age level and understanding of the audience.

Artifacts found around a mill varies from the date of which the mill was constructed and operated, to recent events. If a mill burned down from a fire, sometimes metal parts were removed for scrap metal. The problem with many mills is that they are located in flood plans and many important artifacts are carried away in floods even the heavy millstones are deposited, and lost miles away down stream. The action of the tides or streams wash away many important artifacts from tidal powered mills. Some of the archaeological artifacts uncovered from a mill site can be gudgeons, stone and or metal bearings, pieces of millstones and or buhr stone blocks, the backing stone of French millstones, millstone metal bands, millstone spindles, mill picks, and parts of metal machinery. (51) Depending upon the time period sometimes clay pips are found but corn cob pipes disappear in time just like wooden gears, teeth and cogs.

Another problem in finding artifacts from earlier mills is that they were often cannibalized into new mills. This includes every thing from mill parts to tracts of land. A good book to read for a better understanding of how old mill tracts get subdivided up and become new mill tracts is, "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. (52)

Peirce Mill is a good example of a site that had a number of different mills over the years. The original mill was built on or near the site of the present Peirce Mill, by George Read in 1747. This was a subdivision of a larger land tract originally called, "The Gift" patented to James White in 1762. In 1790 William Deakins senior build a new mill with Oliver Evans improvements. This was a two story frame mill with two pairs of millstones. In 1794 William Deakins junior deeded "The Gift" and part of " Mill Seat" to Isaac Peirce (originally spelled Pearce). In 1810 Isaac Peirce built a saw mill and in 1820 Mr. Peirce built a new and larger flour mill. In the year of 1829 Isaac Peirce did some final modifications to his flour mill. In about 1870 to 1876, the then current owner Peirce Shoemaker build a second saw mill to replace the decaying original one of 1810. The trees had grown back enough the area to cut the new growth. The second mill that was built by William Deakins, the dependents of the Peirce's still have a pair of millstones from Deakins Mill at the Cloverdale Mansion. I would also guess that some of the metal parts were scavenged and went into the new mill, like millstone spindles.

Frank Langell who first worked at Porters Mill (also called Williston Mill circa 1778) when he left the mill, he bought a lot of the machinery (the roller system and the Fitz Water Wheel) from the owner and installed them in his newly purchased Upper Hunting Creek Mill (circa 1681 a.k.a. Murphy's Mill, Linchester Mill and Langell's Mill), Linchester, Maryland, which he operated for more than 50 years. In 1730 the Upper Hunting Creek washed down stream in a floor and it was relocated to a new foundation. Early tub mills when they stopped operating often the millstones and any metal parts were removed leaving the wood allowed to decay leaving behind very little evidence that a mill ever existed. Their dams being just several logs across a stream and their sluice boxes sometimes being hollowed out logs that fed water to a building often no larger that 12 feet by 12 feet. The Reagan and the Junglebrook Tub Mills on the Roaring Fork Auto Trail in the Smoky Mountains are good examples.

One time someone made an observation about my interpretation, they said that I must have read Marion Nicoll Rawson's book, "Little Old Mills." I answered that I had read it years ago (something like 10 or 15 years before). Why? I asked. They said, that it was evident from my interpretation that I had read "Little Old Mills." I am not sure that it was a complement to the late Marion Rawson writings, or just that her book had such an impact upon me. I can't create a first person mill interpretation guide in one article, this is only a beginning, a place to start from. Part of the problem is that there is not one good source book for information. (53)

I tired first person living history a number of times while I worked at Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C. I did this a number of times and in different situations; by myself where I would slip in and out of character; with other individuals who were the miller's apprentice, etc., and when someone was at the door to greet visitors and explain what the way the program was being presented that day. The basic overall reaction of the visitors was that they just did not get it and had a lot of trouble understanding what was happening. Even when it was done in conjunction to the mill in operation, and doing historical skills or demonstrations. (54) The reasons I think it did not go over successfully was that the visitors had no history of seeing first person living history interpretation at the site; there was too many modern intrusions upon the scene in and around the mill for it to work successfully; I needed more to work with the first person character, like other characters and props like a horse and wagon with a load of grain; and in general people came there only to see the mill run and operate. It was the sort of situation if some people walked into the mill and it was either frozen, broken down or we were presenting some type of other programs they would walk out and write letters of complaint to Congress. After all it was publicized as Washington D.C.'s last operating flour mill. No matter how much research I had done into character development and historical source reference information of the time period, I still lacked the basic elements: like a water powered mill operated from Rock Creek (rather than by pumps and electricity); modern electric lights were everywhere in the mill, and a telephone that would ring within the building; there were frequent car crashes outside; loss of the water powered saw mill; the miller's house and other buildings to set the scene; the mill was a single historical building in the middle of a 1,500 acre recreation park in Northwest Washington; not to mention other props in the mill that make the mill a real mill such as a mill cat. I know some people conduct first person interpretation to tour groups while walking around major cities, but I had presented it under the premise that you are in for an extra treat today. I think in time with a few minor changes could have been made to the mill and changes in the publicity of programs it would have worked successfully.

With a mill staff most of the time of one, myself, it was difficult to operate the mill in a manor that it would have been operated historically. I also did not have the power to really operate the mill. The way they restored the mill the second time they totally under estimated how much power it takes to run a mill. They installed a system of electricity and pumps, I barely had enough power to run one pair of millstones. The most water I had available was about 1,450 gallons per minute, and I needed 3 thousand gallons per minute just to operate one pair of millstones. The mill had three pairs of millstones, and a system of Oliver Evans automated milling machinery. I did not have enough power available to operate a pair of millstone and an elevator at the same time. So therefore, I could not operate the mill in an historical manor. I was only able to operate an Oliver Evans mill as if it was a pre-Oliver Evans mill using only the meal bin sifters in the basement. I could not think about operating the elevators, augers (conveyors), grain cleaners (rolling screens), hopper-boy, and bolters at the same time as a pair of millstones. I could not operate two pairs of millstones at the same time grinding two different types of grain, but I could operate the sack hoist with a pair of millstones. Then the health regulations were a limiting factor with not enough time or often the staff to clean properly, because the more machinery I used each day, the more time I would have to spend cleaning at the end of the day to maintain the health standards and good housekeeping. Many of these problems are not unique to just Peirce Mill.

What would have also helped I think, was if visitors would always encounter someone behind the information sales desk area, and if I had separate period clothing to wear maintaining and lubricating the machinery, another set to wear when in cleaning it from the period clothing, I wore to run and operate the mill. As it was I was already wearing too many hats for the average visitor to understand who I was beyond just the miller. I was to most people and school groups the miller at the mill. Then taking that role and costume to another time period and character identity was a big the thing to over come. (55) Some parks and sites you only would see the interpretation staff in their living history clothing. Other types of reenactors when they slip on their historical period clothing they instantly become that first person character, but millers don't always wear historical clothing to do first person living history interpretation. I was not given regular time to do research during my normal work hours and could only go so far on my own time because I was interested in the subject matter. I was doing everything from building maintenance to sometimes gardening to picking up trash in the area. People I know who worked for the National Park Service of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal either in Georgetown or Great Falls had to be willing to work with mules and be able to play a musical instrument (and sing songs). (56) When I worked at Peirce Mill, at times, I would volunteer in the evenings for their candle light programs, and become the colonial miller at the Old Stone House in Georgetown. Besides my change in clothing, and glasses, my only prop was a cotton sack of flour or a flour barrel. This was something that I enjoyed doing very much, and it would add another character to their drama.

Remember this is only a starting or beginning point. (57) The pitfall of creating too much first person interpretation is that it can overshadow the demonstrations of the milling operation. A good master gives enough tools and information to help his apprentice and walks away to let him discover some of the answers on their own, and to exceed him in life. The rest is up to you to discover and learn from. (58) I can't do it all for you, I have given away more than most others have already. All I can say is that it is helpful to have friends in mill-places.

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Copyright 2001 by T. R. Hazen