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Oliver Evans and Peirce Mill

"The Unofficial Oliver Evans' National Historic Site"

Peirce Mill,
Rock Creek Park,
Washington, D. C.

The original restoration plan for Peirce Mill, based upon Isaac Peirce's original plan.

The Most Complete Oliver Evans's Automated Flour Mill.
The Fitz Water Wheel Companies best Restoration of an Oliver Evans Mill
Oliver Evans and Peirce Mill

Theodore R. Hazen,
Master miller (mill operator), Millwright,
Curator of Molinology, Site Supervisor, and Lead Interpreter,
Pierce Mill, Rock Creek Park,
National Park Service, August 1986.

Oliver Evans and Peirce Mill - Outline.

1. Introduction.
2. Who was Oliver Evans? A. What effect did he have on flour milling. B. What effect did he have on agriculture.
3. How did the Evans system come to mills along Rock Creek.

A. Automated milling in Maryland and Washington, D. C. 1783-1812.
1. How it effected mills being built here.
2. Connections with seaports.
B. D. C. Federal mills on the Potomac to the Federal mills (Lyons Mills) on Rock Creek by Pigman & Crow.
C. Cloud family of millwrights and millers.
1. Along the Brandywine River.
2. Along the Potomac.
3. Apprenticeship (teaching) of Isaac Pierce.
D. Benjamin Stoddert builds Columbian Mill and Pigman, Crow & Argyle have Argyle Mills built.
4. How Pierce Mill demonstrates this technology and how it is a contradiction in the mill.
A. How Pierce Mill would operate if not had the Oliver Evans system.
B. How Pierce Mill operated with this system.
5. How mills along Rock Creek adopted the automated flour milling system.
A. Abandoned the old obsolescence of the traditional techniques.
1. White's Mills & Deakins (Reeds) Mill.
B. Risk of new system and how milling systems failed against the modern system and the railroads in 1870's and 1880's.
C. How it effected mills along Rock Creek.


The story of the Rock Creek mills is essentially local history, although it also is a part of the general story of agricultural commerce in the United States in the nineteenth century. The four largest merchant mills of Rock Creek (Lyons, Adams, Peirce and Argyle Mills) were of the post revolutionary period. These four mills of Rock Creek had a daily capacity of 340 barrels of flour per day, which totals 66,640 pounds of flour. In the early nineteenth century, the market value would bring in $2880.00 dollars to $3740.00 dollars per day for the four mills together. These mills being: Federal Mill (Lyon's Mill), Columbian Mill (Adams Mill), Peirce's Mill (Shoemaker's Mill), and Argyle Mill (Blagdon Mill).

What made this a practical possibility began in Maryland in 1782-3, when Oliver Evans, would design a milling system which would exceed all others. By 1787 his type of mill design were being built throughout Maryland. And by 1790-96, the Evans type of mill were being built throughout the newly created District of Columbia.


What started in a back room of a country store in the village of Tuchahoe (Nine Bridge), a few miles from Wye Mills, Maryland, with the building of paper models, would create a technological change? The beginning of automation, this was the first important American contribution to the industrial development after the American Revolution.


Oliver Evans developed his system for the automatic flour mill. In 1783 he would take his ideas to build a mill on Red Clay Creek along the Faulkland Road in Delaware.

Since large scale merchant milling came into existence about 1750, with French millstones, rolling screens, and Dutch fans, they still carried grain and meal on their backs, and bolted it by hand, even in merchant milling operations. Before the Revolution millers used rolling screens and fans. Fine bolting cloth became a standard equipment, but they sought better ways to process wheat.

Oliver Evans:

Oliver Evans, one of the early industrial revolutions inventive genius, changed American typical pre-Colonial grist mills. He was born in Newport, Delaware in 1755. He from a young age was continually experimenting with labor saving devices and new used for gears. Evans greatest accomplishment was the automated flour mill.

His system of elevators, and descenders moved grain through several stories of the mill. He also devised a system of horizontal movers, with the endless screw, and an exceedingly original improvement, the hopper-boy, a revolving rake, spreader and cooler, used in drying and cooling of flour and meal.

His genius was acknowledged by George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson who commissioned Evans to build and install machinery in their mills.

Evans connected the milling process into one continuous system from cleaning reels and fans to rectilinear bolters (reels).

In 1787 Evans type of mills were being built in Maryland. This included the future Maryland section of the District of Columbia. In 1790-96 Evans type of mills were being built the District of Columbia.

The Evans system continued the demand for white, refined, keep-able flour and prevented dishonest grist millers from adulterating brown flour with sawdust.

Who was Oliver Evans?

Oliver Evans was born on September 13, 1755, at Newport, New Castle County, Delaware. He was the fifth child of Charles and Ann Evans. Oliver had four sisters and seven brothers.

At the age of fourteen, he began his apprenticeship to a wheelwright. During his daily work he would save wood shavings, so at the end of the work day, burn them to study by. He was not allowed to waste his master's money to purchase candles.

At the age of 19, he enrolled in Delaware Militia Company during the Revolutionary War. He saw no active military service during the war.

At the age of 22, he invented a machine to make wire (staples) carding teeth, used in carding wool and hand carders. It would bend, and cut 1,000 teeth per minute. It would also pierce the leather backing, and inert the teeth, making it possible to make 35 pairs of wool carders in a day. He made no money on his inventions, since there was no patent laws at the time in effect for the colonist living in the English Colony of America. This was something he would always remember and be a driving force throughout the rest of his life.

In 1782, Oliver Evans, with his younger brother Joseph, moved to the eastern shore of Maryland, to a place called Nine Bridge, also known as Tuchahoe on Tuckahoe Creek, between Caroline and Queen Anne Counties. They opened a village store serving the local farming community. During this time there, he saw inadequate and antiquated, primitive methods used in the local mills of the area, such as Wye Mills circa 1671, Murray's Mill circa 1681 and the Wright's Mill.

In the summer of 1783, he completed the idea for the elevator and first model of paper, and by September developed the hopper-boy.

In 1782, his brothers John and Theophilus purchased land from their father, on the west bank of Red Clay Creek, were stood a stone mill built in 1742 by Jonathan Evans, father of Charles Evans. Oliver Evans had the mill in running order in September of 1785. The mill stood near Newport on Faulkland Road where it crosses Red Clay Creek.

Note: No historical marker or sign marks the location. A portion of the foundation wall can be seen from the Faulkland Road.

From Evans discovers into the great amount of work involved in milling and the problems of contamination, with grain and flour storage on floors, Evans said, "People did not even then like to eat dirt, if they could see it."

Evans continued the demand for white flour, refined flour and keep-able flour (with a longer shelf life), since brown colored highly nutritious stuff the millers once worked so hard to sift out by hand was also the color of dirt!

Evans studied the works of John Smeaton, and English millwright. Oliver Evans took Smeaton's experiments and his ideas to build a mill, which would as Evans said, "Exceed all others built at that time."

What Effect did He have on Flour Milling?

Oliver Evans automatic flour mill, operated by one man powered by water. The mill employed 6 men closing barrels. They turned out 100,000 bushes of grain into flour a year.

Oliver Evans created new changes in cleaning, grinding, cooling, bolting, and packing. Along with more importantly how material is moved throughout the mill. Millers once carried sacks up ladders to the top of the mill or attic, and some times by hoisting it by hand. The opened, dumped it into a hopper, into a cylindrical rolling screen to remove dirt and chaff. It fell to the millstones, ground, and then fell into a meal box. Then they hoisted it to the top floor, and by shoveling it into a wooden bucket, it was then dumped on the floor to spread it with a wooden rake, cooling it and drying it. Then it was poured into a bolting reel, from there the sifted flour would be shoveled out of chests into barrels.

Evans's 5 improvements or devices were the bucket elevator (consisting of little wooden or tin cups on a leather belt backing), a screw conveyor (or auger), the drill, the descender and hopper-boy. These were connected into a automated system powered by water and dependent upon gravity, to operate it. So it decreased the milling time and the time it was exposed to insect infestations, and dirt. Evans elevator was an endless belt with metal or wooden cups which could lift 300 bushels of grain per hour. The endless screw conveyor moved material horizontally. The next tow devices were not intended for all mills but found more uses in other industries than milling. The drill an endless belt to move flour or material horizontally or up a slight incline. The descender an endless belt to move flour or material downward (a decline) by its own weight. The drill and descender were specialized feed inventions, which were not needed in all mills.

The hopper-boy, took its name from a boy, whose job it once was to rake and cool the flour and meal. Evans device contained a rotating rake, to cool hot and damp meal so it could be sifted without sticking in the bolting screens or turning rancid.

The significance of Oliver Evans inventions was mass production. Change from the old method which was a step by step process. Now with Evans' system, it could be controlled by one man (or operator) which would liberate the miller and pave the way for agricultural advantages.


Was the term "mill operator" develop with Oliver Evans system of automated flour milling?

Is this why my official job title working in an Oliver Evans's automatic flour mill that of a "mill operator" rather than that of a miller?

Problems with the System of Milling before Oliver Evans:

1. Problems with over speeding of machinery. No other machinery operating from the water wheel and gears, was the millstones only. So there was no other machinery to take over the load or speeds. So there was a great chance of a run-away milling machinery. Damage to the millstones and or the gearing.

2. Too much labor involved in the milling process. Milling was a system of separate and individual steps. Each step had to be completed before starting the next step. Evans connected the steps into one process. The automated milling system. Were all steps are continuously going on at the same time.

Oliver Evans only changed the process. The product was still flour, but that flour was of a more consistent and improved quality.

3. To increase output, of a mill, you would have to increase labor and machines. This mean installing more millstones, gears and water wheels. The old pre-Evans system, labor and machines could not produce more. You would have to increase the amount of labor and add machinery. The mills wee human and hand operated milling systems. So a new system needed to be developed, to increase production.

4. Machines, bolters, cleaners were designed for hand feed with human factor the involved. This created problems of over feeding, resulting in poor flour, not constant quality of flour.

5. The miller and the millstone controls in the mill's basement. The problem with this was: The miller needed to be with his millstones. It is too damp and cold in the basement, and the miller often got sick because of it. There was poor lighting in the mill's basement. This effected the miller's eyesight and safety. The mills first floor was only used to fill the hopper and to dress the millstones. This meant that the mill was operated and its business conducted in the damp basement. The miller (along with his helpers or apprentices), and his customers exposed to dampness and cold. Records and paper, flour, cloth, and other objects suffered. Evans changed this with the elevator and millstone controls on the first floor.

Peirce Mill originally had its millstone controls on the first floor. The mill also originally had three pairs of millstones and one pair of "ending stones."

6. The flour was too easily contaminated and exposed to dirt, because it was stored as grain or flour in heaps on floors, and continuously handled and rehandled, moved from place to place by people.

7. The mill building did not relate to the interior machinery. So the form did not follow the function, that of milling. Before Evans a mill had a water wheel, gears and millstones, and one big empty building. It could look like any other building of the locality. Evans filled up the building with machinery whose job it was to produce flour.

8. Mills had limited output of flour and had limited input from also human hand operated raw materials, the agricultural system. Evans directly and indirectly changed both systems.

9. Great amounts of spillage and loss in physical movement of materials. Evans changed that, he contained everything in chutes, bins or machines, instead of in the open air where it spend most of its time in the milling process.

10. Bolting often was a separate process. Often found in a separate mill, a boulting or bolting mill. Flour was either bolted by the bolting mill or by the baker. This meant that another toll was taken for the flour. The French believed that flour bolting was such a completed process that it had to be done in a building separate from the flour mill. Evans had it all going on under one roof.

11. Water wheels, had limited power design. To increase power to run another or additional millstones, you would have to add another water wheel. Evans improved gearing systems over the old, and how power was used in mills.

12. The total milling time was long. Evans shortened the milling time with his system. Long milling time meant, a long time that material was exposed to insect infestation, heat, dirt, birds, animals and rodents. Evans system greatly reduced material to possible insect infestation and from other contamination.

13. Milling system before Oliver Evans could not keep up with new developments in farming, so why should farming make any advancements, if milling could not keep up with the increase of production.

With the Oliver Evans system of automated flour milling, a mill that once operated with 4, 6 8 or even 12 men and boys, could now be operated by one or two men, and produce three times as much product of better and consistent quality. It was a great labor savings and at the time there was a great labor shortage in the country.

14. Small custom mills and large merchant mills used the same system of operation, and the same throughout the world.

15. Millers saw nothing wrong with their system and were reluctant to accept change to their system.

It was an insult to their trade or craft to be replaced by wooden devices or "wooden millers" as them referred to them.

So before anyone would say, there are any problems with the milling system or the need for change with the old ways. Oliver Evans saw there was a problem and solved it. The trick or struggle was to get others to accept the change.

What Effect did He have by His Inventions on the Milling System:

1. Oliver Evans solved the milling labor problem, even before the industry became aware that there was a problem. The term "industry" did not come into usage until the year of 1812.

2. Labor savings to the flour industry.

3. Increase the flour mills output.

4. American mills became superior to mills throughout the world.

5. Increase the export of trade in flour.

6. Large merchant mills took advantage over smaller outdated mills. They had more capital to invest in Evans improvements. Evans new machinery was costly, it required a large amount of capital and larger amount of power to operate the mill. More money had to be spent on the mill buildings, mill dams, mill water wheels, and mill gearing systems which required a larger expenditure of capital tan ever before.

What Effect did He have by his Inventions on Agriculture and other Industries:

Oliver Evans automatic milling inventions created a show ball effect in other areas, some of these are:

1. Development of manufacturing, The change of industry from a handicraft to an automatic industrial process.

2. Growth of cities, centers of flour milling developed and grew.

3. Development of transportation, more grain and grain products needed to be transported from the farm to the mill, from the mill to the markets.

4. Created wider markets, increased flour production and improved quality of flour, created new flour markets.

5. Large scale production, increased output with less labor involved in the milling process.

6. Larger capital, mills profit increases, so the industry had more capital.

7. Localization in industry, flour milling centers developed and grew in areas near transportation and grain growing areas.

8. Milling centers needed to be close to wheat supply.

9. Development in agriculture, increase in production of the flour mills. This meant agriculture could then make developments to increase grain production. If the milling industry could not mill more, why make development to increase their production.

10. The milling industry came out of the dark ages so the agricultural industry could so as well.

How Evans System came to the Mills along Rock Creek:

When Oliver Evans began his work on improving flour manufacture, he was no experienced miller or millwright. Evans knew mechanical skills. He learned as a wheelwright's apprentice and later as a cotton and wool comb raker. He was a person of inventive imagination. Evans designed the automated milling process first in Maryland. Evans received a Maryland patent for his machinery. The religious principles of the Quaker millers and millwrights advanced first the technological change with Evans patent in 1787. This began the Quaker millers enthusiastic interest in Evans ideas. Oliver Evans belonged to the Society of Friends, and through them, they adopted the automated flour manufacture system.

Automated Milling in Maryland and the District of Columbia 1783 to 1812:

Oliver Evans most successful adverting for his system came with the publication of his book, "The Young Mill-Wright and Miller's Guide, in 1795. The first edition, Evans listed 622 of his original subscribers to his automated system. Among them were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In Evans' book, so well described the machinery and its operation, that any millwright could duplicate the innovations without additional instruction.

All one needed was to pay Oliver Evans his royalty. The United States Patent system began in 1790. Evans received the third patent issued on December 18, 1790. Evans raised his fee (from 25 dollars) and charged from 30 to 300 dollars. It was dependent upon the number of millstones the mill had.

Problems with Evans system in Maryland, the millers argued that his plan was that the millers could not produce any more white flour from a given quantity of wheat than with the existing machinery. Even though there was a savings in labor, profits did not increase from milling because profits declined because the capacity of the mills to manufacture flour had out stripped the supply of grain from the existing Maryland farmers. Evans opposition and competition among millers inflated the farmers price of wheat. So the farmers first benefited from the new system rather than millers irritated with Oliver Evans.

Evans system, the millers could produce more flour and the millers could profit from Evans ideas. Evans real achievement was the first engineering of industrial automation. By 1800 the major merchant mills throughout the Middle States and Upper South had adopted the automated process. Most mills in Maryland had adopted Evans's improvements. Most of the wheat raised in Western Maryland descended down the Potomac River to supply the mills around Georgetown and Alexandria. Mills in the area around Georgetown and the District of Columbia, began operating with Evans machinery before 1796. The spread of Evans automated milling spread and increased the number of mills doing merchant milling. With the savings in labor, and the merchant mills ability to produce flour exceptionally well to make export shipments. The millers had judged the obsolescence of the traditional technologies to risk adopting Evans plans for conventional systems and layout of additional capital.

The rapid spread of Evans automated milling in Maryland in the late 1700's and early 1800's, made this area the largest flour producing area in the United States after the War of 1812.

Oliver Evans died on April 21, 1819. Oliver Evans ideas were best suited for merchant milling rather than custom milling. During Evans lifetime only large mills used his inventions, by 1850 millers everywhere were using Evans inventions. It took longer for millers to adopt the steam engine. Evans first steam engine and boiler to operate a flour mill in Pittsburgh in 1809, with George Evans, the 23 year old son. It was not until 1890 did Evans dream for automated steam flour milling came true, when merchant mills switched to steam.

Maryland mills sprang up because of a shift away from tobacco to grain, and Baltimore became a center for that market. The new Oliver Evans mills made previous mills dwarfed in scale to earlier ones. Farmers planted more and more wheat, created new fields as number of grain dealers increased with the Evans type of mill.

The new mills were more tan adequate enough to grind all the wheat that would come to market. The Baltimore area mills created a leading flour milling area, surpassing New York in 1827, and surpassing Rochester, New York in production in 1836. There is a close connection with the areas installation of automated milling systems, agriculture, seaports of the area. Richmond became a big flour milling center from 1830 to 1850.

Among the subscribers to Oliver Evans, "The Young Mill-Wright and Miller's Guide," was two Quaker brothers, Issacher and Marlon Schofield, and their father Aaron Schofield. Issacher And Marlon tore down an earlier mill and erected a new one on the Adelphi Tract in 1796. The mill used the more technologically advance machinery using principles set forth by Oliver Evans. Ignatious Pigman and Company of Georgetown constructed many mills in the Washington area. Ignatious Pigman and partner Crow, constructed the largest mill along Rock Creek, Federal Mills in 1780. The Ignatious Pigman and Company were also subscribers to Oliver Evans system of milling in their millwright work. In 1795 they sold Federal Mills and built in the 1790's with Argyle. The three of them, Pigman, Crow and Argyle built Argyle Mills using the millwright skills of Isaac Peirce. In 1796 Pigman and Crow built D. C. Federal Mills along the Potomac River near Little Falls which they also operated. They would later moved again to Mongomery County In Maryland with a new mill.

Millwrights who wee mill builders, called millwrights were industrial entrepreneurs of their day. Everyone stood in awe of the millwright. In one old saying, "one drop of a millwright's sweat would kill a toad." This reflects a spiteful sort of respect for the industry and conning of the millwright. Once established, a well managed mill could generate substantial income for both its owner and miller who operated the enterprise. Both suspicion and resentment, wee attached to everyone who profited from the mill. In 1820 at the Adelphi Mill, which was a stone mill 55 feet by 46 feet, the miller and his 3 hands and the mill with its complete Oliver Evans machinery had an annual output worth between 20,000 and 22,500 dollars in flour and meal.

One of the group of millwrights who subscribed to Evans system at the Brandywine mills was millwright James Cloud, father of Abner Cloud, Sr. who taught Isaac Peirce the art and craft of millwrighting. The Clouds and Peirce wee also Quakers. D. C. Federal Mills was the closest mill complex to the Abner Cloud, Sr. and Jr.'s mill along the Potomac River.

It is interesting that Isaac Peirce decides to tare down the old mill and built a new mill the year after Oliver Evans' death. Many other Oliver Evans mills were suddenly being built just after his death, perhaps to avoid paying him his due or royalty?

How Peirce Mill Demonstrates the Oliver Evans System of Automatic Flour Milling:

Illustration From: "The Young Mill-Wright and Miller Guide," by Oliver Evans, Chapter 10, Article 89. "Application of the Forgoing Machines in the Process of Manufacturing Wheat into Superfine Flour," Plate VIII,. This illustration is not meant to show the plan of an actual mill, but merely the application and use of the foregoing machines. However, many millwrights took this illustration and used it to directly install machinery in a mill.

Peirce Mill incorporates the Evans system with three pairs of French millstones and one pair of "ending stones," a fan and rolling screen. This would later change in with the first mill restoration in the 1930's to three pairs of millstones. The millers apprentices emptied sacks into a tub which would hold 4 to 6 bushels of wheat. It was hoisted upstairs through trap doors to the granary in the loft, and the tempering and conditioning bins. The grain dropped to a bin above the millstones and to the hopper above the ending or chaff stones. The stones were set far apart, with no grinding taking place, but to loosen particles and rub them off. An elevator would carry the grain to the attic where it went through a double wire mesh rolling screen and fan. Then collected in a bin above the grinding stones. The use of the Dutch fans alone wee used in custom milling, and the use of the double wire rolling screens and complete fans were sued in merchant milling of the day.

There is a long standing tradition and story that says, that Peirce Mill did not have steps to the second floor and attic. It used only ladders through trap doors. The mill had but only one set of steps that were in front of the millstone platform or step (located in the center of the mill) down to the basement level. The steps were installed to the second floor and attic with the coming of the tea house period and retained during the mill restoration phase.

Peirce Mills over all plan incorporates machinery using new power applications, distribution of mechanical stress according to mechanical principles. The machinery arranged in a continuing sequence of operation, uses three of Evans devices to move grain and flour through the mill. The elevator, the screw conveyor, and hopper-boy. The elevator with metal cups on an endless belt set on two pulleys, enclosed on a wooden shaft to cut down on waste and dust. As the cups reach the top, they are turned upside down emptying their contents into chutes,set to deliver it to the next operation. Evans configuration of elevators, the size of Peirce Mill, with a belt 4 1/2 inches wide, with cups holding 8.8 cubic inches of grain, or 2. 5 pounds. Note: In the time that I have been at Peirce Mill, I have replaced the wooden elevator cups with leather bottoms because they have either come off the belt or broken apart inside of the elevator itself. The elevator cups are between 8 to 10 to 15 inches apart, over 3 pulleys, 24 inches in diameter at a speed of 126 buckets per minute. It would lift 300 bushels of grain in an hour. Lifting material in small increments, freeing up the miller's labor.

Evans screw conveyor inside long wooden troughs would move grain and ground flour laterally through the mill. When a conveyor was used for moving grain it would knock off loose smut and wheat wings. When moving ground flour it was some what cooled and dried. The hopper-boy spread flour in a circle to cool and dry it. Its vertical shaft is 6 feet tall with two horizontal arms at the bottom, each sweep the flour in a 7 foot circle. The arms each sweep the flour in a spiral delivering circle towards the center to a hole slightly off center in the floor, allowing the cool flour to drop to a bolter below. As the hopper-boy turned an aerating effect reduced the drying time. So grinding and bolting can be a continuous operation.

Peicre Mill also incorporated some traditional milling devices, such as warning bells that would tell the miller that the millstone hoppers were low on grain. They were simple warning bell systems. A bell was hung on the end of a leather strap through a hole in the floor, when the grain became low the strap allowed the bell to drop into the gear pit and ring. Stephen Kindig's Grist Mill at Lobachsville, Pennsylvania, also has these warning bells. A mill in Carroll Country, Maryland, has a warning bell system on their barrel packer.

in an automated mill, meant a continuous operation, allowing the mill to manufacture more flour during periods of favorable circumstances for water power or tow meet market conditions.

Using Evans machinery in the mill meant better cleaning, milling, bolting, packing, ad keeping the flour. It reduces fermentation of flour, and reduces insect infestation time in the flour with their eggs. insects don't find the grain and flour their eggs are hatched in it.The new machinery better carries out cleaning and bolting more effectively. There is less waste occurs, its believed the savings in grain alone would pay for building and repair costs. The machinery of the Evans type takes up much less room than earlier traditional layouts., and most importantly, the Evans process in Peirce Mill, allows the miller to pay more attention to his millstones and keep them operating in regular order. The mill is set up to be operated from one floor with control ropes that goes to the attic, and built into the system is the ability to reclean, remill, rebolt, and to vary the system ad the grain, flour and as the miller wishes it to be produced.

With the Evans machinery, one man could operate 6 pairs of millstones, since no machinery carries heavy strain, it would last a long time in good operation, and the machinery would put less strain and weight on the building. The mechanism are designed so the elevators, for example, are balanced so the descending cups balance the ascending ones. So the water power is used to lift the weight of the grain only. The machinery cuts labor cost in half. Peirce Mill could produce 50 barrels of flour per day, using only 2 men as opposed to four men and a boy, which points out the obsolesce of the earlier traditional mill designs found their way to colonial America from Europe. In England today, which did not adopt the Evans system, one can still be found today, the pre-Evans system of milling, the English country mills. Why did England, not adopt the Evans system? Most important the English millers and millwrights felt they knew everything there was to know about milling. They had been doing milling for generations and did not want to hear anything, us Americans had to say on the subject. At the time Oliver Evans was designing his improvements, American were distancing themselves from England, and England too was distancing itself from America. English mills traditionally do not produce white flour, they make whole meal flour and there was no need for those type of Evans system produced products. With the Evans system of milling, a mill like Peirce Mill, three pairs of millstones could produce enough flour to supply seven bolters screens and or reels happy with material to sift. With bolters like better mills, running by water rather than the English traditional method of sifting by hand and anti-automation.

Mills along Rock Creek failed to Adopt the New Process Systems:

The mills along Rock Creek did not abandon the traditional millstone method of flour milling system and adopt the roller mills. By the 1880's the railroads system has stead across the country, so it became cheaper for the inland mills, to ship to the seaports than the mills located at the seaports. The mills around Rock Creek tired to continued to operate as long as they could. The larger inland mills got cheaper rates. Basically the sad fact of life, the mills of the Midwest, like in Minneapolis, it because cheaper for them to export their flour, than lets say, for Peirce Mill or Shoemaker's Mill to haul the flour 3 or 4 miles just to Georgetown. The history and technology of Peirce Mill is an interesting and important story to tell. Once that can be retold to all ages and interest levels. Thank you.


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"Oliver Evans, designer of the automated grist mill," brochure, Fairfax County Park Authority, Division of History, Annendale, Virginia, Old Mill News, July 1977, pages 12 - 13.

"Mills in Rock Creek Park," by Charles H. McCormick, National Park Service, 1967.

"Practical Milling," by Professor B. W. Dedrick, Chicago, Illinois, National Miller, 1924.

"Oliver Evans, a chronicle of early American engineering," by Greville and Dorothy Bathe, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1935.

"the development of the flour milling industry in the United States," by Charles Byron Kuhlmann, 1929.

"Molinography of Maryland," by John McGrain, Maryland Historical Society, 1977, Towson, Maryland, 1968.

"The old mills," by Allen C. Clark, Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington, D. C., volume 31-32, 1931.

"Historic Rock Creek," by Louis Shoemaker, Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington, D. C., volume 12, 1909.

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Copyright 2002 by T.R. Hazen.