of a Mill Field Trip Activity (Pre-Tour) Package
Peirce Mill Pre-Tour Package
National Park Service
Rock Creek Park, Washington, D. C.
Wednesday to Sunday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The goad and mission of the National Park Service is to promote and regulate
the use of federal areas known as National Parks and to conserve the scenery
and the national and historical objects and wildlife within and to provide
for the enjoyment of them in such a manner as will leave them unimpaired
for the enjoyment of future generations.
Milling in Rock Creek:
Peirce Mill is administered by the National Park Service, United States
Department of the Interior (National Capital Region), is listed on the National
Register of Historical Places which recognizes it to be a significance to
the nation, state, and or community. It is located in Rock Creek Park at
the intersection of Beach Drive and Tilden Street, Northwest, Washington,
Peirce Mill is a national historical landmark in our nation's capital. It
is the last of eight mills that existed along Rock Creek within the District
of Columbia, and of 26 mills along the entire Rock Creek which includes
the State of Maryland. Peirce Mill was built during the early years of the
city and is an interesting survivor of an era in the 19th century when American
was dependent on water powered mills for providing flour from which bread
Milling Along Rock Creek
(Text from a folder by the same name):
The mills of Rock Creek are symbols of the 1800's when American was
predominantly rural and her major industries were devoted to transporting,
processing, and selling the produce of the land. They represent an era,
before the widespread use of steam, when man supplemented his own strength
with that of domestic animals and with the natural forces of wind and flowing
water. They signify a time when Washington was a "city of magnificent
distances," a cluster of aspiring villages, the quite Capital of an
optimistic, vital, and growing United States.
Transporting the flour to the port of Georgetown and other markets was slow
and indirect. Few Roads twisted down the steep valley walls, and those that
did cross the creek were easily subject to flooding. Gradually, roads were
constructed into the valley to provide access to the mills along the creek.
Each road generally was named after the mill it served.
More than 20 mills were operated along Rock Creek from 1664 until 1925.
Most were grist mills producing flour that did custom grinding for individual
farmers. Several mills, however, were merchant mills that sold flour commercially.
Besides the grist mills, there were bone and plaster mills, a woolen mill,
saw mills and several lime kilns.
At least eight mills were on Rock Creek in the lower valley from the Potomac
to the District of Columbia - Maryland line within the current boundary
of Rock Creek National Park. Other mills located north of Rock Creek (in
Maryland's Rock Creek Regional Park) included Jones Mill, Duvall Mill, Bowie
Mill, Plyer's mill, Beall's Mill, Viers Mill, Beckwith Mill, Horner Mill,
Elger Mill, and Muncaster Mill. The Muncaster Mill (a grist mill, and a
wool carding mill, and a separate a saw mill building) was the last commercial
mill that operated on Rock Creek until it closed in 1925
With new developments in technology during the late 1800's, milling along
Rock Creek gradually came to an end. Steam replaced water as a source of
power for manufacturing. The use of millstones for grinding grain gave way
to improved metal rollers. Other adaptations and improvements made the old
mills obsolete. However, the road names still remain and Peirce Mill survives
as a benchmark to gauge the changes that have taken place along Rock Creek
and to measure the distance between yesterday and today. The eight mills
which were located in Rock Creek National Park are briefly described.
(1) White's Mill and (2) Peter's Mill. Little is known of
White's Mill, other than the fact that the tract of land next to Rock Creek,
between Military Road and north of Blagden's Mill, was granted under the
name of White's Mill Seat in 1634, and as Peter's Mill Seat in 1800. They
were two separate mills constructed at different times. Because of the creek's
geography, this section offered the greatest water power. There is no evidence
that the mill was in operation much after 1800. Peter's Mill must have been
washed away in a flood. The remains of the mill race and the foundation
of the mills were obliterated during road construction in the early part
of the 20th century for the building of Rock Creek Park.
(3) Blagden's and Argyle Mills. These mills were on the west bank
of Rock Creek a few hundred yards north of where Rock Creek and the Broad
Branch tributary meet. The date of their construction is unknown (circa
1790-1800), but the mills were in operation early in the 19th century. One
of the mills produced wheat flour and the other produced rag paper, and
then later fertilizer from bone. The mills ceased operations in 1889. The
mansion of Thomas Blagden, a smaller house for the miller, icehouse, barn,
carriage house, and other structures were located nearby. The mills were
torn down with the building of Beach Drive in the 1890's.
(4) Pearce, Pierce, Peirce and Shoemaker's Mill. Pierce Mill is the
only survivor of all the mills that operated on Rock Creek. The current
mill was built by a millwright and Quaker from Pennsylvania, Isaac Pierce,
in 1820.. There were two prior mills, Reed's Mill (1747), and Deakin's Mill
(1790). Over time Isaac built a spring house (1802), a potato house (1804),
whiskey distillery (1811), an icehouse, several barns (1810), a carriage
house and several other buildings, including a mansion (Coverdale), and
the Pierce-Klingle Mansion. In the early years Pierce's sawmill (1810),
south of the present grist mill, shared the same mill race. Pierce Mill
operated commercially until its main shaft broke in 1897.
(5) Adam's or Columbian Mill. Along Rock Creek within the bounds
of the present zoological park is the Columbian Mill site. It is historically
important because of its association with John Quincy Adams, the sixth United
States President. At least two mills were on the site, a plaster mill and
a wheat flour mill. Nothing is known about the plaster mill, but the wheat
mill was a 4-story brick structure, 50 by 54 feet, with 5 pairs of millstones
and a 16 foot diameter breast shot water wheel. Adams, seeking a good investment
for his declining years, purchased the mill. Because of poor management
and the mill's poor location on the creek, Adams continuously lost money
until the last year of his life when his brother-in-law took over and succeeded
in producing a small income, basically operating the mill on a brake-even
business. The mill operated until 1867. By the turn of the century, every
trace of the mills had disappeared with the creation of the National Zoo.
(6) Lyon's or Federal Mill. This merchant mill perhaps did the most
business on the creek. The mill was built in 1780 and was across from the
eastern boundary of Oak Hill Cemetery. It was approached from Georgetown
by Mill Road and a bridge. The Mill Seat was about 65 acres and had during
its heyday a barn, smokehouse, icehouse, carriage house, stable, and two
stone houses. The mill itself was a sturdy structure of brick, stone, and
wood. The foundation was native blue stone and above it were two brick stories.
The mill race, the longest of any on Rock Creek, ran for almost 1/2 mile
which powered two water wheels, one on each end of the mirrored sided mill.
The mill ground its last flour in 1875. Then it was used by the citizens
of Georgetown as a dance hall until the structure collapsed.
(7) Parrott's Mill. Little is known about Richard Parrott's Georgetown
Wool and Cotton Factory located approximately at the present corner of 27th
and Q Street on the Rock Creek. The mill, on the same road which served
Lyon's Mill farther downstream, carded wool and spun cotton. Parrott was
still working his mill in 1820 and supported a household of five people.
His home "Elderalie" was north of Georgetown in what is now Montrose
Park. Nothing remains of Parrott's Mill.
(8) Patterson's Paper Mill. On the east bank of Rock Creek just beyond
the boundary of the Federal City at P and Boundary Street (Florida Avenue)
was the Patterson Paper Mill, later renamed Columbia Paper Mill. The mill's
front door faced the main road from Georgetown to Bladensburg where it forded
Rock Creek. The mill was built about 1800 and by 1820 was 120 feet long,
and 3 stories high. A survey in 1868 showed a single water wheel and virtually
no mill race. The mill was powered by a smaller stream that fed into Rock
Creek at the mill's location.
Pierce Mill, Rock Creek Park, Washington, D. C.
(Text from a Parks and History folder by the same name):
In June 1985 the new miller opened a value and water splashed down the
mill race outside to fill the buckets on the water wheel's rim. The wheel
began to turn and inside the mill the teeth of wooden gears engaged, causing
the main shaft that powered the grind stones to revolve. Kernels of grain
dropped from a chute into the hole of the top runner stone to split between
the grooves. In the basement the miller tested the trickle of flour falling
from the sifter. In those minutes the machinery of Pierce Mill rumbled into
life. It was a grand reopening.
Visitors to Pierce Mill today can watch the miller control the creaking
gears and massive stones. They can purchase sacks of corn meal or flour
that will unlock the flavor of times gone by. A living museum, the mill
represents part of the 1820's economy of America, an era when men trapped
power from wind and water. The handsome stone building is the last of eight
mills that once drew power from waters along Rock Creek.
The mill's owner, Isaac Pierce (whose name was often spelled Pearce or Peirce),
left his Quaker parents in Pennsylvania to seek his fortune in Maryland.
After the American Revolution, he worked for Abner Cloud as a millwright,
building and repairing the mill's machinery upriver from Georgetown. Isaac
married Cloud's daughter Betsy (Elizabeth). The first census of 1790 enumerates
their modest family group: tow children and several indentured servants
or hired hands. After Maryland ceded 60 square miles to form the new Federal
city, Isaac bought 150 acres along Rock Creek from William Deakins, revolutionary
patriot. By 1800 Isaac's holdings stretched from what is now the upstream
side of the National Zoo to Chevy Chase. In 1820 his household listed nine
children, 11 slaves, and four servants.
The Pierce Plantation engaged in a number of profitable ventures - farming,
fruit trees, the making of peach brandy (and rye whiskey), flour milling,
and animal husbandry. The spring house (located in the Tilden Street island)
led spring water through a trough to cool milk and butter. The carriage
house has become the Art Barn, while the distillery is a private residence
across the street. The sawmill, miller's house, and barns have disappeared,
but the well-preserved flour mill remains.
A mill stood there when Isaac Pierce bought the property in 1794 and a succession
of millers ran it. In the 1820's Isaac and his stone mason son Abner rebuilt
the mill, using blue granite quarried in the Broad Branch area nearby. In
the interval change had come to the milling industry. Early mills had relied
on the miller's strength and is burly helpers to hoist sacks of grain aloft,
as well as clean, sift, dry, and bag the flour. In Delaware an ingenious
millwright named Oliver Evans devised ways to overcome the heavy labor of
his trade. He rigged auxiliary gears to transport grain and to work cleaners
and sifters. In 1795 he published "The Young Mill-Wright's and Miller's
Guide." The machinery in Pierce Mill reflects many of Evans's ideas
- ideas that reduced manpower needs by half.
Like the mill's business, the Pierce family grew, flourished, and then faded.
Isaac's son Joshua Pierce went in for horticulture, supplying trees and
shrubs to locations in the capital. He built a fine stone house, later called
Klingle Mansion, on land given by his father at Linnean Hill near Porter
Street. In 1841 Abner Pierce inherited the plantation and in turn deeded
it ten years later to his nephew, Pierce Shoemaker, who managed the farm
along with his jewelry business (in Georgetown).
Rise and Fall:
In the 1860's were boom times for the mill as Washington's population expanded.
But in the 1880's new, steam-powered mills with iron rollers began to mass-produce
cheaper, whiter flour. In 1890 farsighted citizens led Congress to preserve
Rock Creek's valley as a city park, adding the mill site two years later
even while the mill continued to operate. Alcibiades White, miller, described
the mill's last day in 1897:
"I was grinding a load of rye for a neighbor when the main shaft of
the mill broke. I was about half through with the work, and the neighbor
had to haul his unground rye away, and I guess he never got it ground. That
was the last time time the mill operated."
Under park auspices, the mill became a picturesque tea shop, serving "Harding
waffles." In 1934 the Secretary of the Interior asked that the mill
be restored and it functioned through several National Park Service restorations
until the miller retired in 1980.s The grind stones were still until the
new miller opened the doors again in 1985.
Isaac Pierce left the fruits of his long, industrious life to his children.
It was his dearest wish, he wrote in his will, "that my children will.....endeavor
to keep and promote...... harmony and peace." Something of that spirit
is found at Pierce mill in the balance of stone work and the building's
symmetry. Welcome to Pierce Mill.
How Does It Work?
Gravity is the miller's partner. The grain that is carried upward by water
power will pass back through the works by gravity. The entire mill process
is connected from beginning to end and so balanced that the miller, moving
one of his stones by hand, causes all other parts to respond.
-Miller dumps grain into receiving hopper on the first floor.
-Water flowing down mill race makes water wheel turn.
-Wooden gears in basement engage to turn the main shaft.
-Scoops on continuous belt carry grain to attic where wire cylinder strains
impurities and shakes grain into chute.
-Chute carries grain to bin on second floor that feeds grindstone.
-Top runner stone on the first floor revolves one-sixteenth inch above.
-Flour drops off edge of stone and passed into chute.
-Elevator carries flour to attic where hopper boy stirs and cools.
-Chute carries flour to bolter on second floor, then to bin where it is
Pierce Mill has three pairs of grindstones: two French buhr (quartz) for
grain, and one granite (Berks Country, Pennsylvania, conglomerate) pair
for corn. Stones never touch but the grooves chiseled into the surfaces
of the stones intersect to chop the kernels. The miller's hand, feeling
the flour, tells him when the stones are correctly adjusted.
Before touring the site, it is advised that teachers review and discuss
the following information with the students.
The mill was built by Isaac Pearce in about 1820. He owned almost 2,000
areas of land stretching from the National Zoo north to Military Road, east
to Rock Creek and west to Connecticut Avenue and Chevy Case. On this land
Isaac, his wife Betsy, and nine children along with helpers totaling twenty
seven people cleared land and constructed many buildings which may still
be seen including a carriage house, whiskey distillers, spring house, mansion
house and Klingle Mansion.
Mr. Louis Pierce Shoemaker, great grand-nephew of Isaac Pierce and son of
the last mill owner, reminisces in a 1909 article about the mill:
"Large quantities of corn, wheat and rye were hauled by teams to the
Pierce Mill and the Blagden Mill from Georgetown and ground into flour for
the Washington Market...... At Pierce's Mill it was a daily occurrence to
see from ten to twelve teams and a number of boys on horseback from the
surrounding country with grist."
The energy used to run the mill is water. Water power systems have both
advantages and disadvantages. The energy is free, id does not pollute, and
it is returned to the stream unchanged, and is actually improved by adding
oxygen to the water from the turning water wheel. During periods of drought,
or flooding events the grinding activities is either reduced or halted,
and during the cold winter months ice on the water wheel would cause the
mill to stop grinding altogether.
Peirce Mill provides visitors with a view of the past before the steam engines,
gas engines, and electric motors existed along with the various kinds of
pollution they can bring to our air and waters. From a visit to a 19th century
flour mill, they can see, hear, and feel how people lived and worked during
Relevant Words Used in Milling:
To prepare your class for their visit to Peirce Mill, we have completed
a list of terms that will be useful before, during and after their visit.
Bolter - The process of removing or separating various portions of the
ground grains into their different parts. The process is called sifting
and the machine is called a bolter.
Bran - the outer covering or skin of most grains, wheat, corn, rye,
Control Gate -this is the water wheel gate directly behind the water
wheel that controls the turning on and off of the water wheel and regulates
Corn - a plant or cereal grain whose kernel is used to produce corn
meal and grits.
Corn Meal - this is freshly ground kernels of corn, either white
or yellow, into the texture of meal. It is sold bolted or unbolted, which
means whether or not the corn bran is removed.
Corn sheller or shelling - the process or act of removing the kernels
of corn off the corn cob.
Custom Mill - this is the technical name by which "grist mills"
do business. They grind grains and take a portion in payment or barter called
Damsel - a wooden or metal rod with raised edges or flutes that vibrates
the shoe so the grain feeds into the millstones.
Elevator (Cups) - a continuous moving belt with small cups attached
to raise grain or ground flour to the upper floors in a mill or grain storage
Grist Mill - a building used for the grinding of grain, mostly corn
and wheat. It is brought to the mill by farmers.
Grain - the seeds or kernels of cereal grains, such as wheat, corn,
rye, barley and oats.
Graham Flour - this is coarsely ground wheat flour that has not been
sifted. It is a type of flour advocated by the Reverend Sylvester Graham,
and what is used traditionally to make graham crackers.
Grits - the ground portion of corn used for cooking as a cereal.
Head Gate - the water wheel gate located at the mill dam that allows
water to enter the Head Race. Sometimes it is called Flood Gate.
Head Race - the portion of the water channel (or Mill Race) that
delivers water from the creek or dam to the water wheel.
Hopper -an open wooden container mainly four-sides (like an upside
down pyramid) with a hole in the center to feed grain through.
Merchant Mill - a mill that grinds wheat and produces white flour
for profit and export.
Mill - a machine or building in which grain is ground.
Mill Dam - a body of water dammed up to supply water to a water wheel.
Miller - one who operates a mill and grinds grain into flour and
Mill Race - The water wheel channel that carries water to and from
the water wheel. It contains a system of gates and a trash rack to filter
out debris from damaging the water wheel.
Millstone Dresser - one who works for the miller or mill owner. He
maintains and regrooves the millstones so they can better grind grain into
flour and meal.
Millstones - these are large round stones used to grind grain, most
often it is corn or wheat into meal or flour.
Millwright - a craftsman who plans, builds, and repairs mills and
the water systems.
Shoe - a shallow wooden tray or trough beneath a hopper that feeds
grain into the millstones.
Sifter - a device used to separate portions of the ground grain using
different mesh screens. Most often a sifter is a vibrating wooden box with
a flat screen that separates the flour from the middlings, germ and bran.
Also see: Bolter.
Storage Bins - these are storage compartments used for grain before
it is ground. Often mills have many storage bins to store grain in before
(receiving bins) and after it is cleaned.
Tail Race - The portion of the water channel (or Mill Race) that
carries water from the water wheel and returns it back to the stream.
Vat - the large circular wooden covering over the millstones.
Water Wheel - a large wheel with buckets or paddles that is filled
or turned by the water. It turns and drives machinery in a building. The
types of vertical water wheels are: The Undershot Water Wheel is
one in which the water strikes the paddles at the bottom to turn the wheel.
This type of water wheel is mainly used on tidal powered mills and boat
or floating mills. The Breast Shot Water Wheel is one in which the
water fills the buckets just below, at or just above the axis of the water
wheel shaft. This type of water wheel was the most common used in American
industry until the 1840's when it was replaced by the water turbine. The
Overshot Water Wheel is one in which water fulls the buckets at the
highest point to turn the water wheel. This type of water wheel did not
become popular until after the American Civil War. Each of the vertical
water wheel types has several variations. The main types of horizontal water
wheels are: The Greek or Norse Wheel. This type of water wheel is
one in which short blades rotate from a central vertical shaft. The runner
millstone is turned by the vertical shaft and it operates by direct drive
(no mill gearing). This type of water wheel was adopted from the Persian
horizontal windmill that goes back some 3 thousand years. The American adopted
the Greek or Norse Wheel to the Tub Wheel. In America the water wheel
was enclosed in a hoop or bottomless tub. This cut down on the waste of
the water. Then in the 1840's French engineers took the American Tub Wheel
and developed the modern Water Turbine. The Water Turbine was an
all metal water wheel were constructed using shapes and forms that the standard
millwright could not fabricate by hand. These types of water wheels are
still used in hydraulic dams today to make electricity.
Wheat - a plant whose seed is ground to produce flour mainly for
the making of breads and cakes. There are a number of types of wheat and
that type of wheat is often better for a single purpose. Different types
of wheat is often blended together to include a wide range of uses - all
White (Wheat) Flour - freshly ground wheat flour that may be sifted
many times to remove the middlings, bran and wheat germ.
Whole Wheat Flour - this is freshly ground wheat in which the bran
has been sifted out.
Guidelines for Your Visit:
-Appointments are required and should be made as far in advance as possible
to assure availability. Generally at least three weeks in advance.
-Group size limit is 25. Groups of more than 25 students need another time
slot. This is because of the health and safety standards, limited space
in which to move a group through the mill, so they can all see and witness
the mill in operation and hear the interpreter.
-Please: We wish at one adult accompany each group of 10 to 12 students.
This means a standard group should have two to three adults accompany them
on their tour of the mill.
-Have the students wear comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for the
time of the year. The mill has limited heating and no air conditioning.
Please avoid loose fitting garments and things such as long scarfs, strings
on gloves, and any thing that might get caught in passing operating machinery.
-Please arrive promptly and allow 45 minutes to 1 hour for the tour. Because
we schedule groups one after the other being more than 10 minutes late may
mean the automatic cancellation of your appointment. Please have the bus
driver know the route to the mill before hand so you don't get lost. Allow
extra time for traffic and congestion.
-Please be courteous. Allow extra time before the appointment time for the
students to use the restroom facilities. The scheduled tour time does not
allow for a bathroom break.
-Parking is available in front of the mill and across the street. Please
use caution when crossing Tilden Street or use the underpass underneath
along Rock Creek to the mill.
-A large picnic grove with restrooms is available across from the mill in
Picnic Grove number one. Please contact the Nature Center for its availability
and to make reservations. Food services are not available in the park.
-Please advise students not to touch any equipment, machinery, (and or taste)
grain or grain products unless instructed. This message will be repeated
by the Miller, Park Ranger or Tour Guide.
-Please advise us of cancellation so that we may better serve the public.
-Please have students wear name tags with first names and name of the school
What will be seen at the Mill:
1. Outside of the Mill.
-Welcome, introduction and safety message.
-Water Wheel turning. Remember mills operate on the availability of the
water levels. Mills may not operate during or just after heavy rains or
flooding, and during periods of cold weather during the winter months because
of freezing and ice buildup on the water wheel.
-Mill building - its construction and methods of building mills.
-Other buildings - the Carriage House, Spring House, and Whisky Distillery.
-Mill Dam - commonly a source of water to turn the water wheel and mill
2. Discussion outside of the mill.
-Mills along Rock Creek.
-Types of mills, wind, stream water and tidal powered mills.
-How the water wheel works, the hydraulic cycle, and use of water power.
A natural renewable resource. The water wheel improves the quality of water
in the stream by adding oxygen to the water that improves aquatic life.
Types of mill dams, and the parts of the hydraulic system for the mill and
other mills along the stream.
-Mill doors, use of mill doors, Dutch doors and the reasons why.
-Repeat safety message before going inside of mill.
3. inside of the Mill:
-The wood stove. How the mill is heated. The Miller's Office. The miller's
costume and the miller's apprentice.
-Hands-on activities. (1) Wheat failing and winnowing. This has limited
availability because of the problems in getting freshly cut wheat. (2)
Corn shelling. Each student gets an ear of corn and is able to shell the
ear of corn. Discussion on the uses of corn cobs. (3) Hand grinding
of grains, corn, wheat (hard and or soft), buckwheat, or rye. (4)
Hand sifting of ground grain material. Discussion on the various size particles
that make up a kernel of grain. The evolution of the hand sifter to mill
powered sifters. (5) Sacking and tying of the Miller's Knot, for
the left and right handed. Learn how to use a metal twist tie to close a
flour sack. Learn how to use a sack holder. Then learn how to sew a grain
sack shut. (6) Make a miller's hat out of two simple pieces of cloth.
Learn about other simple pieces of clothing the miller's wife made such
as aprons. (7) Learn how the basement or corner fireplace was used
to heat branding irons to brand barrel heads. Branding of a barrel head
and pieces of wooden shingles. Learn how to use a barrel stencil. (8)
The evolution of flour containers. The cloth flour sack and wooden flour
barrel. Then the later paper flour sack and how the sack closures changed.
(9) What items did the miller keep in the miller's desk. Early writing
instruments. Learn how to make goose feather quill pens and how to write
with them. How did the miller keep his various records. Learn how to use
a "tally board." (10) Wooden scoops, shovels, paddles,
learn about simple tools that the miller used in operating his mill. Why
were they mainly made out of wood? A superstition that prevented dust explosions,
and easy made when they wore out or broke.
-Model of mill in operation and cut-away drawing of mill.
-Operation of flour mill. Elevator cups, wooden gears, and all of the machinery
moving. Grain being fed into the millstones to be ground. The ground meal
coming out of the chute in the mill's basement. Feeling and smelling freshly
ground meal or flour. The students will see the various products in prepared
-Operation of the sack hoist in the milling process. The use of the basement
fire place to heat branding irons for marking the barrel heads. Stopping
-Film show - a presentation showing mills in operation, and or about grains.
-Discussion on the use of "dry" coopers flour barrels in the milling
process to package products. The difference between a "wet" and
a "dry" cooper. How were the wooden split ash hoops made and hole
the flour barrel together. The various ways to move a barrel, and how to
open and close a barrel head. What sort of mill used wooden flour barrels?
The different type of products for various barrels, etc. What happened to
the flour barrel? The standard method for measure the mills output or production.
-Closing remarks, thank you for your visit, and questions and answers (if
-Other participating activities are currently being developed. Such as spinning
and weaving demonstrations, rope making, wooden wedge making, elevator cup
making and repair, leather belt lacing, millstone dressing, baking and cooking,
etc. (1) One example which has been developed is an auto scavenger
hunt. The entire mill in operation has been audio sound recorded. A portion
of that tape is played for students. Then the entire mill is turned on and
the students have to discover what part of the mill was head in the sound
recording and why. (2) A Day in the Life of a Miller. This is a day
long program where a single group of students spend the entire day working
with the miller. This is an in depth program where students learn every
aspect of the life of the miller, how the mill operates and the cultural
effect on the community through stories and folklore. Length of this program
is approximately 5 hours. (3) Applied Mechanics Program. Students
will learn about the basic mechanical principles of simple machines and
how they are used in the Oliver Evans automatic flour mill. These
are the lever, the wedge, the plane, the screw, pulley, and axle. Students
will learn how to measure the horse power of a stream to determine if a
mill can be built there or not. They will use a second hand on watch and
a small floating object with a few numbers plugged into the basic formula
for horse power. (4) Milling of Grains. This is a program where the
teacher request that a certain grain be ground, such as corn, wheat, rye,
oats or buckwheat. (dependent upon seasonal availability). The program revolves
around the milling of that particular grain, from his harvest, milling,
products, cultural and regional effects, and folklore, etc.
-(5) Discussion of the sequence of events needed to produce flour
in the nineteenth century. The events are as follows:
1. In the eighteenth century tobacco growing wore out the soil for growing
that cash crop. Farmers looked for other crops to grow. Wheat began to replace
tobacco as Oliver Evans developed his system of automated flour milling.
2. The Pierce Plantation consists of apple and peach orchards, nurseries
at various locations here and in Washington. They have cattle and the bulk
of their land in Rock Creek is used for lumber and logging. The surrounding
land around the park today was devoted to large estates rather than to agriculture.
So this means that the large flour mills of Rock Creek (Lyon's Mill, Adams
Mill, Pierce Mill and Blagden Mill) has to haul their grain that they ground
from outside of the District of Columbia.
A farmer grows fields of wheat and corn.
3. The farmer harvests the wheat and corn. How the grain get to these mills.
One method, is the seaport of Georgetown. Flour would be sold there in barrels,
so grain would come down the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to feed the large
flour mills of Georgetown. There would be grain dealers located there. When
the wagons hauled the grain to Georgetown, they could return with loads
4. Grain was hauled to these mills from Maryland and Virginia. Grain was
hauled to Pierce Mill from Bladensburg. There are records of that.
5. The farmer transports the wheat and corn to the mills of Rock Creek to
be ground. This is referred to as "custom milling" where the miller
gets paid a portion of the grain in payment for grinding, called a "toll."
This is usually 1/8 for wheat and 1/6 for corn. The miller's had a "toll
dish" to measure out their "toll."
6. Another method that the miller gets the grain that he grinds is to buy
the wheat and corn from the farmer. This would be the same as buying grain
from the grain dealers in Georgetown. The method of operation is "merchant
milling" were the miller makes a profit or loss upon the sale of flour.
Flour would be sold to flour and grain dealers in Georgetown and stores
that sell flour in the Washington and Maryland area.
7. The grain is hauled to the mill. There the miller weights and inspects
the grain. The miller then cleans the wheat and corn, and stores it in the
8. Then the miller grinds the wheat and corn. If the miller is to grind
wheat, he may wish to temper and condition the wheat. This improves the
milling of the wheat and makes it easier for the millstones to removes and
separate the bran from the wheat kernels. The miller may also blend different
types of wheat together to improve the baking quality of the flour. Soft
wheat which is grown here in the east has more white endosperm. If you cut
a kernel in half, it is white inside. It is low in gluten which makes bread
rise. It is better for making cakes and pastries. Hard wheat which is grown
in the Midwest is better for making bread because it is higher in gluten.
If you cut a kernel in half it has very little white endosperm and is mainly
brown in color all the way through. Mixing the wheats together (50/50 or
25/75 percent) makes the flour good for all-purpose.
9. As the wheat and corn is ground by the millstones is is almost flour
or meal. It referred to as "chop." It still needs to be "sifted"
or "bolted." Then it becomes flour when the bran or other parts
are sifted out or removed. Why is this done? To remove parts of the grain
that may absorb moisture and make the flour or meal spoil quicker. It also
makes the texture more even and consistent. Your mother sifts the flour
at home before she bakes with it to make her bake good more consistent.
10. The miller packages the flour into wooden barrels. Each barrel holds
196 pounds of flour. How long would it take your family to use that much
flour? The flour is also sold in cloth sacks. Housewives use the empty flour
sacks to make towels, shirts, dresses, and the heavy printed portions often
becomes underwear. Jockey underwear got its name from "Jockey Oats."
The miller or mill owner may sell the flour to a local general store. The
local general store can use and sell large quantities of flour, so they
do not mind buying flour in barrels or 100 pound flour sacks. The storekeeper
sells it to consumers in smaller amounts. Sometimes the housewife takes
her smaller sack to the store to be refilled. Does anyone use refillable
food containers today?
-(6) "The Resources Needed in Flour Production." A review
with students the meaning of various economic terms:
-Production - putting resources together to make goods or provide a service.
-Natural resources - those things found in or on the earth. They may be
wind power, water or stream power, and tidal power.
-Human resources - people doing mental or physical work. The millwright
had to find a stop or location that a mill could be built. He designed the
building and the machinery that would go into the mill. The mill owner specified
what type of mill he wanted, what types of grain it would grind and how
much per day it could produce. The miller along with the millwright and
the millstone dresser maintain the mill and keep it in operation. At times
the millwright may use a carpenter to make replacement wooden gear teeth
and cogs. He may use a stone mason to make replacement stone bearings, and
the millwright uses different types of wood to make other replacement parts
for the mill. The miller and his apprentices or helpers operate the mill.
They grind the grain and package the flour and meal for sale. The miller
keeps the records of the daily grinding of the mill and how much flour it
produces. From every 100 pounds of wheat, the percentage of white flour
is 72 pounds. There is about 4 pounds of bran and the rest is middlings
and wheat germ. You can now figure out how much wheat has to be ground to
produce one barrel or 50 barrels of flour per day.
-Capital resources are resources made by people and used to produce other
goods and services. (Money is not considered a capital resource.) The miller
or mill owner has to purchase the flour barrels and flour sacks. They also
have to buy lubricants to maintain the gears, and bearings in side of the
mill. The dust from wheat is more explosive than gun powder and 35 times
more explosive than coal dust. Because of the problems with dust explosion
and the danger of fire, mills rarely operate at night, so there would not
be a great expense for candles.
-Using the sequence of events in flour production, the class give examples
of some of the human resources (farmer, miller, wagon driver or teamster,
blacksmith and carriage maker, cooper or barrel maker, spinner and weaver,
the shopkeeper or grocer), the natural resources (land, water, grain or
seeds, etc.), and the capital resources (wagon, mill and milling machinery,
flour packaging material (barrels and cloth sacks) harvesting equipment,
bins for flour in store, etc.).
-What animal resources are used in the production of flour. Horses and mules
would be used to haul the grain and grain products to and from the mill.
The mill is not animal powered but the mill uses animals never the less,
for rodent control. Dusty is a common name for the miller's helpers and
the miller's cat. The lubricants that are used to make the mill operate
come from animal fats and bees wax.
-Then there is the problem of disposal of the waste products of the grinding
process. The bran, and middlings. What do you do with them. What are they
packaged in and where do they do go? Traditionally they were considered
"offals," and were dumped into the creek. Would they be ploughed
back into the farmer's fields or used for animal feed.
-The average cost of a barrel of flour ranged from $4.50 to $11.00 dollars
a barrel. The average cost of labor a day would have been $1.00 dollar per
day, and for a child, less than a dollar a day, perhaps 50 cents. The price
of a bushel of corn or wheat today, is basically what is has been for the
last 100 years. During that time (in the last 100 years) the miller may
have charge the farmer (of he was not collecting a toll) 11 cents to 34
cents per hundred pounds to grind wheat. So in a barrel or sack of flour,
the most expensive cost item, is the cost of the container itself. The miller
can buy thousands of cloth flour sacks to get down the individual cost "per
sack" but what do you do about wooden flour barrels? They can not be
stored in the mill or other outbuildings like flour sacks?
-Please inform us if there are particular objectives of the group.
Post Site Review Information:
The following are a list of questions which might be useful after the students
visit to the mill.
1. What are the size of flour mill buildings today compared to 1820?
2. How would a flour mill be powered today?
3. Where are mills found? Do they have to be near water? Where are they
4. Do they still use millstone for grinding grains?
5. What do you think would happen if all flour mills today were like the
6. Explain how you get the bread you eat today?
7. How does water make a water wheel turn? What other sources of energy
are there besides water?
8. What are the advantages and disadvantages of wind power?
9. What are the advantages and disadvantages of tidal power?
10. What are the advantages and disadvantages of steam power?
After you have returned to your classroom, you may wish to become involved
in an activity relating to your visit to the mill. Some suggestions include:
1. Draw pictures of a mill, its water wheel, or your favorite part. Sketch
the exterior of the mill, or sketch specific parts of the mill that are
used to make flour.
2. Have a lunch, breakfast or dinner like adults and children would have
3. If you made bread from a mill in 1820 what kind of bread would it be?
What else would you have to eat with the bread? The main course of every
meal would be a grain related product, why?
4. Have the class make corn bread and taste the difference to a modern prepared
corn bread mix.
5. make corn meal the old-fashioned way by obtaining dried corn on the cob,
shelling it by hand, and grinding it by pounding it between two rocks. How
hard would that be? What would the baked products be like from this process?
6. Compare whole wheat bread, graham bread, and white bread by looks, taste
and smell, and feel. Do the marshmallow test, close your eyes and squeeze
a loaf of whole wheat bread and a loaf of white bread. Can you tell which
loaf is which?
7. Make a model of the mill and or diorama of the hydraulic system.
8. Learn a mill song, poem, or write a play about the miller and his life.
9. Make puppets. One for the miller, miller's helper, the farmer, the miller's
wife, the mill cat, and a taking sheave of wheat, flour sack or loaf of
bread. Create a play for your puppets.
10. The mill has 50 to 70 handouts that the mill has created. These include:
connect the dot, mazes, color and cut out buildings, question and answer,
etc. Ask about copies for your grade level and age group.
11. What information can you find in your local library, historical society,
older member of the community, and on the internet about old mills.
12. Visit other old mills with your family members on vacation, etc.
-Howell, Charles and Allan Keller, "The Mill at Philipsburg Manor and
A Brief History of Milling," Sleepy Hollow Restorations, North Tarrytown
(Sleepy Hollow), New York, 1977.
-Kovash, Arlene, "Cooking with Stone Ground Flour," The Book Mill,
Corvallis, Oregon, 1981.
-Wheat Flour Institute, "From Wheat to Flour," the Wheat Flour
Institute, Washington, D.C., 1976.
-Smith, Elmer, "Grist Mills of Early American and Today," Applied
Arts Publishing, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, 1982.
"Previous" Pre & Post-Site Material for Pierce Mill
Pierce Mill provides children with a view of the past before steam engines,
diesel engines, gas engines, and electric motors existed along with the
polluted environment they bring to our air and water. From a visit to a
nineteenth century grist mill, they can receive a glimpse of how people
lived and worked over one hundred years ago. Pierce Mill, an intriguing
relic of the Pierce Plantation, symbolizes the days when American was chiefly
rural and very dependent on water powered mills for producing the flour
from which its bread was made.
A water powered mill is able to evoke strong images of the past as exemplified
by the following lines:
"Poets have dreamed on the margin of the mill pond and sweet memories
have clustered about this scene of quiet industry; the song of the mill
wheel........and the dusty miller leaning over his half door was ever a
restful and pleasing feature........."
To prepare your class for their visit to Pierce Mill, we have complied
a list of terms that will be useful before, during, and after their visit
to the mill.
Terms Related to the Mill:
Corn on cob, dried corn on cob, corn kernels.
Wheat, wheat chaff.
Flour, whole wheat and white.
Toll (Miller's toll).
Custom and merchant mill.
Mill stones, run of stones or bun.
What will be seen at the Mill:
The children should be shown the water wheel outside the mill before coming
1. Corn sheller demonstration. (A) Corn on cob (dried). (B) Corn kernels.
(C) Corn cob.
2. Balance beam scale.
3. Receiving bin. (A) Value in bottom. (B) Grain elevator.
4. Hopper & barrel covering mill stones. (A) Mill stones. (B) Boom for
moving mill stones. (C) Opening for flour into basement.
5. Corn mill in operation. (A) Corn feeding into stone. (B) Stone turning.
6. Shaker sifting corn meal. (A) Corn meal falling on to shaker. (B) Corn
meal & bran being separated.
7. Feeling the corn meal.
8. Gears being turned by the water wheel.
The following are a set of discussion questions to be used after (or before)
the children's visit to Pierce Mill.
1. How would a flour mill be powered today? Do we still use water wheels?
2. How does the water make a water wheel turn?
3. Is a water powered flour mill pollution free? does it produce less pollution
than a modern mill?
4. How do modern mills grind flour or corn meal today? Do they still use
5. What is the difference between white flour and whole wheat flour? Which
kind is better for your health?
6. Do you think that we eat a lot less bread and corn bread today than they
did in the nineteenth century?
7. What do you think would happen if all flour mills today were like Pierce
8. In what ways do you think people lived differently in the nineteenth
century from the way we live today? Which way would you rather live? Why?
9. Explain how you get the bread you eat today.
10. How did the Indians make corn bread?
After you have returned to your classroom, you may wish to become involved
in an activity relating to your visit to Pierce Mill. Some suggestions follows:
1. Draw pictures of the mill or the water wheel.
2. Make a diagram of the mill or build a model water wheel.
3. Have a lunch like in 1820. (corn meal much fried in butter with maple
4. Make white flour from whole wheat flour by sifting out all the bran and
bleaching it in the sun.
5. Have the class make corn bread.
6. Make corn meal by obtaining dried corn on the cob, shelling it by hand,
and grinding it by pounding it between two rocks, bricks, or the side walk
and a brick.
7. Make and compare bread from whole wheat and white flour.
8. Have something different made out of corn meal every day for a week.
(corn meal mush, fried corn meal mush, corn griddle cakes, corn batter cakes,
corn bread, spoon bread, corn fritters, hush puppies, corn pudding, etc.).
Bibliography for Teachers:
Edgar, W. C., "The Miller and his Mill," The Chautaquan, 16 (1892-1893),
Brooks, Anita, "The Picture Book of Grains."
Burt, Olive, "Let's Find Out About Bread."
Elting, Mary, "The Mysterious Grain, Corn."
Evans, Oliver, "The Young Mill-Wright and Miller's Guide."
Frenton, Carrol Lane, "Plants that Feed Us."
Limburg, Peter B., "The Story of Corn."
Petersham, Maud Fuller, "Story Book of Corn."
Disclaimer: The above information no way reflects the present
programing and or demonstrations available at Peirce Mill today. It reflects
a time long ago, which is now for the most part classified as "once
upon a time," now extinct, forgotten, broken, unloved and uncared for,
in a part of the past, in a galaxy far, far away.
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