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A Grist Mill (aka- Flour Mill) was very
important to our ancestors. It's job was to grind grain (wheat, rye,
barley, oats & corn) into flour and meal.
There are two types of milling operations. Custom mills are usually
referred to as grist mills. They operate seasonally, usually with the
harvest. These mills would grind grain for farmers and individuals.
The miller was paid for his services by collecting a toll (a portion of grain
brought to the mill for grinding). Often the mill had one pair of
The second type is called a merchant mill. The Merchant Mill is a
commercial operation. The miller(s) is more often than not, not the
person(s) who owns the mill. This mill ground grains and produced flour
for a profit.
Grist Mills grind only 'clean grains'-- grain from which stalks and chaff have
previously been removed. By 1840, the United States had over 23,000 grain
To operate the mill, the miller placed the grain to be ground in the funnel-like
hopper above the pair of millstones, after first taking out his toll. Then he
opened the sluice gate, which let the water into the water wheel. As the weight
of falling water turns the water wheel, large gears turning smaller gears made
the shaft turn faster. This power is transmitted to a vertical spindle, upon
which rests a large, flat disc of stone, often weighing a ton or more. This
stone spins just above, but not quite touching, an identical stone set
stationary in the floor of the mill. Both stones have a pattern of grooves cut
into their faces. As one stone turns above the other, their grooves cross much
like scissor blades. Grain falling through the hole, or "eye", in the
runner stone is cut apart as it passes between the two stones. The miller can
adjust the distance between the stones to regulate how finely the grain is
ground. The milled grains moves around the cover that is over the stones, until
it falls through a hole into the meal chest. From there it is scooped out and
taken home to be used for baking/cooking.
of a Grist Mill