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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 millstones.  
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 mills.  

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.

Drawings of a Grist Mill


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This page was last updated on:   02/16/2009

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