Inside the MillParts of the Mill
Built by 1723, the grist mill that Richard Snowden operated here is considered the earliest commercial enterprise in Montgomery County. Local resident patronized his "custom" mill where neighbors paid a "toll" to have flour produced, often made from the very grain farmers cultivated. Flour was such a critical component of the colonial diet, that a trip to the mill was a necessity. While waiting for their grain to be processed, the citizens who had traveled long distances came into town to shop and socialize.
Miller at Work
The friendly face that met you at the basement door of the mill was the miller, the person who owned the business and maintained the machinery. Usually a man, he supervised both apprentices and journeymen who learned the trade of milling from the master.
Dressing the Millstone
Made of various stones, including quartz, buhrstone, limestone, and sandstone, millstones or burrs usually worked in a pair known as a run. The run consisted of a bedstone (bottom stone) and a runner (top stone). The distance between the two stones was set according to the type of grain being prepared. These stones had to be "dressed" or cleaned to ensure peak
A Auxiliary take-off wheels
B After a customer dropped off the unprocessed grain and the miller took his portion for payment, one of the laborers performed a "sack and back" job (the gruesome task of carrying the bags up and down the ladder-like stairs to the top floor) unless the mill had a sack hoist. The grain was dumped to the hopper to begin being processed into flour.
C The grain was then funneled into the chute.
D Crane with iron tongs (to lift runner stone for dressing)
E After the chute, the grain fell into a wood grain hopper (48" x 48") that was offset from the eye of the runner stone.
F The grain fell onto a pair of monolithic millstones (54" diameter) and was ground into a fine powder.
G Wood stone casing (62" outside diameter) for gathering ground meal
H The spout from the stone casing transferred the flour to the sifter.
I The lantern pinion gear (wallower) transmitted power to the sifter.
J Great spur gear and wheel with wooden teeth
K The bridgetree and brayer adjusted the distance between the runner and bed stones.
L The flour finally
ended its journey at the sifter and meal bin. It was cooled on the floor to prevent it from going rancid and was then collected, bagged, and stored in storage bins under the eaves in the attic.
M Iron gudgeon set into wood axle (to support the water wheel shaft)
N Water wheel and axle gear
O Auxiliary take-off wheel to pulleys above.
Background image: Piney Branch Water Mill, Fairfax, VA (perhaps similar to the mill used by Richard Snowden)
Courtesy: Library of Congress