Historic grist mills provide us with a look into the past. Grist mills were relied on and became a livelihood for many settlers. They were used by both the British and Americans. Just to get an idea of the magnitude of their spread lets take a look at the Domesday survey of 1086. It displayed that the quantity of England’s water-powered flour mills were 5,624, which would be about 1 for every 300 inhabitants. It gained momentum and then peaked at about 17,000 in 1300.
Today the numbers of historic mills has declined with the use of modern mills that instead rely on electricity or fossil fuels. I did some research into the subject of remaining grist mills. I was surprised to find that 27 states still have historic mills. North Carolina has four which includes Old Mill of Guilford in Oak Ridge (focus of this entry), Yates Mill in Wake County, Mingus Mill in Cherokee, and West Point Mill in Durham.
To see if any grist mills are in your area check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_watermills_in_the_United_States
To see my blog entry on Yates Mill: http://elizabethssecretgarden.blogspot.com/2013/05/historical-visit-to-yates-mill-nc.html
The Old Mill of Guilford was founded in North Carolina on Beaver Creek in 1767. It is fully operating and is water-powered. It’s historical character has been preserved and renovation efforts in 2007 replaced rusted buckets to improve operation. They offer flours, grits, cornmeal, and a variety of delicious mixes. Old Mill Gingerbread Mix, Sweet Potato Muffin Mix, and the Southern Style Biscuit Mix all sound scrumptiously delicious!
You can buy their products online. See full list of products here: http://oldmillofguilford.com/store/
The mixes are bagged by hand.
The Old Mill of Guilford has old millstones for visitors to view. The millstones were powered by the water wheel and used to crack and smash the kernels of grain. The grain ran down a chute with screens to remove sticks and rocks before being ground.
This is the stone they currently use. A more modern version.
The crane that is used to lift the stones apart so that they can be sharpened.
This is the sifter that sifts out the bran. Bran are the pieces of grain husk that are separated from the flour after it has been milled.
To end on a funny note here is one of the signs in the store that gave my family a few laughs….