Grist mills: Part of history that keeps grinding on


In 1607 the New World was introduced to water-powered grist mills in Nova Scotia.

Grist mills were not introduced in Maine until 1620, much later, after 1800, west of Mississippi .

Until the grist mill method was introduced into North America all grinding was accomplished via the pestle and mortar or the “quern,” the method employed by primitive folks, rubbing stone against stone with the grain in between.

Grist mills ground diverse grains, but most often corn and wheat, into flour.

Grist mills were established throughout the entire country until after the Industrial Revolution when more modern procedures came into use.

Remaining mills.

There are around 350 historic mills still in existence across the United States, from Oregon to Georgia. One still is in existence in Magnolia, Ohio, and one at the Little Beaver State Park, south of Rogers, Ohio.

Quite a few of these mills have been restored. At least a third are still operable.

There is a Society for the Preservation of Old Mills which have a publication calledOld Mill.

To “grist” means to grind, during this businesses hey day these mills ground every conceivable medium – tobacco, gunpowder, limestone and various farm products.

Two natural sources were utilized to power grist mills. Water, being a readily available inexpensive source was the most often employed. Streams provided most communities with a cheap source of power. Water power is cheaper and safer than any modern power source.

Wind power was another primary source, but was uncertain in availability, along the eastern seaboard where the terrain was flat.


Introduced by the Dutch immigrants around 1840 more commonly. The first windmill was established by the English in 1621. The original is long gone, however a new mill is now seen at the Colonial Williamsburg.

Grist mills utilized diverse grinding surfaces, usually two large furrowed millstones, sometimes weighing a ton each. Steel rollers were developed around 1800.

Other industries were sometimes established adjacent to grist mills. Sawmills or blast furnaces for iron ore also employed the power of the mill’s water wheels.

Beaver Creek had many mills along its course.

A visit to the Beaver Creek State Park on the weekends is enjoyable and enlightening to history buffs. The grist mill occasionally still grinds corn to meal for quality corn meal.

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