The Early History of Abbott's Mill
Updated: Feb 13, 2021
The origin of Abbott’s Mill can be traced back to just after the American Revolution. In the fall of 1795 Nathan Willey, a local carpenter, bought seven acres of land from Levon Poynter on what was then known as Bowman's Branch. Seven years later, on April 23, 1802, Willey and several of his neighbors presented a petition to the Court of General Sessions stating that he had “at a large expense erected, and just finished” a grist mill on the site. Citing the many advantages to the citizens of the neighborhood the petition requested that a new road be extended to the recently completed mill. When Nathan Willey died in 1812 the mill was sold to James Owens, and then to Isaac Riggs. James Johnson bought the mill in 1821 and about 1848 it became the property of Nathaniel Johnson, and at his death was inherited by his sons Richard and William Johnson. In 1868 they sold it to William H. Richards, who operated it for the next six years. In 1874 he sold it to a group of investors, Nelson J. Nickerson, William H. & Elizabeth Miller and Charles W. & Jame S. Palmer, but it was still known locally as “Johnson’s Mill”.
1868 map of NW Cedar Creek Hundred. "Johnson's Mill" marked with arrow.
In 1889 it was bought by Dr. Julio H. Rae for $1000. He sold it to James Kibler who in turn sold it on April 13, 1898 to William W. and Alfonza E. Hendricks, again for $1000. In 1905 Hendricks repaired the mill and it is possible that this is when the roller mill wing and machines were added to the original structure. During this period it was known as “Lakeview Roller Mills” and by this time Bowman’s Branch had become Johnson’s Branch, as it is today. On May 6th, 1919 Wm. Hendricks sold the mill to Ainsworth Abbott and Joseph J. Smith for $7,000. (Comparable to over $100,000 in 2021)
Mary and Ainsworth Abbott circa 1935
As originally constructed, the mill had a breast-shot waterwheel that drove two sets of 48” millstones, one for corn and the other for grains (Wheat, Oats or Buckwheat). Also included were four bucket elevators (two for each set of millstones) and a corn cleaner that consisted simply of a sloped chute with an interchangeable hardware wire screen that slotted under it. Corn passed over the screen while dirt and seeds fell through it and down a 4” pipe to be collected and weighed on the ground floor and then deducted from the weight of the corn. Also included was a simple home-made cornmeal sifter on the second floor. The first pieces of modern equipment added were a Corn Sheller on the ground floor just inside the front door and an Imperial Wheat Scourer and Polishing Machine installed between the elevators down in the basement sometime before the late 1800s. A brief description of the machines can be found below.
The modernization of the mill late in the 19th century added roller mills to process the grains into flour and both millstones were then devoted to cornmeal. Included in the improvements were a Sprout Waldron Receiving Separator and a Griscom & Co. and McFeely Flour Dresser in the attic, a Wolf Company "Gyrator" Bolter on the second floor and an S. Howes “Eureka” Wheat Scourer and Polisher, a 3 Break Wolf Company Roller Mill, and a (6) Wolf Company “Pearl” Flour Packer on the ground floor. Many new storage bins were built on the second floor and nearly a dozen new elevators and a horizontal screw conveyor were also included. This represented a huge investment to the miller but was brought on by the public's new demand for "pure white flour". To achieve this, everything that wasn't white was removed during the milling process, including the bran and the wheat germ. So much was removed that it was now necessary for the larger mills to "enrich" the flour with nutrients that include iron and B vitamins (folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine).
The Corn Sheller - Grist mills processed only very dry corn. The sheller removes the corn from the cob, but if the farmer had a corn sheller (and some children to operate it) he got a much better price for his corn.
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The Receiving Separator removes non-wheat material such as metal, stones, weed seeds and grains other than wheat (soybean, corn, sorghum.
The Wheat Scourer and Polishing Machine removes impurities from the "wheat berry" such as dust, fuzz and smut.
The 3 Break WOLF Company Roller Mill is a system of three machines, each containing two pairs of steel rollers. Each pair of rollers is separate from the other pair in each machine, so there is actually six separate pairs of rollers in this system. The process is known as gradual reduction, where the endosperm is gradually reduced in particle size by running it between pairs of rotating hardened steel rollers and then through the Gyrator. In each pair of rollers, one turns faster than the other and the idea is to gradually tear the endosperm apart, rather than to crush it. After it goes through the gyrator the larger particles return down to the next set of rollers.
The WOLF Company "Gyrator" Flour Bolter
The "Gyrator" Bolter separates out the bran and germ from the flour.
Flour Dresser (Metamora Grist Mill, Metamora, Indiana)
The Flour Dresser removes any last bit of flour from the bran and germ.
The WOLF Co. "Pearl" Flour Packer on left and Flour Bin for local sales on right
In the Flour Packer, the flour falls down an 8" vertical tube containing an auger that packs the flour tightly into a flour barrel (or bag). As the barrel gets heavier it weights down a small platform that automatically shuts off the flow of flour at a preset weight, usually about 195 pounds.
IN SEARCH OF: At Abbotts Mill we are in need of a couple of old FLOUR BARRELS. (They must be flour barrels, whisky barrels are not the correct size.)
In the near future we will look at some of the other old mills that were once in Cedar Creek Hundred.
"Hundreds" are divisions of the counties in Delaware, comparable to townships in some other states. Sussex county has thirteen hundreds and Cedar Creek is the one in the north-east corner of the county.