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What kind of equipment is in Abbott's Mill, and why?

As originally constructed in the early 1800s, the mill on Bowman Branch had a breast-shot waterwheel that drove two sets of 48” millstones, one for corn and the other for grains (Wheat, Barley, Oats and Buckwheat).

Soon included were four bucket elevators (two for each set of millstones) that went from the bottom of the basement all the way up to the attic, a total of about 34 feet.

In the 3rd floor attic was added a corn cleaner , that consists simply of a sloped chute with an interchangeable hardware wire screen in the bottom. Corn rolled down over the screen while dirt and seeds fell through it and on 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 down in the basement, between the elevators, 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 (often referred to as "the new process") 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 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 competition from other nearby mills that had already installed the new process, due to the public's new demand for "pure white flour." To achieve this, everything that wasn't white was removed from the grain during the milling process, including the bran and the wheat germ. In fact, so much was removed that it was now necessary for the larger commercial mills to "enrich" their flour with nutrients, which included iron and B vitamins (folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine).

Corn Sheller at Abbott's Mill

The Corn Sheller - Grist mills processed only very dry corn. The sheller removes the dry corn from the cob, but if the farmer had a corn sheller of his own (and some children to hand-crank it) he got a much better price for his product.

The Receiving Separator is squeezed into a small attic dormer not much bigger than it is.

The Receiving Separator is in a very small dormer space in the attic, which makes it impossible to photograph very well, even with a wide angle lens.. It was used to remove debris from the wheat (and other grains,) such as metal, stones, weed seeds.

The Wheat Scourer and Polishing Machine removes impurities from the "wheat berry" such as dust, fuzz and smut. The process was called :polishing the wheat. Remember that the end goal is to produce "pure, white flour."

The 3 Break WOLF Company Roller Mills are 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 grain is gradually reduced in particle size by running it between the pairs of rotating hardened-steel rollers and then through the Bolter. In each pair of rollers, one of them turns faster than the other and the process gradually tears the grain endosperm apart, rather than to crushing it.

The first pair of rollers are very coarsely grooved.

It then goes through the gyrating bolter upstairs and the grain particles are returned back down to the next set of rollers. After the grain has been through all six pairs of rollers, each time getting finer and finer, the endosperm has become flour and all the unwanted parts (bran, wheat germ and maybe a little chaff) have been separated out. The unwanted material goes to a special bin to be sold as poultry feed, and the flour goes to either the flour packer or the flour bin.

Inside the bolter are 20 trays of screens, some coarse and some very fine.

The WOLF Company "Gyrator" Flour Bolter

The "Gyrator" Bolter separates out the bran and germ from the flour. When in operation the wooden part of the machine moves around in a tight circle and reminds me of someone spinning a hula-hoop.

Flour Dresser (Metamora Grist Mill, Metamora, Indiana)

The Flour Dresser removes any last bits of flour from the bran and germ. The less waste there was, the more flour was produced from a given amount of grain.

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 barrel (or bag). As the barrel gets heavier it weights down a small platform that then automatically shuts off the flow of flour at a preset weight, usually about 195 pounds.

In the flour bin on the right was a scoop that was used to fill paper bags for on-the-spot sales, 5 lbs. at a time.



At Abbott's Mill we are in need of a couple of old wooden FLOUR BARRELS.

(They must be flour barrels, whiskey barrels are not the correct size.)


Next time we'll learn what one local miller thought about the "New Process."

We'll also learn about the Abbott's Mill power source; the pond of water, the water-wheel and later the turbine.

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