Steam Power Water Power Grist Mills

Jack C. Norbeck,
March/April 1998
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Photo by Jack C. Norbeck, Nor-beck Research, Coplay, PA 18037-1712.
Jack C. Norbeck
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Norbeck Research, 117 N. Ruch Street #8, Coplay, Pennsylvania 18037-1712

Frick 8 x 10 built in 1896. Owned by Steve Coldsmith of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Engine is in front of Anderson Grist Mill, Mercersburg, Pa.

On the front cover is Steve Coldsmith's Frick 8 x 10 built in 1897 by the Frick Company of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Operating the engine is Steve and his son at the old Anderson Grist Mill, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. Steve Coldsmith, owner of Coldsmith Construction Company, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, used his Freightliner truck to haul his Frick to the old grist mill. This reenactment was the way grain was brought to the old grist mills by horses and steam traction engines.

James Irwin, born in 1700, was a Scotch-Irish immigrant who came to Pennsylvania in 1729 with seven other Irwins. The Irwins operated mills, a bleaching plant and a smith shop in Ireland. James Irwin in 1748 owned 540 acres in Peters Twp. just north of present day Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. By 1766 he owned a mill valued at three pounds 12 shillings and by 1769 the value of the mill was 10 pounds six shillings.

During the Revolutionary War, Archibald Irwin's oldest son, James, began to do commissary duty for the Western Army at Irwinton's Mills. James Irwin organized pack horse trains to carry flour, meat and other provisions to Pittsburgh for the Western Army. James Irwin acted as an assistant commissary under the appointment of Col. George Morgan, who was Commissary General for the Western Army, whose headquarters were at Pittsburgh.

Large quantities of flour were made at Irwinton's Mill, packed in kegs, each weighing about one hundred pounds, to be sent west. Flour was brought in from Washington County, Maryland. Large numbers of beef cattle were driven to Irwinton's plantation to be purchased, slaughtered and processed in a recently erected slaughter house, and sent to the Western Armies. James Irwin stated that the Pittsburgh Quarter Master Department had four brigades of pack horses each containing about one hundred horses, with one horse master and twelve riders to each brigade, to carry provisions west for the Army. The mill must have been busy and crowded, with one hundred pack horses being loaded, and with their drivers and horse master preparing for a trip over the mountains to Pittsburgh.

Archibald Irwin died in 1798 and the plantation was given to his youngest son, Archibald Irwin II. Archibald Irwin IPs oldest daughter, Jane, married William Henry Harrison, Jr., son of the General and President William Henry Harrison, at Irwinton Mills in 1824. Jane Irwin Harrison was mistress of the White House during the brief administration of the first President Harrison in 1841. Archibald Irwin IPs daughter, Elizabeth, married John Scott Harrison. In 1889 Benjamin Harrison, the oldest son of Elizabeth Irwin Harrison, became President of the United States.

Anderson Grist Mill is located on Anderson Road beside the West Branch of the Conococheague Creek, between Mercersburg and Welsh Run, Pennsylvania. This is the only grist mill still standing in Montgomery Twp. It is a large two story wood frame mill with a steep gable roof. Water to operate the grist mill is provided by an eight foot stone dam, across the creek, 25 feet above the mill. The grist mill is powered by an 18 and 50 horsepower water turbine. Harry Anderson, Chester's son, owns the grist mill today and periodically opens the mill to the public for a top to bottom tour. This grist mill was built in 1856, on the exact spot of Irwinton Mills, the first grist mill built in what is now Montgomery Twp. Archibald Irwin built a grist mill at this spot in 1765. The mill was constructed of stone and was 45 feet by 25 feet.

Chester Anderson purchased the grist mill from L. P. Letz in 1917. Chester Anderson operated the mill until he was called by the Lord in 1973 and his son, Harry, ran the mill full time until 1981. From old flour bags hanging on the office wall, we know that Chester Anderson operated under the names Irwinton Roller Mills and Union Roller Mills. The grist mill is still in operating condition, thanks to the preservation work done by Harry and Rollie Anderson and Rollie's son, Rodney.

Harry Anderson stated that when his father purchased the mill, it was equipped with one large set of burr stones and two roller mills. Originally the mill was equipped with two sets of large burr stones and two sets of small burr stones. The mill was modernized with roller mills in the early 1890s. Each roller mill is equipped with two sets of metal rollers.

For 35 years, Chester Anderson manufactured a full line of flours and feeds, collecting 10% toll for his service. Feeds and cornmeal were processed using the burr stones. Harry stated that corn has to be very dry to make cornmeal, and farmers would dry their corn in their cook stove ovens, before bringing it to the mill to be ground into cornmeal.

To make flour the wheat was hoisted to the second floor and cleaned and then run through the first set of rollers. From there it went to a separator and sifter (bolting machine), the hulls were separated from the whole wheat and fine flour was sifted out. The coarse chunks were elevated to the second floor and dropped through rollers and sifters three more times. Each roller would grind the wheat finer. The fine ground flour was elevated to the attic to be bleached in the bleaching machine and then stored in bins until bagged. Chester Anderson stopped manufacturing high quality flour in the 1950s.

A cider press was operated at Anderson Mill until the 1930s. The press was located in the old cooper shop, a one story shed attached to the west side of the mill. For years farmers would bring their grain to Anderson Mill to be cleaned. Chester Anderson upgraded the cleaning equipment shortly after buying the mill. It was considered one of the best cleaners in the area.

Harry Anderson said that during periods of drought the water level was so low that you can see the remains of four dams at Anderson Mill. The first dam was constructed of rocks, brush (cedar trees) and mud. This was a temporary dam to channel the water in the creek through the race so that a permanent dam of rocks and mud could be constructed below the temporary dam. A log dam was constructed later in front of the rock and mud dam, and the present stone dam was constructed in front of the log dam. During periods of drought all the water flowing down the creek was needed to run the mill at full power. For the past twenty years, the creek has never frozen over.

Harry Anderson said that in the 1960s, Heisey's Orchard dredged Licking Creek above the covered bridge, to improve water flow. The remains of a log dam was found between the covered bridge and the barn, a short distance above the bridge. Chester Anderson said that there was a nail factory that operated at this site. They also dug up numerous pieces of iron and nails. During this dredging operation, they dug up the remains of a stone dam located about three-quarters of a mile above the covered bridge on Licking Creek, and beside an old stone house at the corner of Heisey and Orchard Road. This site was the location of a woolen factory or fulling mill in the 1800s.

Archibald Irwin II died in 1840. He was the last Irwin to own Irwinton Mills. The property had to be sold to cover bills. According to tax records, Irwinton's Grist Mill and Sawmill were transferred to Matthew Vandear in 1845. The old grist mill burned in 1850, and the current grist mill was constructed in 1856 at the exact location by Jerry Witter and Kuhn. In the 1860s Union Mills was the trade name for the grist mill and sawmill, operated by Kuhn and Witter at this location. It appears that the operation failed financially in the early 1870s and Union Mills was sold in 1873. Union Mills was modernized in the 1890s. Roller mills were installed to make flour instead of using the burr stones.

Anderson Grist Mill was the nucleus of a group of structures still standing today that enables one to envision what mid-1800s rural Franklin County looked like. Still standing at the grist mill complex are the 1760s stone house and log barn, log hog pen and log smoke house and an early 1800s bank barn. Located within a half mile of the mill are two more stone houses, a stone barn, a two-arch stone bridge, a red wooded covered bridge and a brick one-room school house.

For more information about the Anderson Grist Mill please call (717) 328-3335 or write to Anderson Mill, 9717 Anderson Road, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania 17236.

Back Cover

LeRoy Walker from Glen Rock PA and his 25-75 HP Aultman-Taylor steam traction engine built in 1911. It is one of two in existence today built with an Alberta boiler. The engine was trucked to Union Mills by Harry Forry & Sons from Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania, and the driver was Jeff Amspacker, driving their White diesel. The engine was trucked to Union Mills after the Mason-Dixon Historical Society's 35th show on the grounds of Carroll County Farm Museum, Westminster, Maryland. For further information about the MasonDixon Show call Mr. Herb Wessel, telephone 1-410-374-2273.

Walker's Aultman-Taylor was built in Mansfield, Ohio, and Cornelius Aultman established the C. Aultman Company in 1851. Then he established the Aultman-Taylor Machinery Company. He was a native of the Buckeye State. He was born on a farm in Osnaburg Township, Stark County, Ohio, just two miles east of the city of Canton, on March 10, 1827. His parents were Jacob and Elizabeth Aultman who migrated from Pennsylvania to Ohio. Soon after the birth of Cornelius they moved to Uniontown, Stark County, and within a year the father died, leaving his wife and two-year old son.

As was the custom of that day, the education which C. Aultman received was meager indeed, particularly when compared with present day educational standards. He spent, altogether, about eight months in the village school. Thereafter, he was thrown largely upon his own resources.

When he was about 14 years of age, he went to work with his uncle at the millwright trade. After spending a few months at this work, he returned to live with his mother who, in the meantime, had married John Miller, a farmer living near Greentown, Ohio.

Soon after his return to Greentown, he engaged in learning to manufacture spinning wheels and grain cradles. Following the mastery of his business, he entered the machine shop of Wise and Ball in the spring of 1848 and worked there for a period of two years. Later he was to marry the daughter of Mr. Wise. In this small shop he learned the trade of wheelwright and general machine work. The output of this shop consisted of wheels for transportation purposes, plows, mill construction and spinning.

The Aultman-Taylor Machinery Company stopped building steam traction engines about 1924. They built about 5,870 engines.

The Aultman Company made the following steam traction engines (types): Star traction for coal or wood, the Mogul return flue engine, the compound Mogul engine, the upright-boiler Canton Monitor and the Double Star road locomotive. The Aultman Company made the Monitor semi-portable engine and steam traction engine, Phoenix.

The company also made the Star water tanks, Low-Down force pump, American thresher with folding stacker, a wind stacker, sawmills and horse powers.

The Aultman-Taylor Machinery Company made the following: steam traction engines; Bevel Gear wood and coal burners that used the Woolf patent valve gear; spur gear tractions mounted on the John Abell patent boiler; straw, coal or wood burners mounted on the celebrated A & T high pressure, water bottom fire box boiler and portable steam traction engines.

They also made the New Century separator, with blower and self-feeder, the New Century rice threshers, Aultman-Taylor matchless clover and alfalfa hullers, plus water tanks. They made farm and plantation saw mills, plus horse powers.

The Aultman Company became the Aultman-Taylor Machinery Company and later was bought out by Allis-Chalmers. Today Allis-Chalmers is part of AGCO, Duluth, Georgia.

Union Mills

Union Mills used steam, steam traction engines, and steam rollers, and in 1797 David and Andrew Shriver purchased a large tract of land along the Big Pipe Creek. The site was perfect for the enterprises that the Shriver brothers hoped to start. The Big Pipe Creek provided an excellent source of water for a mill, the fertile valley was good farmland and the surrounding rolling hills contained heavy stands of black oak which could furnish tanbark for a tannery.

The brothers started a tannery, grist mill, saw mill, cooper shop and a blacksmith's shop. Now, David and Andrew truly had the beginning of an early industrial park. The growing enterprises soon took the name 'Union Mills' because of the partnership of the two brothers and various businesses. This is the same name that was taken by the small settlement which grew up around the homestead.

Perhaps Union Mills' most fascinating piece of history comes later at the time of the Civil War. The Shriver family was very much like the rest of the state of Maryland, with divided loyalties. Here at the homestead, Andrew K. Shriver's family supported the Union cause, while directly across the road his brother William Shriver's family supported the Confederate cause. Each family had sons in the army of their cause.

Then, just before the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, J. E. B. Stuart's Confederate cavalry swarmed over the orchard hill around midnight of June 29, surrounding the house and the family. The hungry soldiers were fed flapjacks in the old kitchen, grabbing them off the griddle before they were cooked! When morning broke, the rebel cavalry departed towards Hanover, Pennsylvania, with T. Herbert Shriver as their guide. The Confederate officers were entertained by William Shriver for breakfast, and J.E.B. Stuart charmed his fellow southern sympathizers by singing, 'If You To Be A Bully Boy, Jine the Cavalry.'

Shortly after the Confederate cavalry left, the Union soldiers arrived. Syke's Fifth Corps of infantry camped in the surrounding fields, and division commander General Barnes made the main house his headquarters. How quickly the tide had turned. Now, Andrew K. Shriver's family took their turn in entertaining officers. The daughters sang and danced with the Union soldiers in a room off the front hall that has been referred to ever since as the 'dancing hall.' These soldiers also departed for Gettysburg and left the family feeling behind enemy lines. For the next several days, the windows shook on the house from the cannon thunder of the Battle of Gettysburg, while the family awaited the outcome. In the days that followed they watched wagon trains laden with wounded men move past, interspersed with small bands of Confederate prisoners. Some stopped to take water from the pump out front.

After the bloody schism was over, the divided family turned its attention to business. The tannery won awards at the Centennial in 1876, and was in use until 1890 when a storm blew down its brick smokestack. The water-powered grist mill, restored as a mill museum, operated into the 1940s, and a canning business flourished until 1976.

Walker's Aultman Taylor steam traction engine is by the Union Mills water wheel. This grist mill was built in 1797 with the most modern of milling innovations of the times included. David and Andrew Shriver used the design of noted millwright Oliver Evans. Evans' genius was acknowledged by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, who both employed his designs in mills that they owned. The mill was powered by a large mid-breast wheel that turned millstones made of imported french burr stone. As an important commercial mill, the mill ground flour that was packed in barrels and shipped out to Europe through the port of Baltimore. With various changes, the mill operated until 1942. Recently, in 1983, the mill reopened as a working mill winning awards for restoration. When the original mill was built for the Shrivers in 1797 by John Long, the cost was $430. The restoration of the mill in 1981-1983 cost more than $260,000.

Today, the grist mill represents an excellent example of a working Oliver Evans designed mill, with the wooden waterwheel, gears, parts and frame painstakingly recreated. Rye, whole wheat, buckwheat and two kinds of cornmeal are now ground in the mill and offered for sale.

Both the house and mill are open to the public for guided tours with a small admission fee. You can see where Washington Irving sat before a fire and talked late into the night, and James Audubon watched the Baltimore oriole build a nest in one of the willow trees. Relics dating back to Jefferson's time are to be seen. Everything is much the same as when the Homestead was in daily use by an active family growing with America, and the visitor is assured a rewarding experience.

The Union Mills Homestead is operated by a non-profit foundation with all proceeds dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the Union Mills Homestead Complex.

For more information about Union Mills Homestead please telephone 1-410-848-2288 or write: Union Mills Homestead, 3311 Littlestown Pike, Westminster, Maryland 21158.

Information for this article came from the Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines, Steve Coldsmith, Harry Anderson, Calvin E. Bricker, LeRoy Walker, Ester Shriver, and Kenneth R. Haines. All photos were taken by Jack C. Norbeck, NORBECK RESEARCH, Coplay, Pennsylvania 18037-1712.

The Haines Grist Mill

The picture shows, from left to right, Dennis Rutz, standing in wagon is Carl Snyder, Henry Frey holding the reins and seated next to him is Donald Wehr.

Grain was brought to the Haines Grist Mill by horses and steam traction engines. In 1759, John Knauss bought the land from his father-in-law, Joseph Bishop, who received the property from Thomas and Richard Penn in 1738. The Haines Mill was built between 1759 and 1765 and remained in the Knauss family until 1853. The mill was purchased by Solomon Lichten walner and remained in the Lichten walner family until 1906 when Jacob Haines bought the grist mill. In 1908 the mill, filled with fall and winter crops, was gutted by fire. Destruction was so complete that only the outside walls remained. In 1909 the mill was rebuilt with a water turbine installed to replace the undershot water wheel. At the same time, a Fairbanks Morse diesel engine was installed as an alternate source of power when needed. The available equipment limited production to 300 pounds of flour per hour. A 100 pound sack of grain produced about 60 pounds of flour. With the introduction of cake mixes to the market, and electrically generated feed grinders available to the farmers, the demand for the mill's products began to decline. In 1956 the mill ceased operations.

The last miller, Ira J. Haines, was known throughout the community as a 'full measure man' based on his reputation as an honest miller. A 25 pound bag of flour from Ira was at least 25 pounds.

Their slogan was: 'A healthy glow and chubby cheeks is what each loving mother seeks. Those mothers give health more power, who mix their mix dough with Haines Brothers flour.' Today, the Haines Mill Museum is run by the Lehigh County Historical Society, Allentown, Pennsylvania. 18105. Telephone is (610)-435-4664.


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