The Daily Grind

I’ll bet from the title you’re thinking this is about the ordeal of getting through each new day.

Nope. That’s not what this is about.

I’m talking gristmills, the places the farmer took his wheat and corn to be ground into meal.

During the 1850’s, more than a 100,000 gristmills dotted the American countryside. They were in great demand because it spelled a farmer’s ruin if he couldn’t get this crops ground. Often he had to wait for weeks before the miller could get to him, depending on how many were ahead of him.

The mills were a community gathering place or social center. Everyone needed to get their grain converted into meal. Often the people packed a lunch and made a day out of it. And many mills had a pond where young and old alike could cool off, and in many instances, throw a line in the water hoping to catch some fish.

Usually the mills were situated on a river or stream and the water powered the large paddlewheel that turned the huge buhrstone and ground the grain into meal.

But in areas where there was little water, horses and mules turned the heavy buhrstones which weighed about 1,200 pounds each and were mostly granite.

A heavy Buhrstone with deep ridges to cut the grain.

Meal that was ground in this method, whether wheat, buckwheat, rye, or corn was very healthy because the oils and germ were retained in the finished product. Not at all like what we buy out of the stores today. Thus, the pioneers’ way preserved all the nutrients and flavors.

In a system that was profitable for all, the farmers gave a certain amount of grain to the miller in exchange. The miller in turn sold his portion of the meal and made a tidy profit. That was the way they stayed in business.

Then along came technology and changed the whole landscape.

Sadly today, there are only about a thousand gristmills—both in working and nonworking condition. Milling has become a lost art, mostly relegated to the pages of history.

The oldest mill in operation is in Wye Mills, Maryland. It was built in 1682 and shipped barrels of flour to the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Today, they offer tours and on the first and third Saturdays of each month from April to November they grind grain into meal and sell it.

War Eagle Mill located near Rogers, Arkansas is another very old, fully operational, mill. They’ve been in business for more than 175 years and hope to keep going a long time.

So, what do you think about my daily grind? Have you ever been to a gristmill or eaten food made from stone-ground meal? I’ve made cornbread from the cornmeal and there’s nothing like it. I wish for the olden times—before technology and modern mills. When we were healthier and possibly happier.

About LindaBroday

I'm a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of western historical romance. I love stories of the old West and the people who once lived there. I haunt libraries and museums and can hang out in them for hours. To tell all the stories that are in my head would take a lifetime.


The Daily Grind — 15 Comments

  1. Technology can be good, but sometimes to much is bad for us. I have seen an old mill up in Montana, and have had bread, and cornbread made from freshly ground flours. And nothing beats it. Back in the old days, these type of days were treasued and a cause for celebration. It was one of the few times some people ever saw that neighbor or friend. This was their time to socialize. Rest of the time, to busy working ti survive.

    • Hi Veda……How right you are! Everything is so processed today and people hide in their houses, not wanting to visit or socialize. Those old mills served many purposes. Thanks for coming by.

      Much love and hugs!

  2. Linda- Good morning I loved your daily grind. I’ve been to a mill when I was younger, but can’t remember where it was located. I am gluten free so I use Ground cornmeal and I agree it’s the best. Today so many things have so many bad products and preservatives in them. If we all went back to simplest foods I think we would all be healthier and feel better. You have a wonderful eclipse day & I love you dearly.

    • Hi Miss Tonya……You are absolutely right. If we went back to the old ways, we’d be so much healthier and probably not as overweight. The whole grains are much, much better for us. I’ve gotten stone ground cornmeal in the grocery store before and it was really good. We don’t need things so processed and like you said, our food is full of pesticides and preservatives.

      Much love, sister friend!

  3. Very interesting read! Thanks for sharing. A lost art for the most part. It did make me think of a little mom and pop shop in Hico, Texas where you can get fresh ground cornmeal and flour. The difference is amazing. They are an organic growing family business too. Two Clay Birds in Hico, Texas. The SStahnke’s are an amazing family.

    • That’s cool Stephanie, my town where I entered this world. Hico, TX is a special place in my heart. I’ll have to check this out when I go home to visit.

    • Hi Miss Stephanie…….I rarely get down to Hico, but if I ever do I’m stopping. I think they have several interesting businesses there in that town. It has a great atmosphere and a throwback to simpler times. I’d give anything for some fresh ground cornmeal. I don’t use flour that often, but I do cornmeal.

      Much love and big hugs, warrior buddy!

  4. As expected, an historical factual well written story. Good information and enjoyable. Possibility of an incorporation in one of your books?

    • Hi Jerri……How wonderful for you to come over! It’s great seeing you. Now, you’re learning about my love of history. Yes, you know I might just put a gristmill in one of my books. I just about have to.

      Much love and hugs!

  5. I had my own wheat grinder I used for years to make my own whole wheat bread. It was in the days before bread machines, so it was also my upper body workout program, too. Straight whole wheat bread is really, REALLY dense. I did add in about 1 cup white flour to 3 cups wheat. But, there is nothing like homemade bread made from fresh-ground whole wheat.

    • Hi Robyn……Thanks for dropping over. It’s always nice to see you. I envy you having your own grinder. But where did you get the wheat? That bread must be out of this world. What I wouldn’t give for some right now. Yummy!

      Big hugs!

  6. What a fun post for you to put up on my birthday. I often purchase stone ground cornmeal, just because I like it better. And, the cornbread it makes is delicious. I’d love to see an old original working gristmill. I think it would be fascinating. Love it!

    • Hi Miss Birthday Girl…….I think you and I need to take a trip to Rogers, Arkansas. Clint and I stopped there at the War Eagle gristmill once and it was the most interesting place. Plus, you could buy the fresh ground meal and flour. It’s only one of a few still in operation.

      I hope you’ve had a great day. Love you so much!

  7. Hi Linda – Enjoyed your post about the gristmill. Yes, I have seen one work & bought some corn meal. It’s located in Rockville, IN. They have a covered bridge festival in that area in October it attracts a lot of people.
    My Grandfather had a sharpening wheel made out of cement, a smaller wheel to the larger one you showed us. Looked like a bicycle on the back you had to peddle it to get the wheel moving…..what a work out. I loved it!!!

    • Good morning, Lois……Great to see you and thanks for the information. If I’m ever up in Rockville, I’m going to visit that gristmill. Sounds very interesting. I remember seeing pictures of those sharpening wheels that you made run by peddling. Those were a great invention but of course, gone now. And everyone has dull knives, including me. I can’t find a decent knife sharpener. My dad use to have a whetstone that he held in his hand and sharpened knives on it. I remember how smooth and worn it was with a dip in the center made by the knives where he struck them against the stone. Now you can’t find them to save your soul. Or a sharp knife. This world has gone to hell in a handbasket.

      Much love and hugs as you go about your day!