The Miller's Tale

The story of the Plimoth Grist Mill and our quest to mill great history and delicious organic cornmeal!

The Plimoth Grist Mill at Jenney Pond

March 15th, 2013 by kim

Meet our Mill!

The Plimoth Grist Mill at Jenney Pond

Isn’t she beautiful? This is The Plimoth Grist Mill and she’s our newest Plimoth Plantation exhibit. Through the mill and the story of its owners, John and Sarah Jenney, we’ll be exploring the role of mills in early colonial communities, the science and technology of milling, the importance and use of corn in the 17th century, and the ecology of beautiful Town Brook which runs alongside (and underneath) us.

The mill is a reproduction of the grist mill that was built in 1636 and run by Plymouth Colonist John Jenney.

“That Mr. John Jenny shall have liberty to erect a Milne for grinding and beating of corne upon the brooke of Plymouth to be to him and heirs forever. And shall have a pottle of corne toule upon every bushel for grinding the same…”
Plymouth Colony Court Records, 1636

Today’s mill was built in 1969 and opened in 1970. The mill is made from mill parts that were recycled from an early 19th century mill near Philadelphia, as well as newly constructed components and several timbers from a mill that was demolished on the same site in the 1960s.

Here’s our runner stone, bed stone and stone crane. All are from the Philadelphia mill.

Runner stone raised off of the bed stone

Runner stone raised off of the bed stone


A Little Help From Our Friends

Up until now, corn grinding at the Musuem was limited to the decidedly low-tech (even by 17-century standards) mortar and pestle method. If you’ve every visited our 17th-Century English Village or the Wampanoag Homesite, chances are you’ve been pressed into service pounding corn. Since we were newbies to the milling word and didn’t know our tuns from our gudgeons, we turned to some very talented, knowledgeable and generous folks for help.

Millwright Benjamin Hassett of B.E. Hassett Millwrights was here earlier this winter to dress our stones. We called him back a few weeks ago to refurbish our spindle–the metal shaft that links the gears to the runner stone, and upon which the runner stone sits– that was showing a couple of hundred years of wear. Ben and spindle are en route to Plymouth at this very moment, and the spindle will be re-installed over the next few days!  Check back in a few days for a post about the spindle installation.

Here’s Ben laying out the pattern on the runner stone.

Laying out the furrows on the runner stone

Laying out the furrows on the runner stone

Taking out the spindle and wallower so Ben can take them to his shop in Virginia.

Spindle and wallower removed for repair

Spindle and wallower removed for repair

 

With our machinery tune-up underway, we turned our attention to that small matter of learning how to mill. Mason Maddox Jr. to the rescue! Mason is a wonderful miller and trainer of millers who operates Colvin Run Mill in Virginia. He’s also very active in SPOOM, The Society for Preservation of Old Mills. Over the course of four days, Mason put us through our paces, training us in the history of mills, food safety and sanitation, and the safe operation of the mill. 600 pounds of corn later, we were starting to get the hang of it and were thoroughly smitten with milling!

Here’s our new pal Mason teaching us how to lower the runner stone back into place on the spindle.

Mason giving me a hard time!

Mason giving me a hard time!

 

Putting it All Together

A small team of us has also been working on the Plimoth Grist Mill exhibit. (Thanks Karin, Marie, Rita, Richard, Aaron and Bridget for your great work.). The panels went up today. I may be biased, but I think it looks great!

Here are some of us, hard at work on exhibit text.

Exhibit prep powered by Dunkies

Exhibit prep powered by Dunkies

 

So… it’s been a jam packed, fun-filled, fast-paced winter. All to get ready for our museum opening on March 16.

Which is tomorrow!

We’re ready. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop on by. The wheel will be turning, and we’d love to show you ’round.

 

Where there’s a mill, there’s a way.

 

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3 Responses to “The Plimoth Grist Mill at Jenney Pond”

  1. Rick says:

    Great post Kim! Can’t wait to hear all the stories from your daily grind!

  2. Frank Mand says:

    How much you’ve learned, how easily you communicate what you have learned, and the excitement with which you communicate, impressive. I think this will be a great addition to the plantation’s offerings. Don’t work too hard.

    • kim says:

      Thanks Frank, for the compliments, the video and article! It was nice having you by for a visit, and I appreciate your spreading the word about the mill!

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