1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Can’t you imagine when these machines were humming away and local folks brought their wheat to be ground into the best flour for light biscuits, delicate cakes, and hearty bread that formed the staple of everyday lives? I can imagine how friends and neighbors gathered and chatted with Joe Barron about things like the weather, their farms, their joys and hardships, the War in Europe while their order was ground into sacks to take back home. Like general stores, flour mills were important places to get the supplies needed to keep families going and a day of errands also meant a time to catch up with what everyone else was doing. Oh the stories that these old mill walls have heard!

  2. We still have Snavely’s Mill , the oldest continually run mill in Pa and one of the oldest in the country. They specialize in winter wheat- good for baking. Even though they are right here and the flour is sold in those old fashioned bags that are tied at the top ( ok now its a metal clip ) you can’t hardly find it in local stores, go figure. check out these links. they have a lot of organic flours
    some history:

    Snavely fed the furnace periodically throughout the day and finally, twelve hours after arriving, called it a day, shoveled coal into the furnace and banked it for another night. Some days he stayed at the mill for fourteen or fifteen hours.
    On the first floor Snavely pointed through a dust-coated window pane. “That house,” he said, as his finger swept across the mill pond and up the road several hundred yards, “was the first mill around here. It was built between 1713 and 1715.” One of Snavely’s four children lives there now.

    Inside the mill where we stood, the same race has been turning a water wheel for nearly two hundred years and the elemental power generated by the wheel has been grinding wheat into flour. The “product,” as Snavely refers to the all-natural flour, raw bran, wheat germ meal and whole wheat flour he grinds, is made from grain gathered within a fifty mile radius of the mill. So fine is the flour that it takes five cups to make a pound instead of the usual four cups. As for using shortening, “Well,” Snavely advised, “if you go by ‘feel’, you’ll know how the dough is coming along; if you go by ‘measure,’ then you use twenty percent less shortening with this flour.”
    Snavely began working at the mill when he was twelve and had been concerned with the “product” for fifty years when a friend, who had come to the United States from Germany, began talking with him about expanding his operation. “This friend was a miller,” Snavely explained, “and after he was in this country, he became a professional baker. No one could know more about the product including how it was milled and how it served the baker as dough. When he went back to Germany, I asked him to check on new equipment. He looked at mills for a year or so and then recommended one built by Roncaglia.” Roncaglia of Modena, Italy, are makers – according to Snavely’s friend – of the best milling equipment in the world.
    In April, 1974, in the summer of his seventieth year, Snavely and his wife, Viola, flew from New York to Geneva, Switzerland. It was his first trip abroad. They rented a car and drove through the Alps to Modena in northern Italy. After a day and a half at the Roncaglia works, the Snavelys motored through parts of Austria, Switzerland and southern Germany looking at milling equipment in operation. Roncaglia was his choice……. one is reminded of the arduous process which brought sophisticated gears and mill works to the grist mill which had been built across Snavely’s pond at the beginning of the eighteenth century. From the wharves along the Delaware River at Philadelphia, imported manufactured articles traveled by wagon to the Market Street Ferry across the Schuylkill River and then westward in the lumbering precursors of the great Conestoga freight wagons on the old Conestoga Road toward Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and finally, from the road head, to their ultimate destination by pack horses.

    Snavely has employed two men at his mill for several years. One will now move to the multi-buttoned console of the high-powered electrical apparatus. The other will continue at the water-driven works. Side by side, the antique canvas conveyor belts, housed in their smooth wooden panels and the modern gleaming stainless and glass pneumatic tubes will carry the grains and flours of Snavely’s mill.

  3. bonnie ellis says:

    Such wonderful stories of the mills. The picture is so nostalgic it makes you think of times gone by. Minneapolis was once the milling capital of the US. Pillsbury and General Mills had their mills powered by St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River. Unfortunately the mills are no longer in operation but the historical society has a wonderful interpretive museum at the spot. Thank you both for the stories.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *