Gristmill Road Trip

Lovingly restored gristmills preserve the sights, sounds and tastes of pioneer America.

Stanton's Mill, Grantsville, Maryland

Stanton's Mill

Stanton's Mill, built in 1797, served the Grantsville, Maryland, area until 1994. It has recently been restored to look much as it did in the 1850s.

Rock Run Grist Mill, Maryland

Rock Run Grist Mill

Rock Run Grist Mill, built in 1794 by John Stump, is in Maryland's Susquehanna State Park.

Littleton Grist Mill, Littleton, New Hampshire

Littleton Grist Mill

Littleton Grist Mill, established in 1798, still grinds flour twice a week. This photo was taken from Riverwalk Covered Bridge.

Bush Mill, Nickelsville, Virginia

Bush Mill, completed in 1897 to replace an older mill that burned, is in Scott County, Virginia, near Nickelsville.

Esom Slone's Mill, Roanoke, Virginia

Esom Slone's Mill

Esom Slone's Mill, circa 1880, was recently moved from Franklin County to Virginia's Explore Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke.

     

    By Pat & Chuck Blackley

    As history buffs as well as photographers, we find it nearly impossible to pass by a gristmill without stopping, chatting with the millers and shooting some photos. Top that off with a big bag of stone-ground flour or cornmeal, and it’s a fine day indeed.

    Water-powered gristmills, used to grind oats, wheat, corn and other grains into flour, meal and animal feed, were vitally important in the settlement of the American frontier. Situated on reliable sources of running water, mills often became the hubs of villages and cities that grew up around them.

    By the mid-1900s, though, large steam- and electric-powered mills had driven most water-powered mills out of business. Many of the buildings were converted to other uses or abandoned. Fortunately, a number of mills were saved and brought back to life by people who cherish this fascinating legacy of our pioneer past. Some have been only partially restored and serve as visitors centers or museums. Some have been fully restored, and they still grind grain just as they did in the old days.

    Many mills, like the Littleton Grist Mill in Littleton, New Hampshire, were saved and restored by determined groups of private citizens. Gracing the Ammonoosuc River since 1798, the mill now operates as a working museum. Its grain products are sold in specialty shops throughout the Northeast.

    We always enjoy watching millers at work, listening to the clanking of the massive gears and smelling the freshly ground grain. And you just can’t beat the taste of corn muffins and breads made with stone-ground meal and flour. These millers are true artists in grain, working in lovingly preserved masterpieces of American ingenuity.

    So can you really blame us for stopping at every gristmill we see?

    Photos by Pat & Chuck Blackley

    To view mills photography by our very own readers, click here.

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