HISTORY
OF
MENARD & MASON COUNTIES, ILLINOIS
1879

Chicago: O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers
186 Dearborn Street
Chicago

MILLS AND MILLING

In a new country, the preparation of grain for making bread is a matter of no slight importance; for while grain may be produced from the soil as easily in a new country as in an old one, it is not so easy to have the grain converted into meal. The first settlers here had a very primitive method of grinding corn, but the process was at once slow and toilsome. As said above, nearly or quite all of the first emigrants settled in the timber. A large stump was selected at a convenient point; the top was dug or burned out into the form of a mortar; a large, heavy block of hard wood, weighing from fifty to two hundred pounds, was shaped at one end so as to fit into t his mortar. A long, springy pole was then placed in such a position that when the block named above was hung to the end of the pole, it would hang just over the mortar; the mill was now ready for use. A small amount of corn was placed in the mortar, and taking hold of the pestle, it was worked up and down, and by its weight the corn was crushed; this was taken out and more put in, and the finest being separated from the course, the last was placed again in the mortar to be rebeaten, and the fine used for bread. But this process was so slow, that in a large family, the pestle must go almost constantly, or some of the family would be "placed on short rations." This kind of a mill was used the first three years after the settlement was begun in Sugar Grove. The first milling done from Sugar Grove, was done by John Jennison and James Meadows. These men went in a canoe down the Sangamon to the Illinois River, thence by the Mississippi to Alton. They were gone twenty-one days, bringing back a canoe-load of breadstuff with them. Soon after this, Mr. Meadows built a "band-mill" in the grove, and, soon after this, a similar structure was put up at Salem, detailed accounts of which will be found in the history of the respective precincts. The reader will bear in mind that these mills antedated, by several years, the water-mill of Cameron and Rutledge, at Salem, which, at the time, was looked upon as almost a wonder of mechanical invention. Those bank-mills, or horse-mills, though much better than the sweep and pestle, were sorry affairs at best. Like the rule made among the barbers at the present time, it was then a rule or custom that those who came first should be served first, and this custom was most rigidly adhered to. Persons would take a "grist" of one or two bushels of corn to the mill, and they must stay till it was ground. Reliable men at Tallula, stated to the writer that they came from there to Petersburg - only eight miles - in the days of the old band-mill, using their utmost diligence, it was midnight of the ninth day before they returned with their grinding. How strangely this must sound to the ears of "Young America." It was several years before there were any mills in this county provided with bolts, etc. for the grinding and bolting of wheat, so that those comparatively young can remember when wheat bread was a great rarity, and the little ones rejoiced to know the Sabbath was approaching, for they would get "cake" for breakfast Sunday morning.


1879 Index

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