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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Flour Milling In The Miami Valley

Dallas Bogan on 13 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

The writer has touched previously in recent articles on the importance of the Little Miami River and its significance in the development of the Miami Valley in regards to the many mills that were built. At this time I shall briefly focus on the flourmills and their mechanisms for operation.
Waterpower, in a direct application, has been used for centuries to supply power for all sorts of operations. A constant motion of water provides power when efficiently used that tends to produce a reliable product.
The principal kinds of power used in driving the flourmills are water, directly applied; wind; steam; internal combustion engines; and electricity.
Possibly the first application of waterpower was the placing of a paddle wheel in a rapidly moving current.
Dams were built at a later time to trap the water and direct its greater current.
To operate a wheel/mill, the current was directed against the paddles at the lower section of a wheel by way of a flume. (A flume is an inclined water-tite trough or chute for carrying water to furnish power.) This application is called the "undershot" wheel method. This system can be used where a substantially large volume of water with a low fall is available. Also, this method can be used when construction costs must be kept at a minimum. The physical surroundings generally control the size of the wheel. Wheels are sometimes 30 to 40 feet in diameter, the notion being, the more leverage, and the more power.
Two other types of water wheels are the "breast" and "overshot." These wheels are somewhat similar in operation except in the area of application of the water to the wheel.
The overshot wheel, by means of a flume, has the water running directly over the top into buckets built into the rim of the wheel. (These buckets are not exactly buckets, as we know them, but are mere constructions of water-tite compartments.)
The buckets on the declining side hold the water until they become inverted as they pass under the bottom. Two forces drive the overshot wheel: the force of the water striking the wheel on the top and the weight of the water held by the buckets.
The breast wheel is different in terms as to where the water strikes it. The water is directed to the wheel just above the area of the hub. The water is guided into the buckets by the same method as the overshot wheel, but the buckets are set in the opposite direction and the wheel is driven entirely by the weight of the water.
The "turbine" water wheel is used in most modern installations. The necessities for this operation are a plentiful supply of water and a head high enough to assure the extra costs of building the proper bulkheads, flumes, etc. Most turbines resemble a centrifugal pump. The force of the water against the vanes of the pump would cause it to revolve in the same manner as a turbine water wheel. Water above the turbine wheel is called the headwater and that discharged from the wheel, after the work has been performed, is known as the tail water. In most turbine installations the construction of the flume and the tailrace are of concrete. The delivery of power to the wheel may be set at tail water (bottom of the flume) or it may be set at a substantial distance above the tail water and deliver the same power.
Another type flourmill was the windmill type. This operation consisted of a huge windmill that was placed directly on top of the building. They were used mainly in the wheat section of the Great Plains where a water wheel was not feasible.
The technique was utilized by "Halladay and Wheeler Patent" windmills for three decades. It first appeared in the market place about 1870. These huge windmills ranged in sizes from 36 ft., 40 ft., 50 ft., to 60 ft. Construction of the wheels consisted of fan blades which were fitted with variable pitch blades. Behind the large wind wheel was a fantail mounted at a right angle to the principal wheel. The purpose of this setup was assurance that the main wheel faced the wind at all times.

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This page created 13 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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