The gristmills of those days were marvels of originality and ingenuity, when we consider the crude implements used in their erection and the lack of proper materials. Many of them were made almost without a piece of iron or a nail. One of the earliest was that of William Green in North Buffalo township, of which the following description will be of interest to readers who never see the process of making flour now.
The bolting chest of the first gristmill was made of the trunk of a large, hollow button-wood tree, which was divided into two equal parts, one placed above the other, with an interval of about two feet between them. The entire interval on one side was closed by shaved clapboards, and all on the other, except about four feet in the middle, which space was covered by a piece of homemade linen cloth, nailed on the upper, and which dropped on the inside of the lower part of the trunk so as to keep the flour from falling out of the chest. Instead of a leather belt, a rope made of straw was used, which required moistening to make it effective. People brought their grists to that mill from twenty miles around. One of its customers was a little Irishman from Butler county, who fell asleep while waiting for his grist. As he awoke, he saw the large cog-wheel and the trundle-head turning between him and the moonlight which penetrated a crevice in the wall. Being alarmed, he screamed and yelled lustily. On being asked what was the matter, he replied, "I thought I was in hell, and the big devil and a little one were after me."
All of these mills were operated by water-power, sometimes from an undershot, but generally by an overshot, wheel. Our illustration of the Cowanshannock mill will give an idea of the appearance of the better kind of water mill.
Source: Page(s) 19 - 23,
Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present Volume I, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed June 1998 by Michael S. Caldwell for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Published 1998 by the Armstrong County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project