Say hi to the Grist Mill!!
The southern interior of British Columbia may be best known for its multitude of local wineries, arid summer temperatures, and various water sports. Still, for those who want to learn more about the region’s history and culture, the better place to start is the historic Grist Mill & Gardens.
The Grist Mill was once a significant stop for local settlers, First Nations peoples, and miners traveling on the historic Dewdney Trail. This 700-kilometer route served as the main thoroughfare in mid-19th century British Columbia. It is now located in the village of Keremeos in the Similkameen Valley, about thirty minutes drive outside of the Okanagan Valley.
While the primary Mill has been meticulously reconstructed to resemble its original functioning configuration and its original equipment is once again grinding flour, the entire area the Grist Mill sits on has been carefully restored and protected as a provincial heritage site open to tourists from spring to fall.
Canada’s 19th Century Grist Mill: The History
The Grist Mill is an excellent example of the settlement and industrial growth of the Gatineau Hills and the north shore of the Ottawa River.
A grist mill uses the energy from moving water to grind grain into flour.
The Shah family established this business after coming from Scott Land in 1847.
John and Barbara Shaw recognized the potential of the snake river’s flowing water and used it to create a dam to capture the electricity. The river powered the three-story Chryst mill and the sawmill. When this Mill was constructed in 1877, ancient farmers were cultivating a wide range of crops, including wheat, which included seeds that were gathered and separated from the plant.
In Balmoral Mills, Nova Scotia, a grist mill was built in 1874 and rebuilt as the Balmoral Grist Mill Museum. A 1-kilometer (0.62-mile) walking path runs alongside Balmoral Brook’s ravine on the property. The Mill is a component of the network of museums in Nova Scotia.
A grain mill was constructed for the farming community’s benefit, and it is now utilized in homes and for feeding livestock. To make flour, these seeds are crushed between the stones in a grist mill. The forest has taken over the landscape since the shaw mills ceased operation in the early 20th century.
Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre is located on the former Mill site and the nearby forest. In North America, some grist mills still produce ground flour very finely. Only a few exist, and the grist mill is one of them. It still turns grain into flour after 155 years. This is quite similar to how the shaw grist mill would have worked. Watson’s Mill is a building in Manotick, Ontario, Canada.
The Mill is a landmark in Gatineau Park thanks to its advantageous placement next to the hamlet on a busy regional road, where tourists and residents know the structure.
Grinding Grain: Operating Mechanism of the Feed Mill
The Grist mill is powered by the hydraulic head of water held behind a dam; this water powers a turbine positioned in the Mill’s basement. Water enters the Mill from the mill pond through control gates that are linked to the turbines, then flows to the basement.
Because this structure houses the gate that regulates the flow of water, the outer casing of the turbines was removed to reveal the blades inside the rotor. The wheel on the first floor is attached to the shaft that extends from the turbines.
The gates are closed and opened by turning this wheel. The spinning shaft that protrudes from each one transmits the power from the turbine.
This Mill’s six turbines can each create 40 horsepower if enough water flows through them.
The hopper on the first floor is filled with dry grains. A series of buckets in the elevator pick up the wheat and transport it to the third floor. One of the basement turbines is powdering this elevator. The grain is discharged from the elevator on the third floor into a sizable storage container known as the Garner bin.
The garner bin is located on the second story, and the elevator and bin are both sealed to prevent observation of this activity. The green tube that hangs from the first floor’s ceiling receives the wheat as it spills out of the garner bin’s aperture. The wheat is delivered to the mill stones through this chute.
Rotating Mechanism of the Feed Mill
Inside this structure are two sizable circular millstones that are flatly stacked, one on top of the other. The upper stone, known as the runner, rotates. Grain enters the stones through an aperture in the middle of the runner stone but does not rotate into the lower stone, which is the bed stone. The ground grain is moved via a unique pattern carved into the stone to the bed stone’s outside border, where it falls into the building.
The little wheel controls the space between the two stones using two control wheels installed nearby. To produce the best flour, Miller adjusts this distance. Before opening the gate to start the turbine, the huge wheel drives the runner stone. The gate controls the passage of flowing water to the turbine.
The Miller primes the stones with handfuls of wheat to prevent them from running dry and setting off sparks that could damage the stones. After the stones are primed, Miller turns the big wheel to open the water gate in the basement. As the water begins to flow, it strikes the turbine’s blades and causes the runner stones to turn, creating coarse flour.
The crucial step in the procedure is managing the stones; to produce the best crest, the rotation rate and gap must be managed appropriately. At this stage of the process, flour is referred to as grist because of this. Before it can be transformed into flour, the created grist needs extra processing.
According to the texture of the grist, the Miller can remove tiny samples through the access port. The employees will adjust the gap between the stones and alter the rate at which the runner stone rotates until a high-quality grist is created.
The warm, wet grain that is dropping from the stones is guided toward an elevator and taken to the third floor, where it is thrown onto one end of a spinning auger, which drives the grist along while chilling and drying it.
The boulder is created when the grain falls into a machine on the second floor from the end of the auger. This device distinguished the flour from the bran and other waste. The flour is bagged and dropped from the boulder through a chute onto the first level, where it is ready for use.
Reconstruction Period of Flour Mill
Wakefield Grist Mill was initially constructed in the late 1830s; it burned down in 1877 and was rebuilt. In 1910, a second fire destroyed all but the walls. The enormous tower had to be rebuilt multiple times when its successor passed away in 1931. Archibald Marsh constructed the first grist mill in Consecon, and by the 19th century, the town was thriving.
The Mill’s heritage value comes from its connection to the settlement and industrial growth of the Gatineau Hills and the Ottawa River’s north shore. When Richard Baldwin bought the Mill in 1949, the towering part is still there today, and an old freight building from the railroad station was erected. The Mill was once more rebuilt, this time adding a brick second story to the existing stone walls.
The Mill has a practical design perfectly adapted to its industrial purpose and is constructed of big rough-cut stone and brick. It is perhaps one of the few mills from the nineteenth century that have been identified that are still in relatively good functioning order. Rebuilding a working water wheel and flume is one example of careful repair.
The direction of the building altered as the mills closed, and it was the 1950s that saw the creation of something entirely new, giving the hamlet new vitality. The Mill was transformed into apartments, a business space, and a tavern following yet another fire. It first opened as Cascades Pub and Grill about ten years ago, ran for six years, and then became The Mill for just one season.
Gardens Around Grist Mill
Following a visit to the Mill’s journal from 1894–1895, staff members planted wheat behind the Mill and kept a garden in good condition. The Tea Room serves freshly baked goods cooked with Mill’s flour, while the Mill Store sells Mill’s flour.
The Grist Mill and Gardens are just one kilometer east of Highway 3A on the north side of Keremeos, on Upper Bench Road, next to Keremeos Creek. This is about a 35-minute journey west of Osoyoos or a 40-minute trip south of Penticton.
All year long, this historic place is accessible every day. From 9:00 am to 5:00 pm during the summer.
With their buttery scones, delectable jams, and fresh garden produce farmed on-site, or at nearby farms, you can taste the Similkameen. A vegetable garden with peppers and other vegetables, including enormous heritage varieties, and an orchard full of heritage apples, wheat, and other grains wave in the breeze. Fruit from Zucca Melons can weigh up to 68 kilograms!
The craftsmanship of Mill’s Construction
The Grist Mill structures at Keremeos are noteworthy examples of frontier architecture with a practical aesthetic. The Mill is a notable example of the highly-skilled craftsmanship of early mill construction, which was specially made to suit the machinery contained within, and an exceptional instance of a purpose-built wood industrial structure.
The Grist Mill is still the only remaining early British Columbian flour mill, and its vintage equipment is still functional. Essential facilities like the general shop and apple home were constructed utilizing hand-shaped wooden materials and traditional building techniques.
• The general store/residence building’s historic exterior characteristics, such as its one-story massing and gable-roof form, date to Barrington Price’s reign.
• The general store’s or residence’s historical interior elements, such as old wallpaper and construction and wear signs (as seen in traffic patterns on floorboards)
• The relationship between man-made structures and the physical characteristics of the land, such as Keremeos Creek and the topography surrounding it, whose slope and volume provide the Mill’s source of power and necessitate the use of a connecting footbridge to allow access from the store to the Mill; and the Mill’s interior and exterior, including particular construction elements related to its use as a flour mill.
• The antique mill equipment, such as the James Jones stone roller and the Barford & Perkins steel grinder
• The Mill, general store/residence, and apple house were all built by hand, as shown by the broad axe, adze, and pit saw markings on the timber structural components.
Live music, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Canada Day celebrations are just a few of the fantastic events held at The Grist Mill throughout the year. Wine Your Way Tours will drive you there and pick you up, allowing you to relax with a drink while they handle the driving. The Heritage Fall Fair, Apple Day, and the Heritage Harvest Banquet will undoubtedly draw large numbers throughout the fall. There are community bonfires and workshops in the winter.
Here, the two-story building breathes history. The exposed wood softens the industrial mill workings that are still present on both floors, but mainly on the upper storey. Among the modifications are a brand-new bar larger than the old one, changes to the kitchen, renovated bathrooms, and enhancements to the eating space on the main level.
On November 19, 1974, it was formally designated as a British Columbia Heritage Site in honor of its historical significance. The Province of BC owns 23 heritage properties in total.