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Witness the Power of Water as Historic Mill Grinds Wheat into Flour

08/13/2010

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On select Sundays, visitors at Black Creek Pioneer Village, Toronto's favourite outdoor living history museum, will have the opportunity to see Roblin's Mill in action, grinding wheat into flour. The 1842 water-powered mill, orginially from Ameliasburgh, Prince Edward Country, will produce about 400 pounds of fresh stone ground whole wheat flour monthly up to November. The fresh flour is available for purchase at the Black Creek Gift Shop for $4.00 and is used on-site at the Half Way House Inn for daily demonstrations of bread baking in the historic kitchen.

"Roblin's Mill is one of the most magnificent buildings at Black Creek Pioneer Village and it shows us how early settlers harnessed nature's power for their use," said Marty Brent, Manager, Black Creek Pioneer Village. "We're excited to give visitors an opportunity to come and enjoy the "surround sound" sensation of the 168 year-old mill turning its massive wooden gears, and hopefully it will remind us all of the impact of settlement on our natural environment."

Roblin's Mill is typical of the many mills that dotted the streams and rivers of south central Ontario in the 19th century and demonstrates the complete milling process of the early flour mills. The mills were found near streams and rivers because they needed a good flow of water and a natural site for a dam. In the first half of the 19th century wheat was the staple crop of farmers in Upper Canada. The farmer could bring his harvest to the mill and have it processed to flour or animal feed in a matter of hours. The miller was usually paid one-twelfth of the grain brought to the mill. The whole wheat flour was used for baking, and the bran was used for animal feed. The mill's location often determined the location of the village as it was a central part of pioneer life.

Roblin's Mill is a five-storey stone building, driven entirely by a large wooden water wheel - the most efficient to operate a mill because its power is derived from the force of gravity. The wheel powers all of the mill's machinery, including two runs of stones to grind wheat, bolting reels for sifting flour, and elevator belts to move the grain and flour. With the opening of the flume gate, water falls on the top of the wheel, filling the buckets and causing the great wheel to revolve and turn the main shaft. Inside the mill the rudimentary, yet sophisticated workings charm those with a love for all things mechanical. The main shaft transfers power to smaller wheels that connect to the mill stones, which crush the grain into flour. The flour is carried up and down several stories through elevators, and finally sifted through a bolting reel, which separates the finer flour from the bran.
19th century Milling also produced two interesting catch phrases that are heard of even to this day. Both the phrases "the upper crust" and "to be put through the mill" came from this time period. During those periods when wheat was scarce, thrifty housewives often baked their pies using costly wheat flour for only the top crust and bottom crusts were made from less expensive rye flour. To be the "upper crust" now means to be of better quality and "more expensive" (wealthier) than most.

The origin of "to be put through the Mill" also has its roots from the 19th century. The word "mill" derived from early Saxon, meaning "to grind". The grain is put through the stones at the mill and is ground down into tiny fragments. A person "put through the mill" suffers a similar ordeal and is figuratively ground down and fragmented.


Event Name: Grinding Wheat into Flour at Black Creek Pioneer Village

Dates:
August 15 & 29
September 12, 18 & 26
October 10 & 24
November 7 & 14 (weather permitting)

Location: Black Creek Pioneer Village, 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, Toronto, ON M3J 2P3
Contact: 416-736-1733 or bcpvinfo@trca.on.ca

 


About Black Creek Pioneer Village
Black Creek Pioneer Village, 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, is Toronto's premier outdoor living history museum. Visitors can explore heritage homes and buildings restored to re-create an 1860s Ontario village. Historic interpreters in period dress demonstrate how villagers lived, worked and played. The Village hosts learning programs and special events that highlight local heritage and culture. The tranquil setting, rural landscapes, heritage gardens and period farm animal breeds make Black Creek Pioneer Village the perfect place to break out of the modern world and journey into the past. Located in north Toronto, Black Creek Pioneer Village is owned and operated by Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA). For more information please visit www.blackcreek.ca.


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For photos, interviews, or tours while the mill is in action, please contact:

Rowena Calpito
Supervisor, Media Management
Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA)
T: 416-661-6600 ext. 5632
C: 416-358-3446
E: rcalpito@trca.on.ca

Eric Philpott
Philpott Communications
T: 905-773-6651
E: philpott@philpott.ca