Lou's Place in Cyberspace
Phil Jago, owner of P. W. Jago Construction, contacted me regarding a renovation he had done in 2005. As the primary contractor he was hired to renovate an old grist mill and change it into store frontage. Phil told me had taken many photos of the renovation. His sense of history, and the realization that the character of an in-tact old grist mill was about to be changed forever, prompted him photograph each step of the process. He did not like the fact that he had to dismantle the mill. Luckily, Phil preserved its final history with his photos.
In my researching this mill my first lead came when I ran a "Google" search for information on Fitz Water Wheels. The large overshot wheel at the mill that Phil Jago photographed once had a Fitz Waterwheel Co. nameplate on it.
This search turned up, on page 166 in a book titled "Water Rights Determination", (J.M. Witham, 1918. John Wiley & Sons New York) where they mention the different type of water wheels in use in Eastern Pennsylvania, with the following note:
This gave me the name Wannamaker as a starting point to search records, and the mill mentioned was in Kresgeville and it had a 12’ diameter wheel. This seemed like it was the same mill Phil Jago had photographed.
Wannamaker's mill was located on route 534 just north of route 209 in Kresgeville, Polk Township, Pennsylvania. In the rear of the mill, flowing southerly, is a stream where the tail race of the mill once joined.
This mill dates to 1885; it may have existed before that deed date. The 1885 date is on the only deed for that particular piece of property that specifically mention’s a "Grist Mill" in the text. Earlier deeds for that property use the usual common terms "buildings, structures, appurtenances" etc. that could include a mill, but do not say a mill was there specifically.
The July 23, 1885 deed from a James M. Berlin and Adam Berlin to Amandus D. Wannamaker for a little over an acre was specific to a mill, the right to build and maintain a new dam "above the present one" on James Berlin's property, and access to either side of the mill race that traversed his property. Also the right to remove and place, "mud, and dirt" from the dam and place it on the 6 foot access area on each side of the race.
The selling price of $7700.00 was for that time period very high, and indicates there must have been an operating mill there which produced income to justify such a high price. The 1885 date is justified by this information. See Original Mill agreement.
It is obvious that the mill has been changed and modified over the years. I believe an earlier wooden water wheel was located several feet from where the existing metal Fitz wheel was located. I believe the mill was upgraded to the metal Fitz wheel in the early 1900's. Walls had been rebuilt and new poured concrete walls were constructed to help support existing earlier stone work, and to bring the tail race into the building on the north and exiting the rear wall on the east.. At one time, a automobile engine also was used to power the mill!
Overshot water wheels allow the water to flood the water wheel buckets from the top turning the wheel from the force of gravity pulling on the filled buckets. A larger diameter wheel would give you more torque for the amount of water, and was used when the water supply available was minimal or moved at a slow rate.
Physics of Overshot Wheel
A large diameter Fitz Overshot Wheel. Another example.
P. W. Jago Construction began the job with cutting an access hole through the mills rear stone wall to equipment into and out of the building. The property owner kept some of the original mill machinery in place on the first floor. He also returned the wheel to its original location. After years of sitting unused, the iron wheel rusted thru in many places where it sat in accumulated water and mud in the race. Though the wheel was badly rusted, most of it is was still intact. After the mill was renovated the 12’ X 9.5’ Fitz overshot water was re-positioned almost in its original position, though the outer race wall has been dismantled and completely filled in. The section of the race that transverses the building was also filled in with crushed stone and concrete.
The Fitz Waterwheel Co.'s overshot wheel had an iron reservoir tank above the wheel. The reservoir was supplied by two large 15" flumes. Iron rails were embedded in the stone race walls to support the tank and flumes. There may have been a millpond adjacent to the building or the flumes ran underground to the mill dam. A crank wheel on the first floor of the mill controlled the sluice gate located in the iron reservoir tank controlling the speed of the wheel. The water from the tank spilled directly onto the overshot water wheel via a short 15" X 9’ spillway or fore bay. A new gearing arrangement was made to adapt to the new waterwheel size and its location.
The race for this mill entered the north side of the building after passing over the wheel, traversing through the rear interior of the building and exiting thru the rear wall (east) rejoining the stream further on. It seem this course may have been chosen to allow processing waste to be dumped into the race as it passed under the building. It appears it would have been much easier to lead the tailrace directly to the stream after passing over the wheel. Directing the race to pass through half of the building may also have been for some legal reason. The deliberate routing is unusual.
From appearances in the photos, this mill had two sets of mill stones. It appears the stones were removed at an earlier date, leaving only one stone's drive shaft in place at the time the mill was dismantled by Mr. Jago.
The Fitz wheel shaft entered the mill on the north side of the building driving a large 5' gear on its shaft. This gear drove a smaller pinion gear for increased speed and torque. This pinion gear shaft was driving a larger sprocket gear on its shaft, which connected to the main horizontal drive shaft by a large sprocket drive chain. The main horizontal shaft was located about four feet above the main drive axel directly off the Fitz wheel.
Also on the main horizontal drive shaft were two large beveled drive gears, a gear typical to most mills, having replaceable wooden cogs, which in turn drove pinions and vertical shafts on which the "runner" or rotating stone for grinding the product was connected.
The "runner" or upper stone drive shaft had on its end a steel ball on which the runner stone’s Rynd rested. The Rhynd is the device in the center of the rotating millstone that connects the stone to the vertical drive shaft. This arrangement is called a "balanced rhynd". The weight of the stone allowed the stone to rotate under normal conditions, but in the event of a problem with the stone binding or dragging if out of balance, the ball joint would allow the shaft to slip rather than damage the runner stone by forcing it to rotate. This arrangement also made it somewhat easier to remove the stone for "dressing" and realignment as opposed to the removal of a fixed Rynd stone. Millers preferred either the fixed or balanced runner stone. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, the choice being the miller’s preference.
The main drive shaft also delivered power to the first floor processing equipment via a belt drive to pulley shafts on the first floor, and it also delivered power via belt to corn grinding machinery in the basement level.
Arrangement of stones and drive shaft similar to those found at the Wannamacher mill. Main horizontal drive shaft turns two vertical bevel gears with pinions driving vertical shafts to runner stones.
Original Wannamaker Mill c-1900 Image courtesy Sarah Marburger
Wannamaker's Mill as it appeared in 2009.
Early 1900's views of mill. Courtesy FRAN WIDDICOMBE MABUS Collection
Thanks to Phil Jago's interest in history and machinery, he made available a record of Wannamaker's Mill transformation.
As of 2015-mill is currently owned by Dan Angione who purchased the mill in 2004 and had it restored.
Mill was also known as Johnson's Feed Mill. It was powered by a truck engine in the early 1960's before restoration.
His photos are presented here.