Milling in London Today

July 12, 2011

This is the sixth in an an ongoing series of short posts by Dave Burnett, who trained as a real-life miller, and who also plays the old miller, Kelmar, in The Miller and His Men.

Milling in London Today by Dave Burnett

London continues today to be a major Ontario milling centre, from the small flour mill at Arva (still water powered), to Kellogg’s and Casco, two of southern Ontario’s largest buyers of corn. Water power has been replaced by hydro. Mill stones have been replaced with hardened steel. Burlap sacks and sweat have been replaced with sophisticated conveyors, bulk storage and computerized automation. Today’s plants are extensively regulated by all levels of government, protecting both buyers’ and sellers’ interests. The only connection to the military today is the Cheerios served at the breakfast mess.

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The Army Comes to Town

July 11, 2011

This is the fifth in an an ongoing series of short posts by Dave Burnett, who trained as a real-life miller, and who also plays the old miller, Kelmar, in The Miller and His Men.

The Army Comes to Town by Dave Burnett

It was advisable for the miller to be on good terms with the local garrison. Many of the commanders had the authority to administer water rights and land holdings—both critical to the mill. The military also came with cash to purchase the flour and food produced by the pioneers in the community.

George Russell Dartnell, Old saw mill on the Thames River, from Blackfriar's Bridge, London, Canada West.  Library and Archives Canada, accession number: 1995-28-20

George Russell Dartnell, Old saw mill on the Thames River, from Blackfriar's Bridge, London, Canada West. 25 Oct 1842. Library and Archives Canada, accession number: 1995-28-20


The Only Game in Town

June 26, 2011
Actor Andrew House, playing the dishonest Miller, "Grindoff", in The Miller and His Men

Actor Andrew House, playing the dishonest Miller, "Grindoff", in The Miller and His Men

This is the fourth in an an ongoing series of short posts by Dave Burnett, who trained as a real-life miller, and who also plays the old miller, Kelmar, in The Miller and His Men.

The Only Game in Town by Dave Burnett

Unfortunately, there was often only one mill in each settlement, so one was stuck dealing with a less than honest miller. Grain or timber were often the only commodities that the pioneers could turn into ready cash, apart from their labour. One common complaint among settlers was that they would deliver top grade wheat to the mill only to receive poor quality flour in return. The miller would be accused of keeping the best for himself. This attitude even exists today among some farmers.


The Miller’s Reputation

June 15, 2011
Dave Burnett with millstone in front of Miller Barn, Fanshawe Pioneer Village (Photo credit: Michael Gelman)

Dave Burnett with millstone in front of Miller Barn, Fanshawe Pioneer Village (Photo credit: Michael Gelman)

This is the third in an an ongoing series of short posts by Dave Burnett, who trained as a real-life miller, and who also plays the old miller, Kelmar, in The Miller and His Men.

The Miller’s Reputation by Dave Burnett

Ten bags of wheat to the mill did not mean returning home with ten bags of flour. Several factors contributed to the inefficiency of the process, including honesty. Today, the industry is tightly regulated, but each miller and mill in the 1800s had their own standards.

Since many pioneers had limited cash, the miller would hold back some of the flour as payment for his troubles. The considerable variance in the miller’s take gave rise several decades later to our contemporary standards.


The Water and Other Perils

May 30, 2011
Detail of Mill

Detail of Mill

This is the first in an an ongoing series of short posts by Dave Burnett, who trained as a real-life miller, and who also plays the old miller, Kelmar, in The Miller and His Men.

The Water and Other Perils by Dave Burnett

Ontario is dotted with old mills and remnants of them. Locations for settlements were often chosen on the basis of proximity to year round running water / topography to create a mill pond as a reservoir to manage water flow. The water flow could then be diverted to drive a water wheel and power the mill.

Coping with floods, torrents and drought were part of the miller’s lot. A miller would heed the weather because failure could mean the demise of his mill.

Likewise the grain and flour in the mill had to be kept clean and dry lest the flour not be fit for human consumption.