Bear’s Mill Floor by Floor

The Winch and Pulley

In the days of Gabriel Baer, grain that was brought to the mill to be ground was lifted by rope from wagons parked in front and brought into  the mill through the fourth floor door using the pulley and winch system overhead.  The Miller then reaches out to grab the rope and pull the grain sack inside. Grain is still brought to the 4th floor of Bear’s Mill in the same way today.

The Bin Where it all Begins

Once the grain is lifted to the fourth floor, it is dropped through a hole in the floor into the main storage bin. An elevator leg then lifts the grain to the first cleaning machine. Inside all the elevator legs in the mill is a system of cups and belts, which convey the grain to its next step in the milling process.

The Cleaning Machines

The grain goes down and up 5 times through the elevator legs as it travels from one cleaning machine to another.  The cleaning machines pass the grain through screens with holes in various sizes. As the grain passes over the screen, its shaking action causes the smaller pieces of grain to fall through the screen and down to a storage bin on the first floor.  Oversize kernels, cobs and other foreign matter are blown into metal dustbins above each cleaning machine. Grain in the first floor storage bin is then switched to another elevator leg, which carries the grain via its cups and belts to the second cleaning machine. The other cleaning machines perform the same function as the first, removing smaller and smaller pieces. The final part of the cleaning process involves a scouring process to remove dust and smut.  Then it drops back down to the first floor, before it is lifted once more to the fourth floor. This time it will go to the aspirator, which blows out whatever dust and dirt might still remain on the grain.  Then it drops down to the first floor and back up to a storage bin on the 3rd floor.

The Storage Area

The bins on the third floor stores cleaned corn, wheat and buckwheat that is waiting for a trip to the millstones to be ground. Chutes channel the different grains from the bins to a hopper located over the each stone.

The Millstones

The three sets of millstones used at Bear’s Mill today are the original buhr stones that were imported from France by Gabriel Baer in 1848. Each set of stones cost Mr. Baer $6000 and took 2 years to reach Ohio from France. In today’s market Mr. Baer’s cost for the stones would be equivalent to approximately $140,000.

The top millstone in each set turns by the power of water running through the turbines in the mill race. Grain is fed at a controlled rate from the storage bins above into each stone’s wooden hopper. It is then channeled through the center of the top stone to the space in between the 2 stones.  Centrifugal force drives the grain to the outer edge of each stone, where it is crushed into flour.  A little paddle on the edge of each turning stone gathers the flour and it is channeled to a chute that goes to the bagger on the first floor.

The Roller Mills

Bear’s Mill is actually a little unusual because the millers of the past kept all of the original stonegrinding equipment intact when these roller mills were installed. Many of the mills discarded the buhr stones when they upgraded their mills.  Roller mills were the next progressive step in milling after stone grinding, introduced and used in this country as far back as 1876.  This invention changed the process of milling from stone grinding to today’s more prevalent milling processes.  The grinding or crushing is done between a series of metal cylinders (or rollers) revolving toward each other so that the grain is drawn in.  The action of the metal rollers produces heat, which destroys many of the natural nutrients in the grain. People at this time wanted a more refined, fine flour and this method produced it. We know today that the coarser, whole grain products are actually healthier for us.

The Gears and Wood Cogs

Bear’s Mill features a viewing area on the first floor where visitors are able to watch the shafts from the turbines below turn the gears and cogs that make the mill function. The turbine on the right in the illustration turns the buhr stone located immediately above it. The one on the left runs a line shaft that turns the cleaning equipment belt on the fourth floor as well as a 110 volt DC generator that is used to power the mill’s lights and motors.

The Water Turbines

Approximately 10 feet under the millrace water, 2 horizontal cast iron Leffel turbines dating 1870 and 1862 turn to power the mill and all of its functions. Each turbine rests on a concrete floor that has a hole under each one. As the pressure of the water bears down upon them, they turn and generate an all natural power source for the mill.  It takes a head of 9 feet of water for the turbines to operate at maximum potential, as it is not the force of water flowing through but the water pressure surrounding them that makes them function. The mill’s large turbine can produce 33HP while the small one produces 23HP.  The Leffel Turbine Company is still in business today, located in Springfield, OH and still makes parts for these old turbines!

The Mill Market

The Mill Market is located on the first floor, where stone ground flours and meals made from winter and summer wheat, corn and spelt are sold. The Mil Market features an eclectic selection of gourmet foods, coffees, home goods, clothing, art, pottery and unique gift items. For more information about the Mill Market, visit our “Shop” section and register for our mailing list to be updated about new items and seasonal specials.

Bear’s Mill offers guided and self-guided tours throughout the year. You may take a self-guided tour at any time during the Mill’s open hours. For additional information about guided our group tours, check out our “Visit” section, or contact our outreach manager at 937-548-5112 or

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