Mill Wheels Grinding: The Orphans

{aka Yenta searching for mills- like any good Jewish Donna Quixote would do} 

As any writer/researcher or mill-chaser will allow, there are times when one is stumped. You sit with a collection of faded sepia photographs, of mills, and try as you may, they simply have no story, or were ignored in the course of history, and their records are lost.

All you get when you search from rumours, “I’m sure there was a mill here long ago” – not much help hey?    

Main picture: Mill of Julian Francis Langholm

One can possibly understand this, if they were notable mills on farms in large areas; rumour has it that in Colesberg, there was a mill on every farm.  From research, it appears they were the small windmills, and horse mills. They would garner little interest from researchers, it is the large structures that played a huge part in the settlers lives, that are important. Seems, Colesberg and Adelaide were “verskrik” over horse and even ox mills. One imagines they were easier to construct and less hassle with staff, and water source.

Grain mill at Dordrecht, Eastern Cape

Milling in one or other format has been the staff of life since the beginning of time. Early man, when he got his act together, realised that if he bashed the strange looking seeds he found, they would turn into a powder form, and if cooked over a fire, provide digestible, filling, food.

Mills – Metal grinders

From the earliest artefacts found in old middens, there were simple stone indentations, in solid rock, to much larger worn out rocks, and then to the incredible array of spice grinders, {a form of milling} mealie stompers, Transkei trader type metal grinders, until somewhere along the line, someone decided to expand the grinding methodology, cut up and shaped huge rocks, and viola a mill was born.

Mills – Spice grinder

Grinding stone – mortar and pestle


Old Mill Grinding Wheel

Langholm, the sepia mill shown here is an orphan.  A grist mill, from its shape, {the one with the huge paddle when on the side}.  It sits on a farm, in the area of outer Bathurst, Eastern Cape, on a small farm now, however, garnering stories, this land was a combination of huge  section of the area, almost like a village, with butter and cheese making industries located there;  divided into sections now, for one particular family. Seems the extended family had a huge fight, so it is split up and the land was divided into sections and sold off.

‘Man’ has been so industrious, as seen by the photograph of that mill leaning against the wall, that sans any water or animal power, this beauty was devised to crush corn, using a methodology, not unlike a hand-held beater that one uses to whip up eggs or cream. You know, you ‘hold’ the top of the beater, and then turn the handle, and the links, interlink beating the kernels, crushing as they turn.

African stone large corn grinder

Grinding mealies – South Africa mills

The ‘Transkei Traders’ in the photograph, hand tuned the mealies, in earlier times, until diesel arrive on the scene and they were converted to a form of power. One trader remarked that every trading store had these. The huge sacks would arrive, either on a wagon, or, on the back of a donkey, off loaded for the customer, ground, for a small fee, and off the owner would go.

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