Gristmill

Gristmill

This gristmill is not an original pioneer structure but was built as a replica, authentic to the time period of the early 1800’s. In January 1989, Keith Ruble, Superintendent of the Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department, and park staff teamed up with the School of Technology at Indiana State University’s Dr. Clois E. Kicklighter to plan out and construct an authentic early proprietor-style 1800’s gristmill in Pioneer Village.

Information was obtained from Oliver Evans’ historic 1818 book, “The Young Mill-Wright and Miller’s Guide,” “Old Mill News” periodicals, old archives from milling books and advertisements. In addition, trips were made to existing gristmills in the Midwest such as the mill at Spring Mill State Park to gather photographs and drawings to help guide construction. The mill stones used in the gristmill were purchased from Dewey Sheets, a lifelong miller, who also taught park staff; Keith Ruble, Kenneth Conley and Jim Pierce, the art of sharpening the mill stones.

The gristmill was completed and ground its corn for the first time on October 4, 1991, just in time for the annual Pioneer Days weekend. In 1992, park staff constructed and installed an iron railing which protects and keeps the public safe by restricting access to the grinding equipment of the mill. Fred Hartman constructed the new brass chute for the shroud on the mill stones where the cornmeal exits the stones. The gristmill became a major attraction for Fowler Park and Pioneer Village visitors.

In 2008, the gristmill was severely damaged after flood waters rushed down the chute causing the waterwheel to spin with such velocity it broke and tore apart gears, cogs and teeth that make it possible for the mill to run. The water wheel was also resting on the cabin making it impossible to run in its condition. Park staff began repairs in 2016 in conjunction with a project to repair the dam that was also damaged during the 2008 flood. The slope next to the gristmill was adjusted and the stone wall was raised in height to assist in retaining the earth in the event of another flood. Repairs to the gristmill in this 2016 project included the replacement of wooden teeth, new water boards and metal rings installed to the wheel of the gristmill. Despite the repairs, the gristmill was still not working properly to where it was able to grind corn.

In February 2020, Ron Gillin, a long time village volunteer, dedicated his time and expertise spearheading the restoration of the gristmill along with several volunteers and park staff including Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent, Adam Grossman, and Assistant Superintendent, Brian Gilbert. This time around repairs included replacing lower gears underneath the mill that had been damaged in the 2008 flood; the unclogging of a drainage pipe under the mill floor in order to prevent water from building up underneath the cabin of the mill. By May 2020, the gristmill ground its first bag of corn in over a decade.