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The United Empire Loyalist Settlement at Long Point, Lake Erie
Chapter XX. Mills

As has been mentioned in Chapter VII., some were fortunate enough to be provided with portable mills for the grinding of their corn, but the greater number in Upper Canada had no such luxuries. For many years the nearest flouring mill to the Long Point settlement was that at Niagara Falls, a distance of a hundred miles.

At first, then, when they were unable to make the long journey to the mill, they used what was called the “hominy block” or “plumping mill.” This was simply a hardwood stump, with a circular hollow in the top, partly burned into it, and partly chopped out. If a cannonball could be obtained, it was heated to burn out this hole. In this hollow the grain was pounded with a great wooden beetle, and sometimes a heavy round stone was attached to a long pole or sweep, and by this mortar and pestle contrivance the Indian corn and wild rice were rudely crushed, and afterwards baked into corn or “Johnny” cakes. But wheat could not be ground by this process, and unless the family had a portable steel mill they were compelled to do without wheaten bread. Some, however, had these mills, and if they also possessed a horsehair sieve for bolting cloth, the bran could be separated from the flour and white bread manufactured.

It was always a condition of the grant of land on which there were good water-power facilities, that a grist mill be erected within a certain time, and thus in a few years all over the country sprang up flouring mills. Captain Samuel Ryerse built the first mill in Long Point, and ran it for several years, though at a financial loss, for the toll was only one bushel in twelve, and the mill was idle all through the summer. The machinery for these mills was hard to procure, and after it was gotten, hard to keep in order. It could only be bought for cash, and ready money was never a very plentiful article with the early settlers. Captain Ryerse had to sell part of his grant of land at a dollar an acre to obtain money to buy the machinery for his mill.

Moreover, there was no market for any surplus wheat that might be raised. Until the war of 1812 wheat was never more than two shillings (sterling) a bushel. Consequently after the first struggle for life there was no particular inducement for the early settler to grow more wheat than was necessary for his own consumption.

For many years the Ryerse mill was the only one within seventy miles. About 1805, however, Titus Finch built one at Turkey Point. There was also the Sovereign mill at Waterford, the Russell mill at Vittoria, Malcolm’s mills near the present site of Oakland, the Culver-Woodruff mills on Paterson’s Creek, and the mills of Robert Nicol at Dover.

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