I love a fun, foodie day trip so this last weekend I decided to visit an area of the state I hadn’t before. Northwest of Dayton Ohio is the town of Greenville, OH. Greenville is the historic location of Fort Greene Ville, a pioneer fort built under General Anthony Wayne’s command. At over 55 acres this was the largest wooden fortification ever built. It was here that the Treaty of Greenville was signed on August 3, 1795, bringing peace to the area and opening up the Northwest Territory for settlement.
Greenville and neighboring Versailles are home to several destinations to tantalize your taste buds, I want to tell you about one I visited over the weekend.
Bear’s Mill is one of the few operating water powered mills in Ohio today. A rare historic landmark, The Mill is located on the eastern outskirts of Greenville Ohio, along a bucolic, peaceful stretch of creek side woodlands.
Built in 1849 by Gabriel Baer, Bear’s Mill’s grand framework is constructed of exquisite hand hewn timber beams that are nearly 50 feet long — without a single splice. Standing four stories high, grain is carried from floor to floor throughout the inner workings of the Mill by the power of the water that runs through the mill race below.
Bear’s Mill still grinds grain into flours and meals today, using the same cool grind practices as old world millers. Grain is carefully passed through the French Buhr millstones to produce a healthy, whole, minimally processed product for us to enjoy. The miller, Terry Clark showed us how the original French Buhr stones ground spelt into a delicious, nearly gluten free flour.
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.
I really enjoyed taking a self-tour of the mill, then a live one with the miller himself. He showed us the features and engineering of a 19th century grain mill. The process of loading the mill and cleaning the grains before grinding is what makes up most of the equipment. The grains move from the top of the mill to the bottom several times before grinding; so much so that the mill now buys their wheat, spelt and other grains (except corn) already cleaned.
I bought a bag of whole wheat bread flour to bring home and try in my bread machine. I much prefer minimally processed foods that are a healthier alternative to industrialized products. I am looking forward to that first bite of hearty wheat bread!
Check out Bear’s Mill’s website for more historical information and to plan your visit.