2004 Newsletters

Newsletter Articles from 2004

As Yates Mill was restored, Yates Mill Associates published and mailed paper newsletters to keep supporters informed of the progress and to share historical discoveries.

Here are some articles from 2004:

  • Hopper Boy Construction Begins by William Robbins
  • Old Yates Mill Painting in Need of Conservation
  • Drive Gears for Bolter and Grain Cleaner Installed by William Robbins
  • Barrel Packer/Flour Press Installed by William Robbins


In the past, mature wheat was left to dry in the field on the stalk. When harvested, the moisture content of the grain was still high and the friction involved in grinding the wheat warmed the flour. The combination of moisture and heat caused the flour to be sticky so it was spread out and cooled before it was sifted. Young boys, called Hopper Boys, were hired to do this task with a rack or shovel. The were eventually replaced by a mechanical machine, also called a Hopper Boy. The Hopper Boy machine contains a vertical post about 7 feet tall with perpendicular arms that are about 5 feet long. Underneath these arms are small paddles or flights that are set a decreasing angles from center to end. As the Hopper Boy is turned in a circle, the flour that is fed from a flour elevator onto the floor is spread into a circle that slowly marches the grain to the center where it is pushed through a hole in the floor and into a bolter that sifts the floor. The existence of a Hopper Boy at Yates Mill was first described by Charles Howell in the 1991 Historic Structures Report on Yates Mill due to the circular wear marks on the floor. In 1998, Derek Ogden concurred with this report. Oliver Evans was the inventor of the Hopper Boy and detailed the invention in his 1795 book, The Young Millwright and Millers Guide. The supply list, instructions, and drawings are being used to to build the replica for Yates Mill. Much time and great care are being taken to ensure authenticity, proper operation, and correct location of the Hopper Boy within Yates Mill.In 1900, artist E.B. Stearns created an oil painting of the south side of Yates Mill in sunny daylight. It is the oldest know artistic rendering of Yates Mill and was brought to YMA by Macon Smith, who inherited it from his aunt, Constance Strother, a granddaughter of James Penny, a former owner of Yates Mill. The plan is to display the painting in the new A.E Finley Center at Historic Yates Mill County Park, but it needs some restoration work done first. The canvas was not properly pulled before it was painted on, so after 100 years, the canvas has buckled and looks rippled. The canvas has tears and the paint is cracked. A conservator at the NC Museum of Art estimates it will cost $5000 to have the painting restored.

The bolter and wheat cleaning machine on the second floor of Yates Mill are powered by a vertical shaft that turns at approximately 100 revolutions per minute (RPM). However, the bolter needs to turn at approximately 35 RPM and the wheat grain cleaner should turn at 750 RPM. A transmission system of cast iron gears, wooden and iron shafts, pulleys, and belts that regulates the different speeds was missing at Yates Mill and had to be designed and built. The cast iron bevel gear was made and transported from a foundry in Pennsylvania using original methods. Wood from the original Yates Mill hurst frame was used to make shafts and support bearings. Gear diameters and teeth numbers had to be determined. Iron axle shafts were fabricated and pulleys and belts were added. The waterwheel at Yates Mill is now able to power machinery on all three floors of the mill. Brackets on a vertical support post in Yates Mill were a mystery until YMA members visited Colvin Run Mill in Virginia, where it was discovered they were part of a barrel packer flour press system. This system was part of the patent for Oliver Evan's automated mill, but was actually invented by his brother, Evan Evans and Thomas Clarke and was used to pack flour into a barrel and press the lid onto the barrel. Flour barrels were 28 inches tall and held 196 pounds. Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Farm Book that a cooper made 4 barrels a day and kept one barrel for every 31 he delivered to the mill. Photos and measurements from Colvin Run Mill and George Washington's Grist Mill were used to construct a barrel packer flour press at Yates Mill. Iron parts were hand forged and white oak and pine were used.Original bracket for barrel packerRestored barrel packer flour press
To see more information about the history of Yates Mill and the role Yates Mill Associates played in restoring the mill, visit the A.E. Finley Center at Historic Yates Mill County Park to see displays, view artifacts, and watch videos of the mill in action.