Grist Mill: "Old-fashioned Quality"

Photo Essay, Carroll County Times, May 2, 2010

By Ken Koons

Ivan Lufriu reassembles the oak stone furniture after dressing, or sharpening, the stones at the historic Union Mills Homestead and Grist Mill.

The restored mill wheel is powered by diverting Big Pipe Creek into the mill race.

The wooden gears are run with water power.

Ivan Lufriu, miller at the Union Mills Homestead and Grist Mill, pours corn into the hopper to start the process to grind cornmeal.

Corn automatically flows to the stones during the grinding process.

MillCornmeal is processed through a sifter after milling.

Documentary Film, Carroll County Times, May 2, 2010

By Ken Koons

Watch it on Youtube.

Article, Carroll County Times, May 2, 2010

By Brandon Oland, Times Staff Writer

In his previous job, Ivan Lufriu served as a quality control manager at a food processing plant assembly line.

Lufriu still does quality control, but he swapped the assembly line for a more old-fashioned workplace.

For most of the last two decades, Lufriu has served as the miller at the historic Union Mills Homestead and Grist Mill.

When the water-powered mill wheel is turning, Lufriu is typically inside making corn meal, whole wheat flour or buckwheat flour the old-fashioned way.

Lufriu said his interest in food quality control makes his current position at Union Mills a nice fit. He has the ability to closely track the entire process. He oversees everything from the restored water wheel that powers the facility to the original quartz mill stones used to cut the grain.

"There's always something to do," he said.

The Union Mills Homestead and Grist Mill originated in 1797. While most of the mill was restored in the late 20th century, the mill stones are more than 200 years old.

"The mill was designed to turn out large volumes of flour," said Lufriu, who started working at Union Mills Homestead in 1988. "The Mill owners, such as the Shrivers, would buy the grain from local farmers and turn it into flour and sell the flour for a profit. It was a very modern, up-to-date mill."

Lufriu said water power, courtesy of Big Pipe Creek, did most of the work in the original mill, leaving scant physical labor to be done by those who worked there.

The restored system requires Lufriu to make sure all the parts of the mill are always in working condition.

Most of the parts are made of wood and wear out. They require frequent maintenance.

The quartz stones must also be sharpened from time to time to make sure they can properly cut the grain as it passes through.

Once cut, the grain is pulverized into a mush deposited in bins located on the first floor of the mill.

When Lufriu labors, he is surrounded by artifacts and maps that offer a glimpse of the mill's long history.

The initials "CHS" were carved into the lid of a wood storage bin near the quartz stones.

The carving, made in 1868, was believed to have been made by Charles Shriver, a previous owner of the facility.

The mill's upper level features two detailed maps that show the locations of mills throughout Carroll County.

Lufriu said the area used to be a hotbed for mills. They could be found everywhere from south of Union Mills to near Sykesville in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Lufriu said Union Mills serves as a link to show visitors how an important mills used to be to Carroll's economy.

Visitors can also purchase flour or corn meal produced at Union Mills. The facility sells two-pound bags of flour that are filled with the finished product of an effort Lufriu said he takes joy in overseeing.

"The miller's job is to test the texture of the flour frequently," he said. "Use all your senses: Smell it to make sure it isn't burning. Feel it. The miller must keep his nose to the grindstone."