Back to Homepage of Horace Kephart: Revealing an Enigma

Online Exhibit: Cooking and Food Preparation: Milling Corn

Gritting Corn
Water Wheel

Mills demonstrate the intensity of Kephart's interest and observations. His personal album includes several views of Wilson & Cook's mill (right) at different times of the year. A photograph of this mill also appears in Our Southern Highlanders where on page 31 Kephart observes that, "Scattered about the settlement were seven tiny tub-mills for grinding corn, some of them mere open sheds with a capacity of about a bushel a day."

Corn was also milled by hand using a "gritter" demonstrated in the above photograph. In Journal 2, page 453 Kephart recorded a quote by his friend, Bob Barnett, with the claim, "'Be damned if I can't take a good gritter and run that mill to a cold trail."

Curiously, while Kephart's research notes for Our Southern Highlanders indicate that "Gritted Bread" is "not so palatable," he praises it as "delectable" in Camping and Woodcraft.


Tub Mill
Tub Mill in Winter

From Volume 1 of Camping and Woodcraft, page 354:

"'Gritted Bread' - When green corn has just passed from the tucke, or soft milky stage, and has become too hard for boiling, but is still too soft for grinding into meal, make a "gritter," as follows: Take a piece of tin about 7x14 inches (unsolder a lard pail by heating, and flatten the sides); punch holes through it, close together, with a large nail; bend the sheet into a half cylinder, rough side out, like a horseradish grater; nail the edges to a board somewhat longer and wider than the tin. Then, holding the ear of corn pointing lengthwise from you, grate it into a vessel held between the knees. The meal thus formed will need no water, but can be mixed in its own milk. Salt it, and bake quickly. The flavor of "gritted bread" is a blend of hot pone and roasting ears - delectable! Hard corn can be grated by first soaking the ears over night."


Moonshine Mill Hidden in LaurelIn his early writings and album, Kephart refers to moonshine stills as "mills." This includes a series of articles entitled "The Mountain Moonshiner" published in Forest and Stream in 1906. Much of this material and additional accounts were added to the second edition of Our Southern Highlanders.

The following account is from Our Southern Highlanders, pages 132-133 of this second edition.

"After the blockaders have established their still, the next thing is to make arrangements with some miller who will jeopardize himself by grinding the sprouted corn; for be it known that corn which has been forced to sprout is a prime essential in the making of moonshine whiskey, and that the unlicensed grinding of such corn is an offense against the law of the United States no less than its distillation. Now, to any one living in a well-settled country, where there is, perhaps, only one mill to every hundred farms, and it is visited daily by men from all over the township, the finding of an accessory in the person of a miller would seem a most hopeless project. But when you travel in our southern mountains, one of the first things that will strike you is that about every fourth or fifth farmer has a tiny tub-mill of his own. Tiny is indeed the word, for there are few of these mills that can grind more than a bushel or two of corn a day; some have a capacity of only half a bushel in ten hours of steady grinding. Red grains of corn being harder than white ones, it is a humorous saying in the mountains that "a red grain in the gryste [grist] will stop the mill." The appurtenances of such a mill, even to the very buhr-stones themselves, are fashioned on the spot. How primitive such a meal-grinder may be is shown by the fact that a neighbor of mine recently offered a new mill, complete, for sale at six dollars. A few nails, and a country-made iron rynd and spindle, were the only things in it that he had not made himself, from the raw materials."

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