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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Orlin P. Shuping, June 15, 1975. Interview H-0290. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A steam-powered mill with a variety of functions

Offering a look at some of mill methods of operation, Shuping describes how his steam-powered mill ground corn, bran, and wheat, and processed lumber.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Orlin P. Shuping, June 15, 1975. Interview H-0290. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BRENT GLASS:
You'd rather be here. When the father brought his wheat here, which machine would it go to first? Let's say the corn first.
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Corn we'd run through the sheller if he didn't already have it shelled. Sometimes he had a sheller of his own. If he didn't, he'd have a bunch of children and they'd shell it by hand. They'd take it out and let the wind blow through it and blow the chaff out of it. Then they'd bring it to the mill and have it ground. And we'd toll it. Right up there is the toll . You can see it there and that's the old one too. I mean of the old mill. We'd take a toll for a bushel, for grinding a bushel.
BRENT GLASS:
You'd take a certain amount out of a bushel. You'd grind the bushel and take a certain amount for yourself?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
No, we'd take the corn out before it was ground. Then we ground it. He probably would want some flour or some gran or some hog feed, something else. That would be the corn. The other angle on the corn--we'd buy some corn. If somebody wanted to sell it we'd say, oh we'll see it. We'd shell the corn and run it through the cleaner and then we ground up …
BRENT GLASS:
Which is the cleaner? Is that the one upstairs?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
No. The corn cleaner is back here behind you. We'd clean the corn. (Around the corner there, Mr. George. You can't quite see it.) We'd get all the dust and everything out. Then we'd grind up a couple hundred poundsand then we'd bag it up in small bags for distribution. If we had an ear of corn that had a little rotten on it, we'd throw it over for the feed. We sold feed too. We didn't put nothing but choice meal, corn for the meal that was sold. You grind corn granular I can't say that word) instead of fine. You don't grind cornmeal too fine. If you do you haven't got anything. It got too flour-like. That's why it's better ground on rock than it is on rollers. And grind it slow and not heat it. That's the story on that. Sometimes they'd want a dollar or two, they'd bring a bushel or two along. Sell a little on that trip. They'd need a little change for some reason. That's happened many times. Another thing too, they'd come with wheat. Sometimes they'd bring corn, sometimes they didn't. At one time, we ground buckwheat here for many years.
BRENT GLASS:
Where?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
In that corn mill. Not much buckwheat raised here. We got a number of people who started it and they raised it here. It's just hotcake. You know what buckwheat is. It's eat a lot in Pennsylvania and in the North, not too much in the South. They eat grits. Anyway, they'd bring the wheat here. We'd weigh wheat and then we'd give them in proportion. We'd always see whether the wheat was good or bad or medium. If it was bad and trashy, we'd have to dock them a little for dirt. Then we'd give them flour for that wheat and bran for the cows and hogs. We kept pushing up for our expense.
BRENT GLASS:
What did you use the gyrator for?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
To give it to you in your language, the gyrator has got in it. The ground wheat would go in there and it would sift it. We'd call it a sifter, like you'd take a piece of screen wire and sift sand. That's just full of sifters, that whole . It did that all the way along when it was running.
BRENT GLASS:
Using your language, how would you describe it? What would you say?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
We just call it a gyrator. Sifter is really …
BRENT GLASS:
What it's called.
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
… is really correct. They call it gyrator. It's both; I reckon either one would be right.
BRENT GLASS:
Was the dust collector going around and around?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
There's a dust collector too. You see, the bran would always have a little bit of flour in it. We'd run the bran through the dust collector … no, we'd run the bran through the bran duster. It would get some of the flour out of it then. The bran duster would go to the dust collector and there you'd get some more flour. Then we had to black shorts and red shorts.
BRENT GLASS:
What do you mean by that?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
That's part of the wheat grain. Then you had to rerun it through some other mills. There was a lot of different rollers that you run it through.
BRENT GLASS:
You actually put it right in the dust collector?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
It went through. It was in the bran duster but just the dust came over there.
BRENT GLASS:
That was all run by steam?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Everything was run by steam. Didn't have nothing else. Didn't even have electric lights 'till 1925 and then we made it.
BRENT GLASS:
What would be the process with lumber? Where would you take that first?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
The first thing is we usually bought the logs. I had someone to cut them and bring them here. We'd roll them in and saw them into lumber. If it was finished lumber, what you might say you wanted it dry, you'd stuck it for several months but it was for chicken house lumber. If you had a grainery maybe you'd take it to the planer and fix it there. They'd take it home on their wagons and nail it up. That's general procedure. Depending on what they wanted to use it for, it varied. Cme man might have a tree that lightning struck. Another one was clearing a corner of land and he wanted some wood. He'd get a few logs and bring it and repair his hogpen, whatever he needed to do to his barn. Sometimes you wouldn't get but a few logs from each farmer but when they all came in they kept you busy. This was just one of the places. The whole country used to have other places sort of similar to this. I had the sawmill and the cotton gin, just about the same thing. My great granddaddy run his sawmill by water. That was below the dams that we looked at, about a half mile down.
BRENT GLASS:
He had a water-powered mill.
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
They run it like this. There was a water one like you might say, a handsaw that went up and down like this. You take a stick and push the carriage along to get your plank off. You've probably seen some of them old planks that was sawed. I used to see a lot of them but I haven't seen any around lately.