George Washington erected a large stone gristmill in 1771 to increase production of flour and cornmeal. A hired white miller, assisted by enslaved millers, ground more than 275,000 pounds of the highest quality “superfine flour” each year exporting it to the West Indies and Europe. Much of the cornmeal was provided as rations for the enslaved community and the mill processed grain for neighboring farmers for a small toll.
Powered by a 16-foot waterwheel, the mill was in need of repair by 1790, when Washington purchased U.S. Patent No. 3, improvements designed by millwright Oliver Evans. This invention connected the wooden gears and machinery in a continuous milling process increasing both the quantity and quality of the mill’s flour. The gristmill was reconstructed in the 1930s and today has the only operating Oliver Evans Automated Milling System in America. Demonstrations of the mill are given when open during seasonal hours and grain products are available in the gift shop.
Mount Vernon's master miller, Steve Bashore, describes the 18th century milling process used by Washington in his gristmill on his plantation.
George Washington's merchant milling business was an important part of his Mount Vernon economy. Learn more about the gristmill and its role.
Steve Bashore and Rob Grassi discuss the importance of mill stone dressing and how this old and important trade was performed.