Monday, May 5, 2008
The Miller's Wife
In honor of Mother's Day I thought I would share a few tales of enterprising women.
When settlers first arrived to the Niagara region (as it was in any new area of settlement) survival was an endless struggle. Many brought the skills and know how they had developed to this rugged and wild territory.
Once the vast virgin forests were felled by the lumbermen, the settlers began to arrive to farm and produce livestock to feed and clothe their families.
The ever-flowing streams and rivers provided the perfect spot to build the gristmills. The strength of the channeled waters could turn the huge grinding stones that ground the grain (wheat, barley, rye) into flour. Stored throughout the long, harsh winter it was the sustenance of life.
Esla had been a miller's daughter before she had moved north by wagon with her young husband and children. He was also a miller and built a mill along the river's edge.
Esla had learned early the skill of barter and trade. Many of those who came to have their grain milled into flour were required to trade a portion of the finished product as payment. Others who raised livestock or grew flax (the beginning stage of what would be spun into linen thread and woven into cloth) would trade this for flour.
She set up a shop at the back of the mill and began her own enterprise.
A tragic wagon accident took the life of her husband, leaving her a widow with eleven children.
Esla (a German name) became known as Essie, ran the mill and the shop until her six sons grew old enough to take over the grinding process.
She taught her daughters to spin and weave the linen that would fill the store shelves.
She and her family lived well, eventually building a large home filled with children and grandchildren.
At eighty-six Essie took her rightful place beside her husband in a quiet grave on a hillside overlooking the mill.
It continued to prosper for a long time following her death finally closing after 150 years from the beginning of Essie's life as the Miller's Wife.
Posted by Susan McShannon-Monteith at Monday, May 05, 2008