Teresa Woodard is a master gardener and freelance writer for regional and national magazines. She gardens on 2 acres in a onservation development in Central Ohio and blogs with two other writers at heartland-gardening.com.

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Millstones: Symbols of Harvest in Today’s Gardens
by Teresa Woodard    

Grinding stones are repurposed here along a garden path.1

Inset in a brick patio, this millstone features the quarter dress cut – a traditional furrow-cut pattern. Another popular cut is the sickle dress cut with a pinwheel-like pattern.2

When it comes to collecting millstones, the maxim “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” rings true. In the late 1880s, large urban mill operators started dumping these grain and corn crushers out back as a new roller technology made them obsolete and eventually put the smaller rural mills out of business. When propped alongside an old mill, the granite wheels’ interesting patterns began to attract attention for their ornamental appeal. Others were put to use as stepping stones along a path or a stoop for the back door.

Today, these centuries-old millstones ranging from 24 to 60 inches in diameter and weighing as much as 3,800 pounds have steadily increased in value – many worth thousands of dollars – as homeowners find new uses for these storied stones in their gardens.

According to Jon Sass in The Versatile Millstone, early colonists equipped their mills with imported European millstones, especially French burrs (or buhrs) of white granite from a Paris quarry. By the mid-18th century, North American quarries began producing millstones of granite and pink- and gray-colored conglomerates. Today, Meadow Mills of North Carolina continues to manufacture millstones for historic and specialty mills and for garden ornamentation.

Henry Hine of Atlanta began collecting millstones 20 years ago as a hobby and has since turned his hobby into a business that sources millstones for landscapes and custom-designed millstone fountains for clients as far as California and the Caribbean. When shopping for millstones, Hine advises searching in colonial states’ towns along rivers. He says millstones claiming the highest price are the larger ones, those made of more obscure stones such as marble, millstones found in pairs and ones with more pristine faces.

Visit Lanterman’s Mill in Youngstown, Ohio, to see millstones grinding corn and wheat just as they did in the 1800s. A collection of other millstones are displayed outside.3

Seventy-six millstones are on display at the reconstructed McHargue’s Mill at Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park in London, Ky.4

A fountain made from a large millstone quarried at the Constitution Stone Company near Marietta, Ohio, is the centerpiece of the woodland garden at the Governor’s Residence and Heritage Gardens in Columbus, Ohio.5

Do-it-yourselfer Dottie Baltz of Clay, N.Y., makes hypertufa millstones from a pizza-pan mold. See her online instructions at gardensandcrafts.com/millstone.html6
Learn More:

•  Discover the history of old mills or find one to visit (spoom.org; Society for the Preservation of Old Mills).

•  Purchase old and new millstones (millstones.com; meadowsmills.com; mainemillstones.com; and graniteking.com).

•  Visit millstone collections at The Hermitage Museum and Gardens in Norfolk, Va.  (thehermitagemuseum.org/gardens/millstones) and McHargue’s Mill at Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park (parks.ky.gov/parks/recreationparks/levi-jackson ) in London, Ky.


1. Photo by Jane Rogers
2. Photo courtesy of Hermitage Museum
3. Photo courtesy of Millcreek Parks
4. Photo courtesy of Levi Jackson State Park
5. Photo by Teresa Woodard
6. Photo by Dottie Baltz

From State-by-State Gardening November/December 2013.


Posted: 01/08/14   RSS | Print


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