Metuchen Edison History Features
In Old Metuchen
David Trumbull Marshall
Published by The Case Publishing Co., Flushing NY 1930
(Second Edition)- (c) 1930
The Grist Mill.
I believe there was nothing in the way of machinery, unless it was a locomotive, that so drew the interest of the old-time country boy as did the grist mill, a mill in which corn and wheat is ground.
About a mile below Bonhamtown, below the bluff near the borders of the Raritan River, there stood, when I was a very small boy, a grist mill run by Mr. Eggert. The mill may be there yet.
The water which ran this mill came from the mill pond, a picture of which was furnished me by Mr. Lloyd Grimstead.
When I was a child the mill was run exclusively by water power, but as water to run the mill sometimes failed, Mr. Eggert put in a steam engine to supplement the water power.
I can think of no more joyful excursion than when my father loaded some bags of shelled corn on our old spring wagon, hitched up Kitty, the horse, and taking my small brother and myself, set out on the three-mile trip to the mill.
Near the mill there was a spring of cold water and in the wooden box sunk in the ground around the spring there were two or three barrels of water.
In this there was a perch about ten inches long and, what never failed to stir our childish interest, a lamprey eel about eighteen inches long.
A lamprey eel has several holes on each side of his body, below his head. Through these holes the water passes which supplies his gills for an eel is a fish, not a snake.
The lamprey's mouth is provided with a sucker by means of which he can attach himself firmly to a rock or to the body of a larger fish. How I used to love to go into the mill and hear the low rumble of the great millstones!
I used to love to see the corn meal coming from the shoots below the millstones. It was always warm from the friction of the grinding.
Eggert's mill was in my time sufficiently up-to-date to make use of turbine water-wheels for power.
These wheels are not so picturesque and striking as the old-fashioned overshot and undershot millwheels, but they are said to be more efficient.
When farming in New Jersey ceased to be so profitable, shortly after the Civil War, Mr. Eggert used to get corn and wheat in carload lots from the West and cart it from the freight station at Metuchen to his mill. We never took anything to the mill but Indian corn.
Corn meal mush and oatmeal mush were rated rather plebian food as I remember my childhood, but plenty of mush and plenty of milk had to do for seven children.
We used to take the corn meal as it came from the mill, sift out the coarse skin of the kernel and mixing it with a proper amount of water and salt in an iron pot, set the pot on the back of the kitchen range and let it cook all night.
The same way for oatmeal.
We had the old-fashioned Scotch oatmeal, not rolled or pre-cooked.
After cooking all night the oatmeal was thoroughly done and tasted good to healthy children.
My mother used to say she thought that the reason old-fashioned people could eat so much pork was because they ate so many apples.
In a cool cellar in which there was no furnace, country people could store potatoes and other root crops and apples enough to last the family all winter.
I recently asked a Polish woman by the name of Osmelowski how she managed to feed her brood of nine during the winter.
She smiled all over her fat face and said, "Oh, we have plenty; we have potato in cellar and big barrel sauerkraut." I never tasted sauerkraut until I was a grown man and not much of it since.
One can gather something of a man's nationality from the food he eats. I once knew a petty officer when I was at Fort Wadsworth during the World War.
His name was Ross. I went to his quarters one day and found him industriously slicing cabbage for making sauerkraut.
I said to him, "That is a queer occupation for a Scotsman."
"I spell my name Rousse." He could camouflage his German extraction by changing the pronunciation of his name, but he couldn't get away from being a Scotsman and making sauerkraut by the barrel.
One of the most valuable elements in the training of the farm boy is the inevitableness of the work he is called upon to do.
The horses must certainly be fed and the cows must certainly be fed and milked twice a day. There is no appeal nor any putting off until tomorrow.
When I see men taking papers away from a large printing press or men taking bricks from a brick machine I think of the relentlessness with which the straw used to come from the threshing machine when I was a boy and had to clear it away.
Have you ever stowed hay in a hay-mow?
It did seem as if the farmer who sold hay to my father piled every last forkful on his load that he could get on, just for the fun of seeing me struggle to stow it away as he constantly pitched it into the window.
One gets used to the relentlessness of one's duty when one has had to get out of bed, in season and out of season, at all hours of the day and night to answer the calls of the sick and afflicted.
A course in farm work is not such a bad training for the practice of medicine, after all.
There was another standby of which we were all very fond--buckwheat cakes. Buckwheat cakes raised with yeast, not with baking powder.
I do not think that biscuits or bread or pan-cakes raised with baking powder are, as a steady diet, fit for human consumption, but one may eat bread and rolls raised with yeast every day for a life-time without harm.
During the winter my mother used to keep a stone crock of buckwheat flour batter going most of the time. A little of the old batter was put into the new every night and by morning the leaven had "leavened the whole lump."
Some people like buckwheat cakes with a tang of sour to them, but that is not necessary if you do not like it.
I knew one old farmer who wanted buckwheat cakes every day in the year, but his wife wouldn't let him have them. She said buckwheat cakes in warm weather were "too heatin' to the blood."
Boyhood Days in Old Metuchen Title page
Metuchen Edison History Features index page
Metuchen Edison Historical Society page
Old Metuchen Photos page
James Halpin CPA page
Lasted updated 5/20/99 by Jim Halpin.