The Newlin Grist Mill relies on its water system to supply power to the mill and water to the trout ponds. A water system consists of the dams, gates, canals, and other structures that carry water to and from a mill (see illustration). The water system is a character defining feature of any water-powered mill. Its design reflects the topographic features of the landscape and determines the placement of buildings including the mill. At Newlin Grist Mill, the water system also reflects the dual historical and environmental parts of our mission. The construction of, and subsequent alterations to, the water system represent changing trends in technology, economics, and the mill’s community, as well as chronicling over three centuries of struggle between man and nature to control the water.
The water system stretches nearly a mile across the landscape. The system’s structures work together like parts in a machine, but, like all working machines, parts wear out and nature constantly takes a toll. Floods cause erosion of earthen structures, and flowing water deposits silt clogging or redirecting water courses. The wet nature of the environment preserves old wood or metal materials that are buried in anaerobic conditions but also causes deterioration when they are exposed to the atmosphere. As repairs and upgrades were made over the centuries, the system evolved from its original early 18th-century design into its present configuration. Today, fifty years after its original restoration by E. Mortimer Newlin, the water system is once again in need of restoration. A careful study of the system must be completed before this work is undertaken.
The study of the Newlin Grist Mill water system will require a variety of research techniques. Documentary evidence will come from deeds, court records, mill records, and correspondence. Structural analysis will be conducted of each feature to establish design, alterations, and current condition. Archaeological investigation will examine resources below ground. The results from these techniques will be combined to assemble a complete history of the water system including detailed maps and drawings.
The study is intended to answer the following research questions:
What was the 1704 configuration of the water system?
How has the system evolved over time?
What is the vertical relationship between all of the elements?
What is the design and materials used to construct each element?
What is the condition of the various components of the water system?
What repairs will be necessary to keep the water system functioning?
Tail Race Study
Newlin Grist Mill staff conducted a visual survey of the mill’s tail race to examine its condition. During that time, the masonry showed deterioration. In December 2013, J&M Preservation Studio undertook a study of the tail race to determine condition and help create a plan for restoration.
The tail race is 214 feet long and consists of stone walls with vaulted arch ceilings. The ceilings are made of brick, stone, and concrete. These changing materials and future excavations will help determine the sequence and various periods of construction.