GREENVILLE — Greenville City School District’s third graders were treated to a trip back in time to the Historic Bear’s Mill on Tuesday.
Bear’s Mill Executive Director Marti Goetz said part of the Mill’s mission is to educate.
“We are stewards of this land and this historic structure,” Goetz said. “We are to share it as it is an amazing place.”
According to Goetz, one of The Friends of Bears’ Mill Education Committee’s goals is to expand opportunities for children to learn about the history and the process of the mill. Through that process, a children’s activity book was commissioned “Farm to Table and In-Between: The story of how Bear’s Mill grinds grain from the farm to make bread for your table”, written by Marti Goetz and Liz Ball with illustrations by Liz Ball. With the help of The Friends of Bear’s Mill, the book was funded by the Darke County Foundation and distributed free to children.
In addition, Goetz reached out to the Greenville City School District Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jim Hooper, to explore a good educational fit for the students. Hooper was on-site during the tour.
“The third grade standards deal with the local community in social studies,” he said. “This is a big agricultural area, and the tie-in is about the economical aspect of it from the fields to the table. The mill also provides the historical component.”
As a result, about 200 Greenville third-grade students arrived at the mill over three days. Students were greeted by 20-year volunteer Docent Lois Smith, dressed in her self-made period costume, welcoming them to 1849.
“How many of you like to play pretend?” Smith asked the students. They responded with hands in the air. “Oh, good!” Smith said. “I am going to take you three flights of stairs and I want you to pretend that you are an early settler. You live back in the woods in a log cabin, out on a farm. When we go up these stairs, it’s no longer 2017 – it’s 1849 and you are a settler. Just follow me.”
Smith said now a days kids are missing a lot of history.
“They are growing up on technologies, but they don’t understand anything about the agriculture and its importance,” she said. “We need to teach people where their food comes from.”
Through the tour, Smith taught students about the history of the mill, including: how Bear’s Mill started grinding grain in 1850, how it is ground, cleaned, how her clothing came from feed sacks and how washing machines were not automatic.
“The lady of the house was the automatic back then,” she said, bringing laughter from the school staff.
Terry Clark, who formed The Friends of Bear’s Mill with is wife Julie, in 1999, (they both previously owned the mill) and who is the Master Miller, was also on – hand. He captivated the students with his colorful and detailed demonstration of how a gun was loaded and shot back in the old days.
“Do you like history?” Clark asked.
“YEAA!!!,” the kids screamed.
“I found this gun right behind this board when we were cleaning the mill,” Clark said. “It’s an 1834 black powder Belgium barrel English firing mechanism, cherry stock – that cost $6 back then.”
He went through the sequence of firing the gun, beginning with loading the gunpowder from a cow horn, compressing it with a ramrod and picking the right size bullet. To save time, shooters held the lead bullets in their mouths, he said.
“A lot of times, running through the woods they would swallow these bullets,” he said. “The next day, they would poop and they would pick the lead bullets out. Have you heard that before? Let’s get going and get the lead out? That is where that saying came from.”
Clark also pointed out old sale signs that were posted on the mill doors from 1897 to about 1945, that are now hanging inside the mill.
“They show a great history,” he said. “This one is the beginning of World War I (WWI) 1914, this is the year the Hindenburg crashed and burned and Amelia Earhart disappeared (1937), here is one from 1929 when the Stock Market Crashed and this one is from 1918. It is really cool to weed through these.”
Greenville third-grader Hailey Neargarder said she would like to return to the mill sometime.
“The way they grind the corn is really cool,” she said.
In addition to the tour, students were treated to cookies, a drink and The Bear’s Mill activity book.