Oliver Evans 'peculiar Accidents' Causing Flour Mill Fires

Mills were dangerous places and could catch fire for many reasons.  Oliver Evans and Thomas Ellicott's The Young Mill-wright and Miller's Guide, (1795) described six causes.  Thomas was the brother of the Ellicotts who erected innovative mills and founded Ellicott's mills, now Ellicott City.

1. There being many moving parts in a mill, if any piece of timber fall, and lie on any moving wheel, or shaft, and the velocity and pressure be great, it will generate fire, and perhaps consume the mill.
2. Many people use wooden candlesticks, that may be set on a cask, bench, or the floor, and forgetting them, the candle burns down, sets the stick, cask, &c, on fire, which, perhaps, may not be seen until the mill is in a flame.
3. Careless millers sometimes stick a candle to a cask or post, and forget it until it burns a hole in the post, or sets the cask on fire.
4. Great quantities of grain sometimes bend the floor so as to press the head blocks against the top of the upright shafts, and generate fire, (unless the head blocks have room to rise as the floor settles:) mill-wrights should consider this, and be careful to guard against it as they build.
5. Branding irons carelessly laid down when hot, and left, might set something on fire.
6. The foot of the mill-stone spindle, and gudgeons, frequently heat, and set the bridge-tree or shaft on fire. It is probable that, from such causes, mills have taken fire, when no person could discover how.

The Young Mill-wright and Miller's Guide by Oliver Evans (1755-1819), Thomas Ellicott (1738-1799)   Phila: 1795  [would go through 15 editions]
©2017 Patricia Bixler Reber
Forgotten history of Ellicott City & Howard County MD