Flour Mills

Flour Mills Fronting on Brown's Race sketch from "Brown Square" pamphlet by Kathyrn Smith (p. 2)

The above picture is dated about 1880, and the mills shown are as follows (left to right): Ferguson & Lewis; Moseley & Motley, Smith & Sherman, Irving Mills, Moseley & Motley, People's Custom Mill, Shawmut Mill, Washington Mill.

The Brown Flour Mill was established in 1810 by brothers Matthew and Francis Brown on a 200-acre tract of land on the west bank of the Genesee’s Upper Falls. By 1815 they had founded the Village of Frankfort and begun carving out their millrace, laying the groundwork for Brown’s Race as it exists today. In order to cut into the monolith lining the Falls, the Brown brothers and their laborers blew holes in the bedrock using a mixture of metals and gunpowder. After around a year of work, the Brown tailrace extended over a quarter of a mile along the riverbank. Water flowed through a channel three feet deep and thirty feet wide, and at the end of the race it rushed over the edge of the gorge, dropping 96 feet back into the Genesee.

Just 25 years after the establishment of the Brown Flour Mill, twenty-one flour mills populated the city of Rochester. According to former City Historian Blake McKelvey, by 1835, “Rochester’s output surged past that of Baltimore and made it for a decade or so the leading flour city of the entire world." The Upper Falls, however, powered more than just grist mills. Sawmills sprung up on both the east and west banks, and at least one triphammer forge was built, opening the door for a competitive tool manufacturing industry. The Erie Canal, which had reached Rochester in the early 1820s, moved goods quickly and cheaply to New York City, the Hudson River Valley, and subsequently the world.

George Motley came to Rochester in the year 1857. His mill was built at the foot of Brown’s Race, farthest from High Falls. By 1880, his Moseley and Motley Milling Company operated two enterprises, nicknamed Mill A and Mill B. Both of these mills can be seen in the 1880 sketch of Brown Square and the 1875 map of Ward 2 (see Items page). In 1878, Motley replaced the ordinary millstones in Mill B with porcelain rollers, taking inspiration from Switzerland mills he’d visited four years earlier. In 1891, Mill A was renovated and the size of the building was tripled. Moseley and Motley reported an impressive output of 700 barrels of flour a day. The milling company became known throughout New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania for its so-called White Sponge flour.

Flour Mills