Finding and Identification of the Face Wheel
By Newell Kitchen
During the summer of 1986, John Fowles and Newell Kitchen stopped at Breckenridge to see the Haun's millstone in the city park While there they encountered a local resident named Bill Howell. Bill told them he had uncovered a large metal wheel at the Haun's Mill site while fishing. John and Newell purchased the wheel from Bill Howell for $25.00.
Bill Howell with the face wheel
Research at the Missouri Historical Society Library at the University of Missouri confirmed, the wheel-shaped item found by Bill Howell matched the size and shape of what is called a mill “face wheel,” a common gear wheel in gristmills of the time period.
Location of face wheel in typical arrangement of milling machinery
“In the typical early gristmill using any one of the vertical wheels, the water wheel was paralleled by another large wheel attached to the same shaft. This wheel was called a face wheel. It meshed with a much smaller gear called the lantern gear or wallower, which turned a vertical shaft. The meshing of these two gears translated the vertical power of the waterwheel into the horizontal action needed for the stones... the upper end of the vertical shaft turned a large horizontal wheel called the spur. It meshed with one or more lantern gears, which turned the spindles of one or more stones.” [Zimiles, Martha and Murry, Early American Mills (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1973].
Detail of face wheel, cast metal frame with wooden teeth
On about 16 July 1986, John and Newell returned to Breckenridge to obtain details on where Bill Howell had actually unearthed the wheel. Bill took them to a spot on the bank of Shoal Creek, near what has traditionally been identified as the location of the mill.
John Fowles standing where Bill Howell found the face wheel
Bill Howell with the face wheel at the location where it was found
With concurrence from the property owners, the RLDS Church (now Community of Christ), John and Newell arranged to have the artifact placed on permanent loan to the LDS Church Historical Department. It is currently on display in the LDS Museum of Church History and Art, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Newell Kitchen, John Fowles and Bill Howell with the face wheel
Information extracted from a PowerPoint presentation prepared and shared by Newell Kitchen during the Haun's Mill Summit, held at Camp Doniphan, near Excelsior Springs, Missouri, on 25 September 2003.