The Antique Water Powered Cider Mill

Autumn is a season of aromas, a time to taste what the summer has spent creating. Orchards full of ripe red apples dangling from gnarly, black branches seem to beacon an indulgence of the harvest.

The process for creating sweet apple cider remains virtually unchanged from the time that William Blaxton, a colonial settler, planted the first apple orchard on the slope of Boston’s Beacon Hill. The ingredients of real apple cider are simple: apples. No preservatives, no added colors, sugars or chemicals - just apples, apples and more apples. Since colonial times, when John Adams drank a tankard of cider every morning before breakfast, cider pressing has been a familiar sight at the harvest festival.

In 1978 the late Neal Cook and his wife Marion with the help of their children, grand children, family and friends all joined together to resurrect a 19th- century water powered cider press located in an old mill near Middleville, Michigan. With great anticipation they watched as the first cider came oozing from the cider blankets and the huge press chugged along. There were big smiles and giggles of excitement as they sipped the first cider that day, and every fall from that year forward the fun continued. Today the second generation of millers take their turn offering, the sights and sips of cidering through the fall harvest festival time at the old mill.

A complex mixture of gears, pulleys, and belts rumble, clank and rattle overhead as a water-powered conveyor belt marches apples toward a giant, knife-filled hopper; the fruit is chopped into a huge apple salad. As every five bushels are processed, workers tuck them inside a cotton cloth to keep the skin and pulp inside. Up to seven layers consisting of five bushels each can be piled on top of each other for each pressing. After the layers are stacked up, the miller pulls a gear to place the apple pulp underneath a 50-ton press. Then it is a simple matter of waiting for the water pumps to build up enough pressure inside the cylindrical press to squeeze every last drop of sweet apple cider.

The 12-foot-tall press takes half an hour to press 100 gallons of cider from 35 bushels of apples. It is powered by the water from the mill pond, which originates at Barlow Lake, then passes through the mill and continues to Payne Creek and then to Payne Lake and eventually emptying into Gun Lake. The old press was moved into the mill used over 100 years ago and is still continues to press today for demonstration.

A tasty cider requires a mixture of apples. The best mixture would be some tart apples with some sweet apples and some acidy apples. Such a mixture could be Mackintosh, some Spy, and some Red Delicious. Some people even add pears to the press to give the cider a bit of a bite.

The process is the same as hundreds of years ago, but the names of the apples have changed from Russet, Pippin, and Maiden’s Blush to Jonathan, Macintosh, Rome and Spy.

Although orange juice is the number one fruit juice today, before 1930 apple juice was more popular. What’s the difference between apple juice and cider? Pure cider is unpasteurized and has no additives; apple juice on the other hand is heated to kill bacteria and may contain additives. One six-ounce glass of cider contains only 87 calories along with calcium, potassium, iron and ascorbic acid. One should prepare your system for apple cider by drinking only a glass or two a day at first. Drinking an eight ounce glass is like eating three large apples.

Bowens Mills It's Cider Time Festivals

“It’s Cider Time Festivals”. Great Festival Weekends of Living History, Cider Pressing and Water Powered Corn Grinding Demonstrations, during our fall fund raising season. Festivals begin at the end of September and run through mid October, featuring: Living History Encampments, Old-Time Music, Pioneer Farm with Farm Animals, Horse Drawn Wagon Rides along with many other history related activities. Cider, Donuts, Hot Apple Dumplings, and Good Food are available near the large shaded picnic area. The fun starts at 12:00 noon and lasts until 5:00 P.M.

Autumn at Historic Bowens Mills offers more than fresh, ripe apples and cider. It’s a haven of natural beauty with an atmosphere where you, your family and friends can enjoy one another and make memories that will last a lifetime. History lives at Historic Bowens Mills and today, Owen and Carleen are cooking up special events to keep the good times rolling along. When you enter the gates you will join an expedition of old time family fun. You will find the horse drawn wagon ride, a relaxing and enjoyable experience as you absorb the sights, sounds and smells of history and the harvest season. You can listen to Live Music, down by the Old Mill Stream, as you watch the costumed craftsman at work. The memories of Grandma’s fresh apple pie will dance through your mind with a visit to the “Granny’s Kitchen” where they serve hot apple dumplings, with ice cream.

When it’s Cider Time at the mill, you can share in your children’s excitement over nature, farm animals, historical activities, and harvest time experiences. Visitors to the mill can watch cider being freshly pressed on a huge, antique, water powered Cider Press and hear the rumble of the old mill stones turning as they watch the Corn Grinding demonstrations. Fall is a great time of year to take a leisurely drive in the country to visit Historic Bowens Mills, “It’s Cider Time Festivals” and share in the harvest time season.

All Cider Time Festivals Include: Live old-time music, pioneer farm with farm animals, horse drawn wagon rides with Belgian Draft Horses, cider pressing demonstrations on gigantic 100 year old, antique water powered, cider press; and stone ground corn grinding demonstrations on huge original water turbine powered grind stones along with many other history related activities.

Autumn at Historic Bowens Mills offers more than fresh, ripe apples and cider. It’s a haven of natural beauty with an atmosphere where you, family, and friends can enjoy one another and make memories that will last a lifetime. History lives at Historic Bowens Mills and today, Owen and Carleen are cooking up special events to keep the good times rolling along. When you enter the gates you will experience old time family fun. You will find the horse-drawn wagon ride a relaxing and enjoyable experience as you absorb the sights, sounds and smells of history and the harvest season. You can listen to live music, down by the Old Mill Stream, as you watch the costumed craftsman at work. The memories of grandma’s fresh apple pie will dance through your mind with a visit to the "Granny’s Kitchen" where hot apple dumplings are served with ice cream.


The Old & Majestic Mill is located Midway between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Near Yankee Springs (Gun Lake) State Park in the heart of beautiful Yankee Springs Township, Michigan where people come often. Because - from the first explosion of colorful wildflowers in the spring to the refreshing coolness of summer to the fall extravaganza in red and gold to the stark beauty of snow-covered trees in the winter - each season provides visitors with a completely different pallet of awesome natural beauty. We hope you’ll take the time to enjoy all that there is to see and to do in Yankee Springs. Some find the quiet of the historical park a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Others draw energy and inspiration from the outdoor experience. But all who come here are enriched in some way by the magnificent beauty of nature and history when they visit.

The mills entrance is just 2 miles north of Yankee Springs State Park entrance on Briggs Rd. Watch for the huge grind stone marker.

ALL FESTIVALS INCLUDE: 

Live old-time music down by the old mill stream, a pioneer farm with animals, horse drawn wagon rides with Belgian Draft Horses, cider pressing demonstrations on gigantic 100 year old water-powered cider press; and stone- ground corn grinding demonstrations on large original water turbine- powered grind stones along with many other history related activities.

Historic Bowens Mills is an 1864 Grist Mill & Cider Mill and pioneer farm village.  It is a working museum that still grinds and sells fresh corn meal through the use of water-powered mill stones.  It is a second generation family-owned and operated state historic site that receives no state funding. The restorations and upkeep depend upon " It's Cider Time Festival" gate fees, special events and donations. The "It’s Cider Time Festival" gate fee for adults is $5.00, Children 12 and under $3.00. Thank you for your support in helping us preserve history for future generations.

 

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