Grist and Fulling Mills

Grist Mill Sighting Posts

Photo taken 1:17pm 3 April 2002

In 1820 a Grist Mill was added to the water system for Mission Santa Inés; a Fulling Mill was added in 1821. From the mission the mills’ location is across the agricultural field at the bottom of the hill. Sighting posts at the top of the hill by the mission parking lot align to show the location of the mills. At times, trees may block the view; they have grown since 2002 when this photo was taken. [Note: It is quite possible this sign and the sighting posts are no longer in the mission’s parking lot.]

A cut off from the Olive Grove Trail (see below) takes you up to the top of the hill the mills are carved into. You will see two buildings and two reservoirs, one large and one smaller. The Fulling Mill is closer to the top of the hill and the Grist Mill is at the other end of the reservoirs by the creek.

Mills Panorama

Photo taken 11:51am 19 February 2017

Water Control Gate

Photo taken 11:00am 19 February 2017

In operation, water would flow into the higher reservoir through the notch which looks something like a cross (it’s not a cross but a water flow pattern). At the time, there would have been a water wheel there powered by the water coming through the notch. This water wheel would have powered the Fulling Mill. After exiting the water wheel, the water would pool in the upper reservoir until needed by the Grist Mill. The Grist Mill got its water from the bottom of the smaller reservoir where the water powered a horizontal water wheel and then flowed out into the creek. Control of the reservoirs was exercised by lifting a gate set into the small notch between the two reservoirs.

Fulling Mill

Fulling is the process of making woven or knitted wool cloth thicker and more compact. Moisture, heat, friction, and pressure are used until there is an overall shrinkage of 10-25%. Various cleaning agents are used to remove oil and dirt from the cloth so that dye can be better applied. The process has been mechanized since at least the 12th century when the first Fulling Mills were developed. For more information see the detailed description on the Fulling page, a part of the detailed history of the village and parish of Witheridge, England.

Fulling Mill Front

Photo taken 10:58am 19 February 2017

The building at the top of the hill was the Fulling Mill at this site.

Fulling Mill Side

Photo taken 11:44am 19 February 2017

A side view shows where the axle of the water wheel went into the mill to drive the machinery.

There is nothing left of the machinery that operated in the mill but there are some traces of the Fulling Earth that was used to condition and clean the cloth being processed.

Fulling Mill Inside

Photo taken 11:13am 19 February 2017

Grist Mill

Grist Mill

Photo taken 11:56am 19 February 2017

A Grist Mill is used to grind cereal into flour and middlings. While the term can be used for the mechanism that does the grinding, here it is being used to describe the building that held the mechanism. The building lowest down on the hill and closest to the creek is the Grist Mill.

Grist Mill Interior

Photo taken 11:26am 19 February 2017

In operation, water flowed into the building from the smaller reservoir. The building had two levels. The water entered the lower level onto a horizontal water wheel. The axle of the turning wheel went up through the floor of the top level, through a stationary mill stone, and connected to a rotating mill stone resting on top. Grain was poured into a hole in the top stone and got torn apart and ground as it migrated to the edge of the grinding mechanism. The resulting flour was collected from the floor around the outside of the two stones. Again, any parts of the mechanisms are gone from the site. (For more detailed information on how this works see the Wikipedia article about Grist Mills.)

Once the water left the wheel on the bottom floor, it flowed out of the building and into the creek.

Grist Mill Water Exit

Photo taken 11:23am 19 February 2017

Information Plaque

An information plaque is attached to the Grist Mill just above the water’s exit. There is some question about the accuracy of some of the information on the plaque.

Information Plaque

Photo taken 11:23am 19 February 2017

Old Grist Mill

Built 1820 by Joseph Chapman, Bostonian, deserter from pirate Bouchard who burned Ortega Adobe, Rancho de Refugio. Chapman arrested, sentenced to firing squad but paroled to Mission Santa Ines. As Master Workman, built this New England type Grist Mill, and duplicate at Mission San Gabriel. Married Guadalupe Ortega at Mission Santa Ines. Founding important California family.

Marker placed by California Centennials Commission in cooperation with Reina del Mar Parlor No 126 N.D.G.W.

Dedicated September 9, 1950

How to Get To the Mills

Private Property Sign

Photo taken 12:03pm 19 February 2017

The mills are almost completely surrounded by private property; please be careful to stay on marked trails. If you don’t you might encounter a local guard dog or llama. 🙂

Guard Llama

Photo taken 12:22pm 19 February 2017

Guard Dog

Photo taken 12:03pm 19 February 2017

It’s possible to walk to the mills from the mission but the easiest way is to take the Olive Grove Trail which starts at the end of Alamo Pintado Road in Solvang. Park along Windmill Road and note the paved accessway by the trees. Follow the walk to the trailhead by Old Mill Road. A short distance along the trail you will see a branching trail going through the trees to the left. That leads to the mill site.

Water in Stream

Photo taken 10:55am 19 February 2017

Be careful if it has been raining as the creek you have to cross will likely have running water in it.

If you have time, the Olive Grove Trail is a one mile circular trail around the olive grove. It’s a relatively flat, easy trail to follow.



The property is operated by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) on behalf of California State Parks. Work is in progress to add the property to the California State Park system. Guided tours are available by contacting SBTHP at (805) 965-0093.