Violette grist mill

The Architectural Rendering are of François Violette Jr's 1828-68 grist mill in Maine, USA. The mill was built by François around 1828 to replace his father's 1791 mill that had fallen into disrepair. The mill was located in the Madawaska Settlement area of the Northern Saint John River Valley at what was first known as Ruisseau des Violette (Violette Brook) and later renamed Van Buren and incorporated as such in 1881.

What is unique about this mill is that we believe it was built using the predominate building method used in the Upper Saint John Valley by the Acadians known as "piéce sur piéce, tenon en coulisse," a timber and log construction, which was developed over three centuries in the Maritime Provinces.

view 4c
cut 2 d cut 11a
cut 6c sack hoist
3d 1
3d 5
cut 10 b
cut 1A
dam Acadian 2A

The 1st mill erected on the site was around 1791 and replaced in 1828. By 1868 it was recorded as having a run of 3 millstones. In a report it also mentions the mill operated all year long so it seems likely the wheel was inside of the building. It appears the dam was 15’ high so probably it had a wheel of around 12’-6” diameter The 1868 replacement mill still had a waterwheel,  which was 6’ wide. By then the dam had been rebuilt and was 16’ high.    (All reported in the 1880 Industrial Census.)

The 1868 mill was replaced in 1891 and it is believed that mill was the first to have a turbine, although no proof of when it was installed. It is known from a 1911 fire insurance map that by then it had a 70 hp turbine.

Finally a carding mill was erected where the grist mill stood. The whole facility was destroyed by fire. So the layout and equipment shown on the drawings cannot be proven, but it is based on the footprint from the site where the mill once stood, newspaper cuttings, family history, official reports, documents and applications made in 1824, 1868 and later as well as equipment that still exists in similar mills across North America. 

The table below records the mills timeline


Click on any of the images below to connect to some very interesting websites in connection with both the Violette family and the Grist mill

acadian 1
last mill

The Violette Family's website


Details of Acadian construction


The Val Violette house near to the mill site. According to family tradition, Francois Violette Jr's house was moved from a position closer to the St. John River, by his son Belonie Violette around 1850 and expanded to create the current home.

A link to the Acadian Archives at the University of Maine, a place where one can learn more about the people from this area, may be helpful to some:

Until the book Peter Valette is working on is finished, the best published source about the history of the mill was a newspaper article by Guy Dubay

 A link to Joseph Ralph Theriault's book Moulins du Madawaska:/ Mills of Madawaska. It covers the histories of 12 historic family mills.

Bilingual; written in English, and French.