Banat | Village Coordinator: Nick Tullius


Dominik Simone: The Horse Mill of Alexanderhausen

From the book by Walther Konschitzky:
Dem Alter die Ehr; Kriterion Verlag Bukarest 1982 [interview conducted in 1970]
Translated by Nick Tullius from the Alexanderhausen dialect into English.

It’s good of Schmidt Niklos to bring you here; nobody else would have known a Simone Dominik. Even old people have told strangers asking for me: No, there is no Simone Dominik in Alexanderhausen and there never was one. But a Miller Dominik, yes. Well, that’s how the whole world knows me! I brought that nickname from Oschtre [Ostern – NT]. You don’t have a nickname? No? Well, in Oschtre you just have to cross the street and your official name is gone, and you’re rebaptized, for the whole world! So we remained the Millers.

Our Miller family story begins with my grandfather: He jumped out of the priestly frock [quit priesthood – NT] because of my grandmother, had fifteen children with her, and learned how to build horse mills. That was in Selesch, near Kikinda in Serbia. And all his sons had to become millers, and all his daughters had to marry millers. And I was born at the village mill of Selesch in the year 1879. It was there that I learned to be a miller. And when I was nine years old, my father died, my mother married the horse-miller from Oschtre, and I continued learning at the horse mill in Oschtre. Later I took over the horse mill in Wiseschdia. That’s also when I got married. That was in 1902, and in 1904 on New Years day we moved to Alexanderhausen, to the horse mill towards Uihel; the other horse mill, towards Warjasch, was just being dismantled. One mill in the village, imagine that, all hell broke loose.

We lived at the mill, and we started at 3:30 in the morning and did not stop until 11:00 in the evening. I had learned from my father what the miller’s life was; and not once did I fall asleep around midnight on the sacks. At 4:00 in the mornings the farmers came with their wheat and corn, there was no time to catch your breath from New Year to Silvester [the day before New Year - NT]. When people went to midnight mass, I was still delivering the ground corn to feed the animals over the holidays.

Six horses were hitched in pairs and trotted round and round until blind and nauseated. The farmers who provided their own horses paid me with only 2 kg of corn or 6 kg of wheat for every 100 kg milled. The others paid more. The poor people joined their horses together, and for those who had no horses, I used my own. These were mostly blind horses – they were cheaper – and to just trot around in a circle day and night, they didn’t need to see anything. To be a miller’s horse was not much fun in those days, they had no time to get hyper like the six of farmer Vogel that were so high strung that they once destroyed my whole mill. It was luck that we detached the millstones at the last moment, or they would have destroyed even the straw roof of the mill. It took us eight days to repair it.

It got a little better when we shelled clover seeds. They came out as clean as an eye. Then one could enjoy a good mulberry schnapps. But to be a miller does not only involve milling; we also had to grind the stones, once or even twice. With a special tool called Pille and a hammer that looked like a schnitzel beater, we ground the stones. Each hit had to be precisely like the other, and we hammered like this into the night, it could be heard across half of the village.

During World War One, when I was in Galicia, the mill was dismantled, and to this day no decent mill was built in Alexanderhausen. No roller mill can produce flour as good as the one we made. I did not want to join the steam mill, so I bought myself a house and became a “for-half” farmer [working somebody else’s land for half of the crops produced – NT]. My wife already died before the war [WW2 – NT], but I never remarried, and I lived just for my children. During WW2 the house we had bought for ourselves burned down when Alexanderhausen was a battlefield for two weeks, and we were poor once again and had to start once more from nothing, like many others.

Now I am 91 years old. Our family is getting more and more ‘international’: I am from Selesch, my wife was from Wiseschdia, my son Jakob was born in Alexanderhausen, his wife is from Kleinbetschkerek, and my grandson Werner got married last week to a girl from Guttenbrunn [Guttenbrunn – NT]. I am now hoping that, with the new couple, even though our horse mill history is long gone, our nickname “Miller”, still carried by by all of us Simones, will not die out that soon.

Horse Mill

© “Hungary and Transylvania” by John Paget (London 1839).

Click image to enlarge


"....A horse mill consisted of two adjacent buildings: the horse-capstan (German: Göpel) building and the mill house proper. The first one was a large round building with a cone-shaped roof of cane or straw. Inside this building there was the horse capstan, a horizontal cross-shaped yoke attached to a very strong vertical axel. The horses were harnessed to the arms of cross-shaped yoke; by moving round and round in a circle, they turned the vertical axel, the motion of which was transmitted via a horizontal intermediate axel and two angular gear sets to the milling mechanism in the second building. The axels and gears were made of wood, and the whole complicated mechanism was certainly a masterpiece of the village tradesmen...."

From a description by Philip J. Brandl in Ref. [2] p.274


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Last updated: 26 Aug 2020