The History

Located in the historic area of Waterloo, Ontario, that once milled Onyx Premium Flour at the Joseph Seagram Flour Mill and Distillery, the Onyx's name is derived from the premium brand of flour the mill produced, paying tribute to part of Waterloo's rich history. It all started 1857 when William Hespeler and George Randall opened Granite Mills and Waterloo Distillery on the corner of Erb and Caroline streets, fed by water from nearby Laurel Creek. The mill's function was to supply flour to the area, but as a subsidiary to the main business, the Waterloo Distillery produced whiskey as a way to deal with the mill's excess grain. In 1883 Joseph Seagram bought the mill and renamed it the Joseph Seagram Flour Mill and Distillery Company. Though Seagram continued to produce flour from the mill, under his stewardship the distillery began to take more prominence. After achieving success and worldwide recognition for the quality of his whiskey, Joseph Seagram closed the flourmill and its adjoining dry goods store to focus exclusively on the distillery.

The Onyx is proud to be associated with a quality product that is part of the fabric of Waterloo's rich history.

The heart of a mill was dominated by its grinding stones, which were used in pairs. The bedstone, or bottom stone was fixed in position, while the runner stone, or top stone moved and created the grinding motion used to grind wheat into flour. Grain was poured from a hopper into the eye of the mill where it was pushed out through centrifugal force under the stones and ground into flour. The flour then escaped through a chute that led to a wooden bin on the floor below, where it was sifted and separated into grades through a process called bolting.

A miller is a person who operates a mill, and is among the oldest of human professions. The grinding of food allowed for easier digestion of the nutrients and prevented the teeth from wearing down, making the role of the miller key to the health of a population.


Bedstone: the lower millstone that remains stationary during the grinding process.

Blue stone: German millstones of dark bluish gray lava. Also called Cullin stone, Cologne stone, or Rhine stone, these stones were quarried in the Rhine Valley near Cologne, Germany.

Bolter: a machine used to sift flour into various different textures and degrees of fineness.

Buhrstone: a hard limestone rock from France containing silica, fossils, and cavities used as a grindstone in mills.

Chasers: vertical-running millstones attached to a shaft that turned in a circle. So named because one stone follows the other around the circle.

Cutter: a person who cut or shaped millstones at a quarry.

Furrows: shallow grooves cut into a millstone to facilitate the grinding process.

Garners: storage containers for grain, usually on the upper floor of a mill, used to feed grain into millstone hoppers.

Gristmill: a mill for the grinding of grain, usually wheat or corn.

Horse: Four-legged wooden support used to hold the hopper above the hoop in a mill.

Hoop: Wood cover that fit over the millstones to keep the flour and meal from spilling on the floor during the milling process.

Hopper: An inverted pyramidal wood funnel the miller would pour grain in before starting the mill. Mill bill: tool with a chisel on the end used for sharpening the grinding surface of a millstone.

Millstone: one of a pair of heavy flat, disc-shaped stones that are rotated against each other to grind grain.

Noria Wheel: a waterwheel that powers millstones by converting the energy of free-flowing or falling water.

Onyx: a gemstone that can be found in various parts of the world and is distinctive for its parallel bands of colour. Onyx is a type of agate with black and white banding, while sardonyx is an agate with brown, orange, red, and white banding.

Peak stone: tough fine-grained millstones of sandstone from the Peak District of Derbyshire England.

Querns: small millstones turned by hand power.

Runner stone: The upper stone of a pair of millstones. The runner stone spins above the stationary bedstone creating the grinding action of the millstones.

Saddlestone: a simple grinding apparatus that grinds meal between a saddle-shaped stone and a rounded stone rolled over it by hand.

Spring Wheat: wheat planted in the spring and harvested in autumn. Often called red or hard wheat, spring wheat is primarily used in the making of bread flour and pasta.

Walz: sets of steel-rollers first utilized in Austria in the 19th century, which resulted in flour with less damaged starch. This new cold-milling process was better for grinding harder wheat and made lighter breads at higher volumes than the more traditional stone-milled grain.

Winter Wheat: wheat planted in the autumn and harvested in summer or early autumn of the following year. Often called white or soft wheat, winter wheat is primarily used in the making of pastry flour.