I did a bit of swotting up before the Combets' visit on Friday evening and searched the archives départementales to see what I could find out about la famille Viard.
The mill was built in 1892 by the maternal grandfather of Leon and his brother Elie as a sawmill which was operated by a single wooden wheel measuring 5.85 metres in diameter. The mill also ground nuts (it took 8 kilos of nuts to make one litre of oil), wheat, maize, clover and hemp using a large millstone (weighing three tonnes, which is still in situ in the basement) and several salvaged components from an old disused mill further upstream. The working part of the mill comprised nearly the whole of the left-hand side while the family lived in three rooms on the right-hand side.
M. Combet told me that when the father of Leon and Elie died, the brothers inherited the mill and the living quarters were divided into two - a ground floor room and first floor bedroom above the working part of the mill (accessed externally) at the front, and two ground floor rooms and a first floor bedroom (above the working part of the mill again accessed externally) at the back. Leon, a bachelor, lived in the front with his mother, and Elie in the back with his wife and four children. (French succession law provides that children automatically inherit part of their parents' estate and the surviving spouse, if there's no Will, is only entitled to a life interest in the property.)
The brothers continued to work the mill together, making windows and doors and even coffins and must have been quite wealthy since Leon was the first person in the village to own a car. After Elie died in 1982 (aged 87) Leon lived here alone until two years before his death in 1998 (at 93) when he went into a retirement home and the individual parts of the mill were bought up and reverted to one owner.