Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Mildred McConnell's Scrapbook Articles

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Recollections of My Experiences of the Mill

by Robert F. Bond

     My parents, Samuel H. Bond and Dona E. Bond, were married on June 17, 1911. They started housekeeping at the little house located where the Ruritan club house is now. My father ran the mill for J. H. Darter until Darter sold it to Dad on February 18, 1920.

     The first employer that I remember Dad had working at the mill was Bill "Cooch" Flanary. I remember having a meal with him and his wife "Em" Flanary. I remember sitting in front of the open fireplace with Mr. Flanary with his cat sitting on his knee. I also remember seeing Mrs. Flanary in summer sitting alone on the porch smoking her corn cob pipe with its long stem. She seemed to enjoy it so much.

     In those days the bridge near the waterwheel had not been built and Amos Branch was rather wide and shallow, and the road ran through it just east of the mill. The wagons and what few cars there were (mail carriers and a few others) forded it. I waded the branch barefooted most of the time, although there was a cross log for the ones who wished to use it. It was about 40 feet down stream from where the bridge is now located. At that time period (late 20's and early 30's) we had several white ducks. The ducks were caught, plucked, and released to grow more down. This down was used to make pillows and feather beds. Each year, right after wheat threshing time, we would go to the wheat straw stack and fill our straw ticks with the new straw. Straw ticks were put under feather beds for support. This straw tick was supported by bed slats; these bed slats were approximately four inch by one inch boards that were placed across the bed railings about ten inches apart. I certainly enjoyed sleeping on a feather bed rather than a box springs and mattress when they were brought into the area. About 50 yards down stream from the mill and on the east sides of the branch there was a small cave that was used for a dairy at that time to keep the milk, butter, etc cool and fresh. At one of the reunions we had for Samuel H. and Dona E. Bond's family about three years ago, my wife and I walked down the road to a position on the road just across the branch from the cave and could feel the cool air coming from the cave. This cave was used as a dairy until electricity was supplied to the little house. It is so sad to see the cave almost covered with debris and branches.

     People in those days grew their own corn and wheat crops. The corn the farmers raised was kept in their corn cribs. As they needed meal, they would shell enough corn to make enough meal to last for a week or two. This was referred to as a "turn" of corn. It was generally up to one of the children of the ones who had children of their own to take the "turn" to the mill to be ground. They would put the saddle on the horse, throw the "turn" of corn across the saddle, climb on the saddle in front of the "turn" of corn, and take off to the mill. At the mill the corn was weighed, a toll charge for the grinding was deducted, and the balance ground into meal and put back into the sack. The sacks were generally made of finely woven white cloth so that the meal would not leak through the weave. If the weave was too coarse then the meal was put into paper bags.

     For thirty-two years the mill was known area wide as Bond Roller Mill. My brothers and I helped Dad in the mill while we were "growing up". Many times as we were working at "harvest time" horse drawn wagons would be backed up several at a time waiting to unload their wheat and be issued a Due Bill for it. This Due Bill was presented and the amount of flour or bran was deducted each time they came to get either or both.

     After Mr. Flanary died my brother Verle Bond tended the mill up until the year 1935, when he got a job at the Tennessee I Eastman Corporation. During that period and continuing up into the 50's the farmers still grew wheat to take to the mill to be exchanged for flour as they needed it.

     I remember my brother Verle keeping his old Indian Motorcycle on the ground floor. One day when my brother Clyde and I were out there, Verle got his Indian motorcycle out to take a ride. Clyde wanted to ride behind him and naturally I wanted to ride also. Clyde prevailed and off they started up the hill toward Nickelsville. None of the road was paved in Nickelsville and surrounding areas at that time.

     In lots of places along the roads there would be deep ruts. Well, as they got up to the large Oak tree that stood on the right hand side of the road about 350 yards from the mill they hit one of those ruts throwing them from the motorcycle. Here they came back to the house bruised and scratched. As they were applying Mercurochrome to their scratches Clyde spoke to me saying, "Now aren't you glad you didn't go and get all scratched up like this." Verle said, "Shucks, he might not have got a scratch." That ended their motorcycle riding for that day.

     Verle was in good physical condition and one day on a dare he carried five bushels of wheat (300 pounds) from the main floor up the stairs to the second floor. I talked to Verle about this just a few years ago and he told me, "If there had been another step or two I doubt if I could have made it."

     I stayed overnight a few times when the mill was going around the clock. I slept in the bedroom of the little house nearest the mill. Hearing the water going over the metal wheel and the excess going over the spillway was like a sedative putting me to sleep.

     After Verle went to the Tennessee Eastman, Robert (Bob) Hartsock started working in the mill. I thought a lot of him. He certainly was a fine man. It became my chore to go each Saturday to the mill and pick up the basket of chicken eggs that "Uncle Bob" had gathered during the week and put in a basket for me to pick up and carry home to Nickelsville. Eggs at that time used as a medium of exchange. On my way back home, probably being the biggest "sweet tooth" in Nickelsville, I always stopped at "Aunt Lillie" Broadwater's store and traded one or two eggs for candy. "Aunt Lillie" petted me and probably lost money on these sales. The store was located at the forks of the road to Gate City and to Twin Springs.

     On one occasion I worked with "Uncle Bob" transferring wheat from the second floor to the third floor to make room for more wheat; we did this by using a block and tackle pulley and a 1/2 bushel bucket. I was working up near the roof. It became very warm so we decided to take a break and cool off. Incidentally, the mail had run just a short time before this so "Uncle Bob" went to get his mail. When he came back in the mill he said, "Well I got my false teeth." Mail ordering false teeth was virtually the only way to get them at that time. Upon taking them out of the box he promptly put them in his mouth. Please imagine having no teeth for quite a while, and then putting both upper and lower teeth in the mouth. He said nothing for a while as he tested them.

     After we went back to transferring the wheat he finally spoke. The first word he tried to say, being frustrated, was the "S" word. It came out as "thuit". At that we both had a good laugh.

     Before long his speaking improved considerably even with his new teeth.

     Uncle Bob continued to work at the mill as long as he was able.

     My brother-in-law, Lowratha Dixon, came to work in the mill after I returned from service in the Army during W.W. II. I do not know how long he worked at the mill because I was busy going back to Emory & Henry College to complete my Junior and Senior years for a B. S. Degree.

     One of those summers that I did not attend Emory & Henry I helped Daddy in the mill. The following episode was my most frightening experience. Daddy had installed what we called a hammer mill that would grind up grain, cornstalks, corn cobs, or most anything else. It was located on the west side of the mill in an addedon room and connected by belt to the main pulley driven by the water wheel. When the gate to the water wheel was shut off diverting the water to the spillway, there would still be enough water that would leak around the gate so that it would fill the cups on the water wheel until the weight of the water would cause the wheel to rotate and would turn whatever was connected to the main drive-shaft. Well, this happened when the hammer mill was still connected and Daddy was cleaning out the inside residue. He got his hand caught between one of the blades and the housing stalling the rotation of the hammer mill. The Lord was certainly with us. I did not panic. I looked toward the wall near the outside door and saw a 2 X 4 about three feet long learning against the wall. I grabbed it and hurriedly used it to pry the blade backwards so that he could remove his hand. He had a very badly bruised, cut and bleeding hand. Thankfully, after a trip to Dr. Quillen's office for treatment, his hand healed, regaining full use of it.

     Shortly after Daddy bought the mill he signed an order on 12/11/ 20 to purchase the 6 section level Bolter from Salem Foundry and Machine Works, Inc., Salem, VA. The price of this level Bolter including accessories and installation was $1642. This machinery was delivered in the year 1922. Another piece of machinery, the Bleacher was bought and installed in the year 1936. The metal wheel replaced the wooden in the latter part of the 1920's or the early 1930's. My brother, Clyde, remembers it being installed. What I remember about it is that the wooden wheel was supported by wooden beams approximately 10 X 10 in size. These beams were replaced by a rock structure to support the metal wheel. This rock structure is standing today. The person who did the masonry work was Sherman Hartsock. Hartsock was the best mason in the area. This rock support is still serving its intended purpose.

 

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