Scrapbook Memories

Mildred McConnell's Scrapbook Articles

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The Rolling Mills of Scott County

By Omer C. Addington

'On motion of Patrick Porter, leave is given him to build a mill on Falling Creek, the waters of the Clinch. ' Permission was granted March 2,1774 by the County court of Fincastle County.

This, so far as any reliable records show, was the first mill built within the present limits of Scott County. Prior to the erection of this mill, meal could be obtained only by mashing the grain with a kind of mortar and pestle arrangement.

This mill was patronized by the settlers of a large section of the country, as far away as Castlewood and Rye Cove. Daniel Boone was among the patrons of Porter's Mill. This mill was only a corn mill. The corn was ground with stones called "millrocks." Later each community was to have a mill for grinding corn and they were called "grist mills."

When people began to grow wheat some mills put in a set of rocks to grind the wheat. These rocks could be set closer together than the rocks used to grind corn. Some mills had sifters or bolters to remove as much of the bran as possible. They made a grade of flour we know as graham flour.

The mills for making a good grade of flour were called rolling mills, because the wheat was crushed with rollers instead of stones. After the rolling mills were introduced into the county, almost every farmer grew wheat to take to the mills and have their own flour made.

Most of the rolling mills in Scott County were two or three stand mills with four rollers to a stand. The more stands a mill had the better grade of flour it was supposed to make. This was not always true, much depended on the knowledge and skill of the operator, who was called a miller.

The rolling mills were run by water power. Most had an overshot wheel meaning that the water came down on top of the wheel from the forebay. The forebay was connected to a stream of water that ran through a canal called a mill race. The first overshot wheels were made of wood. Some of the later mills had turbines to run the mills.

When wheat was brought to the mill it was inspected for quality. It was then weighed and stored in huge bins until it was to be ground. When it was to be ground it was taken to a cleaning room where it was sifted to remove dirt and then put through a scrubbing and cockle machine for further cleaning. Cockle was a plant that grew with wheat. It produced a black seed and if these were not removed they would ruin the flour. The wheat then received its first grinding between rollers called "break rolls." These break rolls ground the wheat until it was grainy, like cornmeal. The coarsely ground wheat was passed through a shaking and sifting process to separate flakes of bran from the coarse flour. Other rollers ground the flour finer and finer until it became a white dust. Each time a set of rollers ground the flour it went through a set of silk sifters. The finer the sifters, the better the grade of flour. Flour that was made on the first rolling mills was light cream color, there was no way to bleach the flour. Later some of the mills added bleachers and phosphate in their process of flour making.

For each sixty pounds of wheat the farmer got thirty-seven pounds of flour and ten pounds of bran. The miller received ten pounds of wheat for his services. This was a state law, the miller could charge less, but not more. There was also a state law which said if the miller ground corn in his mill he took one gallon to the bushel.

At one time there were ten or twelve rolling mills in Scott County. Some of them were built in Scott County. Some of them were built in the 1800's and some in the 1900's, (1914to 1920).

Duncan Mill was built by John Duncan sometime in the early 1800's. It was built on Cove Creek in the edge of Rye Cove. John Duncan operated the mill until 1857when he turned it over to his son-in-law, George W. Johnson. Johnson operated the mill until his death in 1866.

Johnson had the log mill torn down and employed two noted millwrights, Pinkney Carter and George Peters, to build a new mill. Carter designed a three story mill with improved equipment for cleaning wheat. The new mill was completed about 1860, just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. This mill flew the Confederate flag and ground flour for the Confederacy all during the Civil War. Grain was hauled to the mill from where ever available, stored and guarded by Confederate soldiers.  The mill was also a recruiting station for the Confederacy.

In 1917 the third story of the mill was torn off and converted to a two story building and new mill machinery added. The mill was still in use when it was destroyed by a tornado May 2, 1929.

The original Brickey Mill on Stoney Creek, north of Ft. Blackmore, was built in 1845 by Peter Brickey. He ran the mill until his death.

After his death the mill fell to his son, James Brickey and at his death to his son, John Brickey. John traded the mill to George Wolfe who rebuilt it around 1907-08. When Wolfe died he left it to his daughter, who was a widow Jennings. Mrs. Jennings sold the mill to Will Owens, who at his death, left it to his son-in-law, Graham Brickey. The mill ran until just before World War I.

This writer visited the Brickey Mill in the fall of 1985 with two friends, Clay Baldwin and Pat Starnes. The building has about gone beyond repair. The machinery is rusted and about gone. My friends marveled at the way things had changed since they were young men and patronized the mill.

The old Culbertson-McConnell Mill, located northeast of Snowflake on state highway 613, is built on the banks of Moccasin Creek. It was built by James Culbertson sometime -- in the 1800's. James Culbertson, born in 1822, went to California in 1850 to participate in the famous California gold rush, and stayed there for some thirty years, traveling back and forth to see his family who never left Scott County.

After the death of James Culbertson, the mill was taken over by W. P. McConnell, who had married Culbertson's daughter, Eliza. McConnell rebuilt the mill to three stories and put in rolling mill equipment. This remodeling took place around 1916. The original mill had a wooden dam which was always washing out and flooding the area downstream. The wooden dam was replaced by a concrete dam around 1919. At the time of remodeling, the mill had three turbine wheels in three separate pits, one for the grist mill, one for the rolling mill and the third operated a saw mill. The trademark of the mill were two crossed bundles of wheat.

After the death of McConnell, the mill was operated by his sons for awhile. It was sold to Fred Quillen, Rush Quillen and Grover Hash and operated for awhile by N.D. Whited. It was later sold to Frasier Shepard, who operated it until the 1950's. The mill was then sold at auction to a Mr. Parks.

This mill was equipped with Nordike Rolling Mill Machinery, the best money could buy, but it was dismantled, broken up and sold for scrap.

My thanks to Carl and Ubert McConnell, grandsons of W. P. McConnell for this story.

The Addington Mill on Valley Creek was built by Hugh Jack Addington in 1913. It had a wooden dam. This was a five stand mill. Hugh Jack sold the mill to his brother, H. F. Addington, who in turn sold it to Elmo Godsey. He ran it a few years until it burned down.

The Morris McConnell Mill was also on Valley Creek. This was among the first mills in Scott County. All that is left of the mill is the dam, built out of huge stones. There is no one living now that knows anything about the old mill.

The Dougherty Mill was farther up Valley Creek than the Addington or McConnell Mills. Logan Dougherty swapped his farm to a Mr. Meade for the mill in 1917. Charles Daugherty, Sheriff of Scott County at the time, was making his rounds on horseback and spent a night with the miller. Later the sheriff and his deputies arrested some men for making some illegal whiskey (moonshine). These men thought the miller, Logan Dougherty, had reported them to the sheriff. They sent word that they were going to kill him. Frightened by the death threat, he sold his mill to his brothers, John and Nathan Dougherty and left the county with his family for Colorado.  The brothers ran the mill until it's closing in the early 1930's.

Many thanks to Clarine Addington for this story.

The Bush Mill on Amos Branch near Nickelsville, on state route 680, is sometimes called the Bond Mill. Valentine Bush had the mill built in 1886. Limestone rock to build the foundation was hauled from Copper Ridge and the mill race dug along side the foot hill for five hundred feet. The mill has a large metal overshot wheel, but the original was a wooden wheel built by James and Franklin Stewart.

The mill was once owned by Samuel H. Bond, hence the "Bond Mill." When Bond owned the mill he sold flour under the name "Swan Down."

Early in the 1960's the Bond heirs sold the mill and the land to the Nickelsville High School F.F.A.  After the Dungannon High School and The Nickelsville High School were consolidated, it was deeded to the Scott County School Board. The Nickelsville Ruritan Club has a lease on the mill for ninety-nine years.

The Beverly Mill or Williams Mill, located on old highway no. 71 on the banks of Big Moccasin Creek, has been known by many names, depending on the ownership.

The present mill was built by the Click family who sold it to a McClellan, who sold it to W. E. Taylor, who sold it to T. G. Templeton. Templeton had the present concrete dam built. The original dam was log.

Templeton traded the mill to Ransom Beverly for a farm in Tennessee.  Beverly was operating the mill in 1917 when he sold it to Ike Fletcher, who in turn sold it to Harvey H. Williams in 1920.

Williams sold flour under the name "Golden Harvest." After Williams death, the mill was operated by his son, Kelly Williams. The mill was sold to a Riner in Wise who dismantled the rolling mill and stored it, but operated the grist mill for a while. The mill is now closed.

Lunsfordís Mill is located on state highway 689 southeast of Hiltons on the banks of the North Fork of the Holston River. The mill house was torn down and moved from Hiltons and rebuilt into a three story building at present location in 1913. A dam crossing the river was constructed of rock and concrete and a sixty-inch turbine was installed. E. A. Lunsford, affectionately known to his friends as "Zan," set up and installed the rolling mill equipment. The equipment was made by the Salem Machine and Foundry Company of Salem, Va. and distributed by Tysaman Machine Company of Knoxville, Tn. The mill was equipped with a cockle and scourer to clean the wheat. This was a two stand mill with four rollers per stand, with a six section sifter. The mill was equipped with a small scale that tell how much flour and brand a customer would get according to the grade of wheat he had. The first rolling mill installed cost $1,474 and could make eighteen to twenty-four barrels of flour in twenty-four hours. A barrel is 264 gallons. Later the mill was upgraded to make thirty to thirty-eight barrels of flour within twenty-four hours. Lunsford made his own bleacher and later phosphate was added as bleach. Flour from Lunsford"s Mill was sold under the trade name "Southern Best." The mill was closed in 1958.

My thanks to Raymond Lunsford for this story.

Not much is known about the Perry Mill or Big Branch Mill. Those who know are no longer living. It was built in the 1800ís by Lilbrun Perry and operated by a man who had the nickname, "Pea," a Mr. Nickels.

I could not find anyone who knew anything about the Jayne Mill, except that it was owned and operated by Billy Jayne and it had an overshot wheel turned by the water of Little Moccasin Creek. The mill was severely damaged by a flood in the 1920ís when a family living nearby were swept away and drowned. It may not have operated after the flood.

Fraysier or Peters Mill on Obeys Creek was built by Robert Fraysier, known to his friends as "Uncle Bob Fraysier," in the late 1800ís. After Fraysierís death, the mill was owned by O. W. Peters, hence the name Peters Mill. Carl Perry, one of the many millers to operate the mill told this writer that this was a three stand mill. That a wooden dam was built across Obeys Creek and the water from the dam turned a large overshot wheel that ran the mill. In very dry weather when the creek was low the mill had to be shut down until the water in the dam was full enough to run the mill. In cold weather the water on the overshot wheel would freeze and the mill could no be run until the ice melted. On one such occasion when the overshot wheel was frozen, the operator, George Kinsler, attempted to cut the ice from the wheel by placing a ladder against the wheel and chopping the ice with an ax. The wheel started and caught Kinsler and threw him against a large rock, bursting his skull and killing him instantly. This accident happened November 19, 1918.

The mill was closed in the late 1930ís or early 1940ís. It was sold and dismantled and moved to Dungannon. This writer does not know if it was ever rebuilt.

The Speers Ferry Mill on Clinch River was built by Ben Venable for Harvey Wolfe in 1908. The river was dammed in such a way that the water flowed down into a large pit and turned a turbine wheel. This mill made flour, meal and animal feed. The mill had several owners during its time. The last owners were two brothers, Will A. and John D. Broadwater. They operated under the name of "Clinchfield Milling Co." The last operator of the mill was Coy Kaylor. The mill burned in 1950.

Perhaps the greatest endeavor to build a rolling mill was undertaken by Drayton S. Hale in the late 1800ís with Hale Mill. Hale had built two mills, but neither met the needs of the community. In 1897 he began to have a tunnel dug through the narrow part of ridge that forms a bend in Copper Creek. This bend is known as the "dogs tail," because of its shape.

The tunnel was dug by men using only picks and shovels and occasionally dynamite. The soil and rock were wheel-barrowed to the outside. The tunnel is approximately three hundred feet long, six and one half to seven feet high and seven feet wide.

I took about seven years to dig the tunnel and build the dam. The dam was built of logs. In the meantime, carpenters had built the mill house and millwrights had installed the mills. This included a roller mill, corn mill, saw mill and rock crusher. These mills were ready for service when the tunnel was completed. They were run by a turbine from the water that came through the tunnel. The mill was in use up until the time of Hale's death in 1916.

The rocks near the Hale Mill are rich in lime and Hale had the crushed rock put on his farm. He was the first person in the community to grow alfalfa and rape.  Rape is a European herb of the mustard family, grown as a forage crop for sheep and hogs.

The farmers of Scott County quit growing wheat. They could buy flour made from wheat grown in the wheat belt cheaper than they could grow it. After the commercial bakeries were established in this area (Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City) and the grocery stores began selling bread, not as much home baking was done as had been in the past. So, the old rolling mills in Scott County had to close. Yet, we older citizens have a feeling of nostalgia when we look back to the time when we could go to the old mills and get the cream-colored flour to make our biscuits; the middlings to make graham bread; the shorts (heart of the wheat) to make pancakes to eat with our country butter, molasses, honey and maple syrup.

 

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