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Red Mills

 

Communities of Wetzel County

 

Red Mills is located on Proctor Creek near the mouth of Furbee Run. It is about one mile from Knicely Ridge, which is off Route 89 at the present Bob Goddard residence in Proctor District.

The Red Mills complex consisted of a cluster of buildings which included a dwelling house, a general store and a grist mill. The old water mill is remembered by many people as a grist mill where farmers in the area could take their own grain and have it ground on stone burrs into corn meal, graham flour and feed. The water that turned the large wheel was brought in through a raceway or mill race from a quarter mile up Proctor Creek. The mill still was in operation in the early years of 20th century, but it fell into disuse and its iron parts were sold for scrap metal about the time of WWI.

In addition to the grist mill at Red Mills, there was a blacksmith shop, scales house, tobacco drying shed and of course, the general store. Joe Conners was the blacksmith for many years. Just across the creek, high up on the bank was a voting house and election time brought some three hundred voters from the surrounding area. It was no secret that many votes were bought with a pint of whiskey and other trivial inducements. A post office was incorporated with the general store and in honor of its clerk, Andy Clement, it was called "Andy". Andy Clemens was married to Ann Goddard, daughter of Joshua Goddard II and Elizabeth Guthrie, who resided on upper Proctor Creek. Andy Clemens later sold his interest in the Red Mills store and opened up one nearby. Later on, he closed this store and the building became the office of Dr. P.L.Freeland. Marion Post Office, about a mile down the creek was named in honor of Marion Moore, in whose store it was located. Two miles above, at the headwaters of Proctor Creek, was the post office called Bebee.

In order to supply the produce needed to run the store at Red Mills, Mr. Conrad (Coon) Fair made a trip to Proctor two times a week with the only means of transportation then available, a horse and wagon. This meant a six-mile trip over the only road, the bed of Proctor Creek. Axle-deep mud and jolting rocks were accepted as a way of life.

Farm products were extensively traded in area stores and Coon Fair's wagon was usually loaded both directions. Tobacco was one of the crops that brought cash to the local farmers and livestock another. These were bought in Proctor by a local merchant named John Ultschey, who in turn, shipped by Ohio River steam boats to Wheeling. William Fair brother of Conrad, managed the Red Mills store for his father, Absolm Fair, during part of the store's existence.

One of the prominent families of the surrounding area was that of Marion Moore. He taught school for many years and was one of the leading businessmen of the community. A large three-story store building was erected for him by J. Mendel Garrett, a local carpenter. In addition to the general store and the post office, the third floor of the building was the council chambers of Marion Council No. 40 Junior Order of United American Mechanics, the chief labor union of the oil field workers.

Some of the names of persons found in the Journal of the Red Mills store are: Henry Butler, John Goddard, Isaac Paugh, George Rogers, Robert Workman, Enoch St. Clair, David Burton, Jacob Finch, John Furbee, Oliver Mason, Louisa Moore, Lemuel Goddard, Daniel Harlan, John Nicely, Sutton Stansberry, George Singer, John Arman, Ervan Burge, Henry S. Parsons, Lysander Palmer, Friend Clark and Jacob Baxter.

Most of the families left the area of Red Mills as a steady decline in the economy set in after the oil field boom. By the time of WWI, the economy of the valley was at a low level and by the end of WWII, fewer than half a dozen families remained.Submitted by Linda Goddard Stout in part from Proctor Crook Album by Victor M. Arman

Source: Wetzel County West Virginia History 1983