Not long ago nearly
rural community in Southwest Virginia had a grist mill, and oftentimes
one mill house enclosed both a grist and a flour mill. Oftentimes, they
served as gathering places for the men of the community, especially on
Saturdays. Nearly all were water powered. The overshot wheel type
because even a brook in the hills could be turned through a flume and
to spill on the big overshot wheel. This type also was the most
However, turbine power wheels were especially used in large creek or
mills where it was necessary to empound water with dams.
In order to
as much history as possible of these mills, Emory L. Hamilton collected
what information he could about as many of them as he could, and L. F.
Addington photographed them.
The Wynn Mill
Located west of
Lee Co., VA, just off highway 58, known today as the Wynn Mill, but in
earlier days as the Browning-Wynn Mill.
The mill was built
after 1863 and was then only two stories high. The third floor was
about 1898, when the rolling Mill Machinery was added for making flour.
Not only did this
serve residents of Lee County, but some came from Tennessee and
to mill. The mill operated until sometime in the 1930's and was then in
possession of John C. Wynn.
Dr. James G.
a medical doctor and builder of the mill was born in Russell Co., VA,
27, 19827. Died at his home at the Methodist Camp Ground, Jonesville,
January 17, 1896. He married Martha Ann Farley, who was born April 23,
1829 and died January 11, 1896.
John Calhoun Wynn,
last operated the mill was a son of Acles Porter Wynn and Alafair
and was born in Harlan Co., KY, December 24, 1861, died at the Camp
in Lee Co., VA, August 21, 1940. He married Henrietta Browning at the
Browning home just opposite the mill. Henrietta was born September 1,
and died January 22, 1947.
Most, if not all the
is still intact in this old mill, but the building is rapidly
The Ball Mill
Located on the south side of Route 58,
west of Rose Hill, in Lee Co., VA.
Built by Moses S.
about 1878. There was once a water operated saw mill on the north part
of the building. The wheel of this mill is the horizontal type
The mill remained in the Ball family until 1935, when it was sold to
Cowan, who continued to grind meal at this mill for sometime afterward.
The original mill
which was part log and part frame was torn down by Mr. Cowan, and the
building erected on the old foundation. The original machinery, mill
and burrs of the original mill are still intact and in operational use
today, even though the old mill has been silent for several years.
The Gibson Mill
On Indian Creek,
Ewing, in Lee Co., VA, and upstream a short distance from the old
Mill stands the fast decaying Gibson Mill. Built by the Gibson family
managed by them for most of the years of its operation.
J. H. Humphrey, J.
Gibson and J. N. Gibson replaced the original dam which was made of
with the present dam of limestone rocks, and built the present building
around 1910. This mill was a success from the beginning and made money
for its operators. Around 1917 it was operating full blast.
have operated the mill among them was A. M. Clark, B. F. Wail, a Mr.
A. M. Blakemore and perhaps others. Blakemore was the last to operate
mill and perhaps operated it longer than anyone else.
On Indian Creek in
Co., VA, west of Ewing, and only a short distance downstream from the
Built by a Mr.
sometime prior to the Civil War, and a skirmish between Confederate and
Unon soldiers took place around this old mill during the Civil War
is locally referred to as "The Battle of Wireman's Mill."
The original mill
was made of logs and the mill was run by a large wooden "under shot"
The mill was sold to
H. Pridemore, commonly known as "Uncle Billy" who in turn sold it to W.
P. Nash, who was a grandson of Mr. Wireman, the first owner, and Nash
a bachelor. In 1921, Nash replaced the old log dam with a concrete dam,
and erected the present frame building, the original being of log. Both
a grist and flour mill, but never a success for reasons unknown, and
made money for its operators. It was remodeled and converted to a
mill and Nash's nephew, Carroll Johnston from Knoxville, was the
This attempt was another failure and for several years afterwards the
mill operated only one day a week grinding feed for livestock.
After Nash's death
mill was sold at auction to a Mr. J. D. Hurst, who turned it into a
factory, which was also a failure.
The building is now
by a Mr. Willard Brooks, and has at time been used as a tenant house,
shaving been built on the side of the mill. When I visited the mill in
1967, some disgusted tenant has painted on a wall, "We Democrats can't
live here." Recently the old mill has been repaired and a very
log restaurant has been built and opened nearby as a tourist attraction.
The Bush Mill
The Bush Mill on
in the Copper Ridge section of Scott Co., VA, is sometimes called the
Mill. It is now owned by the Scott County School Board and is used by
F. A. students as a tobacco barn.
Valentine Bush and
wife Nancy Gose moved from Russell County and bought land, and the
mill was either built by them or was already on the land they bought.
original mill was destroyed by fire, and the present mill was built by
Bush about 1896 or 1897. The builders were W. T. Frazier, Stephen and
Bush, sons of Valentine.
The Machinery, part
which is intact was purchased from Tyler and Tate of Knoxville, shipped
by rail to Gate City, and hauled by log wagons to the mill site by J.
Frazier and Jim Bush.
The mill now has a
metal overshot wheel, but the original was a wooden wheel built by
and Franklin Stewart. The sluice way that carried water to the wheel is
no longer standing.
Limestone rock to
the foundations was hauled from Copper Ridge and the mill race dug
side the foot of a hill for some five hundred feet represents a
labor job, the mountain base being an out cropping of limestone.
The mill was once
by S. H. Bond, hence the "Bond Mill."
Valentine Bush, the
owner also had a water powered sawmill upstream from the mill and on
stream below the mill he operated a Carding Machine. Valentine Bush,
in 1809 is said to have lived to be 105 years old.
In 1866, a 16 year
son of Valentine Bush had taken a horse to water at the fork of Amos
and while sitting on the drinking horse a shot was fired from ambush
the young boy tumbled from the horse into the waters of Amos branch.
assassin fled and was never caught. The stone at the grave of this boy
in the old Nickelsville Cemetery has an epitaph which reads: "He fell
the hands of an assassin."
blown away in the Rye Cove tornado of 1929. It was built by John
who came into Scott Co., VA around 1835, built the mill and his home on
Cove Creek in the edge of Rye Cove. The mill was a log structure and
both wheat and corn. John Duncan operated it until his wife's death in
1857 when he turned it over to his son-in-law George W. Johnson who ran
it until his death in 1866.
Johnson had the log
torn down and employed Pinkney Carter and George Peters, both noted
to build a new mill. Carter designed a three story mill with improved
for cleaning wheat. The new mill was completed about 1860, just prior
the out break of the Civil War.
This mill flew the
flag and ground flour for the Confederacy all during the Civil War.
was hauled in from wherever available, stored and guarded by
The flour left the
by wagon and ox-drawn wagons for such places as the Confederate
at Pound Gap in Wise County on the Virginia-Kentucky line.
The mill was also a
station for the Confederacy. On Saturdays rallies were held and
given to encourage enlistment in the Confederate Army.
In 1917 the third
of the mill was torn off and converted again into a two story building
and rolling mill machinery added for grinding wheat, which was still in
use when the mill was destroyed by a cyclone on May 2, 1929.
Mr. J. F. Johnson of
Blackmore told the writer the following story:
"I have heard my father speak of John
standing in the door of the mill on April 15, 1865 when a Negro slave
once belonged to Washington Salling ode up and said, 'Good morning,
John. How is your health? Uncle John have you heard any good news
He replied; 'Nothing except that it ha been reported General Lee
last Friday morning.' The Negro leaned way back in his saddle, clapped
his hands and hollowed, 'Bless God for that!' John Duncan jumped out
door and threw a rock at the Negro man. He was chastized for this act
he replied, 'No Negro can shout in front of me after my people have
so.' He had three grandsons shot down in one day at Gettysburg."
on Stony Creek, north of Ft. Blackmore, in Scott Co., VA, was built
1845 by Peter Brickey. Peter Brickey ran the mill until his death.
his death the mill fell to his son James Brickey and at his death to
son John Brickey. John traded the mill to George Wolfe who died and
it to his daughter who was a widow Jennings. Mrs. Jennings sold the
to Will Owens who at his death left it to his son-in-law Graham G.
The present mill was
by George Wolfe around 1907-1908. The wheels for this mill were made by
James Stewart, who along with his father before him were noted
of the Rye Cove section. Much of the mill machinery is intact and the
ran until just before World War II. The old water wheel at the back of
the building has fallen down and almost rotted away. The mill was
by an "overshot" wheel with the mill race running from a very large
further up Stony Creek.
Logan Cox Mill
This mill located
Valley of Scott Co.,VA is a composite, being made of parts of older
and is completely functional today. Owned by Mr. Logan Cox who set up
smaller wheel with intentions of generating electricity for his home.
The present metal
wheel of the "overshot" type was installed in 1936 and came from the
Patterson mill which stood about two miles up Plank Creek from this
The first mill on
site was built by Bent Quillen and Henry Kidd, Quillen's son-in-law
around the Civil War. Mr. Cox has converted the original old mill house
into a home where he now lives and has the present mill machinery in a
small building at the rear of the home.
The old mill house
is laid up of large limestone rocks. A cool mountained stream has been
diverted under the basement floor. By lifting a flat stone in the floor
one has access to a fine, clear flowing spring of mountain water.
Logan Cox, Sr.,
of the present owner bought the old mill from Bent Quillen.
The Riggs Mill
This mill no
was undoubtably rebuilt several times, and has been known by different
names, depending on ownership. That this was a very early mill is
by a Scott Co.,VA Court Order dated November 13, 1817 wherein Elijah
made a motion for alteration in road from his mill to the mouth of his
owned the mill before the Civil War. The pictured mill was probably
by James Stewart, or his son, who were noted millwrights and neighbors
of the Carters. Harry Carter's wife, Polly McNew, 1810-1903, had twin
Moses and Harry Riggs, who lived on with their Uncle and Aunt after the
Riggs family moved to Kentucky. When Harry Riggs was twelve years old,
the fingers of his right hand were torn off by the mill, leaving only
Upon Harry Carter's
the plantation and mill were left to the twin nephews. Harry Riggs
the mill until about 1925. One reason for closing it was lack of
water power. It was town down about 1930.
Patrick Porter Mill
On March 2, 1774,
of old Fincastle Co., VA, entered the following order:
"On motion of Patrick Porter, leave is
him to build a mill on Falling Creek the waters of Clinch."
This is the first
ever recorded for a mill on Clinch River and it was probably the first
mill ever built in Scott Co.
There is little
that the Porter Mill of 1774 was of log, and that the picture is of a
mill on the same site and foundation.
and his wife Susanna Walker came to the Clinch from Guilford Co., NC,
1772, and built a fort house on Falling Creek, as well as the mill some
two years later.
All that remains of
old mill today is some limestone rock foundation, a few runs of brick
the old chimney, and the mill burrs which have been moved to the lawn
the Lee Blackwell home nearby.
This mill had one
and that was a chimney made of handmade brick. It has been written that
Patrick Porter, his brother-in-law Captain John Snoddy and others
a Masonic Lodge and held their meetings on the second floor of the
If this tradition is true it may explain why the old mill had a chimney
and fireplaces, as no other known mills in the area had chimneys. Also
this may have been the first Masonic Lodge organized west of the Blue
After the Porters,
Nash owned and operated this mill for a number of years and it was
called Nash's Mill. When the mill was rebuilt is unknown, but it was
down after the turn of the century. This old mill heard the "war whoop"
of many Indians as it creaked its way through more than a century of
to the pioneer settlers.
The Beverly Mill
The first mill on
site was a small corn grist mill near the bank of Moccasin Creek, near
Gate City, Scott Co., VA. The present mill was built by the Click
who sold it to a Mr. McClellan. After McClellan it was operated by
Meade and also by his son-in-law, Bill Jennings.
William E. Taylor
into possession of it and had the bolting machinery installed. After
the mill was operated by Preacher Bill Vermillion, Harvey Wolfe, and
sold to Tom G. Templeton, who was once a Mayor of Appalachia, VA. Emory
Bellamy operated the mill for Templeton.
The original dam of
mill was of logs, which was torn out by Mr. Templeton, who put in the
concrete dam. L. Farmer was in charge installing the concrete dam. He
a sand rock fence from a Mr. Thomas Henry and hired men to beat the
into sand for mixing the concrete. Templeton traded the mill to John
(Rant) Beverly for a farm in Tennessee. Rant Beverly was operating the
mill in 1917. Beverly who was born in 1854 sold the mill to Ike
who in turn sold to Harvey H. Williams around 1919 or 1920. The present
owner is L. Kelly Williams.
The machinery in the
is the roller type and the mill produced corn meal and flour, as well
feed for livestock. A sawmill installed in the adjoining long shed was
also operated by water from the mill wheel. The mill last operated in
1940's and the machinery is intact.
This old mill
of Snowflake on Moccasin Creek in Scott Co., VA, was built by James
Jr., probably sometime in the 1880's. The mill was operated by turbine
wheels. The original mill had a wooden dam, replaced by a concrete dam
because the wooden dam was always washing out and flooding the area
1822, went to California in 1850 to participate in the famous
gold rush, and stayed there for some thirty years, traveling back and
to see his family who never left Scott Co. His wife was Winney Kilgore.
After the death of
the mill was taken over by W. Pat McConnell who had married James
daughter, Liza. McConnell rebuilt the mill to three stories in height
put in a rolling mill equipped with Nordike Rolling Mill Machinery
in Indianapolis, Indiana. This remodeling took place around 1915 or
The concrete dam was completed around 1919. At the time of remodeling
mill had three turbine wheels in three separate pits, one for the grist
mill, one for the rolling mill, and the third and largest operated a
said to be the heaviest mill in the county.
After the death of
McConnell in 1929, the mill was sold to a man named Shephard who
it a short time. It last operated in the 1930's.
The Semones Mill
The old Semones
on Benges Creek on the south side of Clinch River, about two miles
from Dungannon, in Scott Co., VA. It was down this Creek that the
Indian Chief Benge led the Livingstone women, crossing Clinch River
at McLain's Fish Trap in 1794, the last Indian raid on the Virginia
This mill was first
as a wool carding machines by James Addington. The land was a grant to
William Addington, father of James. Moses Hoge Semones married Eliza
Addington, daughter of James, in 1857, and after marriage took over
of the carding mill. He converted it into a grist mill for grinding
about 1910. After Moses Hoge Semones became unable to attend the mill
just stood and rotted down.
Nearby where once
old mill stood, stands the Semones home - a two story combination log
frame building. First built as a two room, two story log building other
rooms were added as the family grew.
Mrs. Clarice Semones
of St. Paul, VA, says the house was built for her grandfather James
who married in 1857, but a log in the older section bears a date of
carved into it.
Caleb Hawkins Mill
This old mill,
to make way for Route 58, between Dickensonville and Hansonville
for many years. The great steel wheel was sold for scrap many years
the mill was torn down.
Built by Caleb
the mill was once the hub of community life, consisting of a Roller
a Tanning mill which also operated from the mill machinery, and a
This mill was also
a Voting Precinct of Russell County.
During the life of
mill the following men either owned or operated it: Billy Gilmer, L. A.
Matheny, and George Peery.
In 1923, Roy
who was working at the mill was accidentally caught in the mill
and died from his injuries.
The Jessee Mill
The Roller Process
Mill was built between 1889 and 1900, by Andrew Jackson Jessee. It is
on Mill Creek four miles southwest of Cleveland on Route 645 and about
six miles from Lebanon, in Russell Co., VA.
The mill was built
lumber grown and sawed on the Jessee farm which consisted of several
acres of land. Most of the lumber was yellow poplar and has not
with age. The machinery in the mill was made in Salem, VA. All the cogs
or gears in the machinery are wood. Prior to the building of the
mill there had been a grist mill near the site of the present one for
of three floors and the machinery was installed through the three
For several years the Jessee Mill was the only roller mill in Russell
People came from all over the county and surrounding counties to have
and flour ground. Huge storage bins were located in the mill for
grain for the farmers.
Mill Creek during
time was a thriving settlement. There was a general store, a one-room
school and a church.
The mill was owned
operated by Jack Jessee until his death in 1922. His son, Wiley E.
operated it for ten years. The mill closed in 1932.
Mr. Joe Axem served
the first miller at the Jessee Mill. Melvin Kestner operated the mill
twenty-five or thirty years. He lived in the white house just below the
Jessee home. Jamie Chafin operated the mill for sometime, also Tilton
Other men who served as millers sometime during the life of the mill
as follows: Vince Fields, Malcom Buchanan, Red Joe Jessee, Clint
Bruce Campbell and Newton Massie.
Jack Jessee built a
brick home in 1883 and lived there until his death, which house is
standing. The home is located just below the mill. The lumber was sawed
on the place, and the carvings on the doors and wood work was hand
Located on the second floor hall is a red stained glass window which
Jessee imported from England when the house was built.
In Mr. Jessee's
life, he was unable to go to the mill, but he would lie in bed and see
people coming to the mill through a large mirror near his bedroom
He always wanted everyone to come in and talk with him.
Elk Garden Mill
This mill located
across the road from the Stuart Mansion at Elk Garden, in Russell Co.,
VA, is the only brick mill known to have been built in extreme
Built by Aaron
sometime between 1823 and 1840, the mill served the Elk Garden
and later the Stuart plantation for many years, grinding corn, wheat,
wheat and feed for livestock.
Aaron Hendricks was
son of Thomas Hendricks who owned the land from around 1769 to 1823,
Thomas built the Stuart Mansion about 1806. The land fell to Aaron
Hendricks who sold it in 1868 to William Alexander Stuart, father of
Henry Carter Stuart and the Governor held the land from around 1880 to
his death, when it passed to State Senator Harry C. Stuart in 1933, and
is now owned by the Stuart Land and Cattle Company, the largest cattle
ranch east of the Mississippi.
Stuart was a cousin of the Civil War Confederate General J. E. B.
Located about 300
from U. S. 23, on Clintwood Road at Pound, Wise Co., VA, stood the old
Robinson Mill which was washed away in the flood of 1957.
The first mill in
site was built sometime after 1816 by James Mullins and Greenberry
From the Russell County records we find that James Mullins and
Robinson bought several thousand acres of land on Pound, Indian Creek
Bold Camp creeks in 1815. Two years later Robinson sold his interest in
the land and moved to Pike Co., KY.
It is said that
Mullins built his house near where the Gus Roberson house once stood
that he built a mortar for pounding corn into meal nearby. This
mill was first built for his own use, but a short time later he
the idea of enlarging it and operating it by horse-power, and people of
the Pound area would come for miles around to Mullins' pound for their
Mullins continued to
the pound until 1837, when he sold to William Roberson, who moved there
from Gladeville (now Wise), and replaced the pound with a small
which he operated by himself and his son, James, until the year 1857,
James Roberson employed C. Pinkney Carter, of Scott Co., VA, to build
mill which was washed away in 1957. It was probably at the time that
rebuilt the mill that rolling machinery was added for making flour.
the mill until about 1869, and James Roberson from then until about
and Augustus Roberson from then until about 1934. Augustus was the last
to operate the mill and he was a son of James Roberson, the former
The old mill was
stories high. The first floor contained the water wheel and machinery.
The second floor the corn mill and the third the flour mill. The wheat
was poured into hoppers on the second floor and was carried by
to the top floor, cleaned and then brought back to the second floor
it was ground, and then again to the third floor where it was bolted,
up again on the first floor through elevators to the waiting customer.
The old mill had a
and overshot wheel. Later Gus Roberson installed a turbine wheel. There
was also a sawmill connected to the old mill which operated from the
power of the mill.
lower Mill Creek there are the foundations of two old water mills and
abandoned mill burrs. In these remnants of a by-gone day one could
say lies buried the history of Castlewood - the history of the first
ever made along the Clinch River, for it was around this spot that John
Morgan led his settlers in 1769. Little is known of Morgan and his
who came into the beautiful Clinch River Valley, other than that each
to take up 400 acres of land for settlement. We do not know the names
any of the original settlers for sure, other than John Morgan and John
Smith, not even the number in the settlement party, or from whence they
Somewhere in this
also lived the legendary Jacob Cassell, for whom Cassell's Woods was
shrouded in the mists of the past, about whom all sorts of legendary
are told. Despite the fact that he was an ordinary person, but who
preceded even Morgan's settlement the place bears his name after more
two centuries have blown over his dim footprint.
Mill Creek is a
beautiful stream emerging from under the red hills of Russell and
over an ancient limestone cliff to form a lovely waterfall. Just below
this fall, which furnished water for the mill race, lie the two
and three grinding wheels, nostalgic reminders of a restless roaming
of men who were not content to remain here, but who helped to settle
great central part of America.
Nearest to the fall
the smaller and older of the two foundations. Some fifteen feet
is the other and larger of the two foundations and here lies the three
heavy stone grinding wheels. This latter mill, built probably around
creaked and groaned its way through well over a century of time, and
well into the memory of older citizens of Castlewood. No doubt the Red
Men many times gazed upon these mills with hatred, seeing them as the
of the ever encroaching white men upon their land.
From scanty records
appears that John Lynch, who was a merchant and who did not live in the
area had the smaller mill built and it was probably operated for him by
Frederick Fraley. Colonel Daniel Smith, who was assistant Surveyor for
old Fincastle County, which Russell was then a part of, wrote to his
Colonel William Preston, on March 22, 1774, saying: "Yesterday, (March
21, 1774) I surveyed John Lynch's mill seat."
At this time Smith
making surveys for the original settlers from 1769, and Lynch either
the mill in operation at this time or soon thereafter. We also find in
the court records of old Fincastle County in the year 1773 where John
and his brother Christopher Lynch, business partner, brought suit
Castlewood residents for debts which appear to have been made at the
No record has been found permitting the erection of this mill and it
have been erected without permit sometime between 1769 and 1774.
John Lynch assigned
"mill seat" property to Frederick Fraley, the latter having apparently
settled upon the land when he arrived from Rowan Co., NC in 1769. It is
highly probable that Fraley had managed the mill for Lynch before he
it, and it may be that he and his neighbors built the mill soon after
arrival in 1769, as bread is a necessity and a means of obtaining it
have been their first consideration.
Frederick Fraley seems to have sold the mill to Henry Hamlin, and moved
to the Moores Fort property in lower Castlewood which he had bought.
acquiring the mill seat Hamlin had been living on land on the north
of Clinch River opposite the mill. Hamlin received his patent for the
land sold him by Fraley from the Washington County Court on November
1782, but had possession for sometime prior to receiving the patent.
Hamlin had the
mill built sometime around 1782 or 1783, for it was surely this mill
which Charles Bickley, Simon Auxier and Henry Dickenson were working
17 Indians attacked and scalped Ann Bush, later Ann Niece. It was
this old mill which was undoubtably built of logs that the community
The mill shown in the picture while on the same foundation has to be of
Again we go to
Smith, the Surveyor and Captain of Militia for Confirmation. In a
written to Colonel William Campbell, dated May 19, 1783, he writes:
"On my return from the Cumberland, I
through Cassell's Woods, just after the Indians had been at the Fort at
Henry Hamlin ran the
for a few years and on June 19, 1787 sold it to James Bush with the
showing, "it being part of land patented to him on November 12, 1782,
same land he purchased from Frederick Fraley. As further evidence of
ownership is a Russell County deed of September 17, 1795 which reads:
on the waters of Moccasin Creek and Clinch River up to Bush's Mill
James Bush sold the
tract on May 27, 1800 to Charles Bickley. It was Charles Bickley who
Bickley's Mills on the map, and who still had possession of it at his
Bickley's Mills became a trading center for the western frontier. He
it into a rolling mill for grinding wheat and buckwheat. He opened up a
mercantile business which flourished. One of the old Bickley Mills
is now in possession of Mr. L. E. Gibson of Castlewood, a descendant of
Bickley. Many of the items mentioned in the 1830's sound strange today.
Charles Bickley not
expanded the mill, but built a sawmill further upstream, and along with
Henry Dickenson, as a partner had installed Carding and Fulling
for cloth work. In his will dated April 3, 1825, Henry Dickenson leaves
to his son, Henry, Jr., "My interest in the Carding and Fulling
at Charles' Bickley's."
A Carding Machine
a machine for carding wool by separating fibers and cleaning them of
matter, making it soft and ready for the bobbin. Before invention of
Carding Machine, and for a long time after, wool was "carded" by hand
devices known as wool cards. The wool cards were brush like devices
stiff wire bristles for combing the wool and removing foreign matter
as the carding machine did, but much slower.
A Fulling Machine
for fulling cloth by means of pestles or stampers which beat and
it to a close, compact state, cleaned it, and made a finer, less coarse
Here at Bickley's
on February 3, 1832, was established a post office, with John Bickley,
son of Charles, as postmaster, known as Bickley's Mills, Russell Co.,
This post office continued to serve Castlewood until February 1, 1907.
Also here, for several years the "Bickley's Mills Post" newspaper was
copies of which can still be found as proud possessions of Castlewood
The late Mrs. Mamie
descendant of both Charles Bickley and Henry Dickenson, and who
the last old mill, told me, "it stood and rotted and finally the wind
The William Gray Mill
I would like to
William Gray. He must have been a good man, deeply religious, but
enough to serve the Biblical wine to his workmen at the end of each
day. This Biblical wine was made from the squeezed comb of honey and is
known as Methlium or Mede, but by the people of the day was called
In 1813 William Gray
Nancy Green Stallard and soon afterward built his log house in a bend
Clinch River, a short distance downriver from Dungannon in Scott Co.,
where his wife's two grandfathers had carved out a home on the frontier
when it was still plagued by hostile Indians. Here through ingenuity
hard work he built his plantation of several hundred acres into a
and productive farm that eventually made him one of the wealthiest men
of his day and all without the help of human slavery.
Perhaps the first
to the plantation was a mill built about 1835 to furnish bread for
and neighbors. Mr. Otto Dingus, great grandson of Gray, tore the mill
in 1957, and retains a vivid memory of some of the unique and unusual
methods used in the old log mill house. The wall logs he used to build
a house in Dungannon setting the logs in a vertical position, instead
the usual horizontal method. He states that the poplar cap log on the
side of the mill house was 32 feet long and so perfectly hewn, that
he sawed it into lumber there was less than a quarter inch variation in
thickness in the entire 32 feet of length. The log had been hewn 10
thick and 18 inches wide. The rafters were very unique, being hewn 5
square at the eave end, tapering to 2 inches square at the ridge where
they crossed and were fastened together with a wooden dowel. The eave
were doweled into the cap log.
Mr. Dingus has one
the wooden keys that drove the pinion wheel which he uses as a
The stone mill burrs are ornaments on Mr. Dingus' front lawn.
The mill flume
about three hundred feet upstream from the mill where there was a small
dam of earth and limestone rocks about three feet deep and raced down a
steep incline to pour onto the large, overshot wheel to turn the
Mr. Dingus recalls
his grandfather Dingus and his great grandfather Billy Gray were great
friends. Once when his grandfather Dingus was visiting, Billy Gray
a brick from the chimney inside the house and showed him where he had
money hidden, there being no banks in those times. That night Mr.
did not sleep and come morning he went to Gray and advised him to move
the money, fearing that if it was stolen, he knowing its whereabouts,
suspicion might kill their lifelong friendship.
Near where Billy
L-shaped log house once stood is one of the few brick spring houses
on the frontier of Virginia, where the family water supply came from
where the milk was kept cool on hot days. It is shaded by a large
tree that must be well over a century old and has been a home for wild
bees for many years. The mill and spring house creek have large catalpa
trees spaced from the spring house to where the creek empties into
River planted by loving hands in the long ago.
Sometime in the
a school was built on the Gray property and Otto Dingus attended school
there in 1899. His father lived across Clinch River and the children
rowed across the river in a flat boat to and from school. It is not
when the last school was taught here, but some of the teachers were
Stallard, Clara Kidd, Mozell Cox, Laura Rhoten, Maggie Wolfe and Bascom
Upon a limestone
a short distance from the old mill site stands a rapidly deteriorating,
but architecturally intriguing Free Will Baptist Church built by Billy
Gray. The lumber in the building is first quality, whipsawed yellow
Inside the church is one of the few "Mourner's benches" to be found any
where. On the lawn of the church stands the solitary tomb of the
with this epitaph:
In Memory of
Born February 13th 1806
Died January 14th 1888
Age 81 years, 11 months, and 1 day
This was his last request to sleep by
the Free Will Baptist Church he built.
His grave could
dug deep enough in the hard limestone rock, so it was built partially
ground with limestone and mortar, with two flat limestone slabs about
inches thick, fit together to form the top of the tomb.
Around the hillside
the church is a low opening in the hillside that one can only crawl
but which opens up inside to form a fair size cave, and here during the
Civil War the Gray family hid their hams and bacon to prevent them
taken by the contending armies and "bushwhackers".
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