The Snodgrass Gristmill and Tannery

Location: At the site of the railroad trestle at West Norton on 
North side of U. S. Route 23.

Date: About 1844

Owners: The first account of John H. Snodgrass owning land in the present Wise County was when he had two tracts surveyed in 1857. Both these tracts were located at the Little Stone Gap. One was a 6 acre tract patented to John Smith, December 5, 1845. The other was a 222 acre tract patented to Robert Duff, March
24, 1848. There is no record or proof that either one of these two men ever resided in the present bounds of Wise County. Perhaps they were outsiders who got these patents and sold their patent rights to Snodgrass.
     Snodgrass sold the mill property to Samuel Salyers, April 4, 1882. Samuel Salyers sold to J. F. P. Salyers, July 21, 1882. J. F. P. Salyers sold to William (Billy) Jones, January 1, 1883. Billy Jones sold to Joseph I. Doran who was the head of the Norton Land and Improvement Company, September 15, 1887.
     At the coming of the railroad in 1891 the mill property was sold to the railroad and the mill house was torn down to make room for the railroad right of way.

Description: The Snodgrass mill house was three story hewn log, with clapboard roof. The first floor had two batten doors on the west side and two windows on the south side. The first floor was divided into two rooms.
One was used for a grinding room and the other was used to store the ground grain in. Perhaps the first floors in this building were puncheons, but the later floors were laid of hand sawed planks.
     The second floor had a door facing the west and a window on the south side. This floor was mostly utilized by the mechanism of the mill. Part of this machinery was run by means of cog wheels and part was run
by a belt. This floor was reached by means of a stairway leading up from the first floor. It was a plain wooden, one flight stairway made of hand sawed planks.
     The third floor was used mostly as a store room for the hides that were tanned at the Tannery. The third floor room had one window on the south side. A one flight stairway lead up from the second to the third floor.
     This mill was run by a large overshot water wheel on the south side of the building. Water was carried from the mill pond to the wheel by a long sluice way made of hollowed out poplar logs placed end to end. The
mill pond was near and just south of the former Norton Floral Shop. Both flour and meal grains were ground at the Snodgrass Mill. The burrs of this mill were shipped to George Snodgrass, father of John, to Abingdon,
that being the closest railroad station at the time and were hauled over from Abingdon by an ox team. They were the old type French Burrs and are still, if not lately destroyed in the Guest River section, above Esserville.

History: George Snodgrass and his son John H. emigrated to Wise County from Botetourt County and they ran the mill in partnership until the death of George Snodgrass. No account can be found where George Snodgrass ever owned any land in this county.
     George Snodgrass was son of Joseph Snodgrass, who was a son of James Snodgrass of Botetourt County, VA. John H. Snodgrass was a son of George and Nancy Snodgrass and was born in 1827.
     Prior to the Civil War the Snodgrass family had slaves working at the mill. The number of slaves they owned is not known, but I am led to believe that they did not exceed three or four. Samuel Salyers next ran the mill after John Snodgrass. He is known to the people of Wise County as
"Squire" Salyers, being a Magistrate for more than fifty years. His son Logan H. N. Salyer organized a Company of Confederate soldiers at the Gladeville Courthouse, June 3, 1861 and they marched away to Wytheville and were organized into a regiment (Floyd's Brigade) and known as Company H, 50th Virginia Volunteers. Logan Salyer was elected Captain of this company before they left the Gladeville Courthouse and before the war was over he had the rank of Colonel. Samuel Salyer enlisted in this company at the same date
as 1st Sergeant, but after the Brigade went into the regions of West Virginia, he became sick at White Sulphur Springs about October 1st, 1861, and was sent home by the Surgeon. He at that time was forty-four years old.
He died in 1914 at the age of 107 years. His son James was also a member of this company and was discharged July 10, 1861. His son Tyree D. later became a member of this same company being transferred from Camp
Jackson, July 25, 1861.

Legend or Tradition: Tradition was that the section between the mill and tan yard was haunted for a long time. Just after heavy rains at nights a horse was heard to gallop up the road leading by the sluice way from
the mill to the tan yard. Some heard his shoes clanking against rocks while others only heard the galloping of the horse at intervals. Well, anyway the place was haunted and the settlers didn't like the idea as all haunted places were shunned at that day. Mr. Snodgrass didn't like these rumors, so he started out one night to find the haunt. The nigh he started out was one of the typical haunt nights, dark, rainy and an all around gloomy night, a night for ghosts to be abroad. Walking along the sluice way Mr. Snodgrass heard the horse come galloping
along, now his gallop, then silence and again the galloping. It seemed that the only time the galloping could be heard was when the wind blew. Anyway after some investigating he found the community haunt. After heavy
rains the sluiceways would fill to overflowing with water and when the wind blew the overflowing water at places along the sluice way was caught by the wind, blown into sheets that made a slapping noise. This
slapping noise and sometime the sudden velocity of the wind made the sheets of water crack something similar to the cracking of a whip. The fact was that the slapping noise was mistaken for the gallop of a horse and the
cracking was what people heard when they said they had heard the horse's hoofs or shoes strike a rock.

Source of Information: Allen Snodgrass, J. T. Hamilton, J. B. Hamilton and Court Records. 

The Tannery

Location: At the site of the former Norton Floral Company Greenhouse.

Date: About 1850

Owners: The tannery was on the first land John H. Snodgrass bought and was in his possession until April 9, 1887, when he sold to Patrick Hagan. Hagan sold to John E. Horsman and he established the Green house there in 1907.

Description: The tannery house was a frame building about sixty feet or more in length. It was built of hand sawed lumber. Covered with a clapboard roof. Divided into two rooms, had four windows each on the north and south sides with a door on the south side and west end. The east and south side
had a wide shed around them. Dirt floor. Inside this building was twenty-four vats, filled with ooze for taking the hair off the hides. These vats were about six feet long by four wide. Inside the building also was three fresh water pools. These were used to wash the hides in after they were taken from
the vats and scraped. Two of these pools were at the west end of the building and one at the east end. Water for these was piped into the Tannery from a nearby spring. These hides were tanned with chestnut-oak ooze. The bark was beat up fine, by means of a hammer and anvil before it was put in
the vats. This tannery shut down between 1868 and 1890.

History: The Snodgrass Tannery was perhaps Wise County's first industry. Franklin Gilley, who was a son-in-law of John H. Snodgrass ran the Tannery in 1887 and until it closed down sometime soon after this. Some three or four work hands were employed at this Tannery. They were paid at the rate of 25 cents per day, which at that time was almost equivalent to $1.50 or perhaps more in the same community today.
     It took about two weeks or a little over to tan a hide and the whole surrounding country took their hides to this Tannery. Some of the settlers would take their hides there in the spring and return for them in the fall. Most of the older people remember this place from the terrible odor that pervaded
around it from the tanning of hides.

Sources of Information: Allen Snodgrass, J. T. and J. B. Hamilton and Court Records.

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