The Water-Powered Mills of Floyd County, Virginia

Illustrated Histories, 1770–2010


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About the Book

From the time of early settlement in Virginia, water-powered mills played a primary role in the state’s economy. This work provides an overview of grain milling in Floyd County, Virginia, from 1770 to the present day. Topics covered include the difficulties involved in identifying early mills, the importance of mill site selection, water wheel types, laws regulating mills, the decline of milling and physical remains of abandoned mill sites.
The main body of the book provides individual histories of 140 grist, flour, and feed mills, a few of which also processed wool. The histories are based primarily on oral histories, title deed records, and local newspapers. More than 100 photographs and maps supplement the text, and tables provide production figures for various mills from industrial censuses of 1850, 1870, and 1880.

About the Author(s)

The late Franklin F. Webb lived in Roanoke, Virginia.
Ricky L. Cox is an instructor of English and Appalachian studies at Radford University in Radford, Virginia. He is co-editor of A Handbook to Appalachia: An Introduction to the Region.

Bibliographic Details

Franklin F. Webb and Ricky L. Cox
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 362
Bibliographic Info: 113 photos, 6 maps, 3 tables, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3723-8
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8720-2
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      xiii

Preface by Ricky L. Cox      1

Introduction      5

Part One : Historical Overview      11

Old World Origins of Mills and Milling      13

Mills and Migration      13

The First Floyd County Mills      15

Choosing a Spot      21

Water Wheel Type and Mill Location      21

Mill Dam Construction      25

Mill Races: Head and Tail Dug and Wooden      30

Mill Construction      34

Going to the Mill      37

The Mill as Commercial and Social Center      40

The Technology of Water-Powered Grain Milling      46

The Economics of Grain Milling      47

Grain Milling and the Liquor Business      54

Complements and Competitors: Meadows Type Mills in Floyd County      58

The Miller      62

Prominent Floyd County Millwrights      66

Family Connections Among Millers and Mill Owners      67

Women in Floyd County Mills      70

The Decline and End of Grain Milling in Floyd County      71

The Remains of Floyd County Mills and Mill Dams      75

Part Two : Individual Mill Histories      77


1 Henry Huff Mill, Little River      83

2 Irvin L. Huff Mill, Little River      85

3 Morgan O. Poff Mill, Little River (Wilson’s Branch)      86

4 Anthony Poff Mill/Hosea Wimmer Mill, Little River      86

5 Peter Geurrant Mill/John O. Jack Mill and Jack’s Mill, Little River      87

6 Dewey Swanson “Tood” Hundley Mill, Little River      89

7 J. S. Dewitt and S. Z. Dewitt Mill, Little River      90

8 Kropf and Custer Mill, Little River      91

9 John W. Wertz Mill, Little River      91

10 Willie Ferris Mill, Laurel Branch of Meadow Run Creek      92

11 Zadock “Zed” Conner Mill and Gus Beamer Mill, Meadow Run Creek      93

12 N. C. Thomas Mill, Divins Branch      94

13 Robert “Bob Lee” Vest Mill, Little River      95

14 Thompson- Akers Mill, Paynes Creek      96

15 Joseph Turner Mill, Paynes Creek      98

16 Ingram and Radford Mill/George M. C. Ingram Mill, Paynes Creek      98

17 James Ferguson Mill, Little River      99

18 Charles Gillispie Mill, Meadow Creek      100

19 Goodson Mill/Howard Mill and Lancaster Mill/R. O. Harvey Mill, West Fork of Meadow Creek      100

20 William J. Williams Mill, Beaver Dam Creek      101

21 Peter Hatcher Mill      102

22 Asa Shortt Mill/Jake Brogan Mill, Runnet Bag Creek      105

23 Shanghigh Mill, Pine Creek      106

24 Phillip Williams Wool Carding Mill, Pine Creek      107

25 Powhatan “Port” Williams Mill, Pine Creek      108

26 German (or Jarman or Jerman) Rakes Mill, Dodd Creek      109

27 Old J. W. Epperly Mill/Homer Roberson Mill, Dodd Creek      111

29 Floyd Milling Company/Peter Dickerson Mill      114

121 Thomas S. Lester Mill, Beaver Dam Creek      115

123 Shelor Mill/Nolen Mill/Pine Creek Mill, Pine Creek      116

124 William F. Nowlin (or Nolen) Mill, Shooting Creek      121

125 John Kitterman Mill, South Fork of Little River (Dodd Creek)      122

137 Joseph M. “Josie” Custer Mill, Meadow Run Creek      123

139 Farmers Exchange Mill/Floyd Exchange Mill      123


90 George Phlegar Mill, Oldfield Creek      126

91 Matthew Scott Mill, Dodd Creek      127

92 Bird’s Mill/Amos Graham Mill/Whitlock Mill, West Fork of Little River      128

93 A. A. Booth Mill/Frazier Thomas Mill, Beaver Creek      129

94 George Hornbarger Mill/Caleb Sowers Mill and Floyd Electric Power Corporation, Little River      130

95 James G. Lester Mill/Wolford Scott Mill, Camp Creek      134

96 Oliver Carter Bower Mill, Camp Creek      135

97 Abajiah Booth Mill/Joseph Howard Mill, Camp (Chestnut Camp) Creek      136

98 Jacob C. Epperly Mill, Pine Creek      137

99 Spangler Mill, Pine Creek      138

100 W. H. Harman Mill/Tice’s Mill, Little River      144

101 Eli Mercer Williams Mill, Terry’s Creek      146

102 Blackburn Akers Mill, Middle Creek      147

103 Henry Epperly Mill, Terry’s Creek      148

104 Brush Creek Mill/Lawrence Roller Mill, Brush Creek Tributary      149

105 Flemon B. Wimmer Mill, Brush Creek      151

106 Silas Lawrence Mill/David Vest Mill and Flint Mill, Beaver Dam Creek      152

107 Piney Fork Mills, Beaver Dam Creek and Piney Fork of Beaver Dam Creek      155

108 Quinter Lucas Mill, Goose Creek (Dashing Run)      157

109 Moses Poff Mill, Mill Run (Goose Creek)      158

110 James McNeil Mill/Charles Will Vest Mill/Roscoe Willis Mill, Flat Run      158

111 W. O. Carr Mill, Flat Run      160

112 James R. “Jim” Hall Mill, Big Run Creek      160

113 William Allen Simpson Mill, Pine Branch      161

114 Joseph Johnson Poff Mill, Meadow Run Creek      164

115 Henry Wilkes (or Wiltz) Carr Mill, Lick Fork Creek      166

116 Phillip Huff Mill, Lick Fork Creek      167

117 Peter Siner Mill/J. M. Perdue Mill, Lick Fork Creek      168

118 Ridinger and Goodson Mill, Laurel Creek      169

119 Hosea Wimmer Mill and Huffville Roller Mill/Ezra Wimmer Mill, Brush Creek      169

120 J. P. Conner Mill, Goose Creek      171

122 Scott Roller Mill/Floyd Milling Company/O. A. Webb and Son Mill, Dodd Creek      172

133 John Stuart Mill, Laurel Creek      175

140 Kinsey Mill, Brush Creek      176


62 Presley Buckner Mill, Deep Water Creek      178

63 Randolph Phillips Mill, Ran’s Creek      178

64 Phillippine Mill/Phillips Mill/Vaughn’s Mill, Mira Fork Creek      180

65 Tobias D. Phillips Mill, Mira (or Mirey) Fork Creek      186

67 Greasy Creek Mill/Harris Mill, Greasy Creek      187

68 Saunders’ Quarter Mill/Quarter Mill, Greasy Creek      191

69 H. P. Hylton Mill/S. P. and G. A. Willis Mill, Greasy Creek      193

70 Eden Spangler Mill, Headwaters of Big Indian Creek      195

71 Fleming M. Duncan Mill/William M. “Billy” Dickerson Mill, Big Indian Creek      195

72 Henry Duncan Mill and E. F. “Ed” Strong Mill, Big Indian Creek      198

73 Preston Spence Mill, Little Indian Creek      200

74 Enoch Phillips Mill, Little Indian Creek      201

75 Noah Wade Mill, Headwaters of Big Indian Creek      202

76 Isaac Reed Mill/Noah Wade Mill/Reed Mill, Headwaters of Big Indian Creek      203

77 Crockett Duncan Mill, Big Indian Creek      204

78 George R. Duncan Mill and Jim Dulaney Mill, Big Indian Creek      206

79 Duncan Roller Mill/Hall Roller Mill/Hurt Roller Mill, Indian Creek      208

80 Burdine D. Reed Mill      212

81 James G. Lester Mill, Easter Creek      213

82 George H. Booth Mill/George B. Booth Mill/Noah Booth Mill, Beaver Creek      214

83 George Booth Mill, Beaver Creek      215

84 Bonsack- Eller Wool Carding and Oil Mill, Beaver Creek      215

85 Henry H. Earles Mill, Earls Branch      216

86 Charles Turman Mill/F. M. Slusher Mill/W. C. Lester Mill, West Fork of Little River      217

87 Eli Wade Mill, Spurlock Creek      218

88 Solomon Harman Mill/John Harman Mill/Caleb “C. W.” Harman Mill, West Fork of Little River      218

127 Beauford Howell Mill, West Fork of Little River      222

128 Giles Wade Mill, Headwaters of Big Indian Creek      223

132 James T. Lester Mill, Laurel Branch      223

135 Amon G. Lester Mill/John Harris Mill, Laurel Branch (or Creek)      225

136 Jonathan Elswick Mill/George Goody (Godbey) Mill/George Hambrick Mill and Aaron DeHart Mill, Indian Creek      226

138 Joshua Howell Mill/David Howell Grist and Woolen Mill/Beaufort Howell Grist and Woolen Mills, South Fork of Little River (Dodd Creek)      230

141 Elijah Turman Mill, Greasy Creek      232


28 Christopher Smith Mill/Luke Martin Mill, Dodd Creek      233

30 Eli Williams Wool Carding Mill, South Fork of Little River (Dodd Creek)      234

31 Ira Howard Mill, Dodd Creek      235

32 George W. Shelor Mill, Howell Creek      236

33 Eli Smith Mill/Simon Smith Mill, Howell Creek      238

34 Andrew Weddle Mill/L.D. Wickham Mill/Luther Webb Mill/Murray Agee Mill, Howell Creek      239

35 Newton Hylton Mill/Walter Boyd Mill, Howell Creek      241

36 Asa Pratt Mill, Line Branch      243

37 German Belcher Mill, Rush Fork Creek      244

38 Martin Weddle Mill and Cara Simmons Mill/Obediah Simmons Mill, West Fork of Little River      245

39 Martha “Mattie” Weddle Mill, Burks Fork Creek      246

40 W. J. H. Barringer Mill, Burks Fork Creek      246

41 Eli Sowers Mill/Rufus Harris Mill, Burks Fork Creek      247

42 Henry Slusher Mill and Buffalo Roller Mill and Andy Alderman Mill, Burks Fork Creek      249

43 Jacob Barringer Mill, Burks Fork Creek      253

44 Jackson W. Harris Mill/Martin Harman Mill, Burks Fork Creek      253

45 John Barringer Mill/Burks Fork Union Mill, Hungate Branch/Wade Branch      256

46 William Alderman Mill/Shepherd Alderman Mill, Burks Fork Creek      257

47 William C. Potter Mill, Burks Fork Creek      259

48 Vaughn- Dunn Woolen Mill, Burks Fork Creek      260

49 Alfred O’Neal/Elgin Bolt Mill, Burks Fork Creek      263

50 George Bolt Mill, Chisholm Creek      266

51 Logan’s Mill, Laurel Fork Creek      266

52 Charles Carter Lee Mill, Laurel Fork Creek      267

53 Chris McAlexander Mill, Taylor’s Creek      268

54 William Jackson “Miller Will” Stanley Mill, Tory Creek      270

55 C. Levi “Lee” Culler Mill, Tory Creek      272

56 William McAlexander Mill, Tory Creek      273

57 Agee Mill, Laurel Fork Creek and Mountain Fork Creek      273

58 Daniel Smith Mill, Laurel Fork Creek      275

59 J. W. “Wooster” Cockram Mill, Mountain Fork Creek      275

60 Edwin “Ed” Mabry Mill, Mountain Fork Creek      276

61 John W. “Pobb” Boyd Mill/Simon “Wid” Hubbard Mill, Laurel Fork Creek      279

66 Solomon Slusher Mill/Elijah Turman Mill, Mira Fork Creek      280

89 George W. Slusher and Dr. Will G. Hylton Mill, South Locust Street, Floyd      282

126 John W. Epperly Mill, Dodd Creek      283

129 Homer Thomas Mill/Eli S. Sowers Mill, Burks Fork Tributary      286

130 A. W. Stanley Mill, Taylor’s Creek      286

131 William DeHart Mill, Laurel Fork Creek      287

134 Shelor Furnace Mill/New Castle Forge Mill, Furnace Creek      288

Epilogue      291

Appendix A: Mills, Millwrights, and Distillers Listed in Virginia Business Directories, 1880–1917      293

Appendix B: Petitions to Build Water Grist Mills      300

Appendix C: Mills Whose Locations Were Not Found      301

Appendix D: Cost of Rebuilding Asa D. Shortt Mill, c. 1893      302

Appendix E: Water- Powered Mills Still Standing in Floyd County, 2010      303

Tables      304

Notes      323

Selected Bibliography      329

Index      331

Book Reviews & Awards

“a rich and detailed history of primarily water-powered mills in an important region of Appalachia…well-researched and written…an in-depth history…photograph collection significantly enhances the text…recommend the book highly…. I commend Mr. Cox on his tenacity in pursuing compilation and publication of this valuable resource for mill and industrial historians”—Old Mill News; “many fascinating details in this history can titillate the reader”—Alcalines: Journal of the Assembly on the Literature and Culture of Appalachia.