The Water-Powered Mills of Floyd County, Virginia

Illustrated Histories, 1770–2010


Available for pre-order / backorder

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