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The Land and its Owners

Jack Williamson

In colonial times, after a few families had settled in an area, cleared some land and begun farming, the next order of business was the building of a mill to grind corn, wheat, rye, barley or oats into meal or flour for bread, stock feed, beer, and whiskey; all staples of life for the English, Scotch-Irish and European immigrants creating a new life and nation in the wilderness of America. Because dependable, swiftly moving water was the best source of power to turn heavy mill stones, hilly land with a number of spring branches feeding a continuously running stream was particularly desireable. The Goblintown Creek basin in the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge in Patrick County, Virginia, is one such area, and is the locale of this paper recounting the history, construction and restoration of one early American grist mill.

Beginning in the mid seventeen hundreds, a number of people, many of whom were wealthy speculators having no intent to ever live on the land, applied for patents or grants of one or more tracts on the frontier steadily moving westward beyond the piedmont of Virginia. The following map shows several such tracts containing and surrounding what later became the site of our grist mill on Little Goblintown Creek, also known as the North Fork of Goblintown Creek.

Among the first settlers to arrive in the Goblintown area were Isham and William Barnett. Various spellings of this family name appear in the records. Isham "Barnit" obtained 113 acres on and straddling the North Fork of Goblintown Creek in 1755. The following year, William purchased a grant of 627 acres containing a stretch of the South Fork of Goblintown Creek about two miles south of Isham's parcel. In 1764, Richard Adams, a land baron with many large holdings scattered from Virginia's tidewater westward into what is now Kentucky, purchased a grant of 5,470 acres extending from the two Barnett tracts westward to Sycamore Creek, well beyond what is now Elamsville, Virginia. After the American Revolutionary War, Anthony Tittle obtained grants on about 1,000 acres in the area, one of which, dated 2 December 1785, is shown on our map. In 1786, John Koger purchased a grant to 262 acres bounded by Adams, Isham Barnett and Tittle. The originals of these grant documents may be read and copies down loaded in TIFF format from the Library of Virginia web site.

In 1794, Adams sold the eastern most section of his Goblintown grant east and south of Gladys Branch, comprising about 590 acres, to Thomas Mitchell [PCDB 1:180]. Five years later, on 28 February 1799, the Commonwealth of Virginia, via a "venditioni exponas", forced sale of that land to William Mitchell for taxes owed [PCDB 1:586]. William immediately mortgaaged the parcel to the Commonwealth [PCDB 1:588]. In 1802, Jonathan Hanby purchased the 590 acre former Mitchell land for $450 from William Carter, Sheriff of Patrick County, pursuant to another "venditioni exponas" from the General Clerk of the Commonwealth [PCDB2:169]. On 24 November 1803, Hanby sold the 590 acre former Mitchell land to George Hairston. In 1806, Hairston sold that same land, then estimated to contain 500 acres, to John A. and William Corn [PCDB 2:533]. In 1813, John A. Corn sold the northern 300 of those acres to Thomas Spencer, who split his tract into three parcels, selling 60 acres to George McCutcheon, 30 acres to Francis Spaulding, and in 1817, 211 acres to Lewis Turner [PCDB 5:275]. Lewis (1794 -1885) was a son of Jeremiah Turner and a grandson of Shadrack Turner, another one of the large early land owners in that part of Virginia.

A month following his purchase from Spencer, Lewis married Cynthia Ann Foster (1794 - 1827) in neighboring Franklin County. An educated man, Lewis Turner was an accomplished blacksmith and gunsmith as well as farmer. On settling in Patrick County with his bride, he built a sizeable log home just northwest of what is now Goblintown Road, State Route 635, toward the south end of his new property, and set up a smithy close by in which he forged farm tools, gun barrels, wagon wheel rims and other things, most probably from pig iron mined and smelted just two miles away on George Hairston's land about Stuart's Knob, a craggy hill towering 500 feet over Goblintown Creek and containing a rich lode of high quality magnetite. Lewis and Cynthia had three children; Ann (1818 - 1856), Exoney (1822 - 1886), and Jeremiah (1826 - 1896). Cynthia died in 1827, leaving Lewis with children aged 9, 5 and 1 years. There is no evidence that Lewis ever remarried or had any female domestic help in raising his offspring. On 10 February 1840, Lewis deeded 120 of his original 211 acres to his two daughters, Ann and Exoney [PCDB 10:339](spelled as "Amy" and "Oney" in the deed). In 1845, Exoney married Henry Harden Hall (1823 - 1915), a sawyer and carpenter employed by her father in the water powered saw mill and carpenter shop Lewis had built on Little Goblintown Creek at the northern end of his property. The census of 1850 lists only Ann and Jeremiah in Lewis's household, and an adjacent entry indicates that Exoney and Henry lived close by, their household then including two of their children and Henry's brother Blann Hall (c.1815 - 1859)[Northern District Patrick County Census entries #42 and #43].

About 1850, Lewis and his son in law built a substantial grist mill immediately west of their saw mill and carpenter shop. That structure, housing three sets of mill stones and associated grain processing equipment as described elsewhere in this paper, was so located to use the same water source, and perhaps the same water wheel, as the saw mill and carpenter shop equipments. The exact date of the grist mill’s completion is not known, but the Patrick County Census of 1850 listed Lewis Turner as a blacksmith and H.H. Hall as a carpenter, and the 1860 census listed Lewis Turner as a miller and H.H. Hall as a cabinet maker [NDPCC #477 and #479]. These entries and the hybrid iron and wood construction of the old water wheel strongly suggest that date to be sometime in the 1850’s.

In 1854, Ann Turner married Blann Hall, both then about 36 years old. On 4 March 1856, Ann died giving birth to her only child, Exoney Ann Hall (1856 - 1922). Ann's sister Exoney and her husband Henry Harden Hall, Blann's brother, took in their infant niece, Exoney Ann, as their foster child. Three years later, on 11 May 1859, Blann died of pneumonia, orphaning Exoney Ann and making the child co-owner of the 120 acres deeded by Lewis Turner to his two daughters in 1840. The following year, Henry and his wife initiated a "quiet title" suit against their infant niece and foster child, Exoney Ann, to properly partition and title the 120 acre joint estate. In its March 1860 session, the Patrick County Court [PC Order Book #8] decreed that, "... mutual conveyances with special warranty be executed by the parties to each other according to the dividing lines as run by Lewis Pedigo surveyor as appears by exhibit file marked (D)of the land in the bill". Neither Exhibit (D), nor any corresponding survey could be found among the many recorded by Lewis Pedigo in the Patrick County Survey Books. The issue lay dormant for ten years. In 1870, pursuant to the decree of 1860, the two parties executed "quit claim" deeds to each other. Exony Ann relinquished any rights to the mill site and the larger parcel to the south where Lewis Turner and the Henry Harden Halls lived [PCDB 18:591], and the Henry Harden Halls gave up any claim to the remaining 50 or so acres [PCDB 19:46].

In 1877, Exoney Ann Hall married John Isaac Wood. Four years later, in 1881, the Patrick County Land Book (page 27) noted her transfer of the 50 or so acres discussed above to her husband, but no corresponding deed could be found in the county records. A subsequent tax book entry lists the parcel as containing 66 acres. Exoney Ann and John I. had three sons - John Lewis, Murray, and Steven. Murray and Steven predeceased their father. Between 1891 and 1909, John I. Wood bought up most of the land surrounding the mill site, beginning with the purchase of 170 acres on Goblintown Creek from the heirs of E.B.Turner [PCDB 26:48]. Other purchases included 75 acres in two parcels from David Ross Cox [PCDB 28:449 and 31:372], over 200 acres of Elijah Pedigo lands in three tracts west and north of the mill site [PCDB 35:163], and 5 acres around the old school house on Goblintown Creek and Goblintown Road, now State Route 635 [PCDB 36:558]. Several of these parcels were jointly owned with his son John L. Wood.

On 6 January 1900 [PCDB 30:183], Henry Harden Hall and Martha Ross Hall, his second wife whom he married on 15 January 1888, sold to John I. Wood for $150 a one-half interest in "a parcel on which there is now a grist mill on the waters of the North Fork of Goblintown Creek containing 5 acres more or less and bounded as follows: Beginning on a horn beam on the wagon road thence up the hill to a large rock and maple, thence west to the mill race, thence up said race to the damn (sic), thence down the creek as it meanders to the wagon road, thence with the wagon road to the beginning." Of interest in this deed is absence of any reference to a saw mill. In 1911, Henry sold his remaining half interest in the mill site to John I. Wood for $300 [PCDB 38:395]. Although that deed noted that the mill site was bounded on all sides by lands of John I. Wood, there was in fact a small bordering lot which he did not yet own. The then "Wood’s Mill" continued in operation, at least sporadically, for the following penciled inscription remains on one of its grain ducts.

Lawrence Brown

11/29 – 1927


at this mill

On 21 January 1902, H.H. Hall sold to Shadrack Lewis "Shady" Turner, son of Jeremiah and grandson of Lewis Turner, a one-quarter acre, more or less, parcel for $5 bounded as follows: "Beginning at a double white oak sapling on the south bank of the public road, thence west 160 feet to a slanted rock, thence north 25 feet to the road leading to the saw mill, thence with said road 40 feet to the public road, thence with said road 135 feet to the beginning." [PCDB 31:332]. The deed included an easement to free use of a spring to the west of the land conveyed. There is no indication that the parcel contained a building of any sort in 1902. Apparently, this lot was carved out of the mill tract in which John I. Wood then had a half interest, but he is not mentioned in the deed. It is also interesting that the deed makes no mention of the grist mill, only of the saw mill. One might surmise that Henry Harden Hall, a carpenter and cabinet maker, had entrusted all grist mill operations to his then partner, John I. Wood.

From Shadrack Lewis Turner’s $5 purchase to the present, that small lot has continued as a separate entity from the mill tract. In 1904 [PCDB 34:82], "Shady" Turner sold the lot, on which he had built a small house, to D. L. Thomas who used one room of the house as a country store. On 31 October 1918, D.L. and Sarah Thomas sold "the parcel near J.I. Wood’s mill known as the D.L. Thomas store house", with the same bounds and spring easement as in the H.H. Hall to S.L. Turner transfer, to C.W. Lackey and others for $500 [PCDB 45:220]. Two years later, J.J. and C.W. Lackey sold the same property with the same easement to J.N. and Ruth Via for $800 [PCDB46:440]. In 1928, the Via’s sold the store house parcel, now estimated at one-half acre more or less, to J.I. and J.L. Wood [PCDB 56:395], then actually completing Wood ownership of all land surrounding the mill site as well as the mill tract itself. In 1932, John L. and his wife Della Wood sold their one-half interest in the storehouse lot to his father, John I. Wood.

In 1934, John I. Wood died intestate. Apparently, most of his real property interests had either been sold or passed to his son John L. before his death. The cash remainder of approximately $9,000 was divided three ways among his surviving son and the issue of his two deceased sons [Patrick County Will Book #12]. Two years later, John L. Wood died, willing his estate, with the mill and storehouse parcels "held back", to his wife Della for her life then to be equally divided among their three children or their issue [PCWB 12:139]. The reason the two parcels were excluded from the life estate was that they were the subject of litigation before the county court when the the will was drawn. The surviving grandchildren of John I. Wood, in the name of Joe Wood, eldest son of his deceased son Steven Wood, claimed a share of both parcels. Pursuant to Patrick County Court decree of 16 November 1934 in the case of John L. Wood et al v. Joe Wood, both properties were sold at public auction on 21 May 1935. The successful bidder was a W.E. Ogburn who paid $90 for the half acre store house lot and $1100 for the mill site [PCDB 64:445]. Thus, the grist mill built by Lewis Turner and Henry Harden Hall on Little Goblintown Creek left the possession of their descendants' families.

In 1937, W.E. and Flora Ogburn sold the store house and mill parcels to J. L. Walker [PCDB 68:206] who operated the general store and "Walker’s Mill" until 1942 when he sold both to Charlie B. Martin [PCDB 77:233]. Charlie, an affable and energetic man well known and liked throughout the neighborhood, continued operation of the country store and kept the grist mill in operation for at least several years before his death in 1962, probably supplying corn meal and ground malt for local stills, at least one of which used the cool waters of nearby Gladys Branch according to a knowledgeable neighbor. Vendors delivering such things as sacks of sugar, cases of Coca Cola, dozens of stockings, pastries, denims, farm tools, and similar stock for the store in the mid to late 1940’s apparently received their payment from Charlie in the mill where he left his receipt slips in any convenient nook, mostly around the corn cleaner on the second floor, where they remained for over half a century. In 1961, he transferred a 1 ˝ acre slice off the southeastern corner of the mill site to Grady Henry Booth as a gift [PCDB 126:286]. That parcel, mostly on the side of a steep hill above the storehouse and mill lots, contained the remnants of a dwelling house once occupied by Henry H. Hall Jr. and his progeny. That deed incorporated the same easement to free use of the spring to the west of the land conveyed as did the several earlier deeds for the store house lot.

In 1962, the heirs of Charlie Martin sold the store house and mill parcels to Paul Cox, son of Charlie Peter Cox and Nannie Onie Hall Cox [PCDB 129:189]. Nannie was a daughter of Henry Harden Hall Jr., and Charlie was a son of Henry Jr.'s sister Cynthia Thenia Hall and David Ross Cox. Paul's parents were first cousins, both grand children of Henry Harden Hall and Exoney Turner Hall, and both great grand children of Lewis Turner. Thus, the mill on Little Goblintown Creek returned to the blood lines of its builders. In 1965, Paul and Inez Cox transferred both parcels to Paul’s sister and her husband, Daniel J. Wright and Addie Cox Wright [PCDB 141:21]. In 1971, Daniel and Addie Wright transferred the store house and mill parcels to Daniel’s sister, Nina Wright Turner [PCDB 164:341]. Nina and her husband Joseph used the store house and its end of the mill site as their "place in the country" where they retreated every summer. In 1993, Joseph and Nina transferred both parcels to their son Clayton Turner [PCDB 294:207]. In 1994, Clayton purchased a 0.612 acre corner lot from Lowell T. Spencer. This parcel straddles Little Goblintown Creek just north and west of the store house lot. How the portion of it south of the creek became separated from the original Hall’s Mill Site is unknown. On 26 February 1999, Clayton Turner sold the store house, mill, and former Spencer parcels to his first cousin, George Charlie Cox [PCDB 337:755]. George's father was Jesse James Cox, a brother of Paul Cox. George undertook restoration of the grist mill which his ancestors built, and of the property neighboring that mill.

For several reasons, George's new property was but a remnant of the original Turner/Hall Mill site. During 2002, he purchased three small parcels abutting his land on the west and north. These acquisitions, along with Clayton Turner's of 1994, moved the parcel boundary out to the right of way lines of state routes 705 and 704, and included virtually all of Little Goblintown Creek between Gladys Fork and Route 704 within the newly defined mill parcel. During the winter of 2003, he had this property surveyed by Cleveland Lawson with results as in the following drawing defining the present bounds of the mill site on Little Goblintown Creek.

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