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Slone's Grist Mill Update: 2000

Slone's Grist Mill Update: 2000

86 inch master gear wheel on inboard end of water wheel shaft.
It was installed before the building was reconstructed in 1999.

Photo by Kelly Hahn Johnson, The Roanoke Times, 4/22/99

Allen McGrady, historic structure supervisorfor Virginia's Explore Park, looks over thewater wheel shaft and gear of a mid-19th century grist mill. Once a working mill in Franklin County, it's reconstruction at the Park should be completed sometime in the year 2,000.

This large metal gear was constructed by the Tuscarora Iron Works, Martinsburg, West Virginia, betweem 1850 to 1890. The Tuscarora Iron Works was the Virginia half of the Hanover Foundry and Machine Shop located in Hanover, Pennsylvania, which would become the I-X-L Steel Overshoot Water Wheel Company, and then later the Fitz Water Wheel Company. This metal gear is constructed to fit on to a traditional wooden multi-sided water wheel shaft or be mounted onto a metal spline and onto modern iron shafting. There is an identical gear in the basement of the Bunker Hill Mill, outside of Bunker Hill, West Virginia, that was installed on one of the two tandem Fitz Water Wheels. They were installed along with a Anglo-American "Midget Marvel" roller mill system after the fire of 1887. The mill, along with the two tandum water wheels, and the iron gear are amongst the photos taken of the mill by the Historic American Engineering Record.

The Bunker Hill Mill is located on east County Route 26, from Bunker Hill and Route 11, Berkeley County, West Virginia. It is the oldest mill in the state, being completed circa 1735, and was later known as the Cline & Chapman Roller Mill.

Water Wheel Pit Under Construction

Slone's Grist Mill's water wheel pit at its new location in Virginia's Explore Park. The building foundation to the right (will be covered with stone), the outboard water wheel support column that holds the end of the water wheel shaft. The new water wheel is being constructed on the iron hubs of the water wheel shaft. Evenutally the wall to the left will be covered with stone

The Mills of Franklin County, Virginia
Theodore R. Hazen

The following pages contains the basic historical information and facts gleaned from tape recorded transcripts with Ben Clements that were conducted on November 14, 1977 and December 9, 1977 as part of the Franklin Bicentennial Commission CETA Oral History Project. The interviewer for these sessions was Margaret C. Owen. Benjamin Layman Clements had been a miller and millwright. He built Exchange Milling Company in Rocky Mount and is the father of William (Bill) Clements, Sr.

Kirby's Mill was on the Pigg River at Saunders Siding on Barefoot above Rocky Mount. An old man named Hickman was the miller. Ira Chapman bought the mill and then sold it to Albert Hudson, and shortly afterwards the mill burnt. Albert Hudson installed the machinery in the Piedmont Mill in 1892. Albert Martin built the mill in 1870. Mr. Martin fell off the mill dam and broke some ribs when he fell off the dam. After he died they stopped working on the dam, and finished the dam when they dug the mill race in 1892. The original wood dam was just above the dam that is at the Piedmont Mills now. Bill Clements built the concrete dam that is there now in 1936. Piedmont Mill operated with a water turbine, and Bill Clements put in the Fitz Overshoot Water Wheel after he rebuilt the dam in 1936. Piedmont Mill's flour brand was "Happy Maid." The original mill was out at the little bridge just on the other side of the mill. They built a dam on the little creek and the mill was sitting in front of the little house on Alean Road. This was Albert Martin's Mill.

The turbine at the Piedmont Mill operated from 1890 until 1936 when Ben Clements replaced it with the Fitz Water Wheel. The water level got too low to operate a turbine, so Mr. Clements put in the overshot water wheel that can operate on less water. When the turbine was there the mill could be only operated for two and a half hours, but with the overshot water wheel they could run most of the day. The water wheel was bought used from a mill in Bedford County. The mill's dam had washed out. The company that made these type of water wheels was the Fitz Water Wheel Company, Hanover, Pennsylvania. The trade name is I-X-L Water wheels, and it can be found on the name plate.

Hopkins Mill below Syndorsville on Chestnut Creek. It was operated by McNeill who ran it for may years. The mill was also known as McNeill Mill. James Stevens then owned the mill.

Another mill is Angle's Mill on Pigg River below Rocky Mount. Wiley Webb was the last one to own Angle's Mill. The dam washed out in the 1930's and then there was no power to operate the mill.

The Snow Creek Mill on Snow Creek is owned by LaPrade. It is a brick mill and there are places where the old brick is crumbling down. Many people in the area once said the only bread they ever had came from flour from that mill. The old mill has now stopped operating. Price Kirk used to work at LaPrade's Mill. LaPrade's grandfather owned the mill over a hundred years ago. The original mill burnt and they built the brick mill from bricks made there. It took them two to three years to build the mill.

Other mills were the Cooper Mill, Boones Mill, Hambrick's Mill. Hambrick's Mill dam was 12 feet high. The Hambrick's Mill was owned by Mr. Turnball when it burnt. After the mill burned down the water wheel was practically new at the time and afterwards the dam washed out. The water wheel was moved to another mill. Ben Clements moved the water turbine from Hambrick's Mill to Hickman's Mill. The Stevens boy bought the water wheel and Mr. Clements installed it.

The Bonbrook Mill was owned by Neal Martin's father Will Martin. Coon Martin was the miller and millwright who operated the mill. Coon Martin worked on mills all over the country.

In Boones Mills there were two mill buildings and the race came down where the highway is now. The dam operated a 22 foot diameter overshot water wheel. Canaday hauled the foundation stone to build the mill by ox cart. One of the mills had a roller system to produce flour and was owned by the Garst family. The one pair of rollers in the Clements Mill came out of that mill when it stopped operating. The mill had rollers for flour and two pairs of millstones to grind corn. One of the millstones was a French Burr (made in pieces) and the other was a millstone that came from Brushy Mountain (the solid stone). Jack Garst was the grandfather of Jack and Fred Garst. Fred Garst had a mill in Botetourt County called Washington Mill. Jack Garst was born in Franklin County and his father George was a miller and when his son Jack was born they moved to Roanoke and operated a mill there.

Hickman's Mill was operated by a water turbine. Hickman's Mill had a big concrete dam. When the mill stopped operating Hardin Sink tried to blast out the mill dam. The mill also had a saw mill above it and they would run the saw dust into the creek. Old Hickman's Mill was later known as Steven's Mill. The mill was powered by a water turbine. Ben Clements replaced the old worn out second turbine with a new one. A turbine lifetime will depend upon how much sand is in the creek. Dr. Hickman built the mill about the time of the Civil War, and his son learned to operate the mill. James Stevens married a Prillaman, and they had three little girls. The pump was between the mill and the house. The girls would run and jump up on the pump handle. When finally they busted it and the floor broke down and one of the girls downed in the well. James Stevens father was Charlie Stevens.

McNeil's Mill had a two water turbines. One turbine was set up with the penstock to operate the wheat mill while the other ran the corn and feed mills.

In Callaway above the store was a planing mill was operated by Jamison. This mill made the lumber for the corn mill out side of Callaway. This mill was built by Roosevelt Rennick and Charlie Clifton in 1935. The original mill burnt and was known as Peter's Mill. They had a falling out and dissolved their partnership. They sold the mill to a Mr. Furr. It was then used later as a feed mill. Then the mill was sold to Bob Moore who put in the hammer mill. The mill had a large diameter water wheel which was sold and moved somewhere to Ohio. Mr. Clements bought the main gear from Mr. Moore and has it at his mill. The mill was converted to diesel power and the dam washed out.

Ben Clements built the mill in Rocky Mount beginning in 1938 and 39 but the actual construction did not begin until 1940. The old mill burnt down. It was known as the Rocky Mount Grocery and Milling Company. Henry Kirby, Ben's uncle installed the machines in the original mill.

Underwood's Mill was over near Ferrum. It was on the road that runs from Six Mile Post to Ferrum, near Five Mile Mountain. The mill operated with an old water wheel. Bill Canaday used to operate the mill when he was a boy. The Canaday Mill. When Canaday ran the mill it was just a corn mill. The Canaday brothers own the whole mountain in the area. Mansfred Canaday lives near Dillon's Mill. Mansfred Canaday lived on Dillon Mill Road. The original Dillon was owned by the father of Cyrus I. Dillon who was superintendent of schools in Rocky Mount.

Wray's Mill was near the Rehoboth Church. The mill was originally owned by Thompson, Altice families. When the Piedmont Mill's dam was washed out Ben Clements hauled wheat over there and they ground the wheat for them. Until Ben Clements rebuilt the dam in 1936, he operate the mill with an engine part of the time. His father told him to divide the wheat and haul a little wheat over there and bring back the flour. The mill was owned by Wrays who sold it to Atkins. Atkins they did custom milling and the saw mill was operated by a hired hand named Mr. Brooks. Mr. Brooks operated the mill into his 90's for the Atkins brothers. The mill was operated by a water turbine until the mill broke down. The machinery was removed but the building remained standing. A bad hill led down to the mill and it was located across the river. Mr. and Mrs. Altice went to dairy farming and quit fooling with the mill.

A mill that burnt which had an overshot water wheel was owned by Judge Lee Mill and O. P. Akers in Callaway. They operated a saw mill and a corn mill. Judge Lee owned the mill and Akers operated it. After the mill burnt Akers operated a dump truck and hauls gravel, and milk. The saw mill was just in a shed. Akers took out the overshot water wheel.

There was a breast shot water wheel operating on a road from Endicott to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The water hits the water wheel before it got to the top. The old timers used to call them breast wheels. It gives less power of it is not going over the top. A breast shot water wheel is better than a water turbine. Breast shot and over shot water wheel had more power than a turbine but a turbine cost less and used more water.

Tragedy happened in Angle's Mill close to Dugwell, when his daughter was playing in the mill and got her clothes wrapped around a shaft and killed her.

A Sectional Model of Slone's Grist Mill's New Water Wheel

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Copyright 2000 by T. R. Hazen