Marshall County's Water Powered Grist Mills

Written by Joseph D. Parriott.

Paintings of overshot water powered grist mills evoke a sense of 19th Century romanticism. Marshall County had a number of these mills because they were an inexpensive way to convert grain (grist) into flour, if one discounts the value of labor. These mills were constructed by talented local men who had time on their hands and free construction materials.

The mills, including all or the machinery except for the stone burr wheels, were constructed of local hardwoods, which were mostly a nuisance to the first settlers. Winters were used to carve out the intricate gearing and all wood auger elevators used to carry the grain to the top floor of the mill.

The water discharge elevation or an overshot waterwheel must be ten feet or so less than the elevation of the water supply, so mills were most likely to be constructed on small streams with steep gradients. Dams were also easier to construct on smaller streams and less susceptible to wash out.

There were several water powered grist mills in use in Marshall County as late as 1878, but it is questionable if any were in use by 1900. The maintenance of the water-powered mill was far more labor intensive than a steam or natural gas engine powered mill and the quality or stone-ground flour was not the same as the steel roller ground flour produced by the engine powered mills. Stone burrs were worn down over a period of years, and the fine particles of stone became a part of the flour.

Listed below is a summary of early grist mills in Marshall County that most likely were powered by overshot waterwheels. The author could only find one mention of an undershot wheel, where water flowed under a wheel to make it turn.

Henry Conkle constructed a mill on Wheeling Creek, in Sand Hill District, in 1801. Henry Harsh later operated another mill on the same site. As late as 1878, E. and D. Lutes were also operating a mill 4 1/2 miles downstream from the Harsh Mill in 1878. It was called "The Wheeling Valley Mill" and had a steam engine as backup power. Robert Martin constructed a mill sometime after he moved to Marshall County in 1819. It was located near the headwaters or Stulls Run, two or so miles from Pleasant Valley.(1) It was intact, except for waterwheel, into the 1970's, when it was purchased, dismantled, and shipped to Meadow Croft Village, east of Wellsburg.(2)

Eddie Hogan operated a mill on Big Grave Creek near the Twin Bridges, about three miles from Moundsville. The Porter Mill was located on the eastern end (upstream) of Roseby's Rock. The Markey Mill was located at the mouth of Marky Hollow on Little Grave Creek, and the Hardesty Long Mill was located on Lynn Camp Run. The Fred Bower Mill was at the mouth of Maggoty Run, and the Silver Mill was located on Upper Bowman Run. The Dan McCardle Mill was located two miles up Bowman Run (which Bowman?). Another mill was located in Rocky Run, slightly over the Marshall County southern boundary.

There was a Johnson Mill located on Fish Creek, upstream from Graysville, and the Shepherd Mill on Burch Run, near the Shepherd Bridge on Wheeling Creek.

Also on Wheeling Creek was the Kittle Mill located near Andrew Langmeyer's Farm. Jonathan Purdy operated a mill on Little Grave Creek, and traces of a mill race are located on Little Grave Creek on the former Standiford Farm.(3)

James Knox constructed a mill on Middle Grave Creek close to the terminal or several ridge roads in 1835. The mill was enlarged in 1855 and operated by his son, William, and after his death, the mill was run by John Wetzel for a number of years. The mill was razed in 1930.

Being centrally located, two stores and a blacksmith shop, and a U.S. Post Office were located near the mill. The official name was Knoxville, but because several local families kept geese, it was nicknamed "Goosetown." With the demise of the mill and the Post Office, the community gradually disappeared. (4)

At Kausooth, William Colalt [Covalt] owned a grist mill and a saw mill with an undershot wheel, which he sold to J. H. McGlumphy. The dam soon washed out and Mr. McGlumphy constructed a new dam opposite where Reid Hill comes down to the creek. He then dug a 1/4 mile mill race and installed an overshot wheel to power the mill, which was thereafter known as the McGlumphy Mill. (5)

According to an article published in 1923, there were three water powered mills in the vicinity of Graysville, along Fish Creek. One of the three was located on Long Run, and operated by Andrew Wayne. A second one was located where Peter Yoho lived in 1923, and was operated by Mose Smawley. The third mill was on the road to Woodland, and operated by Timothy Mayhall. A fourth mill, built and operated by Thomas P. Hornbrook from 1848 to 1886, was the most renown, and the community, now known as Graysville, was called Hornbrook Mill. This mill may have been water powered. (6)

The most visable remains of a water powered grist mill are located four miles east of Moundsville on Middle Grave Creek. The mortised frame construction of the large gambrel-roofed barn and 100 yards of mill race behind the barn and homestead are the remains of Jerome Potts Mill, which was constructed in 1876 on the site of a former mill.

Middle Grave Creek Road was built atop the mill race for a distance of about 300 yards, to where the dam and mill pond were located. The dam site is now occupied by a reconstructed log cabin. The mill operated until the disastrous flood of 1884, which washed out the dam. Jerome Potts' home, in Italianate styling, is located by the former mill, and has been occupied since its construction in 1860. (7)

This article has been researched and prepared by Joseph D. Parriott.

(1) History of the Pan-Handle of West Virginia, published 1878.
(2) Roberty Harness - Verbal
(3) "Marshall County Grist Mills" - Moundsville Echo, May 1938
(4) "Old Knox Mill" - Moundsville Echo, January 29, 1938
(5) "Fish Creek Sixty Years Ago" - Moundsville Echo, July 17, 1937
(6) "Hornbrooks Old Mill" - Moundsville Echo, May 11, 1923
(7) Parriott Family Oral History