by Scott Powell, 1925


Contributed by Linda Fluharty.


Pages 312-314.

The manufacture of breadstuff in this country at an early day was by primitive processes. The first meal was made by pounding corn in a hominy-block into coarse meal.

The machinery was simple. A large block was cut from a log of hard wood about three and one-half feet long, the ends squared, on the larger of which it rested. A hole was cut in the upper end with an ax as deep as it could be cut and then it was burned as deep as needed and the burned wood was scraped out clean, leaving a clean, smooth surface. A pestle was made from a piece of wood about the size of a mattock handle, large at one end, around which was put a band of iron to keep it from splitting and an iron wedge was driven into this end and this ocmpleted the apparatus for making hominy and coarse corn meal. This was the first method used, as it was easily made and was about the only available method in the days of early settlement in the Ohio Valley, and such as it was, it was generally ready for use by the time the first crop of corn raised was ripe and ready for making hominy or meal.

The hand-mill came later and was some improvement, but would not suit the work today. It was a small mill and was operated by hand power, but it was an improvement on the pounding process, but was a very slow process of grinding grain.

The horse-mill was only a mill of the same kind, larger and operated by horsepower.

Mills of the first two kinds were all the mills found except in thickly settled sections of the country for many years after the first settlements were made.

It was more than a quarter of a century after the first settlements were made before a water-mill was built in this county. For many years the nearest mill to the Flats of Grave Creek was at Shepherd's near where Elm Grove now stands. It was about fourteen miles and no road other than a path through the forest.

After the close of the long and bloody war wi,th the Indians water-mills were built on Big Wheeling Creek and on Big Grave Creek, Little Grave Creek and on Middle Grave Creek and on several large runs. N one were ever built on Fish Creek as it was considered a navigable stream and a dam could not be erected as it would interfere with the navigation of the creek.

One of the early water-mills erected in the county was erected on Big Wheeling Creek about a mile below the Harsh Sugar Camp, by Phillip Conkle, who owned and operated it one-half of a century and then sold it to William Ruth. The mill was built in 1801 and sold to Mr. Ruth in 1851 and he and his heirs owned and operated it one-half of a century. But floods damaged the dam that the owners decided that the product of the mill would not justify them in keeping the dam in repair, and soon after it had passed the century mark it ceased to be used and was dismantled and the building torn down.

It was one of the best of its kind and in its day and did its work faithfully until nature seemed to cease to work in harmony with it as floods became so frequent and so disastrous that it could not keep up its usual work for mankind and furnish its part of the staff of life and it ceased to be operated. It was one of the old land-marks in the early years of the present century and was the last mill of the kind in this section of the country.

BY carefully noticing the report of the County Assessor for the year 1860, it will be seen that people were not so much dependent upon factories for many of their supplies as they are at the present day.

Spinning wheels and hand looms were very common and in general use. Cards for carding wool into rolls were much in use. Carding mills were in operation in connection with grist mills as an annex to them. A very large plant of this kind was run in connection with the old River Shore mill that stood west of Water Street in Moundsville just above the foot of Fifteenth Street. Thousands of pounds of wool were carded into rolls for spinning or Spttn into yard to be woven into wear on hand looms that were operated in many of the homes at that day, or was prepared at the homes for stocking yarn and knit into socks.

Hundreds of pounds of flax were raised and worked up into various kinds of ware for household use and for clothing but the last half of the past century ended the manufacturing of home-made wares of any kind and they are only remembered by the older people of today. The mills for manufacturing material for home-made ware have been dismantled and in most cases torn down and are now a thing of the past to be revived no more, and the old-time spinning wheel and the equipments for making home-made ware are matters of curiosity.