The Name Antioch was chosen from the Bible by Marcus Luther Mott (1837-1899) a local preacher living in that community. He felt the name should replace “Mott Town” as the settlement was called during the middle 180’s. Not only were there several Mott families living there over one hundred years ago, but also Cannon, Chamberlain, Davis, Doll, Grayson, Harrison, Martin, Utts, Roberts and Summers clans had settled here. Many of those families or heirs still reside in this community.
Early settler, probably the original white settler was Samuel Barker Davis, who moved into this community in 1787 from Winchester with his family. Here he built a log house still standing today, likely one of the oldest log houses in Mineral Co and the water powered gristmill, which is explained in detail in the following article.
In 1942, Mrs. Lenora W Wood, former resident of Keyser and best known today as the famed authoress, Catherine Marshall’s mother, prepared the following article with help from several local persons including the late Luke McDowell and J C Sanders. It is interesting in content and also serves to acquaint the reader with what the “Antioch” area looked like nearly 200 years ago.
“Grist Mill Built in 1787 Still Standing”
The home and grist mill, both by Samuel Barker Davis at Antioch WV (Then Va) is still standing and in use.
In 1787, when Samuel Barker Davis removed with his family and slaves from Winchester Va, to the Allegheny Mountains near what is now Antioch in Mineral Co, WV, the entire area was densely wooded wilderness.
The site Davis selected for his home was at the mouth of Grayson’s Gap on the right bank of Mill run, a crystal clear mountain stream. Here the ground was so densely wooded and entwined with vines that the man worked for days clearing enough space for their home. According to stories told b y descendents of this family, the limbs of the trees were so strongly ground they would swing by the vines and lodge against other trees, making it necessary in order to fell them for the men to climb the trees, chop off and disentangle the vines.
When the ground had finally been cleared, John Bussey, who was one of the earliest contractors in what is now Mineral Co, set to work to build a cabin, according the following contract:
A bargain between Davis and John Bussey, for said Davis of the dimenshuns as follers, 16 feet square, 8 feet below jists, three logs above and outside chinbly six feet wide with one dure 6 by 3 and one winder. The house is to be dabbed on the outside. The said Davis agrees to give the said Bussey Ten Dollars when the work is finished. Aug 8, 1789. Signed John Bussey, Samuel B Davis.
This cabin, which is still standing, is an excellent example of house built by pioneers of this section. Massive hand-hewn logs extend the full length of the cabin, notched and grooved tightly together at the corners.
The cracks are filled with chips and small stones, so well “dabbed” together with clay as to withstand the weathering of 153 years. Almost directly across the run from the home of Samuel B Davis, stood a large grist and saw mill. This building also remains standing and is well known throughout the Alleghenies as the Antioch Grist and Woolen Mill.
The first thing that will attract the attention of visitors is the wooden overshot wheel 24X4 feet by which the mill is operated. The wheel is entirely handmade, and its well-worn buckets give evidence of long years of service.
The frame structure which houses the mill is 30X60 feet, four stories high, put together with what the builders of that day called “chiplap splice” or wooden pegs. These locust pegs, all made by hand, average from 6-12 inches in length. Holes are bored into the lumbar and they are hammered into place with wooden mauls.
From inside the building a water wheel, mounted on a large wooden shaft, with steel core through the center, supports the main wheel. In the center of the wooden shaft is a gearwheel, with cogs on the side of the outer rim. At the upper edge of the gearwheel, which is about 8 feet in diameter, is another small wheel mounted on a vertical shaft. A wooden beam, 12X14 inches, mounted above the main wheel-shaft, supports the lower bearing for this vertical shaft. The bearing, upper end shaft, is mounted in the floor above.
Mounted on the same vertical shaft and directly above the smaller gear wheel is another gear wheel, 6 feet in diameter. This large wheel transmits the power to 2 small gear wheels, mounted on vertical shafts, also supported by wooden beams. Connected with the top of the shafts on the second floor are the pulleys for transmitting power to the various machines all of which are driven by waterpower.
Early in the 1800’s the mill and 200 acres of the surrounding land was purchased by Theodore Harrison I and was operated by him for many years. His son, Theodore Harrison II, was the next to acquire ownership.
As Samuel B Davis II had married Margret Harrison, daughter of Theodore\ Harrison, the old mill became an heirloom in these families. Joseph Harrison Davis, grandson of both proprietors, took over the mill in 1848. During the next 42 years, the ownership changed hands several times, but always was retained by a descendant of these families.
When sold in 1880 to Brasher Rogers, the tradition was still carried on as his wife, Mary Evelyn Dye, was a granddaughter of Theodore Harrison. Rogers modernized the mill by removing the immense burrstones and installing machinery for roller processing.
For 100 years, the mill was the property of the Davis or Harrison families. Not until 1897 did a stranger take possession. In that year it was sold to A P Roberts of Antioch.
In 1918, “The Old Harrison Mill” was bought by D W Billmyre of Martin WV. Billmyre continued to grind wheat, corn and buckwheat for farmers throughout the section and also converted the plant into a woolen mill.
Equipment for the woolen mill was acquired form mills scattered over Mineral Co, and had formerly supplied people with linsey-woolsey, blanket and coverlets, but ceased to operate. The reel for warping bars came from the Markwood Woolen Mill at Markwood and had been in use for more than 150 years. All equipment though antiquated, is still in good condition.
In 1923, D W Billmyre sold the mill to James Billmyre. He in turn transferred the property to Ira P Shreve and in the year 1936 it became the property of the present owners, Scott and Lacy Rotruck (1942).
Rotruck, like all its former owners, runs it as a community project. He also operated both the grain and woolen mills. For grinding the grain, Rotruck follows the ancient custom of retaining an eighth part of the meal or flour as his toll.
The wool for his mill is furnished by the sheep growers of the surrounding communities, and bought outright or worked “on the shares” into blankets or coverlets, rugs or thread for knitting. There is no question whether blankets of cloth woven here are 1200 percent wool.
Both the warp and the wool for weaving are prepared and spun in the mill. The wool is washed, dried and carded by hand. It is then put through 3 bolting machines, from which it goes to the spinning machines, where it is spun and twisted and made ready for weaving. There are three batting machines, 100 spindles and three looms in the mill.
From the looms the blankets are washed by hand, then stretched on wooden frames to dry. The finished double blankets are 2 yards natural color and very heavy. The sell for ten dollars each and woolen cloth at $1.25 per yard. The work is done by the owner and his family. During the busy season four mean are employed by the owner to do the grinding but he and his wife do most of the weaving.
This mill is believed to be the oldest in this section of WV, and is an excellent example of the grain and woolen mills of 150 years ago. Here, as of old, neighbors meet to discuss the affairs in the community. News still travels “by way of the grape vine” at Antioch and the ancient old mill continues to be the center from which it is dispatch.” (End of quoted article).
From a newspaper clipping dated July 1960, the following information was given. “The Merrimack Valley Textile Museum in North Andover Mass, purchased all the machinery from the Antioch Mill which included a wool-picker manufactured by M A Furbush and Son, Philadelphia, set of 3 woolen cards – Bridesburg Manu Co, Bridgesburg Pa, ca 1877, wooden framed 100 spindle jack, Bickford and Lombard, Worchester Mass, ca 1864, wooden warping reel and creel, throstle twistle – A Jenks and Son, Bridgesburg, Pa, probably 1850 or before, broad multiharness power loom – George Crompton, Worchester ca 1880, narrow multi-harness power loom, Fairmont Machine Co, Philadelphia, ca 1893. Part of the equipment is believed to have come from the mill at Markwood and also from mills at Maysville and Martin in Grant Co.
MINERAL COUNTY WEST VIRGINIA, FAMILY TRAITS, TRACKS AND TRAILS