The late Seymour Whipp wrote a history of the many old mills in Mineral County. Mr. Whipp, a farmer who resided near Headsville, WV, studied the folklore and history of the area. He was Mineral County’s foremost authority on the old water-powered mills of the area. The following that he wrote was published in the March 26 and 27, 1953 Keyser News-Tribune:

Article contribued by Lyle Iman  

The Passing of the Old Mill Wheel

By Seymour Whipp

 

The milling of flour is one of our oldest industries. It started shortly after man began cultivating crops, and has continued to be improved as man’s ingenuity thought up better methods of grinding grains into flour.

 

Milling was once one of the major industries in and near Mineral County. Fifty to 100 years ago the old mill wheel turning under the pressure of water was a familiar sight, but now there are only crumpled ruins, here and there an old wheel or mill stone, and the scars of races and mill ponds.

 

Before the modern mill that can grind thousands of bushels of wheat, the water-powered mill was the principal source of flour. The grain was ground between two large millstones, or buhrstones. These stones were four to six feet in diameter, and the top one was turned over the stationary bottom stone by the use of water power. The grain was fed through a hole in the middle of the top stone and gradually seeped to the outer edges of the two stones, as it was ground into flour.

 

I have endeavored to compile a list of the old mills that once stood on Patterson’s Creek and its drains and New Creek and its drains. Most of my information came from recollections of early youth and talking to older people who remember some of these mills. So this list is subject to discussion and correction. I personally have visited the site of every one of the mills mentioned here.

 

Starting at the headwaters of Patterson’s Creek and working down stream for almost its full length of 40 miles, the list follows:

 

1.At the head of Greenland Gap, near Scherr, stands the ruins of the old water wheel mill, known as the Louis Mill.

 

2.The old Webb Mill once stood along the creek between Falls and Williamsport. It was operated by Westfall Webb, father of E.C. Webb of Burlington. Besides grinding meal, this mill was also used to saw lumber with a slow moving water-powered up-and-down saw.

 

3.The only mill still operating today is at Williamsport. The old wooden wheel has been replaced by a metal wheel and the millstones have been replaced by steel rollers. Operated by Arnold Lyons, it is now a modern mill, although the huge wheel makes only 4-1/2 revolutions per minute.

 

4.Six miles farther north near Russelldale is what is known as Barksville Gap stood the Pierce Mill, owned and operated by John T. Pierce until about 50 years ago. Its source of water power came from Elliber Run. It was an up-and-down sawmill as well as a grist mill.

 

5.Far up on one of the tributaries of Patterson’s Creek at Martin stood another mill, operated for a time by a Mr. Rohrbaugh. It was on Thorn Run.

 

6.On another tributary in Dolls Gap was another mill. The owner and operator is not known. One of the stones from this mill has been used as a base for the monument in Dolls Gap that marks the birthplace of Nancy Hanks, the mother of Lincoln.

 

7.The old mill at Antioch on the headwaters of Mill Creek is still standing. In fact it is being operated by Scott Rotruck, who is weaving cloth with the use of a gasoline motor for power. In the old days it was a flour and saw mill. Isaac Rogers, the operator, was killed in the mill yard 60 years ago while unloading logs. He was the father of Wilbur Roger, Fountain, and Edgar Rogers, Headsville.

 

8.Three miles down Mill Creek near U.S. Route 50 at Markwood stood the old Markwood Woolen Mill. The scars of the race can still be seen. It was owned and operated by the Markwood brothers, Jake and Jack. Jake Markwood was the father of Bernard and Harry Markwood of Keyser, and Jack was the father of Mrs. James Steward and Mrs. B.H. Grayson, also of Keyser.

 

9.One-half mile father east near the home of Miss Nan Welch stood the Taylor mill, operated by Captain William Taylor.

 

10.Only half a mile farther on across Route 50 from the Placa home was the Crawford Mill, owned and operated by Samuel Crawford, grandfather of Mrs. W.H. Barger. Some of the logs from that mill were used in the construction of the home of Paul Rouzer on Knobley Mountain.

 

11.Less than a mile farther down Mill Creek was the Gardner Mill, operated by John Gardner.

 

12.The heaviest concentration of mills in this section, six mills in six miles, was completed in Burlington with a mill owned by Conrad Umstot and operated by Scott Stotler, father of Mrs. Bernice Mixon, of Keyser.

 

13.Back on Patterson’s Creek, the next mill was three miles north of Burlington on the farm owned by Mrs. W.H. Barger, operated by Charles Doll. One of the old stone buhrs is still in the farm yard, although the mill was located on Patterson’s Creek.

 

14.Headsville was the site of the Sheets Mill. It was a grist and sawmill, operated by an undershot water wheel. It was burned to the ground by Confederate soldiers during the War Between the States, and was operated at the time by Charles Stotler, father of Leonard Stotler, of Frostburg, Md.

 

15.The famous Reese’s Mill stood about a quarter of a mile north of the iron bridge across Patterson’s Creek, and 200 yards south of the Abram Johnson home where George Washington slept while on a surveying party in 1748. Davis Reese, the owner, installed a steam engine to power the mill but a spark from the smoke stack lit on the shingled roof and the mill was destroyed. Mr. Reese was the grandfather of Harry and James Reese of Keyser.

 

16.The remains of a long mill race can be plainly seen just south of Fort Ashby. That mill was known as the Allen Mill.

 

17.At Short Gap was the busy Daniels Flour Mill. The mill pond and race are still visible.

 

18.On the east side of Knobley Mountain near the home of Rollie Hayes are the remains of the old Biser Mill. It was powered by a water turbine, rather than a wheel, and was a flour and saw mill.

 

19.At Fountain on the farm of George Parrill was the Long Mill. It was in operation more than 100 years ago. The old race can be plainly seen.

 

20.Just over the ridge from the Keyser reservoir at Willow Dale was a mill that was powered by water from a large spring. The site is on the Earl Warnick farm.

 

That completes all the mills I know of on Patterson’s Creek and its drains. Now let us turn to New Creek:

21.The old mill is still standing at Laurel Dale. The water wheel does not turn, but there is water in the mill race. It was owned by a man named Kuhns.

 

22.The Caldwell Mill was on the east side of New Creek across from the residence of Arthur D. Wells. It was powered by a run that came down the gap from Batdorf’s. A picture of this mill used to hang in the Farmers and Merchants Bank.

 

23.Well up on Stoney Run, near Mike Brannen’s, was the Dunkins Mill.

 

24.Mill Meadow, east of Keyser, near the cemetery, got its name from the Alkire Mill. It was powered by a huge spring, and the race is still visible.

 

25.The Rosedale Mill stood across the Potomac River from Lover’s Leap in Maryland. It was operated by G.S. Frederick. When the Potomac was low, patrons of the mill forded the river in their wagons near the residence of Mrs. R.A. Welch. If the river was too high, Mr. Frederick operated a ferry from a point just below Lover’s Leap to his mill.

 

That completes the list of all the mills I can recall in this section. Many of them were built by Daniel Gardner, of Antioch, who was considered the best millwright in the area. He was the grandfather of Clyde Gardner, Keyser.

 

If anyone wishes to correct or add to this list, he is welcome to do so.