JAMES HAUGHT: RECALLING CALHOUN GRIST MILLS

(12/06/2017)

By James Haught

I wandered today to the hill, Maggie
To watch the scene below
The creek and the rusty old mill, Maggie,
When you and I were young.
So goes a song that I loved and experienced as a young boy in Calhoun County. I lived on Mt. Zion ridge and I loved to wander the ridges. One day I was wandering on the ridge above Sycamore when I heard the slapping sound and an engine backfiring occasionally. I went off of the hill to see what was going on.

When I got down to the hollow at L.H. Trippett’s store at Sycamore I saw what was making the noise. Felden Allen was running the grist mill. I loved the sound of that mill. Although the mill in “Maggie” was very different that was a wonderful experience for me.

Another experience I had with grist mills was at Fell Stump’s mill in the upper end of Arnoldsburg. I would take my grandmother’s, Lydia Hoskins, grist to the mill.

French King was good at a great many things. When one entered his shop the first sight was coffins overhead. When Mr. King wasn’t busy with blacksmithing and grinding corn he built coffins.

I loved the smell of a blacksmith shop. This smell was accompanied by the ringing of the hammer on the anvil. Sparks flew when he hit the iron. (I am the proud owner of a mattock forged by Mr. King. The blade is embossed with the letters FK.)

Mr. King would start the mill to grind the grist. While it was reaching its speed he would continue working at the forge. Next he would pour in the corn, usually about 50 lbs. As the corn ran through the mill he would feel to see if the meal was the right size.

When the grist was finished grinding he would take a measured amount of the grist for payment.

No one mentioned it in the Hur Herald article but there was once a grist mill in Mt. Zion. It was located across the road from Kelly’s Store just above the Pine Creek Road. It had a set of burs that was run by a truck engine.

My dad did not like corn bread. So when he was home on weekends we always ate biscuits. But when he went back to work we ate cornbread. We raised yellow corn to feed the hogs and chickens. We always ate white corn bread. Both the chop and the meal was ground at Mt. Zion.

My mother, brother and I would shell the corn. When we got about 25 pounds we would put it in a feed sack and tie the upper end of the sack shut. This made it nice to throw the grist across your shoulder and take it to the mill.

It was my job to carry the grist to the mill three miles away. It wasn’t too bad walking the three miles to Mt Zion but the trip back seemed particularly long. I tried to time my trip to the mill so that I could get a ride back with Lloyd Vaughn who was a vo-ag teacher at the high school.

Mom usually gave me a nickel to buy a treat at Kelly’s Store. One could buy a lot of things for a nickel. Loose candy was usually the best buy because Garrett Kelly would usually stick in a little extra for good measure.

As I left the mill I would look back toward Grantsville hoping to see Mr. Vaughn’s car. None was in sight. I would pass the Walter Scott house and then the road to Barnes Run and the Methodist Church. Next came the homes of Ernest Kelly and Garrett Kelly.

Going down the hill to the low gap at Mud Lick wasn’t bad. But going uphill past the Tell McDonald house was a struggle for a ten year old boy with 25 pound load. Surely someone will pick me up by the time I get to Paul Slider’s house. Across the road from Slider’s was where Bernard McDonald lived. There was a family of Arnolds living on the point to the right. I was half way home but still no Mr. Vaughn.

Three very pretty girls lived in the next house which belong to Earnest Poling. I thought I just might get a look at least one of them but no such luck. By this time a 25 pound grist seem to weighed half a ton.

Royce Fowler lived at the next house on the right. There was a small house on the right just before I got to the Bob Offutt place. I never knew the people who lived there. Just before getting to the Wiley Norman house there was a road going off to the right where Jack Fergerson lived. His son, John Dale, and I were friends.

There was still no Lloyd Vaughn as I passed his house. The next home belong to Russell Lynch. I lived just a short distance more. Mom took the grist and put it in a large metal can and began mixing corn bread for supper.

That was Calhoun County in the 1930’s and 40’s. I have so many wonderful memories of life back then. It all goes back to the beginning of this story.

And now we are aged and gray, Maggie
The trials of life nearly done.
Let us sing of the days that are gone, Maggie
When you and I were young.


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