saluda / saluda book index
Not many of the old time water ground grist mills are
here now. There used to be two close to where I live - John
T. Staton and Levi Ward. The Staton Mill was in Polk
County, the Ward Mill was in Henderson County, both
about the same distance from home.
Sometimes we would go to one and then the other. I
remember when going to school seeing Uncle Perry Davis
building a new water wheel at the Ward Mill.
He had all the timber cut and packed up. I asked him
would it run when he got it together. He said he would lay
his hammer on the edge of the wheel when he had finished
and it would start turning. Uncle Perry Davis made all the
water wheels in this section.
Most all the water mills had cogs of wood that turned
the mill. Some would be round, made of dogwood, and
flat ones made of oak or hickory. There were no belts.
The reason water ground meal is better, the mills run
steady and slow, and the rocks are large and have more
grinding space. Some of the rocks were four feet across.
These rocks lay down flat. One called the Bed rock did
not turn. There were grooves cut in both rocks deep in the
center and nearer the edge the shallower the grooves. The
corn would drop in the deep grooves and with the mill
running would force it to the outer edge and the meal came
out fine or course according to how close you had your
These mills all had a dam across the stream and a race
that ran to the big wheel. The race had a gate. When they
wanted to grind they would raise the gate and let the water
run in what they called buckets on the wheel. When the
wheel got two or three buckets full it would start turning.
You had to be careful not to let the rocks rub together
without corn between them. This would make the mill dull
and it would have to be sharpened - and that was a big
job. Just anybody could not do that.