Old Mills of Marshall County

The Old Mills of Marshall County
The South Reporter, 16 Apr 1998
By Hugh Henry Rather

When I was a young boy and later in my teens I heard much from my father, which my brother John Edward also heard, about the old water powered mills of Marshall County and particularly about Lumpkin's Mill that was built by our ancestor, great-great-great-uncle William Blanton Lumpkins, who came from Athens, Ga. In 1836 to settle in the area six miles south of Holly Springs.

Lumpkin's Mill was built in 1840 after W.B. Lumpkin had bought 4,000 acres of land from a Chickasaw Indian Chief. The mill was built just north of where Spring Lake is and where Wall Doxey State Park is now situated.

My father showed me the exact location of where the mill was before being burned by the Yankees in 1862. It was one of the largest mills in north Mississippi and was four stories high.

The first story walls were built of native brown sandstone, the upper floors of oak timber structure, cypress clapboards and roof shingles, and heart short leaf pine flooring.

It had a hand-cranked elevator with pulleys to raise and lower the cab to all floors that were used to store cotton bales.

An earth dam was built one fourth of a mile north of the mill to hold a large lake fed by dozens of springs coming out of the hills around the lake.

A long elevated flume from the lake carried water from the lake carried water from the lake to the top of the large wood waterwheel, which was an overshot wheel to supply power for machinery that could grind corn into meal, wheat into flour, and other machinery that could gin cotton, and saw logs into lumber.

W.B. Lumpkin built a home on a hill just west and above the mill for himself and his family.

North Mississippi became the promised land in the 1830s for many people who lived in the states of Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Virginia after the United States government signed the Treaty of Pontotoc with the Chickasaw Indians in 1832 in which the Indians agreed to sell their land in this area to settlers coming from surrounding states. The Indians were to go to the Oklahoma Territory and live on land granted by the U.S. government.

Settlers came in droves to north Mississippi during the 1830s and 40s to buy land for their homes, crops, livestock, etc. The first industry was carried on by the many water powered mills built to grind corn into meal, wheat into flour, and machinery to gin cotton and saw logs into lumber.

Marshall County was blessed to have three rivers and several creeks where mills could be built to obtain water power.

There were three types of mills which had wheels: 1. the overshot wheel where water went over the top; 2. the undershot wheel where water went under the wheel; 3. a later type was the turbine usually made of metal that turned in a horizontal plane.

I have obtained much information from people, books, magazines, and old record books at the Marshall County Courthouse which named many of the county's mills along with the roads close to the mills.

The Board of Police wrote on record books written in 1840s, 50s and 60s. The five Board of Police members were not law enforcement officials, but had the same duties as present day supervisors have.

The Board built bridges but they did not hire people to repair the roads. That job was left to the owners with land along a stretch of road to do.

The Police did appoint overseers to be in charge to see that the work was done correctly. I have found the names of 25 water mills in Marshall County. There are likely to be more.

William B. Lumpkin had come to this county in 1836 and 1837. His father William came from Athens, Ga., along with his son, John Wesley Lumpkin, and his wife Anna, and also the daughter of William Lumpkin, Louisiana Lumpkin Jones and her children, Emma Chasteleete Jones and Henry Alexander Jones, who was my great-grandfather.

William Lumpkin bought land from a Chickasaw Indian Chief and built a large, rambling home with part of it being two stories of squared up logs and the home was named Athenia, after Athens, Ga.

Later, the outside of this home was covered with clapboard and the interior walls and ceilings were covered with plaster on oak lathes.

All seven of these people, including William's wife Elizabeth, lived here, which was a happy home for them, with a barn, smoke house, stable, and other outside facilities and fenced in areas for horses, cows, mules, chickens, hogs, and a large vegetable garden and a fruit tree orchard.

When my great-grandfather, Henry A. Jones reached the age of 17, he worked for his uncle, W.B. Lumpkin at Lumpkin Mill, which was three and a half miles from Athenia. During the fall months, the mill was very busy grinding corn into meal and ginning cotton.

In early November, 1847, Henry Jones had worked later than usual at the mill, and it was getting dark when he left on his horse, headed for Athenia. Henry had gone about a mile and a half and the road was now through an area with large trees, where he heard a blood-curdling sound that was like a baby crying among the trees.

He well knew that it was no baby but a grown panther on the way to attack him. He put the spurs to the horse to run faster, because he had heard that a panther could run faster than a horse.

The chase became faster and in order to stop the cougar, he threw off his hat so that the big cat would stop to tear up the hat. After the creature continued the chase. He had a small sack of cornmeal, tied to the saddle, which he pushed off to delay the panther again.

After a while, he three off a sack of newly ginned cotton that had been meant for his mother to pad a quilt with.

That did not stop the beast long enough, but he was getting close to home, and as a last resort, he three off his coat just as his horse came into the yard of Athenia.

As luck would have it, his uncle John Wesley Lumpkin was just coming from hunting with his gun, which he used to shoot and killed the cougar.

I have listed 25 mills below in Marshall County with the river or creek each were standing, starting from north to south.

The first is Wolf River with Davis Mill, Clear Creek had Bradley Mill and Clear Creek Mill. Coldwater River had Polk's Mill, Parham's Mill, Tompkins' Mill, Quinn's Mill, Jackson's Mill, and Lockhart's Mill. Red Banks Creek had Morris Mill, Chewalla Creek had Collins' Mill, Carnathan's Mill, and McNiell's Mill. Pigeon Roost Creek had Carlock's Mill and Hunt's Mill. Little Coldwater had Butler's Mill. Lumpkin Pond Springs overflow had Lumpkin's Mill and Ford's Mill from Ford's Pond. The name of the lake that is now Spring Lake in Wall Doxey State Park. Cuffawa Creek had Bradley's Mill. Blackwater Creek had Blackwater Mill. Tippah River had Callahan's Mill, Kibbler's Mill and Tippah Mill. There were probably more mills I hope to find later.

There were five of these mills that had small battles of skirmishes around them during the Civil War. These mills were Davis Mill, Quinns Mill, Jackson's Mill, Lockhart's Mill and Lumpkins Mill, which was burned by the Yankees, including 100 bales of cotton stored within.

The Union troops also burned William B. Lumpkin's home and stole all his cows, horses, chickens, hogs, turkeys and killed his dogs. The family was left with food and shelter.

Where was Henry Jones when all of these disasters were happening? Henry Jones was riding a horse in Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry, which was giving the old grinch Gen. Sherman fits, which was delaying his march to Atlanta.

After the war ended, Henry Jones went back to Athenia and he and his wife Elizabeth Catherine Dunlap Jones reared a family of four daughters and two sons at the Athenia Farm. Lumpkins Mill was never rebuilt after the war.

Lumpkin's Mills
The Reporter, March 10, 1871

It is rumored that a party of northern or western capitalists are negotiating, through Messrs. Donoho, Joy & Co., of Memphis, for the purchase of this well known millsite, near this place; and also 3000 acreas of valuable lands in connection therewith, all belonging to Col. Wm. Lumpkin. We will be glad to learn that Col. L. has concluded the contract; it will be advantageous to him, but it will be vastly more advantageous to our county. We know of no more favorable site for any kind of manufactures. The water power is great and easily manageable. The location is only six miles south of Holly Springs, on the railroad; and the surrounding lands are fertile, high and healthy. It is a most eligible location for a manufacturing town. A cotton or woolen factory, paper mill, corn and wheat mills, and other manufactures, might be most profitably established there. And of course such improvements would add to the value of all neighboring lands.

The Reporter, Jan 9, 1879

The mill and gin on the Lumpkin Place, seven miles south of Holly Springs, took fire and burned to the ground on January 2, 1879. It contained thirteen bales of cotton and one thousand pounds of cotton seed. The mill was worth $1,000 and was uninsured. The fire was accidental.

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