Mabry’s Mill

When you follow us it is un-tellin’ (my word) what you might see.

Brenda and I have a wide variety of interests, and some are shared. One of these is our love for living history and the nature of our past.

The first thing I saw walking into this area brought a flashback from my childhood. A cane mill stood at the entrance, along with the “boiling pan.”

This was a flashback from childhood days when my grandfather grew sugar cane and there were community “grindings”. One family in the community near Madison, Fla. had a mill and boiling pot. That mill went into production when the cane came to maturity. Families would harvest their cane and bring it for an all-day affair around the mill. The kids were never allowed to be near the mashing wheels and gears. Instead, our job was to keep the mule walking the circle ascribed by the end of the drive pole.

We both have mills in our family history, so we tour mills quite often in our travels.

This particular mill built by Ed Mabry was unique to me. It is divided into sections within the same building. The left side of the mill was a lumber mill Ed used to cut lumber for himself and his neighbors, while the right side was a workshop. In the center was the grist mill. All were powered by the over-shot water wheel outside.

You can see the “race” pouring water on top of the “wheel” through the artist’s drawing here. The wheel supplied energy to turn the other pulleys inside the mill-house.

To accomplish all this work, Mr. Mabry had to build two “flumes” from different creeks. It took that much water to turn the wheel.

Here’s a view of the lumber mill and the workshop.

The grist portion of the mill had two sets of stones. One was for grinding course meal, and the other was for finer household flour. These stones, unlike some mills, came from a local source. A Congiomerae in Blackburg, VA produced and shaped these from the quarry there.

The customer would stand on the milling platform and pour their grain into the center opening of the top stone. Mr. Mabry would be standing below making adjustments to the space between the stones to control the texture of the finished product. They could grind flour, meal, and grits as finished products.

While his mill was the center of activity, Ed was also an accomplished blacksmith.

In his shop, he produced many household items and wagon wheels as well.

There were other “industries” during this time that served the community.

Spinning and producing thread from wool and plant fibers allowed the loom to create rugs and cloth for garments and other useful items.

Baskets for gathering and storing were also handmade during this time.

Now there were times when one would relax or challenge another in a friendly checkers match.

Never mind the outcome…

It’s the game I would’ve loved to watch!

I want to share a picture of my sidekick during some of this.

While maybe not the prettiest face in the crowd, it was very interested in what I was doing.

You can always find more pictures of our travels on our Instagram feeds. Check out @twentyonefeathers and @fireman428 by clicking on our Instagram names here.


Be safe, Get out, and Go adventure.

8 thoughts on “Mabry’s Mill”

  1. Nice post Dan!
    I was in a museum the other day that had a treadle powered wood lathe, I like those old power tools.


  2. Having had a sawmill on our own farm when I was growing up, I found it interesting that the saw blade shown had the teeth spaced so far apart! I guess that was to reduce the drag to accommodate the amount of power produced. Our mill had a 48-inch blade with replaceable teeth, powered by a 1934 Buick truck engine, and could eat through a 12-inch timber at the rate of about 4-inches per second (estimating, of course). I’m sure the one shown here would be considerably slower!


    1. I’m not sure about the spacing, however your explanation is probably right. As for the speed, because it was belt driven off of a common shaft I’m sure there was a wide range of speeds. The common shaft had several pulleys and so not only speed selection but also used within the Mill House. It was interesting this Milhouse had three powered sections The Sawmill the Gristmill and then the workshop.


  3. my Dad was an old school master flour miller…started in a tiny creek driven mill ended up as a Cargill wonk…when the old USSR first began trade with the U.S. under glasnost…a huge wheat shipment was found to be contaminated with glass balls…(raw glass was shipped that way by rail) my Dad was sent to Bulgaria to determine if the balls posed any problems for the milling process….one high level apparatchik after another nervously clinked the offending balls and asked my Dad if he would be sent to Siberia if a child died from glass contaminated bread! He reported it would be real hard to tell if the milling process would remove the balls since unlike the U.S. the mills he saw….had OXEN power………maybe some of the first hints the mighty mighty USSR was not the modern force to be reckoned with as feared by the west.


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