Lawrence County Historical Quarterly
Winter 1983 - Volume 6 - #1
Early Settlers of Strawberry
And The First Watermill In The Area
By Joseph G. Taylor -1956
The earliest settlers of which this writer
has any knowledge were the Nathan McCarroll family of Kentucky in 1808
who settled one mile south of the present town of Smithville. (Now known
as the Hillhouse farm. Lawrence county descendants are a great granddaughter
Othell McCarroll Wigton and son Tommie of Eaton). Another was the Andrew
Richardson family, thought to be from Tennessee, settled in 1811
one and one half miles northeast of Smithville. (Now known as the Luther
Jones farm. Mr. Richardson has descendants living a short distance from
the homestead almost a century and three
quarters later. (A granddaughter Lottie Matthews Hoggard, 92,
great grandchildren, Hattie Justus Helm, W. W. Justus, Heston Matthews,
and Dennis and Alvin Guthrie of Smithville. C.C. Guthrie and Ancel Matthews
of Imboden and Ray Justus of Walnut Ridge). The Eli Hillhouse family came
in 1812 from South Carolina and settled on what is know as the Earl D.
Perkins farm three and one half miles west of Smithville
on Strawberrv River. (I.awrence county descendent
Geneva Hillhouse Mullen of Smithville). Evidently there were a good many
more pioneer families in Strawberry River Valley by this time for according
to the history of Walter E. McLeod, Gov. Clark of the territory of Missouri
at St. Louis on May 17, 1815 appointed George Huddle Justice of the Peace
for the "Settlement of Strawberry" to warrant the appointment of a J .
P. It seems like political townships with boundaries had not been
established at this time. They were named by the territorial Government
according to the section stream on which they were located.
We presume that is why Smithville area is known as Strawberry township. Following the date (1815) for the next 15 years, the Strawberry River Valley began to be settled rapidly. The Taylors were from Tennessee. The same year the Finleys and the Childresses came from Kentucky. A little later the Barnetts, Sloans. Raneys, Fortenberrys, Browns, Beasleys, Coopers, Hendersons, McKnights, Waylands, and no doubt many others.
The population was such that my grandfather, William Taylor, concluded that a watermill on Strawberry River would be a paying proposition. His pioneer neighbors discouraged the enterprise. They told him that the river was too wide at that place and had too great volume of water to be harnessed. Regardless of discouraging advice, grandfather built the mill. No doubt, the use of the undershot waterwheel, a drawing which is shown with this sketch, was a contributing factor to his success. The use of the undershot water had at least one advantage, this was, if the water flowed under the wheel instead of over, it was not necessary to build a dam so high. The same principle holds good by the use of the turbine wheel installed later. At first the old mill would grind
3 bushel of corn a day. The hopper held a bushel and a half. Grandfather would fill the hopper and go to work on the farm till noon when the grain would be ground. The same process was repeated in the afternoon. Counting a 12 hour day, the mill would process only two quarts per hour. Though my grandfather soon increased the capacity of the mill, not I suppose by raising the dam but more Iikely by cutting a deeper and wider mill race so
that a larger wheel could be installed. The mill soon became a very popular mill and drew its patronage from 20 to 30 miles away.
In a few years a modern turbine water
wheel was installed to take the place of the undershot wheel, the little
log mill house was torn away and a two story frame building was erected.
On the second floor of the house a flouring mill was installed. My
grandfather willed the mill property to my uncle, Eli Taylor, he being
childless, willed the property to his niece, Agnes Taylor. About 1875 Mrs.
Agness Taylor Hancock gave a long time lease
on the property, which practically amounted to a sale, to a Mr. Beverage, who was an expert machinist. Mr. Beverage increased the water power, by what means I do not know. In addition to the grist and flour mills, he installed a cotton gin, which was run by water power and the modern press and its modern steel press screws was done by mule power. A carding machine was installed to make rolls of cotton to be spun into thread. Mr. Beverage with his modern installed machinery did quite a thriving business for some 15 years. But, about the middle of the 1880's after the coming of the railroads, manufactured cloth of all kinds was being shipped to merchants for retail sale and the hum of the spinning wheel and the thud of the old home loom were rarely ever heard which rendered the carding machine a useless piece of machinery. Likewise, as in the case of the manufactured cloth, flour was being shipped from the more productive wheat sections by steamboat up Black River to supply this section and the flouring mill was no longer profitable and was discontinued but I do not know the date. When I visited the Taylor mill site in 1955 water was still pouring over the dam 122 years later. Only a frame building , which housed the old Taylor grist mill, remained and was still grinding corn for many farm families. By Joseph G. Taylor -1956
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