Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bull Mountain Creek Revealed Antebellum Mill House Ruins

1987 was one of the driest years on record in Itawamba County. Creeks all over the county were at their lowest levels in decades. Many old timers said they had never seen the creeks so low. It was that year that Bull Mountain Creek lowered its water revealing the ruins of an antebellum mill.

Jones Mill in southern Itawamba County north of Smithville was quite a settlement in its day. There was a store, mill house and a community of several homes. The settlement was called Jones Crossing. The land where the mill was located was first purchased by James Thomas in 1839 and in 1842 he sold the land to William J. Meader (Deed Book 3, Page 283). William Meader sold this land two years later to Posey P. Weaver (Book 4, Page 234) and two years later the land was sold to L.S. Autry (Book 5, Page 234). In September of 1850 Autry sold the land to Joel Wesley Jones (Book 8., Page 54). Jones subsequently kept this land for scores of years until the later 1800s. There was quite a turnover of the land prior to Jones’ possession of the property and each time the land sold the price was no more than $45 for an entire quarter section of land. By comparing land prices with comparable plots of land it is evident that there were no improvements located on the land before Jones purchased the property in 1850. It is evident that Jones built the mill house based upon a study of the deeds and a study of the Board of Police minutes. A study of the Board of Police minutes reveals that no permit was issued for this section of land for the period 1867-1900 (no minutes exist prior to 1867). So the mill must have been built before 1867 and after 1850. It is believed that Jones built the mill shortly after 1850.

John Wesley Jones was born in South Carolina and moved to Itawamba County shortly before 1850. His wife’s name was Mary (born in 1834 in Alabama) and before 1870 he was the father of the following children: Benjamin, Maryland Virginia, Marshall, Theodoria, Zenobia and Elizabeth. From 1850 to 1870 he was listed as a farmer with Smithville being his post office address. His real and personal property was listed as being much more valuable than most in Itawamba County.

As fall approached during 1987, the autumn rains came and Bull Mountain Creek reclaimed the ruins of Jones Mill and the ruins have been covered by water since. I am fortunate that I got to visit and gaze upon those old ruins back in 1987.


Anonymous said...

I have in my possession a document entitled "History of Oakland Community, Itawamba County, MS" compiled in Oct 1978 by Dorothy Holley, Secretary, Oakland R.C.D.C.

Therein she states, "In 1837, J. Spearman settled 160 acres of land on Bull Mountain Creek about one mile from where the old Oakland School building now stands. Later a water mill was built on this block of land on the creek. It was built by Rich Holley for John Spearman and was one of the largest operations in this part of the country. It consisted of a grist mill, cotton gin, and a sawmill. These were all powered by water. These were operated at one time by the late John Pitts and was last operated by L.M. Grady.... The old mill has been gone for many years, but some of the old foundation remains as evidence of by-gone days. Not many people are living who remember the old water mill. However, people all around remember the old mill pond, which was used for swimming and baptizing for many summers. It is still a favorite spot for some on hot summer days and is known as Pitts Mill Pond."

Now, this particular mill was on Bull Mountain Creek, but apparently ten miles or so north of the one at Jones Crossing.

Does anyone know anything about the old mill on Bull Mountain Creek near Oakland-- especially when it was actually built. I believe that the "Rich" Holley, builder of this second mill, could possibly be my third
great grandfather, for whom we have been searching for many years.

Robert Holley
Miami, Florida

great grandson of Joseph Thomas Elijah Holley, co-founder of the Oakland Normal School.

Bob Franks said...

I think that would have been Elijah Spearman who came to Itawamba County during the late 1830's. He was a planter and one of the largest slaveholders in the county during antebellum times. His property consisted of around 2,000 acres of land east of the old Oakland school along Bull Mountain Creek. If I am not mistaken the original old mill was on the old Cotton Gin Road north of Tremont east of present-day Highway 23 near where the state historical marker for Oakland College is located. I would suspect there were subsequent mills built in this area at later dates.