Higher Resolution Photograph of Pearce’s Stave Mill
Pearce’s Stave Mill was located in the Tombigbee River bottomlands southeast of Mantachie west of the river. Owned by Augustus C. Pearce, an early Mantachie landowner, the operation had about twenty workers.
The Pearce families - Timothy Woods (born September 29, 1829, married Susan Jones, died November 10, 1906) and brother Augustus C. (born September 3, 1835, married  Jerusha Adeliene West  Jane Jamison, died February 10, 1903)., sons of John Madison Woods Pearce and Elizabeth Skinner, came to Itawamba County from Pearce’s Mill in neighboring Marion County, Alabama during the 1860’s, settling in the Mantachie area where they had farming interests as well as operating a general store (T.W. Pearce Company) in the village of Mantachie.
During the later 1800’s until the 1920’s there were several stave mills in Itawamba County with Pearce’s Stave Mill being one. Many of these mills were mobile, and moved around to be set up where the timber was located, as the transportation of cut hardwood timber out of the river bottomlands was prohibitive.
Staves are narrow strips of wood placed edge to edge to form the sides, covering, or lining of barrels and kegs. Stave mills, located in the eastern United States, cut hardwood timber with these operations producing staves only. The staves were shipped to cooperage (a cooper is someone who makes wooden staved vessels of a conical form, of greater length than breadth, bound together with hoops and possessing flat ends or heads. Everything a cooper produces is referred to collectively as cooperage) plants where they were assembled into kegs and barrels.
There were two types of barrels made – slack cooperage and tight cooperage. Slack cooperage was not liquid-tight and was used for nail kegs, cement, and the like. Tight cooperage was liquid-tight and used for such things as meats and liquids.
The saws in the turn-of-the-century stave mills in Itawamba County were powered by steam from boilers. For this reason, the old stave mills were set up near a ready supply of water, such as a small stream or creek. There are several instances in old editions of the Itawamba County News from the turn-of-the-century era where accidents were reported that had happened at the mills and there was always the mortal fear of the dreaded boiler explosion
Stave Mill Sources:
Stave Barrel illustration from Google patents search