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Sanborn 1905 Fire Map

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, Sanborn Maps Collection

Lewisburg Milling & Electric Light Co.
1900 - 1907

   James Withrow built a brick building along Jefferson Street for his tannery around 1825 where it operated for the next 75 years. It was torn down in 1900 and a steam powered flour mill with a generator was built on the original foundation for the Lewisburg Milling and Electric Light Company.

In addition to its primary function as a high quality grain and flour mill, the company brought electricity to Lewisburg for the first time. It was so successful that two years later, it was replaced by a 3-story mill with two boilers, each with a 50' brick chimney, and a larger generator.


   The introduction of electric lights into homes, businesses, and the Female Institute lead people to offer a number of suggestions for expanding the business – establishing an ice plant and cold storage facility for apples, powering an electric trolley line between Lewisburg and Ronceverte, damming the Greenbrier River to supply cheap power, and supplying electricity to Ronceverte. None of those suggestions were ever implemented and after changing hands in 1907, the electric plant was discontinued, but flour milling and grain sales continued.


   During the next 50 years, ownership changed several times and the mill became a grain and farm supply store. In 1961 the mill building burned down and the log building at Montwell Commons became the third structure erected on the original 1825 foundation. Future articles will explore the history of the buildings from 1907 to the present.


   A great deal of information has been gathered from the Greenbrier Independent weekly newspaper archives and some is presented in the following pages. This gives an indication of the role that the Lewisburg Milling and Electric Company played in the town and the Greenbrier Valley during the first decade of the 20th century.  Additional information can be read by clicking here.


Greenbrier Independent Clippings

Greenbrier Historical Society archives

February 27, 1896

   Mr. H.T. Bell, who canvassed the town to secure a certain number of electric lights sufficient to locate a plant here in Lewisburg, has succeeded, and we suppose in a short time the old 'burg will be lighted by electricity. Now, let us have the railroad.


June 7, 1900

   Tannery Building Razed   On Tuesday morning last ( June 5) a force of hands began tearing down another old landmark of Lewisburg – the old Tanyard brick building- which was built about the year 1825, by the late James Withrow, father of our honored townsmen, James Withrow, Esq. The removal of the building is necessary to make room for the erection of a big Steam Roller Mill and the laying of an electric light plant. If someone would have predicted when this old building was first erected, that it would be moved some day for the purpose above mentioned, he would, no doubt, have had to spend his days in some asylum.

The building to be erected for the mill will be a large three story structure with wheat elevators and all necessary machinery to make a 60-barrel capacity mill. An electric plant will also be attached for the purpose of lighting the old town by electricity. The promoters of this enterprise are Wm. Masters, John J. Duffy, John G. and James W. Dwyer, all of our town, and, when it is completed, will cost about $10,000. This enterprise will not only be a great convenience to our community and profitable to the promoters, but will furnish a cash market for all the wheat and grain grown in this entire Valley. We, therefore, wish these gentlemen unbounded success.


September 13, 1900

   The boiler for our big steam mill and electric light plant, which was hauled from the depot to Lewisburg on a wagon drawn by Mr. Alta Young's big engine, weighs 11,000 pounds. It won't be but a short time until we hear the hum of the machinery.


October 25, 1900

   The new mill is now completed and ready for business. It is an excellent structure with first class modern machinery and in all respects a credit to the town and to the men who have built it. The electric plant is also complete and has been tested with satisfactory results. The arc light exhibited on Main Street Tuesday night was a revelation to to the old town and impressed us forcibly with the idea of what a little push and enterprise can accomplish. As soon as a few additional details can be attended to, the light will be turned on in the streets and in all the stores and residences which have contracted for it.


July 3, 1902

   The large addition to the Lewisburg Mill is nearing completion, and when finished, will be one of the finest mills in the State, having grain elevators with a storage capacity of 15,000 or 20,000 bushels. The Milling Company also finds it necessary, on account of increasing business, to put in a much larger dynamo, which is now on the road here. The Company is now furnishing between 700 and 900 electric lights, and in a short time there will be a demand for about 500 more.


September 11, 1902

   The Lewisburg Milling and Electric Company has contracted to put in from 250 to 300 electric lights in the new Lewisburg Female Institute buildings and two 2,000 candle power arc lights in front of the buildings

November 26, 1903

   Cheap Power The Lewisburg Milling Company has under consideration schemes for furnishing cheaper power for its mill and electric light plant in Lewisburg. One is the building of a dam across Greenbrier River, putting in a turbine-wheel and thus getting water power with which to generate electricity. It has two points on the Greenbrier under investigation. If either is selected, it proposes to make such a dam as will furnish 300 horse-power. This will enable it to furnish power to outside parties, as it will need only about 75 horse-power to run its own plants. The town water works would thereby be afforded an opportunity to get cheaper power with which to pump water to town. It is also probable that the electric power plant at Ronceverte would find it cheaper to get its power from the mill people. There would also be enough power left, it is believed, to run a trolley line between Lewisburg and Ronceverte, if parties seeking a profitable investment could be induced to build a line between the two towns. In the event that the turbine wheel scheme should be impracticable or too expensive the mill people propose to place at Ronceverte a steam plant of 300 horse-power for its purpose. The steam will be used to generate electricity to run the plants here in Lewisburg, and the surplus power the Company will sell to parties wishing to use it.


July 7, 1904

   The Lewisburg Milling & Electric Light Company has put in two tremendous boilers and an engine. We hear that this Company proposes to build an electric railroad from Lewisburg to Ronceverte, provided the railroad, now being surveyed to the coal fields, does not come by our town. No one can tell the great benefit and convenience such road would be to our town and community. If a trolley line was running every hour from here to the railroad it is said many of the business men and coal operators and their families would live here in Lewisburg. Some men here and at Ronceverte have predicted, if such a line was built, there would be a continuous town from here to Ronceverte. We also hear that every arrangement has been made for the construction of this road.


December 21, 1905

   The Lewisburg Milling and Electric company is having a residence erected on the mill lot for its fireman, Len Cumby


June 28, 1906

   For Sale Large flour mill and electric light plant. Capacity of mill, 75 bbls. Good income from lights, and the demand is increasing. Railroad will be completed to the town in four months, is well under way. Mill is located in the bluegrass section of Greenbrier County. Property will bear close inspection. Good reason for selling. For further particulars, call on or address Lewisburg Milling & Electric Co., Lewisburg, W. Va.

November 22, 1906

   The Lewisburg Milling and Electric Co's plant was sold at public auction here last Thursday and was knocked down at $25,700 to a company of which, we understand, Lewis S. Price, Jas. Laing, Richard Jasper, John A. Preston, Jas. M. Preston, and Fred Snyder are members. Byrne Holt as general manager of the plant is pushing the business with energy and good judgment.


November 29, 1906

   The Secretary of State has issued a charter to the Bluegrass Milling Co., of Lewisburg, to do a general milling business, buy and sell grain, etc. Capital $50,000 of which $25,700 has been subscribed and $8,820 paid. Incorporators James Laing, Lewis S. Price, Jas. A. Preston, Richard Jasper, Fred W. Snyder, and John A. Preston, all of Lewisburg.