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Recollections of the Bluegrass Mill

1947 - 1961

Lewis Detch

     I have early memories of being in the old red mill with Dad in about 1947, and with several of my friends a few years later. As I recall there was a porch/loading platform that served as the main entrance on the west (street) side of the building.  On the north side of the building was a shed that contained a steam engine that resembled a farm tractor that was missing all of its wheels. Inside the building there was an overhead power distribution axle with wide slightly convex pulleys that powered various machines by means of long, wide leather belts.

Paul Detch

     As a 5 or 6 year old boy, Paul's father, John, took him through the mill. There was a loading platform with sliding doors along Jefferson Street, but the machinery had been removed. There was a lot of dust everyplace on all three floors of the building, it was not pleasant being there with all the dust. His father pointed out that the big beams were all held together with wooden pegs.

Herbert Montgomery

     The main floor had a sliding door opening onto Rt. 219 and stairs leading down to the cellar at the northwest corner of the building. Next to the stairs there was an office and a coke machine with a compressor for chilled water to keep the bottles cold. As a boy in the 1950s, he would often put in his dime and slide a bottle along slats to a gate where the bottle could be pulled out. (He would also go to the Board of Education building on Chestnut St. where there was a yellow Nehi soda machine.) He would go to the mill with his father, Dr. John Montgomery, to get sacks of feed for their dairy cows. The sacks were made of printed cotton which his mother used to make dish towels because she didn't want to be seen wearing a feed sack dress. When the mill stopped operating around 1953, the Montgomerys had to get feed delivered from Southern States in 100 lb bags.

     In the 1950s, the machinery was still powered by belts and pulleys on line shafts, but they were driven by electric motors rather than a large steam engine. In the early 50s, the mill was grinding grain all day long and dust was blown outside. After the mill shut down, the machinery was removed. He and his friends explored the building on several occasions.

    [The 80HP steam engine powering the mill was removed some time between 1910 and 1923 as shown on the Sanborn fire insurance maps.]

Jerry Clemons

     As I remember, it was a giant red and white wooden frame building. The whole building was very close to the road and it had a dock right out in front so people could back up their pickup trucks. They had mostly feed and grain and things like that, some hay and straw you know. Farmers brought stuff to sell and buy things – fertilizer, seed – it was a farm store.

     My dad worked at the GMS farm for several years. We had a big truck and would back up to the dock to get some feed, it seemed to me like we were right on the road. We would get 2 or 3 sacks of feed and take them back up to the farm. I went out to the dairy farm behind Bill Lewis Motors a couple of times with my dad to see the cows and where they milked them. They supplied all the milk to the school and slaughtered some of those cattle to provide the beef that was a part of the menu for the GMS students.

(Jerry also shared this recollection of the GMS cattle farm.)

     My dad worked up there where the Moores had a big farm on the back side of Fairview Rd.   Houston's dad, H.B., ran the farm. They ran Angus cattle and showed them all over the county and state and along the east coast. H.B. had a big truck and they would haul the cattle down to the train station in Ronceverte. The guys had to double-clutch to down-shift gears when they drove this old truck. H.B. said they were wearing out the clutch in his truck and he didn't want them double-clutching. He told them “When you drive the truck, don't double-clutch, it wears the clutch out.” They had to down-shift going down to Ronceverte because it had such a steep hill. With eight or ten black Angus in the back of the truck, they had to creep down the hill to keep it from getting away from them. They loaded the cattle into box cars and take them to different shows all along the east coast. I used to hate it because my dad would have to go away for a week at a time while they were showing the cattle.

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