One of the earliest businesses of Spencer, and any other county for that matter, was the establishment of the mill ? mills to grind corn into meal and wheat into flour, and saw mills to produce lumber for building homes were very important.
These mills were powered by many waterways in the county. By the time Spencer became a county in 1824-1828, the county had 15-20 mills. As the waterways were considered public property, permission had to be obtained from the fiscal court in order to build a dam, causing water to back up.
The process of this permission was to petition the court and the court would assign commissioners to survey the land and streams to assure that no untold damage was done to the stream or the property of others. When a petitioner did not want the land on both sides of the stream, he had to have the land condemned by the court, after which he would purchase it from the original owner.
A good example of this process is shown in the application and approval of the Goodwind Mill.
On June 11, 1827, Thomas Goodwind petitioned the court for permission to build a water grist and saw mill on the Salt River. He owned the land on one side of the river and John Shelton owned the land on the other.
The court charged the sheriff to empanel 12 fit persons to view the land on both sides of the river where the mill and dam were to be built.
The sheriff set aside an acre of land of John Shelton?s and fixed a price on that acre that would be deeded to Thomas Goodwind for the mill and dam. The group of men met to appraise the land and reported back to the court that the acre of land to be taken was worth ?one dollar and not more.?
They also stated that a saw and grist mill on the river would be of great utility to the surrounding neighborhood, given its point of convenience, as there were no mills immediately in the neighborhood.
They further noted that the dam would not impede navigation or passage of fish, nor would it cause stagnation of water or overflow to the neighbors.
The other mills in existence, or those which were being petitioned for existence, at that time in the county included, the Joel Harpers Mill on Big Beach Creek; the Smith and Lilly Mill on Simpson Creek at Gray?s Run; Craigs Mill on Ashes Creek; McGees Mill on Plum Creek; Porters Mill on Plum Creek near the road to Mt. Vernon (present day Mt. Washington); John McDowell?s Mill on Buck Creek; Fields Mill on Buck Creek near Mt. Eden; the Bourne & Davis Mill on Brashears Creek; the Van Dyke Mill on Brashears Creek at Rivals; the Beauchamp Mill on Brashears Creek near Taylorsville; the David Stallard Mill on Cox?s Creek; the Edmund Terrells Mill on the East Fork of Cox?s Creek, and the Jennings Mill, whose location is unknown.
Some of those mills were year-round operations; others operated only during the spring or wet periods when the streams were running full.
Some of the mills operated into the early part of the twentieth century, but were made obsolete by steam, internal combustion engine drives and, finally, electric motor drives.
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