Thursday, April 16, 2009

English Branch

Growing up, my brother and I looked forward to visits during the summer to our Pennington grandparents' home in Peaceful Valley. Their farm provided us with many opportunities for interesting play, not the least of which was the creek that ran through the Pennington homestead. The cold, clear waters of the shallow creek was an invitation for us, along with our cousins, to splash and play. We spent many hours digging and damming the waters of the creek, all under the watchful eye of Mamaw Beck. It wasn't until recently that I became aware that "the creek" actually had a name.

English Branch is the formal name for our little creek, named after the English family who were early settlers of the area, Samuel Lewis English, and his wife Hannah Hall English, pictured below. This image of the couple was found in the files at the Itawamba County Historical Society.

This past Easter Sunday the remains of an old grist mill, established by Mr. English along the waters of the creek that bears his name, were discovered by a couple of persistent and determined Pennington descendants, Chip Mills and Steve Wardlaw. It was nearly thirty years ago, in a project overseen by Fessie Pennington, that a grist mill stone was pulled out of the creek not far from where the remains of the mill were found. It took a John Deere tractor and a lot of effort to get the stone out of the creek that summer day, but the location of the actual mill continued to remain a mystery until Easter Sunday.

Below: wooden boards and pegs used in the construction of the mill.

Above: Chip (left) and Steve examine the remains of the mill. It is believed that yellow poplar may have been used to construct the mill. The logs appear to have been hewn with an adze, a tool similar to a hoe, that was commonly used to square up logs. One of the logs had been bowled out, likely used to catch corn meal.

My father is pictured above in a photo taken with the grist mill stone that was found and removed from the creek about thirty years ago. The stone is three feet across and about fifteen inches thick. And very heavy. Today, the stone has been incorporated, courtesy of Chip Mills, into the waters of a natural spring that flows out of a nearby hillside.


Anonymous said...

How interesting. Thanks for sharing. I had no idea there was a mill there.

LPM said...

What fun! And what memories for the "kids". They're finding and making history at the same time!

It'll be nice when we get some more little ones, won't it.

Anonymous said...

I thought those "grinding stones" were smooth - and the ones with grooves in them like you show, were ceremonial offering stones in Mexico. These huge stones with grooves were where a person was beheaded and the groove let the blood drain - these ceremonies were offerings to the moon, so that it would "come up" again as in the full moon tide. You may have something more historical than you might realize. (At least this is the tales we were told during a vacation in the Mexico City area back in 1967, shortly before the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City).

I don't recall "going to mill" with granddaddy Stone more than once a summer (that means one swim in the millpond per summer!)I'm thinking there were 5 of the 8 grandchildren (one was too old, one lived out of the area and my baby sister was too young) that piled into granddaddy's car with him and the trunk holding the burlp bag of shelled dried corn to drive over to Mr. Hatley's gristmill. This was a short swim time because granddaddy had driven his R.R. 1, Bexar mail route in the forenoon, so our time in the millpond lasted while they ground the corn.

Mona, even you may not be aware that the corn meal ground in the "local" gristmills had to be sifted to remove the chaff from the meal before baking or "mealing" the okra, sliced green tomatoes or fish! Was there anything else that our mother and grandmother's coated with cornmeal? Okay, I have learned to dip my small seasoned and oiled potatoes that I have sliced into 6 or 8 slices (this depends how large the potato diameter is)into the corn meal before placing on an oiled cookie sheet to roast. My seasoning usually consists of rosmary, dill, parsley, garlic and salt powder as well as salt and pepper. bettye

Anonymous said...

I should read what I type before "sending"! I meant to say garlic and onion powder, not garlic and salt powder! bettye

Don Dulaney said...

What a find! I am so happy for yaw. Looked like a fun hunt!