Jacob's Mill and Pembroke Roller Mills

These 2 articles appeared over 30 years ago in the Snidow Newsletter Vol. 3-1, p. 3 and 4...


by Mary French Boswell

Jacob Snidow (Nov. 15,1763-July, 1847), youngest surviving child of John and Elisabeth Helm Snidow, was granted or received by deed a number of tracts of land totaling many hundreds of acres of land in the New River area, several on or near Little Stony Creek.   Apparently he had built grist mills probably on this creek prior to 1815, as in that year the Giles County Tax List shows he was taxed on 2 grist or saw mills.   We do know that on Little Stony Creek just above what is today the town of Pembroke he built a large grist mill for grinding wheat and stone ground corn meal.

When he died his Will, bearing date of 3rd of July, 1847, probated July 26 (Will Book B, p. 496), stated that he left the mills to his son, Augustus E. Snidow.   In Deed Book H, p. 515 is recorded that on 7th Sept. 1850 Augustus E. Snidow sold this land of 296 acres, "all that he had inherited from his father" to William Henry Snidow, his first cousin.   According to Givens and Hall Genealogy by Dorothy Givens, p. 611, Augustus Snidow, wife Eliazbeth and four children removed to Livingston County, Missouri around 1850, apparently after selling off his land.

The lands of Jacob Snidow, Jr. adjoined this land and in Deed Book H, p. 267 there is an interesting agreement (dated 31st Jan. 1849) signed by William Henry Snidow and Jacob Snidow, Jr.  The agreement reads:  "Whereas the said parties are much inconvenienced from the want of water upon their lands at the turnpike.  It is therefore agreed that water from the race flowing to and driving the Mills of the said Augustus E. Snidow upon the lands purchased as aforesaid shall be conveyed from some convenient point of the said race in sufficient quantities not only for the use of the said Jacob Snidow's lands along and through his field on the left of the road running from the mills aforesaid to the old toll gate on the turnpike but for the use and benefit of the lands of the said Wm. H. Snidow at the toll gate, to which point the said water shall be conducted not only for the convenience and advantages of the parties but for their respective heirs.
Memorandum:  This 26th Feb. 1849 made further agreement that water conducted through lands which said Wm H. Snidow purchased of Augustus E. Snidow to the lands of the said Jacob Snidow is to be conducted on same ground water now passes and each party is to furnish to other sufficient quantity of water for family and stock purpose and no more or such quantity as will pass through a common pipe log."

Research at this time doesn't show exactly who owned the mills following this period.  Wm H. Snidow died in 1866 and one of his heirs could have owned the land on which the mills stood.   We do know that prior to 1902, according to Mr. Mervin Williams (in an interview with him in August, 1979) his father, "John F. Williams and John Matt Kirk bought the mills from Jake Snidow".  The mills were run by Mr. Williams and Mr. Kirk until 1922 on which date John F. Williams died and as he died intestate there was a sale of the mills to settle the estate.

= = = = = = =

(A note from Mary French Boswell)...   In the next article there is a detailed description of this large mill built originally by Jacob Snidow prior to 1847.


by Frederick Lee Snidow,   Pembroke, Virginia
Fall, 1979

My dad, Grover Glenn Snidow, purchased the Kirk and Williams Mill located on Little Stony Creek in 1922.  Dad gave the mill a new name, Pembroke Roller Mills.  The mill was said to be quite old at the time Dad purchased it.  Mr. Hilton, an old man 75 or 80 years of age, came to the mill at the time Dad bought it and told him his grandfather helped build the mill.

The mill was a large 4-story structure, with a 40 foot frontage and depth of approximately 60 feet.  The rock foundation, about 24 inches think and 10 feet high, was rock hewn from Giles County limestone said to have been done by slave labor.  The 10-foot foundation was the first floor or basement level and contained machinery and power equipment.   Placed in the ground inside the foundation were six limestone rocks, each 3 feet square, and on each rested upright a heavy oak timber to support the weight of the floors above.   On top of the rock foundation the sills were laid of heavy timbers 8" by 16", hand hewn of poplar.  Across the mail sills 3" by 6" floor joists were laid and 1 1/4" oak flooring on top of that.

There were three mill floors, each floor had the same construction outlined above.  Also, each floor had 6 oak support posts to support the weight of the floor above.  Above the 3rd floor were solid oak rafters 24 inches apart.  On top of the rafters was one inch wood sheeting which was used to support the A-shaped metal roof.  The outside walls of the mill were made of 3" by 6" oak studs (framing) on top of which yellow poplar weatherboarding was nailed.

The first mill floor contained 3 wheat roller mills, weigh hoppers, flour storage bins and one large corn mill.  The second floor contained storage bins for wheat and corn, also there was open floor area for storage of bagged flour and cornmeal.   The 3rd floor held a large flour sifter and bran separator.  The mill manufactured pure unbleached flour and stone ground corn meal.

People came from all over the country and surrounding states to photograph the large water wheel and the beautiful supply of water from Little Stony Creek that furnished power for the mill.  The water flowed from the mill race out on to the wheel.  The amount of power needed was controlled by the amount of water allowed to enter the wheel.   I remember times when a belt would break on the machinery inside the mill and it would send the big water wheel spinning.  We called it a runaway wheel.  Every effort was made as quickly as possible to close the gate over the wheel and divert the water through a spillway to the side.   Dad was usually on hand to take care of this emergency and more often than not it was like the hundred yard dash.

It was fascinating to go into the mill when it was in operation with the buzz of the machinery and the conveyor belts, with little buckets attached, carrying the grain through the chutes to where it should go.  Up they went, down they came in a rhythm all their own.  Actually what transpired was the conveyors were carrying ground wheat from the roller mills to the large sifter on the 3rd floor.  3 times the wheat was ground and sifted, each time through a finer sifter cloth, made from a very high grade of silk cloth.   All the run-off from the ends of the sifter screens went to the bran separator.  The bran separator separated the wheat bran from the shorts, a part of the wheat not suitable for flour.   These two products were used for animal feed.

Also housed in the same mill was a stone corn mill.  It was 2 large stones 4 feet in diameter, one mounted stationary, with the top stone rotating in a clockwise direction, which ground corn meal that was cool, fresh and sweet.   It surely did make good corn bread.   Some of Dad's customers would bring their own corn and Dad would grind it and keep a small amount as payment.   Occasionally it was necessary to sharpen the two large stones.   The sharpening was a skillful and time-consuming task and usually the mill was out of operation for a day or two.   To sharpen the stones a mill pick was used to rough up the grinding faces on the mill stones.

Use of the mill was discontinued around the year 1929 when larger manufacturers or millers made it too competitive a business.   Dad converted the lower area of the mill into an ice manufacturing plant.   His new business was known as Pembroke Ice Company, where he supplied ice to all of Giles County for many years.

About 1943 the old mill was completely dismantled, machinery sold and the mill, mill wheel and mill stones taken down and moved from the site.   Today there isn't a trace of the mill.   Little Stony Creek, with its cold, clear mountain water flows now where the old mill and mill race stood, wending its way south through the town of Pembroke and in its meandering finds its way to New River to be swept along by other currents to the Kanawha, the Ohio, the Mississippi and finally to the Gulf of Mexico.

Special thanks to...Roma Collins of Pembroke for loaning us the wonderful photo of the mill (above) after the 2004 reunion
...and to John & Jean Snidow of Hardy, VA for scanning and uploading it to the Snidow website.