Pittsylvania's Nineteenth-Century Grist Mills
by Herman Melton

Herman Melton's <cite>Pittsylvania's Nineteenth-Century Grist Mills</cite>

1991, published by the author, reprinted by the Pittsylvania Historical Society 2004. Index. 244pp. 6.2 x 9.3 inches. Hardcover with dust jacket. ISBN 1-56190-022-2.


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Notes from the Dust Jacket

The Book

Herman Melton's sequel to an earlier work opens by placing the world of 1800, and especially that of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, in perspective.

More than seventy-five water-powered grist mills were erected on the county's waterways during the 19th century. When these mills are added to the thirty or so built prior to 1800, the figures become impressive and reinforce the argument that water power played an essential role in the transformation of an agrarian society into an industrial one.

While the Golden Age of water-powered grist mills arrived in Pittsylvania County around 1840, their growth and importance began to decline well before the Civil War. Figures bear this out. Of the 270 original applications to erect grist mills during the county's 200 year history, 197 or 73% were submitted prior to 1840.

The work adds dimension by furnishing records of all 19th century applications identifying the applicants, location and date submitted. This provides genealogical data for some 300 families.

The book identifies, where possible, the builders of 75 mills, their subsequent owners, and events in their lives such as fires, floods, and financial chaos. In all cases, mill histories were examined in the light of contemporary historical events such as the Civil War and the financial Panics.

The author proves that 19th century water-powered grist mills did more than provide food. They were meccas for post offices, churches, schools, country stores, polling places, and in all cases, community recreation centers.

Only three grist mills operate in the county today; five more stand idle. Most of the 100 or more built over the 200 year period lie in ruins. Many will completely disappear by the year 2000. Lest these gems of Americana become extinct, this work is timely.

(Cover Sketch: Cedar Forest Mill, by the author.)

The Author

Herman Melton

Herman Melton, a retired engineer and member of the Pittsylvania County Historical Society, has spent much time during the past five years tramping along Pittsylvania County, Virginia's waterways in search of grist mill ruins.

Pittsylvania's Eighteenth-Century Grist Mills, his first volume, was published in 1989. In addition to spending countless hours poring over county records, he has performed research and writing as a Fellow in Residence at the Center of the Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy at Charlottesville, Va. in 1986 and again in 1988. His third volume titled, Picks, Tracks and Bateaux: Industry in Pittsylvania County 1950-1950, is in the works and is expected to be released in 1992.

Melton is a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy and holds a Master's Degree from the University of Virginia. He and his wife, Helen, a freelance writer, live in a restored Victorian home in Chatham, Va.



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