A.C. Knibb’s Waterwheel

21 Oct

Years ago, serendipity allowed us to come across a series of three articles on Goochland water mills by Abner Clopton Knibb. These articles had been published by the Goochland Gazette in 1956 and were re-printed in the Society’s Magazine in 2002. In March of 2020, the Society was made aware of an old mill, still standing on private property. After touring and photographing the mill, we did some research and found out it is the same mill written about nearly 50 years ago. The following is a re-print of the third article in the series accompanied by photographs taken in March of Abner’s still standing waterwheel mill.

The A.C. Knibb’s Waterwheel – Goochland Gazette, May 25, 1956

By A.C. Knibb

     Just why I loved the old water mill as I did, I don’t know, unless it was one of the few pieces of machinery that we had in the county, and I was very fond of machinery. As a chap, I made corn stalk water wheels with pine bark water troughs, and had wheels turning on the branches just for entertainment.

     My brother-in-law saw an overshoot wheel at a junk place, and knowing my fondness for water wheels, bought it for me. It was about 3 feet tall, and 6 inch on the face. To get the water on that wheel was my first job. I got in the creek, got wet and muddy from head to foot, got rock in place, that it would seem about impossible. Isn’t it remarkable what we can do, when we WANT to? Well, the water went on that wheel, and with some cog-gearing out of a mowing machine, I rigged up a churn sweep, carried my mother’s churn down there, and before she got to the springhouse next morning, I had the butter. I never did like a churn, and just to see the water splash over that wheel and turn it while the dasher knocked the butter out, was “glory for me,” and it did a better job, for I used to get tired churning, and stop to look in the churn to see if the butter had come, but that water wheel did not seem to care if the butter had come or not but kept knocking away. When mother found out what I had done, she came racing over the hill, talking as she came and declaring I had ruined her cream. When the sweep was stopped and she looked, she had the nicest, best gathered and firmest butter you ever saw. It was not only “glory for me,” but VICTORY.

     My father’s grinding stone was turned by hand, and my next job was to rig it up to run with the water power. Then when I wanted to grind an axe or a mower blade, or a cradle scythe, I did not have to get one or two girls to turn the grinding stone, while I held the axe or blade, but the water kept turning the wheel, and it turned the stone. Of course I whistled and sung over the advancements we were making. This wheel was not sufficient to grind corn or oats into chop as fast as one horse could eat it, and the little plant went down, when I left home.

     Did I abandon the idea of a real mill? No sir. All the time I was trying to learn how to preach (and nothing but death could stop me) the water mill was constantly coming up in my mind. Later, I entered the evangelistic field, and have rambled through about 40 counties of this State or parts of them and some in North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and was allowed to preach once in Maryland. Whenever I crossed a stream, whether I was going to a funeral, a wedding or to begin a meeting, I looked up and down, to see how the water fall was, and when in 1916, I got back home to serve a group of the country churches, my salary was small, and I persuaded myself that the mill and the farm would be just the combination needed to help preach the gospel.

     I bought that over-shoot water wheel 16 feet high, 3 feet on the face, all steel. It came knocked down and had to be installed. That being accomplished, the wheel stood there with nothing else that looked like a mill and of course looked like the project of some half-crazy or whole-crazy somebody, and the folk began to talk.

     About the first thing I heard was “I think we have made a mistake in calling that man to this field. Anyone who thinks that he can ever get the water out of that creek on that wheel, is not fit for a pastor.” By and by the ditch to bring the water to the pond and on to the wheel began to show up, and then comes another saying, “Abner ought to have sense enough to know that the water will never run up hill.”

     The ditch went on and was nearing completion, and I was needing another ditcher, and asked a neighbor if he knew where I could hire one. “No,” he replied and then asked, “Abner, do you want to grind?” “Yes,” I replied. “Well go on to Richmond, and buy you a gasoline engine, and grind. You ought to have sense enough to know that water will never go where you are trying to make it go, and if it did, it would never run a mill.” The ditch was finished, the water went on that wheel, the mill ran and ground all the grain that came. Not always while the customer waited, for the storage pond was too small, and we had to wait for water. If the pond had been large enough to hold all the water that ran down, we could have ground from 20 to 30 bushels of bread meal per day.

     During the worst drought we ever had, we were able to grind while the mills on the Southanna and Northanna rivers could not turn a wheel.

     One morning while the mill was running, Col. Hamlin came by, and with a smile asked, “Do you think you will ever get your money back?” I replied, “I don’t know about that, but one thing I do know, I have water going my way.” That little stream that had been running, splashing, singing and playing, was now made to play a new game. It shot into those buckets, and then rode gracefully down to the bottom, and while it rode down to the bottom, it turned the grist or chop mill, the corn sheller, the grinding stone, the saw mill, lath saw or wood saw.

     The meal or graham that was made out of corn or wheat that grew on the old farm, and was carefully selected and ground in that mill, turned with that water and gauged as to fineness with these fingers of mine, all seemed to add to its flavor, and it seemed to give extra strength.

     What a time I had with the customers. I have always preached, “Carry your religion into your business,” and here I had such a fine opportunity to preach by precept and example. Christians who are anxious to do it can usually find the chance to introduce the religious topic, if they watch for it.

     When no one was around, I found the mill a fine place to prepare a sermon, or read a book or paper.

     I was on the program for a Convention sermon, and it found shape in the quiet meditation. So the mill was prayer and study room, as well as a factory for food.

     Why did I not keep that mill running? Oh, I would love to, to this minute and if I ever find the way to put the water back on that wheel, I am going to do it, but the income did not keep pace with ever-increasing wages, and I was financially unable to keep it going.

We are not including the location of the mill due to the fact that it is on private property and is not accessible to the public.

To learn more about Goochland water mills, read Goochland County Historical Society Magazine, Vol. 34, “The Old Water Mills of Goochland” by Abner C. Knibb.  These are available for purchase at the Goochland County History Center and online.

Saving a Nineteenth Century Dining Table

25 Sep

As reported in the November 2019 newsletter, the Goochland County Historical Society (GCHS) was donated a large collection of home furnishings that belonged to the family of Joseph R. Anderson, a wealthy industrialist who once owned Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond and a tract of land in Goochland upon which his son Joseph R. Anderson, Jr. built the estate known as Thorncliff (above) in the early 1880s. GCHS is conserving furnishings and will display a collection of the furniture in the near future.

To prepare the furniture for display, some degree of conservation was required. One of the first items to be conserved, was also the largest, a three-piece dining table (shown above, c. 1920) that when put together is a whopping 14.5 feet in length.

According to Jay Gates of Gates Antiques Ltd., the table was probably made in Baltimore, Maryland in the early part of the 1800s. The construction dates for the table pre-date the building of Thorncliff, making this piece one of the earlier items donated by the Anderson family. It could possibly have been in the Richmond home of Joseph Reid Anderson, Sr. that once stood where the Jefferson Hotel stands today.

The two demi-lune end pieces (above), each more than 4 feet long, are mahogany with “plum pudding” veneer on the apron (below) and fluted legs with brass casters.

The center drop-leaf table (below) is also made from mahogany with a veneer apron but features plain legs and no casters. This was not uncommon since the center piece would not be as noticeable as the table ends, and may have been purchased at a later date to extend the demi-lunes.

One of the demi-lunes had apparently been in front of a window as its finish had faded to a very light tan (below before restoration). The demi-lune portions of the table also needed repair as the wood had become unstable and could no longer support the drop-leaves which had become detached. The center drop-leaf table was in better condition but had a large discoloration on the top. It also was sun bleached with some warping to the wood.

The work on the three pieces was done by Gates Antiques Ltd. They repaired the wood where necessary and the finish was hand-rubbed back to a rich mahogany color.

The table in its restored condition (above) is one of the pieces from the Anderson Collection that will be displayed at the Society when we debut “The Anderson Collection: Pieces from the Past.” Sometime in 2021. The gift of the furnishings also included funds for the restoration.

To learn more about Thorncliff, read Goochland County Historical Society Magazine Vol. 47, “Racehorses and Racketeers: The Story of Thorncliff” by James Richmond, information on Dover can also be found in Goochland Yesterday and Today by Cece Bullard.  These are available for purchase at the Historical Society Office and online.

Dover: A Tour

20 Mar

“Dover” once stood on Dover Road near Hebron Church. In the 1850s, the mansion was enlarged by James and Ellen Bruce Morson into the large home seen in the pictures below.

dover 1 In a sales brochure put out by the American Trust Company in the early part of the 20th Century, the home was described as “A beautiful country estate, highly developed as a gentleman’s country home, with every natural advantage for a private country club.” At the time, Dover consisted of 350 acres and included a beautiful barn and stone gazebo.

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Typical of the time, the home was decorated in the Victorian style with colonial influences. The billiard room had an incredible frieze as seen in the following photograph.

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The brochure boasted about the incredible finishes and marble mantel that could be found in the drawing room.

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The size of the rooms is one reason that the sellers were actively trying to interest country clubs to purchase the mansion, it would have lent itself nicely to that type of use.

Dover 2

It is unclear if the brochure worked or if any sales came forward, but sadly the mansion was destroyed by fire on the afternoon of February 8, 1933. Newspaper accounts said the fire began when a spark flew out of one of the decorative fireplaces. The mansion was a total loss.

dover 6

The ruins stood near the road for years and were a popular destination for many locals looking for an afternoon adventure. Finally they were declared dangerous and taken down.

To learn more about Dover Mansion, read Goochland County Historical Society Magazine Vol. 7, No. 2 “Dover – Memories” by Virginia Strange Kiser and Vol. 8, No. 1 “Dover” by Elie Weeks, information on Dover can also be found in Goochland Yesterday and Today by Cece Bullard.  These are available for purchase at the Historical Society Office.


Lelia Lesett Williams Bankett

20 Feb

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Courtesy National Park Service, Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

Lelia Lesett Williams Bankett was born on May 16, 1885 to George Williams Jr. and Lelia Shelton Williams of Goochland County, Virginia. She was educated at Smith’s Business College in Lynchburg and Hartshorn Memorial College in Richmond. On September 27, 1923, she married John E. Bankett. She taught stenography and typewriting at Armstrong Night School in Richmond for four years; she worked for 24 years at the Independent Order of St. Luke, serving as Field Secretary for 18 months; and from 1927 – 1928, she served as National Lecturer for the Supreme Lodge of the National Ideal Benefit Society.

Public records provide factual information, but they tell us very little about the life Lelia actually led. However, since Lelia worked for a prominent woman of historical importance, we know quite a bit about her professional life and in turn, something about her character. She worked for Maggie L. Walker, the leader of the Independent Order of St. Luke, when Mrs. Walker was building it into a large and powerful organization. Lelia assisted in this effort and deserves some credit for both Mrs. Walker’s success and the success of the Order.

She passed away on August 22, 1939.

Dr. Arthur Gilbert Blakey

31 Jan

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Dr. Arthur Gilbert Blakey and Jessica Cobb Blakey. Photograph donated by Dr. James Bowles

Dr. Arthur Gilbert Blakey was one of nine children born in Barboursville, Virginia to Ella and James Blakey on March 8, 1888. He was a graduate of Virginia State College and had his medical training from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dr. Blakey   practiced medicine in Goochland, Fluvanna, and adjoining Virginia counties beginning in 1918. He traveled miles back and forth to the mountains servicing patients pro bono. In some instances, patients would attempt to pay him with produce items and farm goods. He served the surrounding area for a period of 45 years.

Dr. Blakey passed away on April 24, 1963. The late Dr. James Harold Bowles, Sr. considered Dr. Blakey to have been both a role model and mentor.

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Medicine bottle dated July 26, 1949, filled at Bruce’s Drug Store in Scottsville, VA, for a prescription written by Dr. Blakey. Bottle donated by Eleanore Andrews.

December Gathering – Vallambrosa

18 Dec

IMG_6754 adjOn December 1, 2019, the Society gathered at historic Vallambrosa for our annual holiday meeting. R. Strother and Evie Scott, our hosts, welcomed us to their home for an afternoon of fellowship and food with a little society news thrown into the mix.

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Homeowner Evie Scott (left) and Society President Christina Dunn (right) led the news portion of gathering

Vallambrosa was built in the early 1870’s by Dr. Charles Guerrant Massie and named for an ancestral Guerrant home in Italy. It was constructed of heart pine cut from the surrounding woods and has a foundation of brick which were manufactured on the site. Dr. Massie built the house after serving as a surgeon in the Civil War, when he returned to Goochland to practice medicine. He married Mildred Heath Guerrant, daughter of Colonel Charles Guerrant and his wife, Sarah Thompson Guerrant, of “Balquither” in Goochland County. Born in Goochland County on March 31, 1836, Dr. Massie was of Huguenot descent, a great grandson of John Guerrant, Jr. who was born in 1760 at nearby “Ceres” located close to the old Three Chopt Road. John Guerrant, Jr. was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1788; was commissioned Brigadier General of Virginia forces in 1793; and became President of the State Council and Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 1805.

According to family records, the original house was comprised of four rooms, two upstairs and two downstairs, with a central hall running from front to back. An outside kitchen, smoke house, ice house, and servants’ house existed along with a barn which was already on the place when the land was purchased from Alexander Shelton in 1870. The house and dependencies were built by local workmen, without benefit of architect or contractor.

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The former Perkinsville post office was relocated to the grounds of Vallambrosa and re-purposed as a tack room.

The lane to Vallambrosa passes through the entrance posts which were built from bricks of the foundation walls of Balquither. The wall around the family graveyard, within sight of the house, was built with rocks from the foundation of the old barn at Ceres.

This family home serving four generations, stands simply and serenely, cherished by the family and from its very beginning, known by relatives and friends for the warm hospitality they enjoyed there.

The property is still owned by members of the Massie family.

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We thank the Scott family for hosting us for the afternoon and our members who brought a delicious array of hors d’oeuvres for tasting.

To read more about Vallambrosa, read Goochland County Historical Society Magazine Vol. 5, No. 2 “Vallambrosa” by Charlotte Taylor Massie.  Available for purchase at the Historical Center and online: Vol 5, No. 2.

World War II Soldiers Remembered: Elam Turner Salmon

26 Nov

Elam Salmon

July 1, 1917 – December 2, 2004

Elam Turner Salmon was born July 1, 1917 in Goochland. He was 23 years old when he registered in May of 1943. According to his Registration Card, we know he was 6 feet tall, and had blue eyes and brown hair and was living in Richmond, Virginia. He worked for E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., Inc. (DuPont)

Toyko, Japan.  Elam Salmon

He was with the 8th Calvary Regiment serving in the South Seas. After the fall of Japan, the 8th Cavalry occupied the 3rd Imperial Guard Regiment Barracks in Tokyo.


World War II Soldiers Remembered: Richard Linwood Trice

10 Oct

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August 6, 1921–October 22, 1998

Richard Linwood Trice was born at Hadensville, Goochland County, Virginia, on August 6, 1921. After attending Virginia Tech, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 and qualified for flight school. After completing his training as a navigator, he was stationed at Bury St. Edmunds, England with the 8th Air Force, 94th Bomb Group. He served on a B-17 Flying Fortress, for a number of missions over Germany. In 1944 near Stuttgart, the plane lost an engine due to enemy fire. Unable to return to England and close to the Swiss border, the crew made an emergency landing at Zurich. Crews who landed in Switzerland ended up spending the remainder of the war in internment camps there. After interrogation and quarantine, Linwood, with other American officers, was interned in Davos-Platz, then, as now, a famous ski resort. There he stayed at the luxury Post Hotel and learned to ski, earning a “silver ski” medal of accomplishment. When he was discharged from active duty in 1945, he held the rank of Second Lieutenant.

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Trice in Switzerland

World War II Soldiers Remembered: Matt Archer Allen

11 Sep

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May 7, 1924–November 25, 1944

Matt Archer Allen was born May 7, 1924 in Cardwell, Virginia. He was 18-years-old when he registered in June of 1942. According to his Registration Card, we know he was 5 feet, 6 inches tall, and had black eyes and black hair. He listed C.C. Cochrane of Rockville as his employer.

He was serving aboard the USS Essex (CV 9) on November 25, 1944 when the vessel was hit by a Japanese kamikaze. The strike was on the port edge of the aircraft carrier’s flight deck and landed among the planes gassed for takeoff, causing extensive damage. The ship survived the hit, but Allen was one of 15 killed in the attack. His name is among those listed at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.

World War II Soldiers Remembered: Richard Snellings Cridlin

15 Aug

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October 26, 1915–December 25, 1998

Richard Snellings Cridlin was born October 26, 1915 in Henrico, Virginia. He was 24-years-old when he registered in October of 1940. According to his Registration Card, we know he was married to Lucille Layne Cridlin, was 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and had brown eyes and brown hair. He listed Sylvania Industrial Corporation as his employer. His home was his wife’s family farm near Crozier, Va.

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Taken in Paris, 1944

Upon completion of basic training, he was sent to Europe, where he took part in D-Day and the Liberation of Paris. He was then sent to the Pacific theater where he participated in the Battle of Okinawa, the last major battle of World War II. After the war, he returned to Crozier where he spent the remainder of his life.