Grinding at Blaker's Mill

The grist that flows at Jackson's Mill is not from the grindstones of the mill built by the Jackson family but from the even older Blaker's Mill that was moved to the site and reconstructed in the shadows of the Jackson mill. Originally constructed in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, it was relocated to its present site beginning in 1981

Robert Hockman Blaker of Wilmington, Delaware, donated the family's mill that had been producing cornmeal and flour since 1796 to the people of West Virginia.

Jacob and Mary Hockman erected the gristmill at the confluence of Mill Creek and Muddy Creek soon after moving to western Virginia. In 1842, about the time that Cummins Jackson was building the present-day Jackson family mill, the Greenbrier County mill was inherited by one of the three Hockman daughters, Susan, and her husband, George Lewis. They hired John Blaker, from Loudon County, Virginia, to work in the mill. He eventually married Susan Lewis, probably the granddaughter of George and Susan (Hockman) Lewis. Three of their children, James L., Mamie, and Ida, operated the mill until it closed in the mid-1950's. Robert Hockman Blaker is James' descendant.

With funding from many sources including $150,000 raised penny by penny and dollar by dollar by the West virginia Extension Homemakers, Blaker's Mill was carefully disassembled, stone by stone and board by board, and transported to Jackson's Mill as a giant jigsaw puzzle. Monies were expended on historical architects and consultants, but the backbreaking labor and ultimately, the major part of the reconstructions, was accomplished by volunteer labor.

Volunteers came from cities and villages and from hills and hollows up and down the state. Many worked a few days, several worked a few weeks or months, and a handful worked for years to complete the reconstruction of the relocated mill. The reconstructed the mill as it was built, with handtools and the sweat of their brows. The miracle of it all is that it was all accomplished without one accident more serious than a stoved finger.

Because it was not possible for Blaker's Mill to be powered by the waters beside its new home on the West Fork River, a millpond was constructed to hold the rushing water that turns the giant grindstones. Water is pumped to the pond from the nearby river by electric powered pumps and returned to the river via a specially made drain.

One day in April 1993, it all began to come together. The sluice gates were opened and the stones began to turn. The mill ran for a few minutes before it was shutdown.

At last, on August 5, 1993, the wheels began to turn in earnest. Although there were still more adjutments to be made and work to be done, there was grinding again at Jackson's Mill.

Contact Jackson's Mill 4-H Conference Center for the grinding schedule. .

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This page composed by Joy Gilchrist on December 31, 1995. Revised 10 June 2001.