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Pocahontas County Bicentennial ~ 1821-2021

Thursday, November 5, 1931


Under the caption “Our Old Grist Mills,” Charles Carpenter writes a piece for the November number of the West Virginia Review. He writes as follows about the McNeel mill at Mill Point:

“One old overshot grain mill in West Virginia, barring accidental destruction, will likely stand many years yet. This is the McNeel mill at Mill Point in the Greenbrier Valley. This mill was built by an ancestor of Judge George W. McClintic, of the United States District Court for southern West Virginia, and remained in the ownership of the McClintic family until after the Civil War. The house in which Judge McClintic was born stands on the little hill just above the mill.

“A former mill at this location was built by Valentine Cackley, and the place was long known as Cackley Town. Work on the present mill was started just before the Civil War. Some work was done on the mill during the war, but it was not completed until about a year after hostilities had ceased. Since then, except when undergoing repairs, the mill has been operated without interruption. The mill is at present owned by Dr. H. W. McNeel, of Hillsboro. The miller is J. C. Webb, who lives at Mill Point.

“The original water wheel of this mill was a wooden one; but a number of years ago the wooden wheel was replaced by a wheel made entirely of iron. This wheel, twenty-one feet in diameter, is a large affair as waterwheels go. Its circumference is approximately sixty-six feet, and its face is three feet and a half across.

“The water which furnishes the power for the mill comes from a large spring a fourth of a mile away. The water is carried along the hillside in a race to a point about a hundred feet from the mill, and is from there conveyed across to the water wheel in a large iron pipe on trestle work. The water wheel, being much larger than the wooden over-shot wheels, catching more water in each pocket, and being more nearly perfect mechanically, revolves much faster than the old type wooden wheels.

“Although the water wheel and transmission gearing on the McNeel mill are products of our time, the rest of the mill is old – practically what it has always been. The grinding machinery is almost the same as that in all of the old mills, and the frame of the building and of the mechanism is made of hewed timbers, as in other old mills. A good grinding business, it has already served more than one generation. Corn, wheat and buckwheat are ground. Flour roller machines have been added to this equipment, as in the Blackthorn Creek mill near Franklin.”

Thursday, October 20, 1927

The hunting is not what it used to be. We hear that expression often and we take it for a mixed subject today. We have been studying two extinct animals which were all important in the old days, the panther and the dinosaur. It is true that a party of fishermen saw a panther on Cranberry last summer and Conan Doyle brought out a book in recent years called “The Lost World,” in which it was reported that a country had been found in which the dinosaurs were still wandering in the swamp country branded like cattle, and some of us found some fossil bones on Stony Creek that satisfies us…

And when we talk of the hunting not being as good as it used to be, I am inclined to think that this is true of the hunter. There seems to be a slowing up in some of the old boys. The coming of frost time does not stir all of them to get to the woods to slay and eat.

Taking up the extinct beasts in the inverse order of their disappearance, let us discuss an open question as to the disposition of the panther. This was the terror of the woods in my young days, and it was treated with profound respect. We had no closed cars to do our courting in and we traveled through the night in fear…

If a panther appears to you in the wood what should you do? Give it the cold steel jacketed bullet or caress it and listen to it purr. The old timer would not have been convinced of the loving disposition of the panther, but of late years, the authorities have changed their views of the matter…

Thursday, November 3, 1927


Friend Calvin;

I am going to tell you one more while this Panther talk is going on. About thirty years ago, I talked a friend into going fishing with me. I withhold his name for the sake of his family.

We started at 1 p.m. for Williams River; had an uneventful afternoon, and arrived at the Dutch Bottom at dusk. I decided to pass the night under a very large hemlock tree. We hastily gathered some wood, started a fire and proceeded to get supper. This consisted of bread and bacon, some fish and a few ramps for flavoring.

After supper, we cut some pine boughs for a bed and lay down to smoke and yarns. We soon become drowsy and in a short time were fast asleep. After a nap of two or three hours, I awoke. It was a very calm night, not a breeze to shake a leaf. Still, I could hear a peculiar sound on the off side of that tree that made my blood run cold – a peculiar scratching sound that I decided was a panther whetting his claws.

I woke my friend and asked him to interpret that sound. He agreed with me that it was a panther. We sat up against the tree and one looked at the other.

Now I had heard that a panther always took the smallest lamb or calf in the flock, so I expanded my chest and tried to look as formidable as possible to induce the panther to choose the smaller man. I am no mind reader and cannot tell my friend’s thoughts. As for me, all the mean things I had ever done, and they were plenty, were passing through my mind like a panorama.

After a couple of hours of agony, I told my partner in grief that I was going to investigate. So I fixed up this little prayer to whisper on my perilous journey: “Oh, Lord, if you can’t help me, don’t help that cat, but if it comes to the worst, make me as thankful as possible for what I am about to receive.”

I grasped a burning firebrand and started around the tree. I looked in all directions. I could see nothing, raised my torch and looked up the tree, and there I espied the false terror that had made that pleasant summer night hideous.

A branch from a nearby maple tree had grown out against the large tree and the smoke and steam from our fire caused it to vibrate up and down, causing that scratching sound that we had mistaken for a panther.

My fears were quickly dispelled. I gulped down the lump that was in my throat that seemed as large as a Hubbard squash and rushed back to the fire to tell my friend that we were safe. We decided right there that we were two of the most perfectly developed fools in Pocahontas county.

So, dear reader, when someone tells of panthers getting in bed with them and taking all the covers, I am a little skeptical.

A red glow in the east told us day was breaking, so we made coffee and fried fish and enjoyed our frugal meal as if nothing had happened.

It is now broad daylight and the forest is ringing with the song of birds, led by that matchless choir leader, the Swamp Robin.

We are now packing up for a hike to Tea Creek, and I will not ask the reader to go any farther. Using the language of Bunyan, “If it should be my lot to pass that way again, I will write of things I here am silent about.”

Meantime, I bid my reader farewell.

J. M. A.

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