Pen and Ink of Mill in 1976 by Jock Dempsey CLICK FOR DETAIL The Old Grist Mill
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Early American Grist Mill c.1806/34. Built by John Organ. Structure is post and beam contruction from heart pine and has wide pine board floors.

The early history of the mill is uncertain. It is known that a writ "Ad quo damnum", permission to dam a stream was issued to John Organ in 1805. It applied to property he purchased (or inherited) from his mother Elizabeth on Seneca Creek. At the time of John's death in 1834 there existed on the site the Mill, a saw mill, cotton gin, blacksmith shop, general store and two acres on the west side of the creek. John's son Holcolmb purchased the Mill from the estate, the store having previously been sold to C.N. & B.C. Huges..

SEPT. 1805 John Organ petitions Court to allow him to build a mill.
"A motion of John Organ for leave to Erect a Water grist and Saw mill on Senaca Creek - the same granted him and it is ordered that the sherrif summon a jury to meet on the 27th of the Month."     Order Book #8 p.206
OCT. 1805 Court juries site and grants permit to build dam. "The Sheriff having returned John Organ's Writ of Ad quod damnum Executed & the mill extablished agreeable to the report of the Jury."     Order Book #8 p.225
1834 Village of Theta thoroughly established around the Mill. A U.S. Post Office existed here until several grist mill town post offices were combined into the Gladys Post Office.
MAY 1844 John Organ dies, leaves village ot Theta to his wife Elizabeth. Theta consists of 3 acres, the Grist Mill, a Blacksmith's Shop, a Saw Mill, a Cotton Gin and a store. Elizabeth sells the Mill to her son Holcombe Organ and the Store to C.N. & B.C. Huges.     Deed Book #25 p.291
Researching particulars about John Organ's business dealings is very difficult due to the fact that he served jury duty during almost every session of county court for most of his life. If was considered a duty and a distraction by good citizens of the time. In the early court records all the parties are listed in every case including the members of the jury making it very difficult to determine if a person was a party to a case or simply a juror. I have searched dozens of the court record books and read hundreds of cases searching for more information with no success.

Holcolmb Organ operated the Mill throughout the Civil War and took a great deal of Confederate Currency for his product. Years later his grand daughters remember playing in trunks full of Confederate money. . .

Having been built by an Organ and operated by two generations of Organs for some 75 years you would think the Mill and locality would be known as "Organ's Mill". However, when the first topographical maps were drawn the property happened to be owned by W.C. Mitchell and that is what was put on the map. Since then the Mill and now the road is known as Mitchell's Mill. To confuse things further in about 1828 the store was also known as the Theta Post Office, officially making the village that had grown up around the mill "Theta Virginia".

Jury testimony by Gerard E Johnson 1850 : Original document - click for enlargement

In 1849-50 there apparently was some problem with height of the dam. One Gerard E. Johnson who was on the original 1805 jury that approved the construction of the dam testifies that:
I am of the opinion that the common water mark was the standard from which we measured from . I am satisfied that the number of feet in the report of the Jury was the desired head of water that he desired to get for his mill.
I suspect that Holcomb Organ, the owner at the time wanted to raise the level of the dam and complained that the Jury had not done their job properly.

Click for detail The Township Map made for the 1870 census showed dozens of mills in Campbell Co. Practicaly everywhere a bridge crossed a stream was a mill location. Today there are only three of these mills left. One burned down in the 1960's and is being restored and another has been converted into a bed and breakfast. Ours is the third. In 2001 a flood took Spring Mills near Appotomattox and the covered bridge several miles below us on Senaca Creek.

1975 Flood - old 110 photo FLOODS: In 1928 the Mill survived the "Great Flood" caused by an unnamed hurricane that killed thousands along the East Coast. It washed out numerous bridges in the area including the covered bridge at our mill and the bridge on the Falling River. Plat Book #5, p.74

In 1968 flooding from hurricane Camile damaged the Mill's dry mason stone foundation and washed out the concrete bridge constucted after the 1928 flood. The foundation repaired with concrete block by the then current owner George Carmichael. The bridge was replaced with a new higher steel decked span. In 1975 (see photo) a flood damaged part of the dam next to the mill which had been weakened by the failure of a temporary sluice gate installed by a neighbor. In 1998 another flood raised water levels high enough to flood the first floor of the mill and damaged the foundation again. This reasched the 100 year flood level of 3 feet over the deck of the current bridge.

During the U.S. Civil War the Organs did a great business with the Confererate Army. After the war the family was stuck with tens of thousands of dollars worth of Confederate money. Years later their grandchildren would play in the chests full of worthless notes.

More to come. .


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