Bunker Hill Grist Mill - Cline and Chapman Roller Mill, Bunker Hill West Virginia
As many as 13 grist and saw mills once operated along Mill Creek near Bunker Hill, West Virginia. At the site of the Bunker Hill Mill, water power was used to grind flour from 1735 until 1964 making it one of the oldest mills along the creek. At present, the Bunker Hill Mill is the sole surviving Mill Creek mill.
The original mill was built by Thomas Anderson who had migrated from New York in 1735 after acquiring 542 acres of land along Mill Creek. Three years later Anderson sold the mill and 271 acres of adjacent land to his son Colbert. The mill property remained in the Anderson family until 1804 when Colbert Anderson Jr. exchanged the mill and 32 acres of adjoining property for 2,131 acres of Kentucky farmland.
After leaving the Anderson family, the mill passed through the hands of a succession of different owners. The major change to the mill property was the addition of a large brick residence built by owner Alfred Ross in 1851. At the time Ross owned the property, his mill was one of 13 water-powered grist or sawmills located along Mill Creek. In 1856, Ross, deeply in debt, was forced to sell the mill and the adjacent acreage. Samuel Matthews and Henry Zollickoffer bought the property and engaged George T. Legg to operate the mill. Legg ran the mill with the assistance of one or, on infrequent occasions, two mill hands. Mill help received 75 cents for a full 12 hour day and earned $200 if employed for the full year.
Under a 17 foot head, the mill's tandem overshot water wheels produced a total of 30 horsepower when turning at six rpm. As many as 300 bushels of wheat could be ground into flour in a single full day. Normal flour grinding required running the wheat through the stones three times. Three-quarters of the mill's output was flour for the commercial market, the remaining quarter being custom grinding for local farmers. Between June 1, 1879 and May 31, 1880, for example, Legg and his helper ground 22,000 bushels of wheat, valued at $19,800, into approximately 4,000 barrels of flour. The mill also ground 1,000 bushels of rye and barley, produced 54,000 pounds (27 tons) of corn meal, and mixed 332,000 pounds (166 tons) of livestock feed. The total value of the mill's output was $25,790. With raw grain valued at $20,200, the mill's owners were left with $5,590 to pay wages, buy mill supplies, and purchase and maintain the mill's diverse stock of machinery.
Despite all of this activity the mill did not operate full time all year. Nine months of the year the mill operated at three-fourths of capacity and during three months the mill worked at only 50 percent of capacity. As a commercial mill, the inability to operate at full capacity throughout the year contributed to the financial difficulties experienced by the mill's numerous owners; the frequent changes in ownership attest to the difficulities of keeping the mill profitable. For example, Legg purchased the mill from Matthews and Zollickoffer in June 1881 but; sold it a mere three months later. On three occasions the mill was sold as a result of a Chancery Court order. Other Mill Creek, millers must have experienced similar financial difficulties because by 1880 only four other grist mills, all doing custom grinding for local farmers, still operated on Mill Creek. One of those four mills, like the Legg mill, was powered by tandem water wheels.
In 1887, a fire destroyed the building, leaving only the stone walls standing. The Martinsburg Statesman reported: "The flames are said to be the largest ever seen in this place. The ruin is visited daily by large numbers." By November of the same year, however, the mill was almost completely rebuilt and being readied for the resumption of operations under the supervision of miller Legg.
After the mill was sold once again in 1888, it changed hands twice before being acquired by Samuel S. Cline in 1906. Cline employed James Chapman as his miller at a wage, in 1910, of $400 per year. From 1910 until 1921, when Chapman purchased the property, the mill was known as the Cline and Chapman Roller Mill. During this time period the mill ground wheat into flour for the commercial market; processed oats, rye, and barley; ground and cracked corn; and mixed animal feed. Additional income came from the sale of seed wheat, apple cider, pigs, shingles and planks cut at the mill, coal, and water cress grown in the mill pond. Cash, a percentage of the grain ground into flour, and fruits and berries were all accepted as payment for the products and services sold by Cline and Chapman. On one occasion, a dentist extracted a tooth in exchange for flour.
The increased demand for flour during World War I brought orders from merchants as far away as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Flour destined for markets outside of the Martinsburg area was carted to the Cumberland Valley Railroad line running through the village of Bunker Hill. Business was conducted from the small office on the first floor where the mill's only source of heat, a coal stove, was located.
Despite the mill's small size, lack of a railroad siding, and frequent changes in ownership, it operated until 1964.