The Saw Mill and Box Factory at Floyds Knobs, Then, and Now

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The following story, written in 1962 by the late Marshall R. Smith, is on file in the Indiana Room of the New Albany-Floyd Co. (Indiana) Public Library. Sent to us by Mark A. Corson, 9374 Roosevelt Street, Crown Point, Indiana 46307-1840.

As far as can be ascertained, the first steam powered saw-mill was put in operation at Floyd Knobs about the year 1890 by David Meriweather and his two sons, Claud and Herbert, using a small stationary boiler and a small open mill carriage with no roof or covering over it. It wasn't operated regularly, but only when farmers or land owners hauled logs to the yard to be sawed into lumber, house or bam patterns. The mill was located a few hundred yards south of Floyd Knobs on the bank of Indian Creek where plenty of water was obtainable, and where the present mill now stands. The original mill operated by Uncle Dave, as he was known, was a rather crude affair. There was no elevator to carry the sawdust from the saw, so a big hole or pit was dug under the circular saw and when it filled with sawdust the mill was shut down, while a man with a scoop shovel got down into the pit and shoveled out the sawdust; this procedure led to a tragic or near tragic incident.

One day when the pit under the saw became full of sawdust the steam was shut off and Claud Meri weather, Uncle Dave's son, jumped into the pit with a shovel, but he was in too big a hurry, for the big circular saw hadn't quite slowed down to a stop and it caught the right sleeve of his coat and mangled his arm to such an extent that it had to be amputated. There were no hospitals closer than Louisville, or telephones in Floyd Knobs, so a doctor was brought out from New Albany in a horse-drawn buggy. Mrs. John Herb operated a grocery and saloon in Floyd Knobs at the time, so Claud was placed on the saloon counter and the operation got underway. In passing we might say that Claud survived and lived on for many years.

Shortly after this, Uncle Dave discontinued the operation of the mill, and for a couple of years there was no mill there. Then, about 1900 a man by the name of Frank A. Best opened up a small country feed store in an old wooden building which stood where the big concrete block building at the corner of Highway 150 and Scottsville Road now stands. It now houses the post office, a barber shop, lunch room, a modern serve-yourself grocery, and four living apartments. Frank A. Best put this building up in 1907. He needed a lot of heavy timber for its inner construction and for a large horse and storage barn and out-buildings, so he bought the old mill site and several acres of land adjoining it, also a new and more modern saw-carriage. A young man by the name of Albert Naville owned a steam powered traction engine at the time, so Mr. Best hired him to operate the mill with his engine, and after buying logs from surrounding timber owners, he soon had lumber enough for himself, and quite a bit to sell on the side, and it wasn't long before the demand was greater than he could supply. Frank A. Best was a far-sighted man, and looking ahead into the future, he decided on a gamble. He scrapped his little mill and bought a big stationary steam boiler and engine, installed it, erected a building over it and got into the saw-mill business in a big way when orders began coming in for Floyd Knobs hardwood from many parts of the country. About 1935 F. A. Best took a younger brother, Charles Best, into the business as a partner to operate the mill, while he himself looked after his other interests. At this time, the fruit growers around Floyds Knobs were shipping out thousands crates of strawberries and raspberries every day during the berry season, and naturally the lumber mill got into the business of manufacturing berry crates and containers, and before long a hundred and twenty thousand were turned out yearly and sold throughout Southern Indiana and Kentucky. At about this time F. A. Best died suddenly while in Florida, and his son, John O. Best, took over the operation of the big store, while Charles Best operated the mill and crate and box factory.

Then, about the year 1955 disaster stuck. The mill caught fire one night and burned to the ground. It was a complete loss and all the machinery was rendered useless, and all that was saved were the logs in the yard and a storage shed. By this time Charles Best had retired and had turned the mill and factory over to his two sons to operate.

But they were not to be stopped. The ruins of the old steam operated mill were cleared away and today a new and modern mill powered with electricity is in operation, but the box factory was discontinued. Today, hardwood lumber from Floyds Knobs is delivered to hardwood mills and furniture factories throughout the country.

But we miss the lazy curl of blue wood smoke from the tall smoke stack of the older mill and the deep-throated sound of the old mill whistle, morning, noon, and evening.