Keith Mason's 106 year old L. Spence steam engine;
P.O. Box 1754, Clarksburg, West Virginia 26302.
'Mason & Company' is what I call them-a group of guys that joined our club in the spring of '89. They are headed up by Keith Mason along with Jed Mitchell, Gerold Corder, Jack Clayton, George Fizer, Tom Proud. Every Wednesday evening, they meet at Mason's Machine Shop to saw lumber with an old portable 48 HP Frick steam engine. They also run a narrow gauge railroad that you can ride. They had an interesting set-up at our show that featured a rare 6 HP L Spence steam engine and a 10 HP Spang mounted on the original baling rig. George brought an item called a 'Velocipede'. It looks like a wooden bicycle with an outrigger and is used to ride on the rails.
Club members Mark Ware, Russ Carlomany, Mark Sandy, Larry Grinnan and Bob Fultz restored an old 'Parmaco' 18 HP oil well pumping engine in time to get it to the show. Built by Parkersburg Machine Company, it may be the only one left in existence. It was something to watch on the last day when the fuel pressure got low. It would run about three revolutions in one direction and then reverse itself.
Our engine show is held on Labor Day weekend at Jackson's Mill 4-H Camp. This year we had 80 exhibitors from 8 states and 225 engines on display. We had a good turnout from the Wood County Fly wheelers and our friends from Pennsylvania. We also had five families from the Florida Fly wheelers and one couple from California. It is hard to recognize everyone, but we send our appreciation to all of you. President Danny Marshall and his wife handled the four day registration.
Jackson's Mill is under the directorship of Bill Frye, who also sits on the Jubilee board of directors. The Stonewall Jackson Heritage Arts & Crafts Jubilee has been a great help in sponsoring our engine show. The Jubilee is a four-day event consisting of Civil War demonstrations, glass blowing, photography exhibits, quilting, and some of West Virginia's finest craftsmen.
Jackson's Mill was the boyhood home of Confederate General 'Stonewall' Jackson. It is a beautiful park located in the western foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and still houses the old original Jackson Grist Mill. Blaker Mill is another old mill that was moved to the park and is being restored.
Blaker Mill, originally located in Greenbrier County in southern West Virginia, is a three-story wood braced frame structure, with stone foundation and basement walls, built in the early nineteenth century. Some local historians claim the mill was erected in 1796, but research indicates a date closer to 1819, when Jacob Hock-man, builder of the mill, purchased the land on which it was constructed.
Jacob and Mary Hockman were parents of three daughters, Mary, Elizabeth and Susan. Susan married George Lewis, a son in a family which moved into the Muddy Creek area sometime between 1801 and 1807. George was apparently a miller, and may have been working for Mr. Hockman, since Susan and George inherited the mill in 1842. One of the Lewis's daughters, also named Susan, married John Blaker.
John's son, James L. Blaker, was the last of the family to operate the mill. According to William Anderson, the last miller to work Blaker Mill, the mill ground feed for the last time in the mid-1950's. James Blaker died in 1962 at the age of 92.
Paul D. Marshall, architect, from Charleston, West Virginia, was contracted to develop plans for relocation and restoration of the mill which was donated to the state of West Virginia in 1984 by Robert Hockman Blaker of Wilmington, Delaware.
A volunteer concept of labor was developed due to lack of sufficient capital improvement funds to complete the work by professional contracting firms. Paul D. Marshall & Associates' contract was changed to the new role of construction manager and Richmond 'Sam' Houston was contracted to act as project superintendent.
Wayne McCord, Carl Bryant, Lawrence Malson and Bob Fish are four of the group of volunteers from the Wheeling, West Virginia, area who have worked on this project from the beginning to the present day, doing everything from digging ditches to rebuilding timbers, disassembly, reconstruction, fabricating components, forming and pouring concrete and building stone walls. The mean age of this group is 82 years with the eldest at 86 and the youngest at 74. I met these gentlemen at a pig roast and apple butter weekend hosted by Peggy Doyle and her husband at their farm. Mrs. Doyle is the executive director of the Stonewall Jackson Jubilee.
Two 50 HP twin cylinder Bruce-Macbeth natural gas engines donated to the project by the Clarksburg Water Board will be used to pump water from the West Fork River up to the mill pond north of the mill building and also recirculate water when the mill turbine is operating.
These engines were crated and moved by the volunteers.
As to completion of the mill, no date has been established, since the funding is partially based on donations and availability of state funds for shop work on damaged iron mill machinery, contracts for in-ground concrete work for pump house, dam face, intake structure etc., some wood material and availability of volunteers. If the stars align themselves properly, the mill could be put into operation this year-1990.
January marked the date that another old engine left our area. It was a 250 HP four cylinder Bruce-Macbeth. Weighing over 35 tons, it was a beautiful engine, standing about 12 feet tall and about 25 feet long. It was installed in the Clarksburg Water Plant in 1918. After a bad flood in 1985 that completely covered the plant, this engine was the first to start up while the new electric motors were being cleaned. The old girl really showed herself.
Jim Wells bought the engine and moved it to his home in Greenville, West Virginia. Jim is also restoring Cooks Mill, an old wooden frame three story grist mill. Cooks Mill is located in a picturesque valley near Greenville, just outside of Lewisburg, West Virginia. Jim is planning an engine and craft show sometime in June.
Watch for North Central West Virginia Antique Power Association's ads in GEM and the Show Directory. Come see us in Wild Wonderful West Virginia!