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

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.

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