Chapter VII -- Early Day Milling, Building & Manufacture

Our early day mills for grinding corn were of very rude construction and were run by water mostly. Aunt Betsy McClendon was once the owner of one which stood near where the depot at DeQueen now stands, on Little Bear Creek, but as there was seldom water enough to run it, it was changed into what was called a horse mill; that is, it was run by horse power, provided the customer furnished the horse. This mill soon proved to be more of a nuisance than a benefit to the community and was soon out of use.

Another one built lower down on Bear Creek proved a failure and followed Aunt Betsy's ill-fated venture in the milling business. The failure of these two enterprises threw us back on the old time steel mill and we had to grind our corn by hand. These old steel mills were made, as the name implies, of steel after the fashion of a large coffee mill, with a handle on each side by which it was turned. It was bolted to a post which had been securely placed in the ground. The hopper of this mill was like a funnel and would hold something like a gallon. In selecting corn to grind in these mills we would select the softest ears, grind a bucketful of it coarse, sift out the finer meal, screw up the mill a little tighter, grind and sift again until the corn was converted into meal. This was a rather slow process but cost us nothing but hard labor and perspiration.

Most of our floors were called puncheon floors. These were flat slabs split from pine trees and hewn and joined together, and I have seen some very good floors made from these puncheons, but no comparison to the floors of today. Our next best were made from lumber sawed with the old two-man whipsaw. The log was rolled up on a low scaffold. After having it squared it was lined off with a blackening line to the desired thickness. One of the operators stood on the log and the other in the ditch underneath the scaffold, the lower end of the saw having a cross handle; the man on the top of the scaffold guiding the saw to follow his lines and pulling it down. In this way two good sawyers could turn out two hundred feet of passable one inch boards per day.

During these early days of high prices this writer paid ten dollars for an ounce of quinine and considered himself lucky to get it, at that. After removal of the enormously high tariff quinine dropped to three dollars an ounce and people almost considered it a newly acquired privilege to have chills.

I remember when it was first proposed in Congress to remove the tariff from quinine. The few newspapers we would get gave accounts of the fight that Powers & Weightman, Manufacturing Chemists of Philadelphia, were putting up against it. They claimed that it would put them out of business, and their plant would become useless. It was not long after this tariff bill was passed however until the papers gave it out that Powers & Weightman were increasing their capacity, and the old firm is still doing business at the same old stand at the present time.

Newspapers were higher then than now by fifty percent, and the subscriber had to pay the postage on top of the subscription price, which on a small paper was twenty six cents per year in advance. Letter postage was three cents for each half ounce or fraction, prepaid with stamps after the present style.

I remember one of our enterprising postmasters with an eye to business, for a while after the war, charged five cents for a three cent stamped envelope, giving as his reason that the Post Office was unrenumerative, and that he had to have pay from some source for serving the people. Later Uncle Sam let him off by his promising to be good in the future.

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