Barton’s Mill

The following article is from the Heritage of Person County. Article 24

In days past sons followed the profession of their fathers. The Bartons are true to that tradition, and have continued the trade of their forefathers.

W A Barton, Sr., son of Thomas Barton, was born and reared in Caswell County, a millwright by profession. He came to Person County in 1853 and purchased about 543 acres of land around an old mill site. There were at this time still signs of the old tub mill that had been in operation many years before. This mill had a dirt dam.

In 1854 Mr. Barton storied the construction of the Old Barton Mill. Because of the crude methods of building at this time it took about two years to complete the structure and install a set of wheat burrs and a set of corn stones. In constructing the building the up and down saw had to be used. The framing had to be hand hewn but looked as if it had been dressed by plane, and the framing was draw-pinned together. A log dam was built to store the water power for the operation of the mill. At the front of the mill a chimney was built with a large open fireplace to heat the building. This fireplace furnished a place for the customers to gather around, parch corn, and tell tales while they waited for their grinding.

As this mill was located in a section where there was no other mill, it was kept busy. The customers brought their grain to mill on horseback and on ox carts.

Having built his mill and started an enterprising business, Mr. Barton's mind turned to thoughts of getting a companion, so in 1860 he married Miss Fannie Rogers, daughter of J.J. Rogers. To this union were born seven children, among them W.A. Barton, Jr.

As business increased, Mr. Barton employed B.J, Gentry, who served as miller for twenty-five years. After the death of W.A. Barton, Sr. in 1903 the mill stood still for two years because of a washed-out dam. In 1905 the mill came into the hands of W.A. Barton, Jr. who built a rock and concrete dam. The patronage increased to the extent that a roller mill and oil engine were installed. Buggies and wagons were replacing the horseback riders and ox carts in transporting the grain to the mill. W.A. Barton and sons were doing the milling at this time, running a day and night shift during the busy season.

In 1922 because of ill health, W.A. Barton turned the mill over to his two sons, W.L and W.R. Barton. At this time a foot more was added to the height of the dam. In 1924 a new race and water house was built and a turbine water wheel was Installed, The old oil engine was torn out and replaced with a 25 H.P. Fairbanks-Morse crude oil engine. Another set of corn rocks was installed also.

Business Expansion

The two young men began to seek broader fields for their products and increased their volume of business by selling merchants meal. A shortage in the corn crop forced the Barton brothers to order corn from the corn area in the West, When the corn arrived, it was carried up two flights of steps by the employees, but necessity soon forced the building of a corn bin and the use of an elevator. This corn was ground and packed in five and ten pound bags. Their first venture out of the county was the sending of a meal to Durham in a Model-T touring car. Following several years of giving unsurpassed quality meal to the public, the Barton Mill trade increased to about 19,000 pounds per week that forced the abandoning of the Model-T touring car for a large truck.

In 1930 W.L Barton and W.R. Barton dissolved partnership and W.L Barton became the proprietor. Business again grew to the point that B.J. Gentry was once more employed and served three years until his health caused him to retire. He was one of the oldest millers in the county. Following his retirement, Mr. Gentry's son, Onslow, served four year's.

Barton's Mill, due to its picturesque setting was also a recreational center. The large birch trees afforded shade for picnic lunches and wiener roasts. There are still signs of arrows and initials placed there by romantic youths of years past. Swimming in the old mill pond was enjoyed by many people.

Mill Destroyed

On May12, 1936 the Old Barton Mill, one of the old landmarks in the county, burned. The slate rock foundation and the old chimney stand as mute evidence of days gone by. On account of the road conditions, the mil) was rebuilt in Helena near the location of the W.L. Barton Store. W.L. Barton Jr. as the fourth generation of Barton millers in Person County continued serving the public under me same slogan, "Business rewards with square dealings."

W.L. Barton married second Annie Dean Monk on October 1,1922. To this union were born Edna Hall Barton (August 15, 1923), Charles Andersen Barton (July 14,1925) and James Lawrence Barton (February 3,1928). W.L. Barton Jr., an older son by a former marriage, married Margaret Tundall of Durham. He decided to go with his uncle Fred Laws with me American Tobacco Company in Richmond, Virginia, later transferring to Durham, N.C. He is still with that company. It was then that Charles and Lawrence quit school and began work with their tamer in the mill and the store, full time, for several years. Then both of them were married and built homes near the store. Charles married Betty Lou Gentry in 1949 and Lawrence married Patricia Rhew in 1951.

On 1958 W L Barton Sr. was getting on in age, so he decided it was time for retiring. It was then he sold the store and mill with all the equipment to the two Barton brothers, Charles and Lawrence, who became the fourth generation of millers. Having finished high school in 1977, Walter Stephen Barton (age 22) a son, and James Lawrence began their careers .as the fifth generation of Bartons in the milling business. They are still plying their trade in the milling business in 1981, serving the public under the same name and the same slogan. "Business rewards with square dealings."

Written by Mrs. Dean Monk (W.L. Sr.) Barton


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