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January 8, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

Industry in Buckingham County

Buckingham_Nicholas-MillThe ruins of Nicholas Mills.  Photo by Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County was not without industry. In addition to the mining of gold and slate the Gazetteer of the United States (1854), records that “There were 2 flour and grist mills, 3 saw mills, and 1 tannery.”  The 1850 industrial census helps us identify the families behind the statistics.

One of the flour mills was operated by “R.C. Nicholas and Bros.”  In 1850, their enormous water-powered mill employed ten men. Carroll M. Shepard owned the grist mill. The saw mills were owned by Nicholas & Aldridge, Samuel F. Putney, and Carroll M. Shepard. Collectively they employed seventeen men. S.F. Putney also employed one woman; there is no indication as to the nature of her work. William E. Worsham operated the tannery, employing three men. Over the course of ten months, they tanned 1000 sides of leather.

Those familiar with Buckingham County surnames will recognize these families. R.C. Nicholas also operated a store at the mill near where the Slate River flows into the James River. In 1850, S.F. Putney is described as a “lumber master.” Residing with him is an overseer, James Ferguson, and an engineer, Robert Layne. Living nearby the twenty-nine-year-old S.F. Putney, is the thirty-five-year-old Isaac B. Putney, millwright.

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