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February 22, 2014 / Joanne Yeck

Diana Mills

Slate-River-Ramblings_Diana-Mills_WinfreyRuins at Diana Mills, Photo by Jeremy Winfrey

Mills in Buckingham County typically carried the name of the landowner or their locale.

Chambers Mills.   Baber’s Mill.   Curdsville Mill.   Slate River Mills.

Who was the Diana of Diana Mills? The name apparently goes back to the early 19th century.

By 1827, there was a post office at Diana Mills. The first recorded postmaster was Clement R. Fontaine, who owned the property. In 1835, there was one dwelling, three stores, and twelve inhabitants living at the mill.

Just before the Civil War, Diana Mills was still owned by the Fontaine family. On January 17, 1860, this advertisement ran in the Staunton Spectator:

AN EXPERIENCED MILLER WANTED – Who can come well recommended for honesty, industry and sobriety. Liberal wages will be given. A single man is wanted. Apply immediately to
WM. J. FONTAINE,
Diana Mills, January 17, 1860. Buckingham, Va.

That year, Fontaine owned real estate valued at $9,000. The mill couldn’t be entrusted to just anyone.  Did the previous miller have a drinking problem?

Apparently nobody fit for the job answered the advertisement. In July of 1860, William J. Fontaine, age 26 and married, was enumerated on the Federal Census as a miller, with no assistant.

Special thanks to Jeremy Winfrey for his ongoing investigations of Diana Mills.

21 Comments

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  1. Jeff Whorley / Sep 27 2016 9:16 pm

    My geat grandfather Archibald Carlisle Snoody ran a store on the mill property in the early part of the 20th century. I am told that he and my great grandmother Cora Hoyt Bransford Snoddy lived in a house on the hill above before building their house nearby.

    • Joanne Yeck / Sep 28 2016 7:10 am

      Jeff, Thanks for your comment. I’m always eager to learn more the Diana Mills neighborhood. Several of my families lived nearby and relied on services at the mills during the 19th century. Joanne

    • Barbara Mayer / Jul 26 2021 9:10 pm

      I remember Hoyt Snoddy, and knew her daughter, the beautiful Hoyt, her namesake. They were Bransfords, as was my grandmother Maud Bransford. Hoyt, the daughter married Charles Amos, but they had no children.
      I remember hearing that the elder Hoyt Snoddy had testified to seeing Jesus in that house. I believe it. Her house was really off the beaten path, and maybe she was lonely, although later, my aunt lived nearby. It was my aunt who foster raised two boys, one of whom was Charles who married Hoyt. He died just this last year. They were a handsome couple.

  2. Kathie Phelps Mann / Nov 12 2015 7:48 am

    Named after Diana Phelps? Wouldn’t that be fun to prove? I loved your first book. Plan on getting the second one soon.

    • Joanne Yeck / Nov 12 2015 8:04 am

      Kathie, I still don’t know the origin of Diana Mills’ name. Could be Diana Phelps. Thanks for your kind word about “At a Place Called Buckingham.” Enjoy Volume Two! Joanne

  3. Fran Harris-Hill / Feb 22 2014 5:42 pm

    Does anyone know the exact location? Thanks.

    • Joanne Yeck / Feb 23 2014 9:08 am

      Fran, Diana Mills is on the Slate River, west and a bit south of Arvonia, near the crossroads of today’s Diana Mills Road and Spreading Oaks Road. I will follow up with a map. Thanks for asking.

      • Fran Harris-Hill / Feb 24 2014 10:06 am

        I’ve seen it referenced in a couple different locations and never really knew. Thanks so much, Joanne.

      • Joanne Yeck / Feb 24 2014 10:10 am

        Fran, My pleasure. Joanne

      • Barbara Mayer / Jul 26 2021 9:01 pm

        That is correct. I have posted a more detailed description also

    • Barbara Mayer / Jul 26 2021 8:35 pm

      Yes. We spent wonderful summers there with my grandparents and cousins.. My grandmother was Maude Bransford Self. The property was originally a very large plantation owned by the Bransfords. The original manor house burned or was burnt as were so many Southern manors due to various causes. The property passed through several hands, but was bought by my parents Daniel Bowman and Hallie L Bransford Self Bowman, and was lived in by my grandparents Mr and Mrs. Thompson Self after their house also burned. Prior to that, some girl had committed suicide from the second story window. Was that Diana ?
      The bluff house was the former caretaker’s or miller’s house situated on the bluff overlooking the Mill and the river. A huge torrent took out the dam. After the death of my grandparents, my mother sold the 600 acres remaining to a pine tree farm company. There was a lovely truss bridge over the Slate River there which the county removed and replaced with a generic span.
      The Mill was dismantled by a Maxey who planned to rebuild and restore it. When I checked, the remains had become unsalvagible.
      Another note, my mother installed a grand piano in the living room, and later found out that that piano had been salvaged from the original Bransford plantation manor. ! It had a lovely tone, but was always out of tune.

      • Joanne Yeck / Jul 27 2021 6:51 am

        Barbara,

        Many thanks for your sharing your memories of Diana Mills.

        Joanne

    • Barbara Mayer / Jul 26 2021 8:58 pm

      Yes, at that crossroad. My family owned Diana Mills twice. Once my grandmother’s family, the Bransfords, and years later my parents. We spent summers there. It is unrecognizable now. The truss bridge is gone, the Mill is gone. The caretake’s house overlooking the river is gone. The country store is gone, as is the barn. The only dwelling left last time I went by was Renna’s house back a ways from the store.
      My sister, cousins and I used to ride our horses with Mary and Christine. Renna’s daughters. I had an American Saddlebred, and we also rodeG Dad’s work horseFanny, and some workhorse crosses all over that area.

  4. Nancy Davies Mickles / Feb 22 2014 12:21 pm

    When I was growing up, my father would speak of Diana Mills often. He pronounced it as though it was spelled “Dinah” Mills. I am sure that was just a local pronunciation. He didn’t speak of the history of it, but he enjoyed fishing and probably fished in a nearby stream. He fished a lot. Not only did he enjoy it, but it put food on the table for their large family. I wish I had asked more question of the older generation. So often there are questions with no answers. My father would be 107 this year.

    • Joanne Yeck / Feb 22 2014 2:42 pm

      Nancy, You are correct. The local pronunciation is “Dinah” Mills. It has made me wonder if the mills’ namesake was actually Dinah . . .

      • neddy / Mar 24 2014 7:54 am

        The old-timers were probably saying “Diana” but in Virginia the stress was almost always on the first syllable of a word so that the sound of the middle syllable would be almost swallowed. We moderns tend to say words like “Diana” with the stress on the middle syllable.

      • Joanne Yeck / Mar 24 2014 8:53 am

        Thanks for the reminder that pronunciations can change over time.

      • Barbara Bowman Mayer / Jul 26 2021 8:40 pm

        It was D I As in DI nuh . mills, and the S on the “ Mills” was painted backwards.

    • Barbara Mayer / Jul 26 2021 8:47 pm

      There was fishing from the top of the Diana Mills dam. I once saw the biggest snapping turtle you ever saw be caught and dispatched by some black boys who were fishing on the Mill dam. That was before a flood took out the dam. We used to watch huge fierce torrents bring whole trees down the Slate river there during storms. We watched from the living room window or the porch.

Trackbacks

  1. Buckingham Mills: Diana Mills | slate river ramblings . . . .
  2. The Ruins of Diana Mills | slate river ramblings . . . .

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