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April 21, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Mills: Payne’s Mill, Part II

SRR_Mary Payne_1954_2

The profile of Mary Payne which ran in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1954 was indeed unusual. It not only characterized Mary as a rare female miller in mid-century central Virginia, but also provided a picturesque portrait of life in Buckingham County. The article entitled, “Buckingham County’s Woman Miller Finds ‘Daily Grind’ Just a Lot of Fun,” remains delightful.

Click here to catch up: Buckingham Mills: Payne’s Mill, Part I


Correspondent Hamilton Crockford continued:

Worked All Right

It worked all right, she said. The children went to school then in a one-room schoolhouse built right on the farm by an earlier Payne. “If they didn’t do right, I’d make it up to them at night. – I could watch them right out of the window of this mill,” she chuckled.

Since 1922

“I’ve been running it (the mill) now ever since 1922.”

Customers? – “Oh, my goodness, we get them from almost to Charlottesville and Albemarle; from Buckingham, a lot from Fluvanna. . . . They used to come on ox carts. Now a lot put the bag on the back of a horse and ride in. Sometimes they come at night. We have to turn on the lights. We operate any time they come. Nearly every day there someone.”

She laughed again. “Right now, people come to the house and say, ‘I wonder if I could get a little meal ground.’ When I tell them I’ll be down in a few minutes, they look at me like they wonder who is coming down.”

It’s Mary Payne, all right. Said her daughter: “I can turn the water on and off, I haven’t learned about the stone.”

Does It All

Mrs. Payne does it all. – “I can sharpen those stones, too,” she smiled. “I do it now.” The only time she has had any male help is once every six months when she does sharpen them, she says. She has to have a man to lift the big stone. – “But I ‘pick’ the stones – pick those little holes in the surface to make the stones rough so the meal will grind right, you know.”

AND THE MEAL? – “I like it so fine and clean,” she said. AND THE MILL? – It’s the most clean-swept mill you ever saw.

And Mrs. Payne? “I don’t want to keep house,” she said. “I have a good time outside.”

Don’t talk to her about the grind. Just watch her dust.


Know more about the school house at Payne’s? Please comment.

Many thanks to the Payne family for saving and sharing this wonderful article!

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