Respect for Past Turns Up Grist Mill History

The Sprout, Waldron burr mill'

The Sprout, Waldron burr mill.

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950 Sanderson Road Sardis, Tennessee 38371

On the 4th weekend in September 1995, the Jimmy Sanderson family (my brother) and I held the first Sardis Antique Farm and Home Show. When we invited people to it, most looked at us funny because they had never heard of an antique farm show. To make a long story short, the dust still has not settled and we formed an association that winter. Our motto is 'Restoration, Preservation and Education for Future Generations Is Our goal.' Furthermore we feel that the stories that go with the items of the past are just as important. For this reason we designated two of our older couples as our historic advisors because of how they had encouraged and inspired us with their vast knowledge of the past.

Mr. and Mrs. Ralph White of Reagan have a great amount of hands-on experience in farming in the Midwest. Mr. White even had experience with binders, threshers and steam engines, things that were uncommon in our region when they were being used. People in our region lived off of cotton and corn-bread, farming with horses and mules, and a good number share cropping. Any tractor was not common. Old farmers could still be found farming with teams in the early Sixties.

Our other couple is the Willerd Spains of Scotts Hill. Mr. Spain has done mechanical work all his life, back to his younger days, working on Heath-cock and Rush hit and miss engines that were made in Jackson.

A couple of years ago, Mr. Spain told me 'If only I were five years younger,' referring to being able to do more restoration work for antique showing. This is where my story begins.

In early 1996 Mr. Spain purchased a grist mill that had been in a store basement in Scotts Hill for over 30 years. He took it home, dismantled it, and restored it to operating condition by the summer of 1997. He rebuilt the engine from an MH Mustang, built a two wheel trailer, mounted the engine and grist mill up to run, grew and dried corn, and ground most of it at our show the fourth weekend in September, giving most of it away.

Back in the summer I went to look at the gristmill Mr. Spain had completed. It was unlike any grists mill that I had ever seen. Instead of having a wooden case, it was all metal, a very nice mill. Mr. Spain had only one problem with it he did not know what color to paint it. I asked if it had a serial plate and he showed it to me. I took the batch number, name and location down and told him I would see if I could find out anything. The plate read 'Shop No. 9385 Sprout, Waldron & Company Mill Builders. Pat'd. Dec. 24, 1889, Pat'd. Oct. 6, 1903 Muncy, PA USA.

I started out by getting out the Rand McNally Atlas and finding the small town of Muncy in central Pennsylvania. I called information and asked about a public library and then the city hall. To my surprise, the lady at city hall quickly gave me the number of the company when I asked if she had ever heard of it. I called the number and told them what I was looking for, and I was surprised again when they told me that with the shop number, they could not only find out the color but the mill's history. I called back two weeks later and they put me on conference calling and several people talked with me for some time, including a local man who had restored several of these mills, and he told me it was red in color.

I told Mr. Spain about the color, but not the other information they were looking to surprise him with it. He had already painted it red.

The day after the show, I received a packet from Dale E. Fisher of Sprout-Matador, with a cover letter telling who the mill was made for and when the mill was made and when. It was made for Southern Engineering and Boiler Works in Jackson, Tennessee, June 8, 1914. Also included was a brief history of the company founded about 1866, making hayforks. There was a booklet with full details and pictures of the mill, along with the bill of material lists. We cannot begin to express our sincere appreciation to Mr. Fisher and the Sprout-Matador Company for all their time and effort in researching Mr. Spain's grist mill's history.

I was so excited about the packet that I could not wait to give it to Mr. Spain, so I called my brother and we went to Mr. Spain's home. This was the icing on the cake for Mr. and Mrs. Spain.