My father moved to Millwood in Southeast Collin when I was too young to remember. Millwood was east of Wyie and south of Lavon. I remember back to when I was about 6 years old. We lived in a little log house a short distance east of the cemetery. I have seen several letters written on the early days of Millwood, but none of them have gone far enough back as I am the only one at this place who was here at its beginning. I have, therefore been solicited to write from my own personal memory and observation. However, I may have to mention a few things partly from hearsay.
Now I want to go back to the first sawed lumber that was sawed here. While I don’t remember seeing this saw in operation, I do remember about where it was located on Camp creek, southwest of the present village of Millwood. I have a dim recollection of being in the bottom where some men were at work in the timber. They had dug a big trench or pit in the ground and said that they wee making a location for a hand power mill.
In those days, lumber was scarce and hard to get. So they dug a pit about six feet deep and placed two small logs across it, rolling their large log on those cross-pieces and lined their log bottom and top. One man stood in the pit under the log and one man stood on the log above. They used a saw which resembled a wide cross-cut saw with handles crosswise of the blade of the saw. Each man had to follow the line, bottom and top, up and down, up and down they went. Uncle Dent Helmstetler told me that two good hands could cut 100 feet of lumber in a day. It was a slow process, but they got there just the same. This saw was called a “whip saw.”
Millwood 72 years Ago (1856).
Millwood, at that time, seventy-two years ago, was on the hill south of where Millwood is now located. There were only two residences, one general store and a blacksmith shop. A man by the name of Smith or known as “Uncle Jimmie” Smith, occupied one of those dwellings, and Hiram Boyd the other.
Old Ox Mill.
During those early days, James Smith financed and built a flour mill on the same side of the branch. It stood just across the branch from the place where the last gin stood which was torn down a few years ago. The mill was built by W. G. Dewees. J. W. Foote and D. Helmstetler. Dewees was the boss workman. This mill was run with a large wheel thirty or forty feet in diameter. They place several oxen on one side of this inclined wheel, for it took about eight heavy oxen on the wheel to give it power. The oxen were fastened on the wheel so they could not back off. When the brake was thrown off the wheel began to move and the oxen began to walk. They would walk all day and not gain a foot on their travel. This wheel was finally torn out and a large boiler and engine were installed and it then became a steam mill. There was attached to it a saw for making lumber. This resembled a wide crosscut saw. It ran with an up and down motion. This was called a sash saw. Finally this saw was replaced with a circle-saw, and then lumber could be cut out much more rapidly than before. This mill was burned down when the war cloud began to get dark, and there was talk of the abolitionist of the freedom of the negro.
Just before this occurred a man by the name of Walter Cooley started to build a windmill, but it was never completed. It was thought that he and another man, by the name of Hull, burned the mill, as they left the country. There was also another man who lived here for a short time, by the name of Benly, who was a preacher and an abolitionist. He left here about the same time these other two men did and went West It was reported that he was hanged by a mob in the cross-timbers of Denton county.
Now back to the mill. After the mill was burned the boiler and engine were moved from here and taken to the place known as Fitzhugh mill, southeast of McKinney on Wilson creek. Here is was in service for many years. The Fitzhugh mill was considered the best mill in the country.
Note: M. L. Foot married Mary Ruth Bowman from the Cottonwood area of N E Rowlett in Dallas County, Texas.
By Martin Luther Foote for McKinney Weekly Democrat Gazette, August 15, 1929