DAD BREWER’S GRIST MILL


My husband’s father, Jarrell H. Brewer was working in Atlanta when he met Dick’s mother Grace Hamby Brewer from Clayton. She was a school teacher in Raymond near West Point, Georgia where she boarded with the Brewer family.  Mr. Brewer, fondly known to me in later years as Dad Brewer, ran a water wheel grist mill on the back waters of Stekoa Creek which flows along and near to Highway 441 by- passing the town of Clayton.  In the early 1930s he heard that Austin Carnes a farmer in Wolffork Valley had field corn to sell.  Back in those days people got up before the crack of dawn to start their daily chores.  Mr. Brewer hitched a team of mules to his wagon at 5:30 a.m. and set out on the approximate two hour trip from Clayton to Wolffork Valley to purchase corn from Mr. Carnes.  Mr. Brewer arrived at the Carnes home as they were eating breakfast.  When he returned to his home in Clayton, my husband Richard remembers him telling of his journey to the Carnes home where he saw more children in one house than he had ever seen at one home before in his entire life.
 

I am thinking there were probably nine or ten of my parent’s twelve children still living at home in the early thirties, there may have been some grandchildren there also, as they visited a lot when I was a child.  I am sure though that Dad Brewer was invited to eat breakfast with us.

 
He purchased a wagon load of the corn, still in shucks, and hauled it back to his mill in Clayton.  There he shucked and shelled the corn off of the cob.  Then he would grind the corn into corn meal and grits measure them into paper bags each holding a peck, and sell those to the public when they came by wanting either or both for the big price of 25 cents per bag.

  
Grocery store owners in Clayton and farmers in the area would bring their shelled corn to Dad Brewer to grind for them.  After grinding the meal and/or grits they would be placed into peck bags and sealed either with glue on paper or tied with a string.  Richard was at a very young age, but he was the delivery boy who took the finished products to the store owners ready for sale. He remembers how proud he was as a little boy to drive the delivery wagon pulled by his favorite ole’ mule named Belle.  Dad Brewer also ground wheat and rye into flour for the public.  This flour was ground in the same way as corn, but required longer grinding to make it the correct texture.  Richard remembers his mother cooking wheat and rye flour into bread, and mixing each with white flour.


In the early days of Rabun County the only employment was either: Farming, Logging or Making Moonshine.  Corn was one of the main ingredients used in making moonshine. The bootleggers would take shelled corn, place it in a flour sack, tied with a string, and put it down into a creek for the corn to sprout.  If the water was swift, the sack would have a longer string tied onto the bag then tied around a bush to keep it from floating down the creek.


When the corn had sprouted enough, it was taken out of the water and spread thinly into shallow containers to dry.  After drying the corn was taken to the mill and ground into malt which was added to other ingredients to make the moonshine.  All of this procedure was time consuming and Dad Brewer was paid cash for this work.  He would also have to grind a half bushel of dry corn after the sprouted corn had been ground, this was the way he cleaned the grinder.  The bootleggers would either bring this half bushel of corn for cleaning or pay Dad Brewer extra for this task.  This cleaning corn could only be used to feed the hogs or cattle as it did not have a good flavor.

 
When people took corn to the mill to be ground, a bushel would be poured into the hopper, Dad Brewer had a measuring box and he would take out two of these boxes full which totaled one-eighth (1/8) of the bushel.  This eighth was called a toll, and this was his pay for grinding the corn.  He kept a large barrel there to pour his toll corn into.  He ground this corn separately and packaged it in the peck bags and sold those to his customers.  This toll is the reason that a bushel of shelled corn weighed 56 pounds and a bushel of corn meal weighed 48 pounds. We do not have the price of corn in the shuck during those days, but the going price for a bushel of shelled corn was $1.00 which was also considered as a working man’s daily wage.

2003  Carolyn Carnes Brewer

Rabun Ramblings