Florence Milling Company

Rebrand Florence Partnership

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The Florence Milling Company

After working several years in the grain industry in Columbia, Tennessee, T. J. Rea, J.J. Fleming and T.J.’s son J.C. Rea. opened the Florence Milling Company’s doors for business on August 12, 1898. They already had enough business lined up to run the mill for 60 days straight. Built as a roller-grain mill (as opposed to a millstone-based mill) that specialized in milling both wheat and corn, the Florence Milling Company had storage enough to keep 25,000 bushels of grain and their facility was three stories of the most technologically advanced milling techniques available at the time.

The American Miller was an industry magazine written for those in the milling industry. The magazine was based out of Chicago, and in the September 1, 1898 issue, the featured the Florence Milling Company. The Florence Milling Company was featured because, at the time, it was a state-of-the-art facility using the latest in patented roller-milling technology.

The following is an excerpt from the American Miller that was syndicated in the September 23, 1898 issue of the Florence Times.

Our New Flour Mill

A great plant for our town and country — First-class in machinery and arrangement

[From the American Miller, Chicago, Sept. 1]
Northern Alabama has long since passed out of the influence of the old days, and there is no part of our country more thoroughly up-to-date than this hill country of Alabama, which in less than twenty years has substantially revolutionized American iron-making, and now is entering upon an era of steel-making, the economic outcome of which no man is farseeing enough to now foretell. The spirit of enterprise has taken possession of all classes, and while we read on the one hand of Alabama’s conquests in the field of manufacturers, on the other we are told of immense crops growing and harvested, corn standing at 124, hogs at 112, workstock at 104, field peas at 116, and minor crops, like peanuts, at 103, sweet potatoes at 97, sorghum at 134, peaches at 137, and so on, all along the line down to cotton at 112, on August 1. Alabama has never been a wheat State, but in these latter days of rational farming in the South, the farmers of the northern part of the State more particularly have been turning their attention to growing more cereals and less 5-cent cotton; and this year, we are told, more wheat was grown in that part of the State than in any year since the Civil War. Lauderdale county, of which the busy manufacturing city of Florence is the chief town, has a notably large wheat crop, so that the new mill of the Florence Milling Company, recently finished and started up August 12, will not only be able to get wheat near at home, but will make a good market for the farmers, so that both will be mutually benefitted.

Florence Milling Company - Florence Times - july 15, 1898The Florence Milling Company, a picture of whose fine new mill decorates this page, is composed of Messrs. T. J. Rea, J.J. Fleming and J.C. Rea. The last named is the manager of the business, the other partners being engaged in the grain business at Columbia, Tenn., where they have handled grain for a number of years. This combination of elements promises a successful business career for the new firm, as a natural sequence of the previous successful careers of the proprietors. Mr. J.C. Rea is a son of T.J. Rea, and has for some years past been actively identified with the management of the Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank at Columbia. He is energetic and pushing, so that when he started his mill he had plenty of wheat on hand and orders enough to keep the mill running for at least sixty days.

The mill is a substantial brick building 50×100 on the ground and three stories high, with basement. It is build on the slow-burning construction plan, and has its engine room and cooper shop attached on the left. The mill machinery was furnished by the well known J.B. Allfree Mfg. Co. of Indianapolis, and is constructed upon the Allfree Gravity System. The rolls for both wheat and corn are placed in steel columns build especially for this purpose and set on foundations independent of the mill building.

Briefly describing the mill, it may be said that the first floor contains four pairs of 9×30 rolls for wheat and two pairs of 9×20 rolls for corn, also one Mowrer Degerminator, bran and ships dusters, four packers for flour, meal and bran, and an 80-bushel hopper scale. The second floor contains four pairs of 9×30 rolls for wheat and two pairs of 9×20 rolls for corn, two Allfree Purifiers, with dust collectors attached, one Case Purifyer, two Invincible Wheat Scourers, and flour and meal bins. On the third floor are two paris 9×30 rolls, two Allfree Sifters, two Allfree Centrifugal Reels, three Allfree Meal Bolting and one Allfree Aspirating Reels, one Allfree Receiving Separator for 600 bushels per hour and three large Morse Dust Collectors, having all told a capacity of 200 barrels on wheat and 300 barrels on corn.

One of the characteristic features of the mill, which millers will readily appreciate, is the arrangement of the breaks and break scalpers. The wheat steamer is placed on top of one of the roll columns, with the four breaks and break scalpers arranged immediately below, one under the other, so that the actual time consumed for bran to reach the duster after leaving the steamer is only about fifteen seconds, whereas in the ordinary mill with four breaks it would take about fifteen minutes, this effect of the tempering being lost before reaching the second break. The mill contains also a one-man, self-lifting elevator for the convenience of the miller and one large freight elevator for handling the product.

On the second and third floor is a space fifty feet square on the south end of the building, in which has been build eight storage bins, capable of holding 25,000 bushels of grain. Ample facilities for handling grain from the cars at either end of the building are provided by means of large belt carriers which deliver the grain to the receiving elevators, separators, etc. Power is furnished by one 16×24 automatic balance valve Atlas Engine, with two 100 horsepower tubular boilers of the Armstrong pattern.

In the selection of the machinery the manager was assisted by Mr. Eugene Guest, their very competent head miller, while the installation was superintended by Mr. H.G. Shafer, whose careful workmanship is evidenced by the high finish of the plant, which in general convenience and quantity and quality of product has so far proved highly satisfactory to its owners.

The Mill’s shipping facilities are first class, having the Southern R.R. track directly in front and the Louisville & Nashville Railroad track immediately in the rear, while back of the trees in the background of the picture, scarcely a stone’s throw distant, is the Tennessee river, open to navigation all the year round. To the left of the picture , it may be interesting to know, are seen the cupolas of the big iron furnace, one of the characteristic establishments of Florence.

Rogersville, AL – Keeping up with the Procession

An 1894 editorial from a Rogersville, Alabama citizen identified only as “Aleck” gives quite a humorous account of two boys in Rogersville who jointly purchase a bicycle and attempt to impress their girlfriends. Read the entire account below:

An 1890s bicycle advertisement found in the Florence Times
An 1890s bicycle advertisement found in the Florence Times

“Our town is trying to keep up with the times. Messrs. Ed Hurn and J.B. Foster have bought them a bicycle, between them. Mr. H. came in from Courtland with it Saturday night. As soon as he got here the boys began to ride it all night, and Sunday morning, bright and early I noticed quite a crowd of children congregated on all the streets, ranging in ages from two to fifty years. I ventured to see the cause, thinking, maybe, the thieves had visited us again, but I found that the boys were still riding. Each of these boys, (like myself, and other boys,) have a “best girl,” and they wanted to visit said girls that morning, on their wheel, so they had to practice all night, to be able to do so. Mr. H’s girl lives near by, so he rode up to see her, and while he made his call, Mr. T. got it and rode about three miles to see his girl, but he was so charmed with his wheel, that he only stayed about ten minutes, and then returned the wheel to Mr. H. This bicycle is a very unruly one, judging from the scars on the boys and the blood on the streets. It has thrown several of the boys, and if it can get them off no other way, it lies down with them.

We have been thinking of making a telephone link to Centre Star, and connect with the line there, but since these two young men have got a bicycle, we have abandoned the idea, we will send all our messages by wheel. After Mr. H. has run a few more nights he thinks he can get there as quick as a telephone message. We will wait for further development before putting up the phone. An old gentleman who lives in town, and whose family had gone out in the country to spend the day, stayed in town all the evening, in order to stop the wheel before they got here. I suppose he was afraid he would loose his wife and baby, should the wheel run up on them. The thing is nearly run down, being out of wind, and all is calm and serene again.”

Florence Water Tower

Florence Water Tower and Pumping Station, circa 1895
Florence Water Tower and Pumping Station, circa 1895

The Florence Water Works was without a doubt the finest plant of its kind in Alabama, if not the whole South during its time. It was built during the Industrial Boom by a stock company at a cost of $200,000. The company consisted of Colonel W.A. Jeter as president, A.E. Boarman as treasurer, and T.A. Howell as superintendent. At the time, there were 17 miles of piping and 103 fire-plugs throughout the city of Florence. Made using the best stone masonry, the water tower was 70 feet tall had a wrought-iron tank with the capacity to hold 300,000 gallons of water. The plant could have easily supplied a city of 50,000 people even though Florence’s current population was only near 7,000 people. A key selling point to this water tower was that the water did not from the Tennessee River, which was so often made muddy by heavy rains. The water was drawn from the clear, pure, beautiful stream, Cypress Creek. Physicians of the time pronounced the water to be “as good as Nature’s laboratory could furnish for thirsty man”. Running through a country, at the time, that was not densely populated, the path of Cypress Creek acted as a natural filtration system that aerated the water from any possible impurities. Many of Florence’s citizens during the late 1890s had abandoned perfectly good cisterns and wells in favor of using the water tower’s hydrant water because it was healthier.

In his administration, Superintendent T.A. Howell was careful to keep the water mains clear and clean and was always very helpful during fires in the city. It didn’t matter what time of the night a fire broke out, he could soon be found at his post of duty ready to supply any amount of water that the fire department needed. The water tower was replaced by the adjoining standpipe in 1935.

Florence Water Tower, circa 2011
Florence Water Tower, circa 2011

Blackburn People Disturbed by Unusual ‘Varmint’

The people of Blackburn (just North of St. Florian) in the northern section of Lauderdale county, were disturbed by an unusual wild animal that was seldom seen, but often heard, roaming in that area during the early Spring of 1912. So unusual, in fact, that it produced several reports in local newspapers of the time. This ‘varmint’ was scaring the people in the Blackburn area to such an extent that they had voluntarily inaugurated, by common consent, a kind of ‘curfew law’ among all the people, keeping close to home as night came on. Esq. Silas L. Bradley described the situation, and was firmly convinced that they were favored with an unusual visitation. The animal was described as being the size of a large shepherd dog, reddish-brown in color, with a streak of white along its throat. It had seldom been seen, but many people heard it, and its voice was said to be a wild yell, “like a woman scared, and then low.” Its scream could be heard for over a mile or more, and it was said to be fearful in the extreme. Esq. Bradley described the effect of this nocturnal visitor to have kept the people of Blackburn in their homes at night.

Several weeks after the initial report of this strange, nocturnal ‘varmint’, it was seen and killed. The person to do the deed was Mr. Plummer Daniels of Blackburn. Mr. Daniels and his pet dog encountered the wild animal in the road one afternoon. Mr. Daniel made his dog attack the wild disturber of the peace of that community, and while the fight was on he stabbed him to death with a knife. It was a brave deed on the part of Mr. Daniels. Once killed, the initial reports and descriptions of the ‘varmint’ held true. The animal was as large as a New Foundland dog, with reddish-brown hair about three inches long. It looked like a dog, but was not exactly like one. It was an aged creature, and because of its age, could not put up a better fight for its life. Mr. Daniels reported that its growl was something startling, and shook the very ground with its roar.

Following the report in the news that the ‘varmint’ had been killed, a citizen from Center Star with the pen-name of ‘Scribe’ began an effort to secure a hero medal for Mr. Daniels. ‘Scribe’ brought forward some new information about this unusual ‘varmint’. He reported that the same animal has been in Colbert county for the past eight or ten years, and due to the infirmities of old age, has been fed by mountain people living south of Tuscumbia. The ‘varmint’ left its old haunts in October of 1911 and was next heard of when it was spotted in the Blackburn area of Lauderdale county.

Google Map of the Blackburn area of Lauderdale County, Alabama
Google Map of the Blackburn area of Lauderdale County, Alabama