My Millstone Mountain Home

By Peter J. Gossett

Millstone Mountain has overlooked Winston County for thousands of years, shrouded in history through the Indians, through the bloody War of Rebellion, and will stand for years to come. A small, round dial sits at the top of it, marking one of the highest points in the whole area, 922 feet above sea level, even though there is a higher place in Haleyville. Regardless, the mountain can be seen from near Double Springs, Natural Bridge, Lynn, Nauvoo, and probably even as far away as Delmar. Since about 2004, when the trees were cleared off the top of the mountain, one can see for several miles in all directions, noting eight different water tanks against the skyline, one as far away as six miles. Although it is a rough hike up the mountain, the view at the top is worth the effort.

The marker at the top reads, "U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, Triangulation Station, For Information Write to the Director, Washington, D.C., $250 Fine or Imprisonment for Disturbing this Mark. Millstone, 1939." It is just one of at least seventy-six such markers throughout the county.

But what about the history of this place? Not much exists. According to Dianne Miller's father, his father told him there was a rock quarry there where they got the rock to make millstones. Dianne's Kelley family held reunions there, probably since it was a central location to meet from where they lived: near Sardis Church, Lynn, and Nauvoo.

Millstone Mountain Freewill Baptist Church was in existence for many years prior to having a cemetery there, probably since Enon and Sardis Cemeteries were just a mile away in different directions. The first one buried here was George Anthony Dodd, who died on August 29, 1958. The land for the church was donated January 27, 1913, and the church building there now is the third building.

Besides the church, the most significant part of history for the mountain is the fact that it was mined for coal from the 1930s to the 1950s. Several entrances to the mines are still there and can be entered for a short distance. In 1946, the "Millstone Mountain Mine Company" had eight mine entrances and mined a weekly average of 496,000 pounds of coal. Two brothers, both great-grandsons of Anderson Ward, died on Millstone Mountain: one while mining for coal and the other while digging for coal for heat during the winter.

John Marion Ward was born on July 24, 1897 (tombstone says 1895), and he died on Friday the 13th, December 13, 1940, the day after his injury. He was a World War I vet (A1 Pvt 351 Inf 88 Div). He married Mariah Jane Barton (July 13, 1900 - October 9, 1982), daughter of Alonzo Irvin Barton and Lucy Adeline Berry. They were married on June 1, 1919, in Winston County and are buried at Sardis. Here is the article from the Advertiser-Journal, December 19, 1940:

"Funeral services were held Sunday for John Marion Ward, 45-year-old miner who was fatally injured by a falling rock in a mine near Lynn last Thursday. Mr. Ward, a World War veteran, was a resident of Delmar, Route 1. Mr. Ward died en route to the Veterans Hospital Friday in Tuscaloosa. Funeral services were conducted at Sardis Church and burial took place in the adjoining cemetery. Survivors are the wife, Mariah; four sons, Leon, Marvin, Arlee, and B.G., all of Delmar; and two daughters, Ester Lee and Minnalee, both of Delmar."

Just over sixteen years later, his brother was killed at the same place, the same way. David Anderson Ward was born July 26, 1900, and died on January 17, 1957. He married Emma Knight (December 16, 1905 - August 17, 1984) on January 25, 1920, in Winston County; she was the daughter of Thomas Anderson Knight. They are buried at New Hope (Kelley Mill). Here is the article from the Advertiser, January 18, 1957:

"Sawmiller Dies Under Rock Fall - David Anderson Ward, 53-year-old sawmiller of Double Springs Rt. 3, was killed instantly early Thursday afternoon in a rock fall at Millstone Mountain, on the Lynn-Double Springs Road. Mr. Ward died under a fallen rock ledge that measured some 23 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 3 feet thick. With a son, Mr. Ward was digging out some coal in a 'strip' mine for home use when the ledge gave way, breaking almost all bones in his body. It was some time before volunteer workmen and officers could remove the dead man. Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at New Hope Church with Bro. Willie Manasco officiating. Nichols Funeral Home will direct interment in Kelley Mill Cemetery. Survivors include the widow, Mrs. Emma Ward; five sons, William, Simon, Franklin D., Arthur, and Lacy Edwin Ward; four daughters, Mrs. Ola Faye McDonald, Mrs. Willie Jo Loyd, Misses Liddie, and Asalee Ward. One brother, Billy Ward; five sisters, Mrs. Mary Wakefield, Mrs. Sarah Knight, Mrs. Elizabeth Morris?, Mrs. Lettie Rhodes, and Mrs. Eddis Brooks."

John and David Wards' parents were David Anderson Ward and Martha Jane Butler. David's parents were Joel Marion Ward and Sarah Harper. Joel was sheriff of Winston County from 1896 to 1900, and his parents were Anderson Ward and Winnie Catherine Durham. Anderson was a Union soldier in the First Alabama Cavalry.