Image by rittyrats
Before the Jackson’s gristmill was established in what is now north central West Virginia, another family of millers started a milling business some 150 miles to the south.
Jacob and Mary Hockman erected a gristmill at the confluence of Mill Creek and Muddy Creek soon after moving to Greenbrier County in 1794. The Hockman mill opened for business in 1796, producing cornmeal for the local population. In 1842, the mill was inherited by Susan, one of the Hockmans’ three daughters, and her husband, George Lewis. The first Blaker to be associated with the mill was John Blaker from Loudon County, Virginia, who was hired by the Lewises to work at the mill. He eventually married Susan Lewis, probably the granddaughter of Susan Hockman Lewis and George Lewis. The Blakers had eight children, three of whom, James L., Mamie, and Ida, ran the mill until it closed.
The Blakers were an enterprising family, not content to merely grind grain. In 1891, the Blaker’s Mill post office was established. The office was situated in the mill until 1915, when it was moved to Blaker’s grocery next door. When the post office closed in 1956, its only three postmasters had been John, James, and Mamie Blaker. In addition to operating a store and post office, James Blaker was an excellent carpenter, producing fiddles as well as furniture. Prior to the introduction of electricity to the mill in 1948, James built a carpenter shop at the side of the mill and "borrowed" water power to operate his woodworking tools. The family also operated a mail order business, distributing cornmeal, wheat flour, buckwheat flour, and other specialty flours throughout West Virginia and a number of other states.
Robert Hockman Blaker of Wilmington, Delaware, who generously donated Blaker’s Mill so that it may be preserved and enjoyed by future generations, is a direct descendant of the family who built and operated the mill almost two centuries ago. Thanks to his generosity and the many volunteers who have worked on this project, Blaker’s Mill enjoys a productive future. Disassembled carefully, stone by stone and board by board, it was transported from its original site to Jackson’s Mill, where it was reassembled and restored. In 1993, Blaker’s Mill began operation at its new location. Today, it is a centerpiece of the Historic Area. Cornmeal and whole wheat flour are ground regularly, and offered for sale in the General Store.