Skirmish at Whiteley Mill Newton Co., AR


Newton County, Arkansas And The Civil War

From Remnants, Plenty And Lean...

Field Report: Shirmish at Whiteley's Mill

By Maj. James A. Melton of the Second Arkansas Union Cavalry, April 10, 1864


I have the honor to report that on the 5th instant, a scout of this regiment numbering 50 men, under Capt. Orr, Company C, and Lieutenant Bell, Company I, attacked the enemy under Cecil, Cooper, Patton and not unlikely Green, all chiefs of the guerrilla bands, concentrated to the number of 250 men at Whiteley's Mill, on the headquarters of Buffalo River.

The enemy had been warned of the approach of Captain Orr, and had formed to receive him. They were partly mounted and partly dismounted. Captain Orr dashed into their camp and twice broke their line of cavalry. After a fire of musketry about two hours duration, the ammunition being nearly exhausted, Captain Orr withdrew, with the loss of private John H Murry, Company F, killed, and Obed W. Patty, Company I, missing. Private Gustavus Bishop, of Company C, was wounded. The man missing had his horse shot dead under him, and is probably prisoner, if not dead.

The loss of the enemy had not been ascertained, beyond one wounded. The same day, a detachment of 15 men, under Sargent Marcus Hogin, Company K, was sent out on a reconnaisance. The party, through some misunderstanding, divided into two squads, one of which, 7 men in all, undertook to escort some refugee families they met within the lines, while the other squad moved in another direction. Those 7 men thought themselves comparatively secure, being out 3 or 4 miles from camp. At a distance of less than 2 miles from camp, the unfortunate squad was charged and fired upon from the rear, and private Simeon Meek and William E. White of Company F, and Charles A Dilda, of Company I, were killed or wounded and since died before they were aware of danger. The rest made their way safe into camp.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
James A. Melton

By the 1830's, Abner Casey and his family had moved into Arkansas. They were living in Johnson County in 1834; soon thereafter he and his family settled in what would become Newton County, Arkansas. He was known to be a miller and had constructed grist mills prior to coming to the Newton County area. He constructed a mill there about 1838 and for ten years, actively served as the only miller of the young community. According to land survey sketches made in the early 1840's, the mill constructed by Abner Casey was fashioned in the design that often comes to mind when one thinks of a mill powered by water. The surveyor's sketch depicts a mill house with a large water wheel attached. The well known millwright and his family operated the mill until 1851. At that time he sold it to another early settler of the county, Samuel Whiteley. Mr. Whiteley then became the miller for the growing community. The increase in population of the area prompted an application to operate a post office; the application was approved. A post office was established December 1, 1851 and was named Whiteley in honor of Samuel Whiteley. The first Post Master was Jesse Casey, grandson of Abner Casey. A couple of years after the post office was established, oral tradition states that Samuel Whiteley along with other area men, went to California to mine gold. Samuel Whiteley was to have brought back a good quantity of the ore. It has been told that when the war broke out and when bushwhackers started coming into Newton County, he was always afraid that his gold would be stolen and was known to change it's hiding place ever so often. It has also been stated that look outs had warned the residents of Whiteley that Union Troops were headed their way. Upon getting word of their approach, Samuel Whiteley took to the woods to once again hide his gold. On his return there were Union Soldiers going through his home, smoke house, and other out buildings. He assumed they had heard of his gold, so he silently remained hiding behind a tree. In the moments to follow, his wife was dragged from the house and knocked down by one of the soldiers. At that time, Samuel stepped from behind the tree and shot the man. Another Union man then shot toward Samuel, hitting him in the chest. Samuel returned fire and killed the man and then fell to the ground. His wife rushed over to him, but he died before she could get him to tell where he had hid the gold. This is but one version of the tale, it was to have happened the day the skermish took place at Whiteley's Mill. Other versions state that it took place in October of the same year and that the perpetrators were bushwhackers and not Union men. It seems no one ever reported finding the gold. It has been passed down that Marion Edgmon had found the gold and was thus able to buy 'real' lumber to construct his two story house there in the valley...but who knows, no one except those back then. The grist mill sustained minor damage during the shirmish that took place in April of 1864, thus allowing Samuel's family members to continue operation of the mill after his death. Due to the scattering of the population during the war, the post office at Whiteley was discontinued September 14, 1866. An increase in population took place circa 1868/1869. Resulting in the need for a mill that could handle a larger work load. In 1870, at the original mill site, a new two-story mill was constructed. At that time, ownership of the mill was conveyed to Robert Villines, the husband of Matilda Whiteley, who was daughter of the late Samuel. During that remodeling, the traditional water wheel was replaced with a system of gears and turbines that were powered by water that flowed into a deep pit along side the mill house. The works of this system ran under the mill house floor, this power source was not visible on the outside of the mill.

The two-story mill built in 1870, as it looked in 1967

Robert Lee Villines and wife, Matilda Whiteley

A post office was once again established for the community on July 19, 1883. At that time it was named Boxley, in honor of Daniel Boxley, a miller from Missouri. Samuel Edgmon was the first Post Master. Robert Villines operated the mill for several years as the Boxley Mill. It was then passed onto his son, James Larkin Villines.

Eliza Bradley and her husband, James Larkin Villines

Mill at Boxley, Newton County, Arkansas...Spring 2000

X    Location of Boxley, Newton County, Arkansas


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