52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #41 – Wyatt Tansel Smith – Miller and Wheelwright

Another 3rd great-grandfather on my mother’s side [there are eight of them all total] was Wyatt Tansel Smith. Wyatt was born in North Carolina about 1788. An 1820 census record showed him living in Guilford County, North Carolina along with his wife, two sons and six daughters.

The overwhelming majority of my ancestors were farmers so any time I find another occupation listed, I am interested to learn more. The 1840 census had a breakdown of what the people in Wyatt’s household did and although there was only one adult male, their were tickmarks for both Agriculture and Manufacturing. The 1850 census listed his occupation as miller, which would have been considered a type of manufacturing, at least for census purposes. 1850 Miller

A grain or grist miller was someone who ground grain between stones, which would turn wheat or corn into flour or meal. A sawmill miller was one who worked with lumber. Since the 1860 census indicated Wyatt was a wheelwright – one who made wheels from wood – it may be more likely that Wyatt’s mill was a sawmill rather than a grist mill, although there is an online article about Mabry’s Mill along the Blue Ridge Parkway that was a combination grist or grain mill, sawmill and wheelwright business, so Wyatt could have also been a jack-of-all-trades. 1860 wheelwright

Articles about the wheelwright trade indicated the successful wheelwright required “strength, ingenuity, and the talents of both a carpenter and a blacksmith. Precise measuring skills are mandatory.”(1) Because wheel making could be a two or three person job, the wheelwright may have worked with a blacksmith or other assistant to get the job done. The wheelwright was a tradesman who built or repaired wheels for carts or wagons.(2) In the early years, he may have cut his own lumber, which meant he had to understand the qualities of the different types of wood because different parts of a wheel had to endure different types of stresses and would need a different type of wood to endure and be a quality wheel. Eventually, wheelwrights began purchasing the lumber they would use rather than to cut their own.

In making wheels, the wheelwright began at the center with the hub to which he would attach and hand carved spokes, which would then be attached to a perfectly crafted and perfectly round outer wooden rim.

Wyatt is thought to have been the son of John “Pepper” Smith and Mary “Millie” English. Since an 1870 census for him has not been found, it is assumed he died between 1860 and 1870. No birth or death dates or place of burial are currently known.

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1. http://www.history.org/almanack/life/trades/tradewhe.cfm

2. http://tangledtrees.blogspot.com/2009/03/occupation-wheelwright.html

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This blog was prepared as a part of Amy Johnson Crow’s  No Story Too Small 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.

 

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