The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Alonzo Newton Hylton

By His Great-Granddaughter, Minnie Ruth Belcher and Great-Grandson, Dale Belcher © 1984

Issue: June, 1984

alonzo newton hylton fpAlonzo Newton Hylton. Photograph by Earl Palmer. This photo was the front cover of the June, 1984 issue. Click on photo to view larger image.Alonzo Newton Hylton was born on January 4, 1872. Everybody called him Newton. He was raised in the mountains near Green Mountain Church at a place called Turkey Nest Knob.

In March, 1897, he married Sallie Agee. They lived with her parents for awhile. In January of 1900, they had a son named Albert. After awhile, they moved to the head waters of Howell's Creek in Floyd County, Virginia. There Newton built and ran a small grist mill. He made a pond on Howell Creek so he could power the mill with a water wheel that he made.

Newton ran the mill til about 1912, then moved to Glace, West Virginia. He moved there in a wagon pulled by a yoke of oxen. He lived out there for about two years then moved back and bought a farm on Laurel Fork Creek near Meadows of Dan, Virginia.

All Newton did for a living was farm, work in his own blacksmith shop and carpentry work for people in the neighborhood. He went all over the country making water wheels for grist mills and sharpening the mill rocks. All grist mills have two stones that has groves in them. Ever so often you have to sharpen the groves so they will grind better. He made his own mill rock hammers in his blacksmith shop.

All of the neighbors would bring their wagons to Newton to get him to repair them in his blacksmith shop. He would make new wheels for them or whatever needed to be done. He made a lot of things in his shop for people. He welded pieces of metal on people's mattocks where they had worn them out digging up "new grounds." He made dog irons for people to go in their fireplaces. He did all of the work around the farm - plowing, getting up hay, getting his winter's wood in - with a yoke of steers.

alonzo newton hyltonAlonzo Newton Hylton. Photograph by Earl Palmer.Newton was the only dentist that the country people knew. People would come from miles around to get him to pull their teeth. The only thing he had to pull them with was a pair of homemade pullers that he made in his blacksmith shop. One night a man that lived about a mile away came by about 3:00 in the morning and got Newton out of bed. He said that he had a tooth that was about to kill him and he wanted it pulled. Newton sat him down and pulled his tooth. Sometimes he would pull two or three teeth at one time for people and he didn't give them anything for pain.

Newton also made caskets for people when they died. Most of the caskets he made were for babies, but once in a while, he would make a big one.

In the fall of 1939, his wife, Sallie died. Newton lived by himself until the fall of 1947 when he married Barbara Marshall.

Newton would go around to his neighbor's and dehorn their cattle using a hand saw to cut the horns off.

After supper he would get his banjo and sit beside the fireplace and play it. The banjo that he played was one he made. He made the head of the banjo out of a groundhog hide that he tanned. He tanned all of his own leather to make things with. He made his own steer lines and would use the leather to repair and make horse harnesses for other people.

Newton went out in the woods and gathered herbs to make his own medicine. He dug sassafras roots to make tea out of. He gathered wild cherry bark, boiled it with water and sugar and made a cough syrup out of it.

One Sunday, Newton was working in his blacksmith shop and a preacher came by. The preacher told him that he shouldn't be working on Sunday. Newton told the preacher that it, "wouldn't no worser working on Sunday than not working at all."

Newton was a good carpenter. He made every one of the buildings on his farm. Most of them were made from logs that he cut and hewed out with a broad ax. He made his own shingles for the roofs out of oak with a froe.

Newton hunted small white oak trees that had straight grain in it and made oak splits for baskets and chair bottoms. The oak had to be straight and free from knots so it would split easy. Newton's house sat on a ridge next to Laurel Fork Creek and he had to carry his water up a long hill about 200 yards.

The only way Newton had to go anywhere was to walk or by steers and wagon. Riding in a car made him sick, so he didn't ride in one very much.

When the Highway Department started to gravel the road close by his house, he didn't like it. He said the gravel was too hard on his oxen's feet.

When the Blue Ridge Parkway took over Mabry Mill, Newton got a job remodeling the mill. He had to make a complete new water wheel and water lane from the mill pond to the wheel.

In the early 1950's, Newton made a small replica of Mabry Mill about two feet square for one of his friends. It took him all winter to make the mill. The water wheel alone had nearly one hundred different pieces of wood in it. He whittled out every piece with a pocket knife.

Newton was past eighty before he got his social security card. He had never done work on a public job before, so he didn't need one. He then worked at the blacksmith shop at Mabry Mill. He made most of the blacksmith tools that he used. He made his own charcoal for the blacksmith forge from chestnut wood.

He worked at Mabry Mill until he was past eighty-five years old. He would walk back and forth from work every day, a trip of about two and one-half miles.

He finally worked enough and paid in enough social security so he would draw. a little. He drew two or three checks before he died on October 6, 1957. He was eighty-five years and nine months old.