It was a cold December morning and the door was locked when we arrived at Snavely’s huge, stone mill house. We looked around outside, a stream fed the mill pond and the race dropped out of the pond at the side of Snavely Mill Road, ran under a bridge, and splashed against the huge water wheel that drove the mill. A half dozen geese made do with the small patch of unfrozen pond near the race.
An old Mercedes coasted down the blacktop and pulled into the parking lot beside the mill. Out of the car climbed a short man with powerful, thick shoulders dressed in blue and white bib overalls and wearing a cap that hid a shock of black hair. The cap was gold with a black bill; red lettering spelled out Snavely’s Mill. The man was L. M. Snavely.
Inside the enormous mill, where our breath hung visibly in the frosty air, we followed Snavely to the ground level where a large furnace housed a smoldering bank of coal. Snavely began splitting wood to feed the fire. His strong, calloused hands wielded the heavy axe as a butcher’s would a cleaver. In two hours the old radiators were hot to the touch and the working temperature in the building moved into the low fifties.
Embedded in the wall above where Snavely stood was a foundation stone with "1793” chiseled into it. "It burned since then,” Snavely said between strokes, "Rebuilt about 1850, and then again in 1905 by my father’s uncle". Snavely bought it from his father in 1942. "It was always bought,” he assured us, as he rammed a long iron rod into the coals, "not just handed down inside the family."