BITTEN BY THE MILL BUG

Morgan Mill - above, outside Brevard, NC; (no longer exists)

We don’t own a mill; I hardly understand the intricacies of the grinding process (though I’ve seen it dozens of times and read about it by the gross). But I head for any mill I hear about as unerring as water flowing through a sluice.

When people ask: “Why the interest in old mills?” I fumble for an answer and can’t satisfy even myself. Maybe two “reasons” account for the mill bug’s bite.

In the mid-1970s for a course in “Family History” taught by Dr. Jolly from Mars Hill College, I chose as my project the old mills of Haywood County rather than my family tree (as most participants did).

Why?

I’d seen traces of one or two old mills and had photographed them. The ingenuity and technology they demonstrated intrigued me, as did the sense of community that developed around the rural mills.

Accordingly, I investigated, found a few millers or rememberers of mills, tramped along forgotten raceways, gathered enough material to do a slide show and satisfy the course requirements. That material has since been lost.

Among others, I interviewed the grandfather of Tanna Timbes, about his Francis Mill (pictured below on the left) now restored by Tanna’s family’s efforts and the Preservation Society).

I wrote a couple of short articles for local magazines, joined SPOOM (spoom.org ), got involved in other things for the next twenty years or so, but never passed up a chance to photograph an old mill–here and abroad–at every opportunity.

Then while reading my grandmother’s recollections of her childhood, I found that her father (Mac Greene) had operated a grist mill in the Utah section of Haywood County.

Why did I not know that until after her death? Not a sign of such a mill now exists. Just like the Morgan Mill, once outside Brevard, NC (pictured on the left above); it no longer exists.

But I can at least claim a ‘mill gene’ to account for my interest. Once my husband and I attended SPOOM’s yearly conference in Canada (its location was a plus) in 2001, we became true enthusiasts.

I’ve incorporated my interest in mills into three novels: ThymeTable Mill, in which the heroine visits several western North Carolina mills, photographs them, and yearns for a mill on their herb farm, and Sarranda, set in the mid-1800s in western North Carolina; Sarranda loves her grandfather’s mill and ultimately must run it during the Civil War, with the help of Oliver Evans’ Guide.

Sarranda’s Heart: A Love Story of Place (2013) continues Sarranda’s story when in the early 1880s she returns to Greene’s Valley to serve her isolated community and to recover her Grandfather’s mill, now in Yankee hands. She finds her return fraught with challenges, memories, possibilities.

Francis Mill (pictured below) is one of my favorite mills anywhere and it’s only about 30 minutes from Asheville. I included it and owner Tanna Timbes in ThymeTable Mill. Visit francismill.org.

Francis Mill, Waynesville, North Carolina Francis Mill, Waynesville, North Carolina

 

 

Jack Dellinger and Asheviile Author Celia Miles

Jack Dellinger and Celia Miles
My first mystery The Body at Wrapp’s Mill is set around
Dellinger Mill, outside Bakersville, NC.
Visit dellingermill.com

Dellinger Mill - Bakersville, NC. Dellinger Mill – Bakersville, NC.