Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Fascination with Old Mills

Hamer Mill

Spring Mill State Park, Lawrence County, Indiana

I suppose my fascination with old mills began with the magnificent Hamer Mill at Spring Mill State Park, about twelve miles south of Bedford, Indiana, where I was born. Growing up in the area, Spring Mill was the default destination for Sunday School picnics, class outings, family reunions and the like. I’m told that I was taken to Spring Mill as a small child, but my first clear memory is of a school picnic there at the end of my third grade year at the one-room Tempy School in Martin County, which had about 25 students in grades one through six.

During my high school years there were many outings at Spring Mill, and years later when my six siblings were grown and there were enough Jenkins to have our own family reunion we assembled at Spring Mill every year, culminating with our parents’ 65th anniversary in 1999.

Dad died in 2000 and the reunions became more sporadic after that, but all but one were at Spring Mill. Always, every trip to the park included a pleasant walk from the picnic area to the old mill and the “pioneer settlement” that surrounded it; a village that consisted of many old houses, most of them built of logs, most original to the village, plus a few moved in from other locations.

Built of locally quarried limestone by the Bullitt brothers in 1817, the mill is three stories high and has walls three feet thick at the base. It replaced a much smaller log mill built in 1814. The 25-foot overshot wheel is fed by a flume carrying water from Hamer Cave.

Located in a deep valley in the southern Indiana hill country, the mill and its little village must have been an isolated place, but the mill and village flourished all through the mid-19th century. In 1896 the mill was abandoned until the 1920s when the state acquired the property, made it a state park, and began to restore the mill and the village. The original milling equipment is intact and still works. My wife buys a few pounds of corn meal every time we visit the park.

My interest in old structures lay dormant for many years, but returned in force when we moved from Miami to Chattanooga in 1970. We lived for 17 years within a mile or two of Gray's Mill at Graysville, Georgia, and I photographed it many times, as well as other old buildings. Graysville although tiny, has some interesting buildings. I'll write more about it sometime soon.

Warwoman Mill

Warwoman Creek, Rabun County, Georgia

At the other end of the spectrum from the majestic Hamer Mill is the tiny, long abandoned mill  on Warwoman Creek in Rabun County, Georgia. Its roof  is falling in and just a fragment of its wheel remains. But I love them both. They speak to me of history, of lives lived.

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(Photographs copyright David B. Jenkins 2020)

Soli Gloria Deo
To the glory of God alone

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