Mill Moving

Volume 3, No. 1
-Excerpted from an article in Bo-waters’ fall-winter 1974 issue of Crossbow
What’s 18 feet across, weighs two tons, is over one hundred years old, and takes the National Guard and four two-and-a-half-ton trucks to move?

Would you believe a grist mill?

Yes, when Bowaters Carolina’s Woodland company, Catawba Timber does something, it’s in a big way, all the way! The latest? . . . donating a whole grist mill located on the company’s land near Stuart, Virginia to a citizens’ group who moved it to Durham, North Carolina where it will become part of a 20,000-acre park on the Eno River.

These remains of Virginia’s old Gilbert’s Mill be reconstructed into a new mill on the site where Durham’s old West Point Mill (also known as Christian’s Mill) stood from 1778 until a little over a year ago when the mill building collapsed.

Since the West Point Mill ceased operation in 1942, it has stood idle. Then about three years ago, the mill stones mysteriously disappeared. With the collapse of the mill building last year, all that remained was the old 14-foot mill wheel.

Catawba Timber to the rescue! The mill stones of Gilbert’s Mill, idle since about 1940, will soon be grinding again.

Now, moving a grist mill is no simple operation! But under the skillful guidance of Grim Hobbs, Jr., Goldsboro builder and veteran of two previous mill restorations, and restoration specialist James Minnis of Hillsborough, N.C., the mammoth task was carried out step by step. The huge mill wheel, 18 feet in diameter and weighing two tons, had to be cut in half to be loaded on a flatbed truck for the 110-mile trip to Durham. Two pair of mill stones were taken out, a tricky maneuver since the stones were so old and brittle.

A 90-foot boom crane hoisted the mill machinery onto the trucks, all provided (drivers too) by the 131st Signal Co. National Guard Unit of Durham. Forty-five men from the B, C and D units of the 2nd Battalion of the 108th U.S. Army Reserves from the Durham, Oxford and Henderson areas turned ont to supply the manpower for the operation.

The operation was a success.

All the mill parts are now safely stored in Durham, and as the Bicentennial rolls around, the Eno River Association hopes to have the mill restored, the mill building reconstructed, and a corn-grinding operation on the site. Visitors will be able to watch an authentic mill in action and chances are they will be able to buy waterground corn meal and homemade bread in the mill building.

-Excerpted from an article in Bo-waters’ fall-winter 1974 issue of Crossbow