Stories & Recollections of Etowah . . .
as told by ~ Jeannie Huggins Revis
as told by ~ Jeannie Huggins Revis
Memories of the Old Mill
To say that it was the greatest place on God’s green earth to be born and raised by the mill would be under defining the joy, pleasure and happiness I experienced as a child.
My first recollection that there was a mill is from about two years old. It was hot, and we were still living in what we referred to as the “Old House” (the house where I was born). It was across the road from the mill and on a high bank overlooking the mill and shoals as well as the millpond that later became the love of my life.
It was some distance down a slope from the house to all of this. It was a hot summer and I was crying. I had been put down for my afternoon nap. My Aunt Betty was visiting my Mom. They sought the cause of my crying and I tried to tell them my shoes, which they had re-polished and set on the mantel, was missing a streak across the side of one, and it bothered me greatly. My Aunt Betty told my mother to ignore this and let me cry. So I did. Shortly after, I heard the mill shut down and my dad appeared. He put the streak of polish on the shoe, wiped my tears with a wet washcloth, opened a red little Japanese parasol which he set on the bed over my head, and sealed a father-daughter relationship that lasted till death. He turned to my Mom and Aunt Betty and told them, “It’s a damn shame two grown women can’t take care of one small girl”.
Later I was introduced to the mill pond by my mother. She would take me down, and we would go above where the shoals were not quite so heavily flowing into the pond. There were little hollowed dips in the solid rock and there she would bathe me on hot summer days, wrap me in a towel, and we would sit on the hot solid rock that surrounded the pond. Sooner rather than later I learned to swim in the shallow end of the pond. Bopo came on the scene. He was a great German Shepherd dog that belonged to my Uncle France, who lived in the city and couldn’t keep him happy there. Bopo would swim with me and if I drifted too near the dam he would swim between me and the danger.
I had two brothers who were eight and ten years older than I. They told me Dad had built the dam of the millpond. It was solid concrete with a spillway and a wooden race that ran water to the over shot wheel which turned and ground corn. It still stands in perfect shape.
When I became responsible enough to obey and recognize danger, I was allowed to visit the mill itself. It was certainly no place for children to play: long belts turning big corn crushers, mill rocks turning corn into meal, and high windows that would drop two stories onto solid rock or a turning water wheel. However, in one place upstairs where all the activity was going on, there was a corner that was set up kind of like a little waiting area. It had a strong bench-like seat – about the size of a love seat – that was covered in cracked leather accompanied by two chairs that matched it. I took up abode there where I was given brown paper meal bags and a stamper that was used to print “Huggins Water-Ground Corn Meal” with a picture of a water wheel in the center. I would occupy myself with that and watch the goings on until I became weary.
Once, during one of those visits, my Dad took me over to the scales and taught me a lesson in honesty. Above the scales was a printed bulletin with weights less certain amounts of weights and what it should equal. He explained to me that, per the chart, the meal you took out was “toll” and what belonged to the customers was “tare.” It had to be weighed exactly according to what was on the chart in order not to cheat your customer. The toll that was kept was put into the bags I had stamped and would later be taken to town to McFadden’s Mill on King Street in Hendersonville where they bought and resold our cornmeal.
After the visit to town, we would return with supplies for the country store my mother ran. Sugar, salt, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, etc. came from Overton’s Wholesale, bread and cakes from Barber’s Bakery. Cokes, Orange Crush, and other drinks were delivered from the Biggerstaff Coca-Cola plant on Locust Street. Pure-Oil gas was delivered as well. Bill Beck, who later was pharmacist at Justus Drug Store, delivered ice to us for the drink box. My brothers, Harold and J.P., pumped gas, helped at the mill and took care of a bull calf they used to pull them and friends around on a sled: anything to keep them busy and out of trouble. I think, probably that’s why Mom & Dad bought the store and mill property in the first place.
As time moved on, the mill pond became a popular gathering place for swimming and rock sliding. Sometimes on weekends there would be as many as fifty-seven young people having fun; we were so fortunate no one ever got hurt. I became obsessed with the pond early on and would spend my summers swimming and swinging on a swing that faced the pond. Some days I would go to the orchard up by the Old House to an apple tree that had a bend in it that just fit my back and I would climb it and read there until somebody came and wanted me to swim.
At some point, when I was about two years old, Dad built a log house below the road across from the store and on the slope above the mill. It had tall casement windows that opened out toward the shoals and mill. At night, in summer, one had to sleep under blankets because of the coolness but one went to sleep hearing the waterfalls.
The log house had a full basement where my mother had a clothesline on which was hung cutoff jeans -- for the boys and their friends to change into – accompanied by bars of soap sewed up in net orange-bags with a washcloth tied on the end of each to be used for going to the pond to bathe. Mom loved to cook for them and would have kept them all summer. This continued after my brothers went into the service, and she later extended this hospitality to her grandsons and their friends until one rainy day when they were in the basement playing and one of them started sawing down the big center post that held the house up. My dad told my mom to get hold of their parents and send them home.
The mill had two levels and I described the upper, but the lower had more history. The lower part was the original mill and in it remained the millstone that was cut in England and shipped to Charleston and further made its journey up the mountain by oxcart.
When the property was sold sometime around 1962-63, we reserved the right to keep the millstones. My brother had heavy equipment and I wanted the original millstone and it now stands in my English garden on 4 pilings.