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"By The Old Mill Stream"

Story and photos by Kathleen Walls

Ogeechee Mill and Dam

It's a dying art now but once the miller was an important part of every community. After the corn or wheat was harvested, farmers around the countryside would gather the entire family for the trip to the mill. it was a communal outing looked forward to by all the family. For the farmer, it was a business trip but also a meeting place where he would visit with other men from different parts of the area.

They would discuss the weather, varieties of seeds, possible new crops, hunting and all the male things only other farmers understood. For the wives, it was a social event to catch up on the latest gossip and have a welcome break from the daily monotony of housekeeping and childrearing that was the lot of a farm wife in that earlier era before internet and phones. Youngsters saw it as a exciting adventure. They would fish and play with friends they saw only rarely. They prayed that the lines of corn loaded wagons would be long and they would have to camp overnight at the mill.

Missy shows an old photo of the mill as it was in the past

Driving through Warren County Georgia, you find a beautiful spot where time has stood still. Just at the South Carolina line, the classic lines of a red clapboard building perched on the banks of the Ogeechee River take you back to the 19th century. The Ogeechee River Mill, the Ogeechee's only remaining water powered mill, is still in operation. A tour (available almost any time) takes you back to a more peaceful rhythm of life.

Missy Garner, the current mill owner and operator, is proud to show off this vestige of days gone by. Missy explained that she hadn't set out to be history's custodian. "Back in 2005 we wanted to relocate our cattle ranch operation from Florida." They found the ranch land they needed but with a bonus, an operational 1847 grist mill.

For Missy, becoming a miller was a learning curve. "I had only been in one grist mill in my life before I came here and it wasn't running. Mr. Cabbage (Alvester Allen), the chief miller for the last owner taught me everything I know about the mill."

From the operation to little things she learned, sometimes the hard way. Once she decided to offer tours, she decided to take out a lot of boards that were nailed to the floor in seemingly odd places so visitors would not trip. She was hard at work prying them up when she heard Mr. Cabbage come in downstairs. He could not climb the stairs because of injuries. She heard him call up "'What you doing up there' girl?'" and replied "Pulling up all these boards nailed to the floor so people don't trip." when he explained that those boards were there to keep the ladder to the next floor from slipping and falling leaving her stranded up there until help arrived to replace the ladder, she did the only smart thing. "I immediately re-nailed the boards back."

Missy demonstrates how the stones grind the grain

She can show you the original foundation on the other side of the river. In 1933 the Reynolds family moved the mill, build by the Quakers, to its present location on this side of the river because that side tended to flood more frequently.

The dam that operates the mill is a beautiful sight to behold and the river both above and below the mill filled with some of the best tasting fish in the country.

Inside the mill is a treasure trove of grinding stones, pulleys and storage bins that delight young and old. The mill produces corn meal and a hush puppy mix that will make you sit up and beg for more. Missy told me the mix is a wonderful fish fry as well.

The Ogeechee River Mill is a unique piece of Georgia's cultural history. Be sure to visit before it becomes just one more piece of Americana that falls prey to encroaching progress and is Gone With the Wind.

Contact information:

Missy Garner
phone: 706-465-2195


Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.

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