Friday, June 09, 2006

Walters Mill

Eunice Odell Neal Harrelson recalls that "when they had baptisms at the mill, the men changed clothes at the mill and the women went up the hill to her grandmother's house (her grandfather was the miller)." This grandfather miller was David Allen Ware (1861-1932), who was killed at the mill in an accident.

Above is a photograph of Walters Mill (not confirmed as such), which was constructed by Azariah Graves Walters (1810-1899) in the mid 1800's. It burned in the 1960's, being totally destroyed. The photograph is courtesy of The Caswell Messenger.

Here is a map. The mill was (and the ruins still are) located where the Walters Mill Road crosses Hogan Creek (essentially where the new Walters Mill Road and the old Walters Mill Road meet--upper right corner of the map --click on map for larger image).

Here is a 1927 photograph with Walters Mill in the background (courtesy The Caswell Messenger).

The following photograph from An Inventory of Historic Architecture: Caswell County, North Carolina, Ruth Little-Stokes (1979)at 161 shows the ruins of the mill after the fire destroyed the wooden structure.

For more on the historic mills of Caswell County go to Mills.

When Azariah Graves Walters died in Pittsylvania County Virginia in 1899, he left his mill in Caswell County on 80 acres of land to his wife Martha for life. Upon her death it was to go to Archie (Archibald) E. Walters (or if he died to grandson Azariah G. Walters, Jr, son of Archie). The tract in Pittsylvania County adjoining the Caswell Co tract was 1,050 1/2 acres and contained the old "Broadnax House". This house may have been the 18th century house of Thomas Fearn, who died in 1805. Walters' Mill Road is just inside North Carolina along the state line. The Walters Mill was on Hogan's Creek, very close to the Virginia state line.

Here is part of the will:

 To his wife Martha M Walters was given the homeplace containing about 400 acres (Present day Grove Park located in Danville Va) and his Mill Seat [Site?] and 80 acres located on Hogans Creek in Caswell Co., NC for her lifetime only. At her death the homeplace was to be held jointly by his son William F and his granddaughter Mollie Belle. The Mill Seat and 80 acres was to go to son Archibald E.  who in turn was to convey the mill and acreage to his grandson Azariah Graves, Jr.

Upon the death of Archibald E. Walters, Azariah Graves Walters, Jr., apparently inherited that property in Caswell County, North Carolina, known as Walters Mill (which included a grist mill and eighty acres of land, more or less). On 2 November 1925, the younger Azariah Graves and his wife Cora Bickham Walters sold the Walters Mill and associated property (eighty acres, more or less) to C. E. Brewer. Actually, this was a deed of trust, apparently to secure a debt.

Mr. Carter at Rockingham Community College provided documentation of the Walters brothers move back to their farm in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. He had a list of items that were removed from their home in Reidsville and taken to the farm dated 1932. This is the year that David Ware was killed at Walters Mill. It appears that their reason for returning was to operate the mill. He stated that when he visited the mill after its closure many years ago there was a gasoline engine with a large flywheel that had been installed to operate the machinery. Thus, it appears that the brothers never repaired to dam to the extend needed to operate the mill.

Azariah Graves Walters Gravestone
(Photograph Courtesy of Charles S. Walters III)

For more on Azariah Graves Walters (including his obituary) and the Walters family of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, and Caswell County, North Carolina, go to the Caswell County Family Tree .

The following is from The Caswell Messenger (1 May 1991):

Two tragedies scar the history of the Walters Mill on Hogan's Creek near the Virginia border below Providence. The death of David Allen Ware in 1932 and the total destruction by fire around 1965.

Ware's granddaughter, Eunice Harrelson of Providence, remembers the fire that started late one Saturday night, probably set by trespassers, vandals, or malicious youth.

The incident was a senseless loss. There was no electricity to catch fire nor were there flammables on the premises to combust spontaneously. The cause of the fire remains of suspicious origin.

William Lewis Neal of Providence remembers the death of David Allen Ware in 1932. Ware's clothing caught on a set screw of the mill's shaft and he was battered to death. He had to be cut away from the gears of the mill; it was a horrible tragedy.

The beginnings of Walters Mill began long ago according to W. L. Neal. Azariah Walters after the Civil War owned plenty of land in Caswell County. Azariah Walters could practically walk from Milton to Danville on his own property. Walters Mill was built sometime around that time.

A descendant of Azariah Walters took over the mill from Al Davis, grandfather of Yanceyville Mayor Curtis Davis, sometime after the turn of the century. Davis was a colorful fellow according to those who knew him, a jack of all trades. Davis would pull teeth, shoe a team of horses, run the mill, and keep a crew of workers busy in the mill and on the surrounding farms, all in a day's work. He lived just in sight of the mill. Al Davis died suddenly around 1912, his life's work is another fascinating story for another time.

High water marks carved in the foundation stone of Walters Mill revealed the dates 1850, 1899, 1910 according to Neal who remembers his father talking about the mill's beginnings.

Neal, born in 1900, remembers as a child visiting the mill with his parents to buy flour. Cream colored water ground flour had a delicious flavor that was in a class by itself. The cities offered enriched, pure white flour, but Neal said nothing could compare with stone ground flour like that from Walters Mill.

David Allen Ware took over the mill from Al Davis and operated the mill till his death in 1932. The grandson of the first Azariah Walters then returned to manage the mill that his grandfather began 75 years before. The mill dam had eroded and Walters spent several years trying to make stopgap repairs to the upper section of the dam. Neal said the modern concrete did not hold up as the old fashioned mortar-mix of the 1800's. The repairs never held up properly.

The original race where water was funneled to the water wheel inside the mill remains to this day in place.

The land where the mill rests is part of the estate of Claire Taylor, the deceased grandfather of Senator George Daniel.

For more on the Walters family go to Walters Family.


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