THE OLD MILL OF GUILFORD
The Old Mill of Guilford is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places and can be visited today out on Highway 68 in the hamlet of Oak Ridge, NC.
In 1755 Daniel Dillon was granted a 552 acre tract of land on Reedy Forks and Beaver Creeks by the Earl of Granville.
In 1764, Mr. Daniel Dillon petitioned the Rowan County Court and received permission to build a public grist mill on the Reedy Fork of the Haw River at the mouth of Beaver Creek.
During the winter of 1781, British troops took possession of the mill. Tradition tells that the miller (James Dillon) had a dream that his toe was burning. When he awoke the next morning, he found British soldiers stationed at his mill. He tried to run them off as trespassers but they began shooting at him and he took shelter in the woods but not before getting shot – you guessed it, in the toe.
At this time General Cornwallis of the King’s Army was in Salem and his counterpart, General Greene (of Revolutionary fame) was at Guilford Courthouse. Greene left his position to retreat across the Dan River with Cornwallis’ army in pursuit. As the retreat and pursuit passed by the mill, the British soldiers there joined in with chasing Greene and the mill was spared.
In 1808 the mill and its surrounding property was sold to Joel Sanders by Nathan Dillon, son of Daniel, for the negotiated price of $900.00. The Old Mill of Guilford (Dillon Mill) was just one of a series of mill purchases made by Mr. Sanders at this time.
Joel Sanders owned a slave named Tony who was not very fond nor very good of field work and loitered around the Dillon Mill much of the time until Mr. Sanders made Tony the miller-in-charge. Tony operated the mill for Mr. Sanders until 1822.
In 1869 James Sanders, heir of Joel, sold ½ interest in the mill and property to R A Blaylock for a sum of $2250.00 and just three years later sold the remaining ½ interest in mill and property to John Brittain for the sum of $2500.00. Brittain then bought out Blaylock’s share and the mill was renamed the John T Brittain Mill.
In 1888 Brittain sold the mill to a local merchant named R M Stafford for $3000.00 which included the mill and 197 of the surrounding acres.
In 1928 the wooden canal from the river’s dam to the mill was replaced by today’s existing metal pipe.
From 1897 to 1954 the mill exchanged hands numerous times until landing in the hands of Clarence E Bailes who added the current day waterwheel and an electrical generation system. The waterwheel is said to have been manufactured by the Fitz Waterwheel Company of Hanover, PA around 1906 for a customer in South America who, due to a political change in his country, never finished paying for it. The wheel remained sitting in the Fitz yard for nearly 50 years.
In 1975 the mill was finally closed and title was passed from the Bailes family to Old Mill, Ltd principaled by Mr. Charles Parnell.
In 1977 Mr. Parnell renovated the mill which had suffered from its two years of disuse and resumed its operation as a water- powered grist mill in keeping with its over-200 year old tradition.
Yesterday, Streaker, my sister and I visited the mill and after visiting with the young lady who is now the miller, purchased some freshly ground pancake batter. The mill wheel grinds on…
Please enjoy the photos.
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