Saturday, May 27, 2017



Lloyd Murray had enough with rising taxes and bureaucratic red he just closed the doors to the mill his father built in 1913 and went home.  In 1980 when the Catawba County Historical Society secured possession of the mill, there was still grain in the bins waiting be ground.  Open today as a historical education site, the mill is a marvel of a bygone era.  Located at 1449 Murray Mill Road near the town of Catawba, North Carolina, the Murray Mill Historical District is a hidden gem of the North Carolina piedmont.

A mill was originally constructed on Ball Creek in 1883 by John Murray.  By the turn of the century, his son, William had taken over operating the mill. In 1906, he conveyed the property to his two sons, John and O.D.  The next year the brothers decided to divide operations.  John would handle the mill and O.D. would operate the store.

In 1913, John Murray replaced his father's mill with the current building and constructed a dam that allowed him to operate a 22 foot diameter waterwheel that replaced a turbine as the power source for the mill. In 1938, John Murray's son Lloyd raised the dam six feet and installed the current 28 foot diameter water wheel. 

This site is not only a historical gem, it is a photographer's dream and it has a 2.5 mile trail for the Fat Bald White Guy to get his hike on!   On a hot Memorial Day weekend, we were among the few afternoon visitors.  The site manager, Jennifer, operated the store, provided guided tours and answered many of my questions in a friendly and most informative manner.  She even told us a few tales too. 
She is holding the toll box from a neighboring mill operated by a fellow named Edwards who from time to time would interrupt the flow of Ball Creek causing John Murray to have to bring his grain to grind in the Edwards mill.  Each bag of grain so ground was not only charged a price, but also had a "toll" extracted.  Mr. Edwards would use the box Jennifer is holding to scoop from the bag his "toll".   Seems that karma had a way of dealing with the Edwards Mill as it was washed away in 1913 and was never rebuilt.  This resulted in more business for the Murrays whose mill was a centerpiece of the community for over 50 years.
We were surprised to learn that a hiking trail around the millpond and along Ball Creek had been constructed by the Carolina Thread Trail.
It is a part of a longer trail that is detailed on their website.   But having already walked nearly three miles on the Faulkner Flats trail in the Linville Gorge we were only interested in a leisurely walk along a flat trail and that is what Murray's Mill offered. 

We hiked the trail in a figure 8 keeping the millpond always on our right....beginning beneath the dam, capturing a wonderful waterfall.

This site is often used for wedding receptions and photographs for all occasions.  I really think that a wedding at the base of these falls with the bridal party adorning the rocks would be very picturesque.

Leaving the dam, we begin our loop by 
trudging up to the George Huffman house that was constructed in 1820.  The view from the front porch of the house was also most interesting. I captured a wonderful reflection of the mill in the old window panes.

As we walked around the mill pond, we noticed that everywhere there was a wooden bench there was a scenic view to take in. Especially the white mill silhouetted against the blue green surface of the pond.

The trail borders a large corn field but is very well marked and maintained.  As the pond narrows into a marsh, the trail leads into the woods but not before you get one last look at the distant mill.

The trail crosses a long wooden bridge over the marshy end of the millpond and emerges at the edge of the Shiloh Church cemetery.
Then it returns to the edge of the pond. 

At one of the bench views, I spotted a couple of ducks.  We got to watch them for awhile as they interacted with each other.

 The Carolina Thread trail ends at Shiloh Church road but the millpond loop trail continues on the other side of the highway bridge at the water hydrant.  

The trail allows for additional views of the mill pond and the surrounding corn fields.  
The trail emerges at the edge of an adjacent farm that boasts a large white barn on the hill overlooking the mill pond.

The adjacent outbuildings of this farm on the banks of the mill pond captured my interest.  The oldest shed had a couple of old wagon wheels and plows.


From the farm side of the mill pond, there were more great views of the mill and the Huffman house.
The trail led to the back of the mill and there were stairs leading to a walkway across the back of the mill overlooking the dam. 

The view from the walkway of the dam offered yet another great photograph of this iconic old building

While I went into the mill, the details of that part of the day will be in a blog on the mill.  We picked up the Ball Creek portion of the trail on the other side of the bridge.  As I climbed down the trail I could not resist another picture of the mill from beneath the bridge.

We picked up the Ball Creek Carolina Thread Trail that follows the creek north.  The trail is a typical wooded creek side trail. 
At the bridge the Ball Creek Trail continues but we opted to cross the bridge and loop by the Store.
The trail ends at the Murray Minges store.  In there is a soda box full of ice cold bottled drinks.  While drinking my cold soda, I listened as Jennifer described the history of the mill.
There are few perfect trails but this one comes very close only because of the Murray Mill.  It is picturesque and the various angles that you can see the mill and its accompanying buildings from the millpond trail makes a visit to this place special.

Access is a 9...only 15 minutes from I-40 at exit 138...the first exit west of the Catawba river bridge....the trail is well marked and maintained...a short 2.5 mile loop can be expanded if you take the Carolina Thread Ball Creek Trail...9...the scenery is a 10...the mill is unique piece of history and immaculately maintained and presented....effort to view is skewed to the view...a pretty easy hike that anyone can take...overall a 9+ hike....props to the Jennifer the site manager for making our trip special.  

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