Sunday, May 28, 2017



The Murray's Mill Historical District is located in Catawba County, near the town of Catawba off the aptly named Murray Mill Road.  The mill is a historically complete 1913 grist mill.  The story goes that when Lloyd Murray decided to quit, he simply closed the doors and went home. When the Historical Association gained possession of the mill, there was still grain in the bins waiting to be ground.

The Catawba Historical Association operates four sites in the county.  The Murray Mill site has several buildings in addition to the mill.  The John Murray House and the Wheathouse Gallery are also open to the public. 

The Murray & Minges Store is where we found the site director who provided us with great information and history of the mill.  The Murray family operated a mill on this site since the 1880's. In 1906, William Murray, gave the mill to his sons, John and O.D.  A year later, the sons divided their interests with John running the mill and O.D running the store. The current mill was constructed in 1913.

The original mill located at this site was constructed by William Murray around 1883.  The mill was on Ball Creek and was one of many that served this area of Catawba County.  As the story goes, a mill upstream from the Murray Mill was operated by Mr. Edwards who on occasion would interrupt the flow of water to the Murray Mill causing him to have to bring his grain to Mr. Edwards to mill.
After paying to grind the meal, Mr. Edwards would also extract a "toll" from Murray and his other customers.  Jennifer, the site director of the Mill, holds the Edwards Toll Box.  From each bag of grain milled by Edwards, he would scoop a toll by using the toll box.

Karma had a way to even things out as the Edwards Mill was washed away in 1913, That same year John  Murray tore down the original mill and built this structure.  He replaced a turbine with a 22 foot diameter water wheel.  In 1938, his son, Lloyd, raised the dam by six feet and replaced the water wheel with the current 28 foot diameter metal wheel.  It was at this time the store was built in its current location.

On the banks of the mill pond is the 1820 home of George Huffman.  This house is currently unopened but would make a great bed and breakfast or tavern.  From the porch of this house is the best view of the Murray's Mill Historical District.

The Mill is often used for special events and the area beneath the dam is very picturesque.  The water spilling over the dam creates several waterfalls cascading over the rocks into Ball Creek. 
From the steel walkway on the back of the mill, there is a great view of the dam from above. 

The mill is a living historical museum.  The inside of the mill looks as it did when Lloyd Murray closed the mill.  Rarely are grist mills this historically accurate.  For a small fee, Jennifer will provide you a guided tour.  There are three floors of vintage equipment and tools. It is apparent that Mr. Murray had quite a business.  The mill is currently operational and I want to return and see what it looks like when these machines are running.
From the windows of the mill, you can see the mill dam and the waterfalls.

The basement floor is the gear room. It is very interesting and informative to see how the massive wheel transfers the water into power to operate the machinery of a grist mill.

The tool room boasts over a hundred vintage tools of all sorts and sizes.  It reminds you how self reliant the miller had to be.  

There is a small museum and class room on the first floor with a model of the mill and several wonderful pictures of the mill in operation.

Across the road is the Murray & Minges Store which is a vintage country store with ice cold bottled drinks.  It is adorned with shelves of product and memorabilia. 

The store was operated by O.D Murray who by reputation was an astute businessman who trusted few people.  Unique to the store is the large ornate hole in the ceiling.  It served two practical functions.  First to ventilate the second floor, the second was to allow Mr. Murray to keep an eye on the cash register while working upstairs. 
The store is also a museum of sorts containing all types of memorabilia about the mill village the surrounding area.  Jennifer, the site manager seems to be the resident expert mixing historical facts with interesting anecdotes.  

Spending time in a rocking chair sipping on a bottle of pop, I could envision how many tales were told around the old pot belly wood stove.
The store contains a large operational soda fountain which annually is the site of an ice cream social which raises money for the Murray's Mill Historic District.  This year the event is on July 9. Think it might cause the FBWG and his Faithful Hiking Companion to take another trip to Murray's Mill.

The Mill may be one of the best kept secrets in the Piedmont.  It is a fascinating and beautiful site that has been meticulously maintained. It is a wonderful destination for a weekend afternoon road trip.  It is also a great place to take young folks and others who are interested in history.

It is nice to see a site like this restored as it gives me hope that folks will follow the example of the Catawba Historical Association in the preservation and repurposing of old historical sites.  A job well done!

Another special place to visit on a road trip to Murray's Mill is  Pop's Old Company Store and Tavern in downtown Catawba.  

Pop's is the creation of the late Wayne "Pops" Hyatt who opened this place a few years back.  It is now operated by his son and daughter in law.  Located in a restored 1895 building.  The tavern and restaurant is a hidden gem.  Great food, cold beer, and warm welcome accompanies every visit. Make sure you stop by and tell Trish that the Fat Bald White Guy sent you! 

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