There were once 32 grist mills along the Eno River from Hillsborough to Durham, North Carolina. None were more prominent than the West Point Mill located at Shoemaker's Ford.
The banks of the Eno were home to many aboriginal tribes centuries before the white man arrived. The location was the place where Michael Synott built his tavern and where Bishop Spangenberg stayed in 1752 on his way to establish Wachovia for his Moravian brethren. It was the truce line between the Union and Confederate forces at the end of the civil war, a place where General Judson Kilpatrick camped his troops.
The first mill was constructed prior to 1752 on the banks of the Eno near this location. In 1780, William Thetford and Charles Abercrombie laid the foundation to what became known as the West Point Mill. A mill was operated from that time until 1942. In 1973 the remnants of the mill collapsed but by 1976, the mill was rebuilt on the original foundation. It is the centerpiece of a 400 acre park operated by the city of Durham.
Part of the Eno was diverted to form a small mill pond against a stone dam. The water from the mill pond when unleashed powered the waterwheel of the mill.
The turn of the waterwheel causes the gears in the first floor gear room of the mill to move in unison supplying power to the grist wheel on the second floor, grinding corn into meal.
The West Point Mill has been the home to many artisans who have served the community making the mill the centerpiece of the surrounding community. Current miller Kurt McCoury turns this historic building into a living museum to a lost art.
"Our hope is to put West Point on the map again. Though sad things have happened on the river, though the millstones were stolen and the mill declined and fell, and though growth of a density Mrs. Man gum never dreamed of has come to the Eno east of Roxboro Road, yet west of Roxboro Road where West Point used to be, the lands are green still and are destined for a river park of magnificent dimensions which will be run by the City and State together."
"We hope to recreate some of the life of West Point and make this area a historical focus for the river park. Mill machinery has been given to replace some of what was stolen. A log farm house has been given to use as lumber for the mill. Gifts of money have come in. But we need more machinery, more structural timbers, more money, more helping hands and enthusiastic hearts."
"There is much to be done. There is the mill to be rebuilt, the fields to be cleared, the barn mended, the outbuilding, granaries and blacksmith shop to be brought back together again. And we have still standing waiting to be restored, the fine old house itself. When we have worked together to complete this restoration, we will see yet another mill on the foundation of the old, standing in familiar surroundings, her wheel churning the waters and turning the stones and grinding the corn."
Volume 3, No. 1
-Jean Anderson & Margaret Nygard