Greensboro Mill

Mill race on Duck Creek at the Greensboro Mill. (click for an enlarged image in a new browser window)

             No place on this earth I’d rather be

            Neither in country, city nor town,

            On river, lake or the boundless sea,

            When mid-summer sun’s bilin’ down,               

            Than in some nice cool water mill                                         

            Free from all care there is to feel.

            On grain bags lay quiet and still

            And hear water splash over the wheel.

–Excerpt from Dog Days

               by Moses Hodson (1855-1941)

 

If you were to take a walk through Greensboro, making your way west, you’d eventually come to a little blue house. It sits to the left of a wide road. Most likely, you wouldn’t think anything of it. It’s just another house—except it’s not.

That house used to be the Greensboro Mill, some sixty-plus years ago. A poet, Moses Hodson, operated it. Even though Moses published three books of his poems, he never became widely famous. Then again, maybe he didn’t need to. His great poems resonated with many.

So did the Mill.

Kedric Wallace, a Greensboro native who currently lives in Spiceland, grew up around the mill. He walked past it often on his way to Duck Creek to fish. He and his friend would take a frying pan and cook the fish as they caught them, using bait of soft craws (crawfish that were going through the molting process). They’d find them under rocks and Kedric would carry them in his hat. Sometimes, he’d even stop to play on the wheel.

“We’d get it going so fast,” he says of he and his friend, Richard Rutherford. “We couldn’t stop until the wheel slowed down naturally.”

The wheel was the focal point of the mill, and after it was removed from the building several years ago, its new home became a patch of land.

“The wheel laid down where (an over-) flowing well was for some time until somebody came by and bought it,” Kedric said. No one seems to know where it went. Kedric added that people came and used the well all the time. Doctors even came from New Castle for the water.

Even though there are pictures of the mill, nowadays it’s virtually unrecognizable. The only hints of the Mill that remain today are the roof that mirrors the shape of the old one, and the length of the building.

There only seem to be a few photos taken of the mill, but there are many paintings to show what it looked like. Kedric himself has painted three.

His first encounter with a painting of the mill was when he was ten years old. He was walking his usual route to Duck Creek when he came upon a woman in the middle of the road. She was painting the mill. He remembers thinking to himself, Really?, and then continuing on.

To this day, he doesn’t know who that woman was. But she still managed to impact him in a small way. She may have even sparked his interest in painting.

Kedric’s Mill painting offers everyone a peek into the past.

In the painting above, in the far right, you can plainly make out a brick house. That home belonged to Paul and Waneta Cowan, who moved there after selling their store in Greensboro. Their daughter, Virginia Cripps, was a young teenager at the time. Beside the house, on the left side of the painting, is a barn where they milked cows.

“Then there was this upstairs where the hay was,” Virginia said. “And then a stairway going on up which was kind of scary.” From the hayloft, she could look out on Greensboro.

The barn is gone today.  Virginia was told it has been taken apart, moved to Texas, and rebuilt as a restaurant. But she’s not certain whether that’s true or not.

At the time she was living by the mill, Virginia says, “(It) wasn’t operating (as a mill) but the wheel ran if the stream got up.”

Virginia remembers when the mill caught fire.

“When the mill burned, that was a big thing, and I remember standing out on the hill and watching it,” she says. The year was 1949.

But that wasn’t the first time it burned. After a fire in 1927, the mill was reconstructed and made with sheet metal instead of the original wood siding.

Moses Hodson operated the mill from 1906 to 1924, shortly after Levi Ulrich bought it in 1905. It quickly became the inspiration for many of his poems. As stated by an article published by the Kennard Historical Society in 1998, Moses hummed as he worked. It also says his humming led people to believe he was coming up with rhymes in his head as well.

Moses passed away in 1941, after servicing the Greensboro community for many years. He was a husband, a poet, and a miller—but moreover I think he was a friend.

When Moses quit operating the mill in 1924, it was sold to Wilk Holland. Marcelle Taylor bought the mill after the 1927 fire, reconstructed it (minus the third story), and sold it in 1930 to Orion Wilson, who passed away five years later. The mill was then operated by his wife and son until, strangely enough, 1941—the year Moses died.  Floyd Hosier bought it and owned it until the 1949 fire (source: information provided by Henry County Historical Society and an article published in the Courier Times, 8/6/41 provided by Kevin Stonerock of Greensboro). It was then converted into a beauty parlor for a short time. And then it became what it is today—a home.

The mill as Moses would have seen it, circa 1916.

You can visit Moses’ grave today in the Greensboro Cemetery.

Another matter that seems to sit heavily with people is the fact that the mill was converted from water to electric. Times changed, and though the owners of the mill scrambled to keep up, it never did equal the success of its early years.

But we look back, and we remember fondly the people who have owned it. It is amazing that something as simple as a mill was able to touch numerous lives.

Norris “Jenny” Williams looks at the mill. This picture was taken sometime after the mill burned the first time in 1927.

We’ll look at pictures. And we’ll tell stories. We can only hope that the legacy of the mill won’t be lost as generations come. If you remember the mill, talk about it.

The thing we all love about history is that it draws us in and keeps us wanting to know more. It’s the intimacy of it. We wonder: how can so many people who are so different be a part of the same thing? The answer, in fact, is the people themselves. We become united through a shared interest or experience. From that, we form friendships.

I’ve learned a lot about the mill I barely knew existed in the past couple of months. I spent a morning in Greensboro with my Papaw Kedric, chatted on the phone with Virginia Cripps, read through old articles and looked at old pictures. But my favorite part about the mill is Moses Hodson’s poetry. I learned the most about the mill through him. It was obvious, from his carefully crafted words, that he loved it.

He wasn’t the only one.

As long as I live no doubt I’ll be found

            Foolin’ ‘round some old water mill

            Writing jingles as grain is ground,

            In my happy, go-lucky way still.

            Some will joke as they laughingly say

            They believe a miller will steal,

            As I toll the grists in my jolly old way

            And hear water splash over the wheel.

           (Excerpt from Dog Days by Moses Hodson)

Water-wheel at the old Greensboro Mill, after 1927.

by Maddie Wallace 07/31/2012

 

About the Author:

Maddie Wallace is a 14-year-old homeschooler in New Castle, Indiana. She loves writing, reading, singing, & playing piano.

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