Saturday, September 6, 2008

Kymulga Grist Mill Park

I leaned on an old favorite haunt of mine as the pick for this weekend's trip out with Griffin and Carlie. I've had an unnaturally healthy interest in history, especially local history, for as long as I can remember. Kymulga Grist Mill Park is just across the river, is very accessible and has something for just about everybody. The kids were not disappointed, with plenty of old stuff to see, water to splash in, mud to squish and smear, rocks to throw in the creek, and sticks to wave every which way.

But this time, I went with expectation that very soon, the mill could be history, literally.

Privately built in 1864 near Childersburg (plantation country in those days) on Talladega Creek, the mill served the needs of local farmers and the Confederacy alike for about a year before Northern raiders swept through Talladega County at the tail end of the Civil War. The mill was one of their stops, but it was spared after its owner was said to have handed over all the corn meal on hand, and paid off their commander. It was kept in running condition for decades after the war, and remained in operation well into the 20th Century. The adjacent covered bridge stayed in use too, giving farmers a way over the creek.

And that's pretty much the way things stayed until modern times. It's been blessed with good luck and good people to look after it, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s. It's owned and operated for tourism by a non-profit historical historical commission.
But even though the years have been relatively kind to the mill, time has caught up with it over the last few years with a vengeance. It's 144 years old, with a rustic look that suddenly went decrepit while no one was watching, so to speak.

The creek has eroded the earth beneath the main building with no way of putting it back on a solid footing short of partial dismantling and construction of a whole new foundation. Also, termites have done their work to the timbers supporting the mill. A structural engineer recently told the mill's caretakers the fix would cost something like $800,000. They have nowhere near that much, and no hope of raising it.

So barring intervention of some wealthy donor with a weakness for history, or a well-heeled corporation looking to invest in the community, the clock is ticking for the mill. The engineer said, a few days of heavy spring rain and the resulting fast water could very well sweep the legs out from under the mill, and take the structure down in seconds.