Special to The Mountaineer

Francis Mill celebrates National Register listing

By Tanna Timbes | Jun 05, 2013
Photo by: Donated photo The Francis grist mill in Waynesville, above, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The recently restored Francis Mill has received federal recognition for its contributions to the history of Francis Cove and the Waynesville area. Kevin Cherry, Deputy Secretary of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History and State Historic Preservation officer announced May 1 that the U.S. Department of the Interior has added the 19th century grist mill to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the federal government’s official list of properties throughout the United States whose historical and architectural significance makes them worthy of preservation.

“[The Francis Mill Preservation Society (FMPS)] is most fortunate to preserve a property that justly deserves this honor,” Cherry said.

The FMPS will celebrate the National Register listing with an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 23. The Trantham Family will provide an afternoon of traditional mountain music. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.

Built in 1887 by William Francis, the Francis Mill has served as a focal point of the rural community for over 100 years. The 126-year-old mill operated from 1887 until 1976 when the last “official” miller in the Francis family passed away.

In 2003, friends of the Francis Mill formed the FMPS, a nonprofit to “restore and preserve the Francis Grist Mill." A concerted effort by volunteers, led by the FMPS with assistance from Adventures in Preservation, has been responsible for the mill’s restoration. Close to collapse in 2004, the mill is now fully functional and open to school groups and others as an educational resource.

Funding for restoration work at the Francis Mill has been provided by the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills (SPOOM), the James G. K. McClure Foundation, the Society for Industrial Archaeology, the Terence L. Mills Preservation Fund for North and South Carolina, the Haywood County Community Foundation, the Steele Reese Foundation, the Janirve Foundation, the Bethel Rural Community Organization and MAST General Store as well as the Francis Cove and Waynesville communities.

Preparation of the National Register nomination for the Francis Mill was funded by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and funding from the Francis Mill Preservation Society, the Bethel Rural Community Organization, Haywood County Historical and Genealogy Society, and MAST General Store. Clay Griffith, Acme Preservation Services of Asheville, North Carolina, and Patrick Willis, a friend of the mill, prepared the nomination.

“This is an absolute honor for the men who built the mill and kept it running for 89 years,” Tanna Timbes, president of FMPS said. “And it’s an honor for those people who have helped restore the mill to working order in order to preserve a bit of our heritage”.

The FMPS is located at 14 Hugh Massie Road. For more information, call 456-6307.