The Mills of Washington County

Matthew Krauss, Columnist •

Washington County has many historic features but one which needs to be more present in the community is the historic mills. I was sorely mistaken to think the region’s mills still have their former 19th century glory; most of the owners and have abandoned them. When I visited two mills last week I expected to see the classical picturesque scene of a water wheel flowing with water and a family living in the mill but instead, I was greeted by two buildings in mass decay.

The signature feature of the mill, the wheel that pushes the gears that grind flour and similar products has been fully removed. In the time since then various gears and other equipment from the mill have made their way into the stream. The lack of care for the mills surprised me because I always assumed that people would be proud and excited to live in a place as unique as a mill ( the mill pond is a great spot for avid fisherman and bird watchers paradise because the pond provides a resting spot for migrating birds.)

Clearly, the mills had importance in its day; both of the mills are on roads named after the mill. Both of the mills had multiple signs stating that nobody should trespass (this was on the house, mind you, so I think me standing on the river bank was okay). Many people may not care to visit mills in today’s world because, they are simplistic, unflashy, and serve purposes replaced long ago by standard factories. However, I believe that history is something too important just to be just thrown away; it needs to be nourished and allowed to exist even when it threatens to stand in the way of progress.

The good news is not all local county mills are dilapidated and White’s Mill still remains a tourist destination and Damascus’ mill has been converted into a restaurant and inn. However, most local historic mills are far from the beaten track and the journey towards them may be considered an adventure in and of itself. There is one redeeming quality of Love’s and Debusk mills (where I visited) that for some may make it worth a visit.

There is a dam standing above the mill house. This diverted the water into the channel where it then flowed over the water wheel and you can watch the water still flowing in its man-made course. Love’s Mill has a convenient store that looks straight from the 50s with even a traditional gas pump that has since gone out of working order. The nostalgic feel is certainly there but the poor condition of the place makes it less attractive.

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