Survey and Research
Long Creek Mill Ruin
1. Name and location of the
property: The property known as
the Long Creek Mill Ruin is located approximately 1,000 feet southeast of the intersection of Mt.
Holly-Huntersville Road and Beatties Ford Road in northern Mecklenburg
2. Name, address, and telephone
number of the current owner of the property: Mecklenburg County
3. Representative photographs of
the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location
of the property:
5. Current Tax Parcel Reference
and Deed to the property: The tax
parcel numbers of the property are 02516106,
02516108. The most recent deeds
for the property are recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Books 08939 page
452, and 07165 page 291.
6. A brief historical sketch of
the property: This report
contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Stewart Gray.
7. A brief architectural
description of the property:
This report contains a brief architectural description prepared by Stewart
8. Documentation of why and in
what ways the property meets the criteria for designation set forth in
a. Special significance in terms of
its history, architecture and/or cultural importance:
The Commission judges that the property known as the Long Creek Mill Ruin possesses special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The
Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:
1) The Long Creek Mill Ruin is
significant as the site of an earlier mill that was prominent in the
Colonial era of Mecklenburg County.
2) The Long Creek Mill Ruin is
significant in terms of the local community. The mill was a
commercial, social, and civic center of the community during the 19th
century. The mill was associated with prominent families associated
with Hopewell Presbyterian Church and St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
3) The Long Creek Mill, later known
as Whitley's Mill, was the last operating grist mill in north Mecklenburg.
4) As an abandoned commercial hub,
the Long Creek Mill Ruin may possess significant archeological resources.
b. Integrity of design, setting,
workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association: The
Commission contends that the architectural description prepared by Stewart
Gray demonstrates that the property known as the Long Creek Mill Ruin meets this criterion.
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal:
The Commission is aware that designation would allow the owner to apply for
an automatic deferral of 50% of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion
of the property which becomes a "historic landmark." The property is
exempt from the payment of Ad Valorem Taxes.
10. Portion of the
Property Recommended for Designation: The land and all features
associated with tax parcels 02516106 and 02516108.
Long Creek Mill, ca. 1900
The Long Creek Mill was a
grist mill built around 1820. Its ruin is located adjacent to Long Creek in
northern Mecklenburg County, approximately 1,000 feet southeast of the intersection of Beatties Ford Road and
Huntersville-Mt. Holly Road. The mill ruin consists of a stone foundation, stone walls that channeled water leaving the mill, and a remarkably
intact millrace of about 1,000 feet in length. Remnants of the dam or dams
are scattered along the creek, but topography would dictate that the dam, or
located 320’ to 450’ due east of the mill ruin. The Long Creek Mill was the
second mill built on the property. The property has also been known as the Long Creek Mills,
Long Creek Mill Farm, and Whitley's Mill. The first mill was built by Captain John Long sometime
before the Revolutionary War. Long Creek is named for Long who was a
Revolutionary War patriot. Long died in 1799 at age fifty-five and is
buried in the Hopewell Cemetery. 1 His tracts along
Long Creek were sold in 1804 and 1809. 2 Long’s mill
was located about 150 yards upstream from the Long Creek Mill Ruin.
Long’s mill would have
been a significant landmark in the colonial world of Mecklenburg County.
Located on the Great Road (Beatties Ford Road) approximately nine miles
north of the crossroads town of Charlotte, the mill would have served the
settlers of the area as they transformed the backwoods frontier into
agricultural land. Long’s mill likely would have been the only commercial
institutions in the area. The ca. 1760 log Hopewell Church building (non-extant),
located along the Great Road 1.5 miles to the north, and Long’s mill may
have been the only non-farm buildings in the community’s landscape. While
wheat and corn could be ground by hand or by hand or animal powered mills, a
water powered mill operated by an experienced miller was much faster and
more efficient. Other grist mills that operated in colonial-era
Mecklenburg included the Park's Mill, Mitchell's Mill, and Tomas Polk's
mill in Charlotte. 4 The proliferation of grist mills
throughout the backcountry demonstrates that the grist mills, even with a
one-tenth payment going to the miller, were virtually essential for
During the Revolutionary
War Lord Charles Cornwallis was attracted to Charlotte and Mecklenburg County because the
numerous mills along the county’s many creeks gave the promise of grain for
his army. Indeed, Long’s Mill was the object of British troops advancing
out of Charlotte up Beatties Ford Road in October 1780, when they were set
upon by patriots at the McIntyre Farm in the skirmish known as the "Battle
of the Hornets' Nest." 5 After Long's death
the land including Long’s mill and farm was acquired by Colonel John “Jacky”
H. Davidson in 1815-1818. 6 In about 1820 Davidson
replaced Long’s mill with the Long Creek Mill. 7
It is likely that Davidson used The Young Mill Wright and Miller's Guide.
The technical manual was written by Oliver Evans of Newport Delaware in 1795
and was updated in fifteen editions. 8 It was sold
widely in America and revolutionized milling by separating and fully
mechanizing the different functions of the mill on separate floors.
9 Davidson’s Mill was built during the height of
the book's popularity, and the tall Long Creek Mill resembled illustrations in the
It is known that the
builder of the Torance Mill (1825 and rebuilt in 1844) located a few miles
north of the Long Creek Mill used The Young Mill Wright and Miller's Guide
to design that mill. One remarkable element of the Long Creek Mill is
the nearly 1,000’ millrace that extends roughly east from the mill site. It
is possible that Davidson reused the dam from Long’s mill which may have
been more than 450’ upstream. Also, The Young Mill Wright and Miller's
Guide recommends long mill races. The long mill race and separation from
the dam supposedly protected the mill from being washed away during flooding. The long mill race may
also have mechanical advantages in terms of capacity and consistent flow.
In his history of the
Hopewell Community written in 1907, J. B. Alexander relates that before
the Civil War the Long Creek Mill was a center of the community. Taxes were
collected at the mill. Voting took place there with politicians literally
speaking while standing on stumps. According to Alexander, political
campaigning at the Long Creek Mill involved fighting, and “Whiskey, cider,
watermelons, and ginger cakes,” being passed out. The mill was also the
location of militia drills which Alexander described as “laughable
In 1835 Davidson moved to
Maringo County, Alabama where he became very wealthy. Through an agent he
sold his Long Creek property in 1838, and in 1839 the land including the
“Grist Mill and dwelling house,” was purchased by Major John H. Caldwell.
12 Caldwell was apparently successful in business. A
substantial farmer in northern Mecklenburg, he manufactured brick for the
Davidson College campus buildings and for the federal mint building in
Charlotte. Caldwell also contracted his slaves to work for the North
Carolina Railroad. In 1860 Caldwell sold the property to Robert Davidson
Robert Davidson “R. D.”
Whitley was born in 1820 and was reared at Holly Bend, the plantation of
Robert “Robin” Davidson. Robin Davidson was at one time the wealthiest
planter in Mecklenburg County. Davidson owned nearly 3,000 acres and 109
slaves in Mecklenburg County in 1850, and he owned another plantation in
Alabama. 13 R. D. Whitley’s mother, Jane Price
Whitley, was Robin Davidson’s niece. At some point, Whitley and his mother
moved to Alabama. They returned to North Carolina, and in 1860 R. D.
Whitley purchased the land containing the Long Creek Mill. 14
We do not know if R. D. Whitley made any significant changes to the mill or
to how the business was operated. It is likely that the mill, renamed
Whitley’s Mill, continued to function as a center of the rural community.
At some point in the nineteenth century a store was built across Long Creek
from the mill and served as the area’s post office. 15
The Chas. Emerson & Co. Charlotte City Directory 1879-1880 gives the
community around the mill the name “Martindale,” and lists R. D. Whitley as a
farmer. 16 In addition to farming over 300 acres, and owning the mill and store,
R. D. Whitley was active in real estate and is listed as grantee in over 30
conveyances before his death in 1900. 16 R. D.
Whitley was also instrumental in the establishment of the nearby St. Mark’s
Episcopal Church. In addition to helping to organize the church, Whitley
and his wife Martha McCoy Whitley sold to the trustees some of the land for
the sanctuary for a “modest sum,” and donated land for the rectory.
Mill in operation ca.1915
When R. D. Whitley bought
the mill in 1860, water powered milling was in its ascendancy with nearly
14,000 thousand mills operating in the country, most of them isolated country
mills like the Whitley’s Mill, with a potential to produce up to 50 barrels
of flour a day. 18 The world was very different when
Joseph S. Whitley took over operation of the mill and store after his
father’s death in 1900. Larger mills producing flour for the domestic market
and for export, such as the massive 1915 Interstate Milling Company located
in the Fourth Ward in Charlotte, began to dominate. Where there had been
at least five grist mills operating in northern Mecklenburg in the
nineteenth century, by 1918 the Whitley’s Mill was the only one still
operating. The 1918 “Biennial Report of The North Carolina Department of
Agriculture” lists just three mills in all of Mecklenburg County: the
Interstate Milling Company, Charlotte; DA Henderson, Matthews; and Whitley
Mill, Long Creek. Around 1919 the mill ceased to operate, perhaps due to a
storm that damaged either the mill or the dam. 19 In 1927 the estate
of R. D. Whitley was divided among his heirs. 20
In 1934 Whitley’s Mill
was inventoried by the Historic American Buildings Survey. By that
point the tall building was in decay with a notably sagging roof. The
building was photographed and measured drawings were made. A 1938 U.S. Parks Service publication used the mill’s HABS photograph
to illustrate the overall deterioration of the nation’s historic buildings. At some
point after the survey work was completed, the metal waterwheel, gears and
other machinery were removed. It is believed that the mill workings were
reinstalled in a reproduction grist mill south of Charlotte by Dr. Charles
D. Lucas around 1935. 22
Above: the ruined Lucas Mill in
Charlotte with machinery that may have been removed from the Long Creek Mill
1. Lee Kemp Ramsey, “The Long Creek Settlement and the Gum Branch East
of the Catawba River, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina: A
Genealogical Survey of the Neighbors and Allied Families of William
and Nancy Ramsey,” Mecklenburg County NC Geneology Project, accessed
May 20, 2012,
2. Mecklenburg County Old Real Estate books/pages: 18-52 and 19-517
3. J. B.
Alexander, Biographical Sketches of the Early Settlers of the
Hopewell Section (Charlotte: Observer Printing and Publishing
House, 1897) 31.
Sketches of Western North Carolina, Historical and Biographical:
Illustrating Principally the Revolutionary Period of Mecklenburg,
Rowan, Lincoln, and Adjoining Counties, Accompanied with
Miscellaneous Information, Much of it Never Before Published (Raleigh:
Raleigh News Steam Job Print, 1877) 132, 137, 298.
5. Dan L. Morrill,
Historic Charlotte: An Illustrated History of Charlotte and
Mecklenburg County (San Antonio: Historical Publishing Network,
6. Mecklenburg County deeds 20-103 and 19-56
Alexander, p. 31.
"Who Was Oliver Evans?" accessed on
May 20, 2012 at
9. "Colvin Run Mill,"The Fairfax County Park Authority
Division of History, Annandale, Virginia, accessed on May 20,
Dan L. Morrill, "Torrence Mill"
(Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1978) accessed on May 20, 2012 at
11. Alexander, p. 31.
13. "Survey and
Research Report on Holly Bend," (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic
Properties Commission, 1974?) accessed on May 20, 2012
14. Deed 4-386
Stewart Gray with
Brown D. Whitley, May 7, 2012.
The Chas. Emerson & Co. Charlotte City Directory 1879-1880
(Charlotte: Charlotte Observer Steam Job Print, 1879) 138.
"Survey and Research Report on the
Episcopal Church," (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
Commission, 1983) accessed on May 20, 2012 at
Grantee Index to Real Estate Conveyances – Mecklenburg County, NC,
St. Mark’s S&R
"Country and City Mills in Early American Flour Manufacture and
Export." Report for the Colvin Mill Historic Site, 2007.
HABS Report on Whitley's Mill, State Route 2074, Charlotte
vicinity, Mecklenburg, NC, 1934. Also, Interview BR Whitley.
County Map Book 345.
by Stewart Gray with Dr. Dan L. Morrill, May 15, 2012.
The Long Creek Mill Ruin
is located on the north bank of Long Creek in northern Mecklenburg County.
The mill ruin lays due east of Beatties Ford Road, approximately 375 feet
from the edge of the pavement. Once open farm land, the area is covered
with second-growth forest. The most substantial element of the mill ruin is
the mill building’s stone foundation which sits only about ten feet from the
north bank of the current channel of Long Creek. It is composed of rough-cut
granite laid in irregular courses. The walls are approximately two foot
thick. The foundation is nearly square,
thirty-two feet wide by twenty-nine feet deep. The stone walls are
broken in places, with only the northeast corner, built into the hillside,
having retained its original height. Much of the stonework appears to have
fallen inward into the foundation. The foundation was stepped with a ten
foot tall section in the northeast corner. The remainder of the
foundation walls were originally eight feet tall.
The land rises steeply to
the north of the ruin and the northeast corner of the foundation is level
with grade. The southwest corner of the foundation rises from the grade
five feet, and the stone work is in good condition and not obscured by
ruble. The southeast corner of the foundation is buttressed by an
irregularly coursed rubble stone wall that extends toward the creek.
This wall formed the western edge of a five-foot-wide discharge chute, or
tailrace. The eastern wall of the tailrace is formed by a
partially extant retaining wall of unshaped stones.
The building foundation
is bordered on the east by a wheel pit. The wheel pit is relatively
intact, perhaps because the stonework of the wheel pit was built into the
hillside, as opposed to being freestanding stonework. The pit is five
feet six inches wide. Ruble from the collapsed east wall of the
foundation has partially filled the pit. Yet even with the ruble, the
rear or north wall of the pit features approximately eight feet of exposed
The red square is the location of the mill ruin.
Long Creek is shown in blue. The approximately 1,000' millrace is
depicted in pink. Evidence of dams are shown in orange.
The millrace joined the
mill at the northern edge of the wheel pit. The millrace was an
elevated flume (no longer extant) where it joined the mill , but
for most of its approximately 1,000 foot length, it is a channel. The
existing channel width varies from six to ten feet wide, but because of
erosion and sediment it is difficult to determine the original dimensions of
the channel. Portions of the millrace channel are a simple ditch.
Other sections of the millrace channel feature significant earthen retaining
walls. Other sections of the millrace channel are lined with stones.
Approximately 320 feet from the mill, the millrace shows evidence of a gate
and a stone discharge flume. This gate may have allowed the millrace
to be stopped or discharged back into the creek below the dam but before it
reached the mill. The millrace has very little slope, dropping
in elevation less than ten feet over its entire length.
Evidence of two dams is
located along the creek in the form of rock piles and borings in the
bedrock. One dam may have been located approximately 320 feet upstream
from the mill ruin. Another possible site is located approximately 450
feet upstream of the mill ruin.
While the mill is a ruin,
early-20th-century photographs of the mill exist, and measured plans for
the mill were produced as part of the Historic American Building Survey (HABS)
in 1934. The stone foundation was pierced by three small window
opening on the south elevation and was topped with a side-gabled two-story
frame building. The building was two bays wide and two bays deep.
A brick chimney was located on the west elevation. The building
incorporated heavy timber construction. The roof was covered with
wooden shake. Aside from the stonework described above, no elements of
the mill building appear to have survived. Other buildings such as a
house and a store were once located near the mill. No prominent
visible elements of these structures have survived.