This report was written on Dec 6 1978
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Torrance Mill is located on Gilead Rd. west of Huntersville, N.C., in the
northern section of Mecklenburg County.
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner and
occupant of the property : The mill itself is a ruin and is therefore
The present owner of the property is:
Jackie Ray McGee & wife, Carol F. McGee
RFD 3, Box 37
Huntersville, N.C. 28078
Telephone: (704) 875-2278
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report
contains a map depicting the location of the property.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
reference to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 3837
at Page 643. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is 01509105.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
James Galbraith Torrance (1784-1847), son of Hugh Torance and Isabella
Kerr Falls Torance, moved from Rowan County to Mecklenburg County in the
late 1780's. 1 During much of his youth, however, James resided
with Albert Torrence, a successful merchant in Salisbury, NC. Consequently,
it is not surprising that James established and operated a store on his
father's plantation beginning in 1805, the mercantile facility being located
in his father's former residence.
Hugh Torance died in February 1816, leaving an estate which included 1400
acres on McDowell Creek and 33 slaves. Thereafter, James devoted increasing
amounts of time to the management of the plantation. The scope of his
operations included the construction of a grist mill and saw mill in
1824-25. The lumber for
Cedar Grove, the imposing mansion which James erected in 1831, was sawn
at this site. A second mill, most likely situated at the location of the
earlier facility, was built in 1844-46 by William Martin Sigman at a cost of
$1170. The frame millhouse, millstones, water wheel and other milling
machinery survived into the twentieth century. Only the rock walls of the
edifice continue to occupy the site. Portions of the millrace, originally
bringing water from McDowell Creek to what was most probably an overshot
wheel, are also extant. 2
1 The information in this essay comes from three sources. They
are: 1) An interview of Mr. Richard T. Banks by Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Nov. 22,
1978, 2) "Biographies of Hugh Torance and James Galbraith Torrance," an
unpublished manuscript by Richard Torrance Banks, and 3) family archival
material in the possession of Richard T. Banks.
2 William Martin Sigmon was the contractor hired by James
Torrance to erect the mill in 1844-46. The different spellings of the
surname (Torance, Torrance and Torrence) reflects the practice followed by
the different members of the family.
7. A brief architectural description of the property : This report
contains an architectural description of the property by Jack O. Boyte, AIA.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria set forth in N. C. G. S. 160A-399.4:
a. Historical and cultural significance: The historical and
cultural significance of the mill rests upon three factors. First, this is
the most imposing ruin of an antebellum mill which survives in Mecklenburg
County. Second, the mill constituted a portion of one of the most
substantial antebellum plantations in Mecklenburg County. Third, the
property has associative ties with a family of local prominence.
b. Suitability for preservation and restoration: As an historic
ruin, the property owner, Richard T. Banks possesses considerable
documentation concerning the operation of the mill, a source of
information which would be extremely useful if restoration of the facility
c. Educational value: The Torrance Mill has educational value
because of the historical and cultural significance of the property.
d. Cost of acquisition, restoration, maintenance or repair: At
present, the Commission has no intention of securing the fee simple or any
lesser included interest in this property. The Commission presently
assumes that all costs associated with restoring and maintaining the
property will be paid by the owner or subsequent owner of the property.
e. Possibilities for adaptive or alternative use of the property:
The property is included within a tract which is zoned rural
residential. The property could be adapted into an historic site of
considerable importance and note.
f. Appraised value: The Torrance Mill has no tax value. It is
included in a tract of 14.58 acres of land within which the home of the
current owner is located. The land has an appraised tax value of $12,390.
The current tax appraisal on the improvements on the land is $12,160. The
most recent tax bill on the land and improvements was $207.97. The
Commission is aware that designation would allow the owner to apply for a
deferral of 50% of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the tract
which becomes "historic property.
g. The administrative and financial responsibility of any person or
organization willing to underwrite all or a portion of such costs: As
stated earlier, the Commission presently has no intention of purchasing
the fee simple or any lesser included interest in this property.
Furthermore, the Commission presently assumes that all costs associated
with the property will be paid by the present or subsequent owners of the
9. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria established for inclusion in the National Register of Historic
Places: The Commission judges that the property known as the Torrance
Mill does meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
Basic to the Commission 's judgment is its knowledge that the National
Register of Historic Places, established by the National Historic
Preservation Act of 1966, represents the decision of the Federal Government
to expand its recognition of historic properties to include those of local,
regional and State significance. The Commission believes that its
investigation of the property known as the Torance Mill demonstrates that
the property possesses local historical and cultural importance.
Consequently, the Commission judges that the property known as the Torrance
Mill does meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
10. Documentation of why and in what ways the property is of
historical importance to Charlotte-Mecklenburg: The property known as
the Torrance Mill is historically important to Mecklenburg County for three
reasons. First, this is the most imposing ruin of an antebellum mill which
survives in Mecklenburg County. Second, the mill constituted a portion of
one of the most substantial antebellum plantations in Mecklenburg County.
Third, the property has associative ties with a family of local prominence.
Chain of Title
1. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 3837, Page 643 (April 21, 1976).
Grantor: J. R. McGee
Grantee: Jackie Ray McGee & wife, Carol F. McGee
2. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 2338, Page 598 (June 22, 1962).
Grantor: Joe C. McGee & wife, Mary H. McGee
Grantee: J. R. McGee
3. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 1803, Page 495 (October 17, 1955).
Grantor: Glenn B. Watts & wife, Ruth C. Watts
Grantee: Joe C. McGee & wife, Mary H. McGee
4. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 1212, Page 56 (September 13, 1946).
Grantor: J. G. Torrance & wife, Sadie D. Torrance
Grantee: Glenn B. Watts & wife, Ruth C. Watts
5. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 731, Page 295 (January 28, 1929).
Grantor: Margaret T. Howze & husband, J. B. Howze; R. A. Torrance & wife,
Latitia N. Torrance; Susan T. Zimmerman & husband, J. W. Zimmerman; Hugh
Torrance & wife, Louise L. Torrance; Gaston Torrance & wife, Annie W.
Torrance; Delia T. Banks & husband, H. A. Banks; W. A. Torrance; Minna T.
LeGrande; Mary T. Moore; Kate T. Sanders & husband, H. L. Sanders.
Grantee: J. G. Torrance
6. Mecklenburg County Will Book 0, Page 78 (May 28, 1927).
Devisor: Richard A. Torrence
Devisee: Minna T. Legrand, Margaret Howze, Richard A. Torrence, Jr., J. B.
Gaston Torrance, Mary T. Moore, Delia Banks, Susan Zimmerman, James G.
Torrance, Kate T. Sanders, Hugh Torrance, William A. Torrance.
7. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 6, Page 227 (March 13, 1869).
Grantor: Margaret A. Torrence
Grantee: Richard A. Torrence
8. Mecklenburg County Will Book I, Page 117 (1845).
Devisor: James G. Torrence
Devisee: Delia, Hugh, Margaret, James F., Letitia, Mary, William, Richard,
For a division of the J. G. Torrence land by court order of the Spring
term of 1847, see Minute Book 2, p. 505 and pp. 521 & 522.
Estate Records of Mecklenburg County .
Interview of Richard T. Banks by Dr. Dan L. Morrill (November 22. 1978).
Records of the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office.
Richard T. Banks, "Biographies of Hugh Torance and James Galbraith
Torrance." an unpublished manuscript.
Torrance Family Records in the possession of Richard T. Banks.
Date of Preparation of this Report: December 6, 1978
Prepared by: Dr. Dan I. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
139 Middleton Dr.
Charlotte, N.C. 28207
Telephone: (704) 332-2726
When James Torance remodeled his mill in 1844 he was able to use the help
contained in a handbook published a few years earlier. This book, The
Young Mill Wright and Miller's Guide, is owned now by Mr. Richard Banks,
a descendent of James Torance, and offers many clues to the original
Resting on a slight rise along the north side of Torance Creek where it
is joined by McDowell Creek in northern Mecklenburg County, the stone
remains of the Torance Mill graphically illustrate the form of this
important early nineteenth century grist and saw mill.
The remaining structure consists of foundation and first floor walls of
large granite blocks laid in
coursed ashlar. The stone was quarried in a nearby pit. Some pieces
measure three or more feet long and are of such weight they must have
required special machinery for handling. The walls are twenty to twenty-four
inches thick and rise from the lower grade about ten feet to a top course
leveled to receive a wood frame upper story. There are three distinctive
areas defined by the stone walls. A center well, where obviously the
original waterwheel was mounted, measures ten feet wide and twenty-four feet
long. The long dimension of this well parallels the nearby streambed. To the
upstream side there is a high retaining wall over which a wood chute
probably cast water into pockets of the water wheel. This water reached the
mill in an extraordinary raceway, the remains of which still extend upstream
for a distance of about a quarter of a mile. Curious when first viewed, this
long raceway is understood when principle No. 6 on the attached copy of page
201 from the early handbook is noted. At the lower side the wheel well floor
extends out to the west in an earth swale. This shallow valley slopes
gradually down to form a tail race which returned the working water to the
The water wheel well is flanked on the north by an elongated area where
log sawing equipment was installed. To the south are the foundations of a
large grist mill. For both areas the granite walls are pretty much intact
and rest solidly on deep stone foundations obviously constructed according
to principal No. 1 on the attached copy of page 202 from the handbook.
In the side walls of the wheel well are irregular openings where there
could have been shoulders for mounting the wheel axle and drive shaft. On
the saw mill side is an area where a geared cog sheer probably transferred
the wheel power vertically to the log sawing machinery. This lower level
shows no evidence that it contained a work room. However, there are several
large granite blocks remaining here which likely were supports for gears.
The sawing operation would have occupied an upper story wood frame enclosure
similar to that illustrated on the attached copy of Plate 23 from the
handbook. From the center well the wheel drive shaft passed through an
opening -- still evident-- into the lower level of a large grist mill wing
on the south side of the building. Much larger than the saw mill
compartment, the grist mill space measures about twenty-four feet square and
had two working levels originally. Just inside of the shaft opening in the
granite side wall is a rectangular stone pit which rises about six feet to
the level of the cellar floor. This floor and the one above were probably
heavy planks. None of the flooring remains, but there are support stones
spaced throughout the area. The pit follows the main floor plan which
indicates a cog wheel at this level to transfer power vertically to operate
the grist mill devices and equipment. This operation is illustrated on the
attached copy of plate 21 from the handbook which shows details of typical
The south wall of this area has an opening for a door which provided
access to the cellar area The stone sill which remains provides a clear
indication of the level of this bottom floor. On the west side there is an
opening centered in the stone wall where there was a window in the original
There are records of many mill locations in early Mecklenburg County,
some of which were in operation during the eighteenth century. The Torance
Mill site is the only one known to retain important elements from those
early times. So this a rare, signify historic remnant, and should he
Survey & Research Report: Cedar Grove & Hugh Torance Store