Back in the day, Hagood Mill in Pickens was a busy center of commerce, drawing folks from all over the hills and hollers of South Carolina's Upcountry.
Today, they're still gathering at the historic site to watch the state's oldest operational wooden water-powered gristmill grind grain into flour just as it did more than 170 years ago.
Now sporting a new 20-foot waterwheel, the mill runs only on the third Saturday of each month. With the operating mill as the headliner, the once-a-month event has turned into a mini-festival, celebrating Southern traditions and the Appalachian arts.
Visitors are invited to the community fair to see the historic 1845 gristmill in action. To power it up, the gate on a sluice is opened, allowing water from Hagood Creek to be diverted onto the mill's wooden waterwheel. As the wheel spins, a shaft attached to it turns a millstone, causing it to grind against another stone.
The stone-ground grits, flour, oat and cornmeal produced at the mill are sold onsite and at the Hagood Mill gift shop. Along with the milled products, the shop sells locally made jams, jellies, pickled okra and chow-chow.
During the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. festival, visitors also can check out a working cotton gin, blacksmith shop and moonshine still run by a family of mountaineers who have been in the hooch-making business since the 1700s.
Among other artisans and craftsman demonstrating their skills are a bobbin lace maker, quilter and chair caner. At one recent event, Bruce Chrysler was sitting at a shaving horse roughing out a bow from the branch of a locust tree, the same kind of wood used by Cherokees who once hunted in the area.
In another shady spot, bowl carver James Gillespie was using an adze to create a hand-dug bowl out of a block of poplar wood. The lineup of demonstrations also includes butter-churning and open-hearth cooking in one of two restored log cabins built in the 1790s and 1820s.
Each month, the festival features a different musical performance or special presentation, from an old time fiddling competition to a Native American celebration. Hand-churned ice cream, barbecue and other foods are available for sale.
In addition to the monthly Saturday event, Hagood Mill is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. There are no demonstrations scheduled those days, but the historic buildings are open to the public.
Hagood Mill also is home to the South Carolina Petroglyph Site, featuring ancient rock art found on the property. The Petroglyph Site is open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Please link to petroglyph article here/cshain)
Find more information about Hagood Mill at the website or by calling 864.898.2936.