Saturday, January 7, 2012

Careful What You Look For: The Millstone


I love to visit the Irish Bred Pub & Restaurant in downtown Douglasville. I like the exposed old brick inside the dining room, the tall windows at the front, and the old photographs of Douglasville as it used to be handing along the walls. The food and the fellowship are great ingredients, too!

Earlier this month I had lunch at the pub with a friend to discuss local history. It was the perfect location since the pub building itself has a long history as does the entire commercial district along Broad Street.

The day was cold and rainy, and since Broad Street was closed due to the train accident and subsequent clean up I hurried through O'Neal Plaza and into the pub without much notice of my surroundings. Had my visit to the pub been during the early 1970s or much earlier during the 1940s or even back to the 1920s, I would have seen a round item encased in the cement resembling a wheel of some sort in front of the storefront.

I would have seen a millstone, items long associated with harvest and hospitality. This particular millstone has quite a history and according to a past county historian it symbolizes the gratitude of a people for their time of great need.

The stone is actually from a mill that was located along the banks of Anneewakee Creek. 

Arnold Mill was built by pioneer Alston Arnold after he came to Georgia via South Carolina in the 1830s. He situated the mill at the mouth of Anneewakee Creek, and it later provided to be a most advantageous spot for him and for the people of Douglas County.

The mill was quite an enterprise for its day. Local historians advise the mill was three stories high and also had the capability of sawing wood as well. A small community even sprang up around the water-powered business.

During the 1880s a terrible drought lasting six months hit north Georgia including Douglas County. Many of the mills could no longer grind grain and corn because the water powering the millstones had dried up.

However, due to its position at the mouth of the creek Arnold Mill was able to put precious corn meal into the hands of hungry settlers.

As time went on, of course, the mill was no longer needed. As we moved from a more agricultural area to a business-oriented community the mills along the Chattahoochee River and creeks such as Anneewakee fell silent. Often times all that is left of these old mills is a foundation and a broken millstone or two.

However, the Arnold descendants realized the importance of their millstone. They realized it did symbolize a long forgotten time in Douglas County when people were very grateful for Arnold Mill. The millstone came to be memorialized in the sidewalk along Broad Street for nearly 60 years.

I wonder in all that time how many people walked over it and had no idea what it was.

Dr. F.M. Stewart placed the millstone in the sidewalk in front of his business which was located where the pub is today. The pub website gives an excellent history of the location here with a great image of Selman's Pharmacy. A family member has advised me Stewart owned  the location after Selman did, and he was quite the entrepreneur here in Douglasville along with his brother, Rader Stewart.

F.M. Stewart is remembered as a dentist, Master Mason, Shriner, and served on the school board. His brother, Rader, was a banker with interests in the Farmers an Merchants Bank. Together the brothers owned a general store situated at today's pub location, an they also owned Stewart's Mill.

This is the point of my research where a huge question loomed. So, if the Stewart brothers had their own mill, how did Dr. F.M. Stewart come to possess the Arnold Mill millstone and place it in front of his business establishment?

One of the historical sources I consulted was Fannie Mae Davis' written historical account  regarding Douglas County. She advised the stone was taken up in the late 1970s, and family members including Charlie an Rebecca Camp considered it a family relic and had possession of it. Finally, names I recognized.

Luckily I'm friends with the Camp's daughter-in-law, Julie, so I asked her about it.

It hit us at the same time.

Why were the Camps in possession of a millstone belonging to the Arnold family?  Stranger still was the fact that the Camps daughter-in-law had been born an Arnold. Red flags went up for both Julie and I. Was there some connection between Julie's family and her husband's?  Some connection she might not want?

You know the old adage regarding be careful what you look for -- you might just find it? Thankfully, this wasn't the case. We didn't discover some genealogical faux pas. There IS a logical explanation regarding why Dr. Stewart came to be in possession of the Arnold Mill stone and why the Camp family keeps it safe today.

You see, the millstone wound its way through his daughter's line of succession. F.M. Stewart was married to Willie Edna Selman, granddaughter of Alston Arnold, the original mill and millstone owner.

From Dr. Stewart the stone passed to his daughter, Francis "Toot's" Thompson and then to her daughter, Rebecca Camp.

Camp and her husband, Charlie, have given the millstone another resting spot in the sidewalk of their Douglasville home -- the image seen here with this story.

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