For Tourism Information about Pickens County, information about classes at the mill and museum, on-line class registration, and a detail Calendar of Events for the entire county go to the official tourism website at www.visitpickenscounty.com

 



How We Got Here & What We Do at
the Hagood Mill Historic Site & Folklife Center

 

One of the finest regional examples of nineteenth century technology can be found just three miles
north of Pickens, SC. Located just off Highway 178, at 138 Hagood Mill Road, this 1845 gristmill
served many generations of rural farm families until its’ closing in the mid-1960s.

Farmers only got paid once a year and that was when, and if, their cash crop was sold. Gristmill’s like the Hagood Mill made farm life possible by taking a “toll” of the corn ground instead of charging money. Before refrigeration, in the hot summertime, corn meal only had a shelf life of about two weeks, so the old “corn mill” was a place the farmers depended on and visited frequently.

It was also a place of human interaction and social sharing. Hagood Mill operated during the War Between the States; The Spanish / American War; World War I; World War II; The Korean War and part of the Vietnam War.
 

 In the 1960s, the Federal Government passed regulations requiring the farmers’ corn to be tested before grinding, and also, requiring preservatives. This effectively shut down most of the gristmills nationwide and Pickens County was no exception.

In 1972 Hagood Mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1973 the mill and surrounding property were donated to the Pickens County Museum Commission by the James Hagood Bruce family (descendants of James Hagood who built the mill in 1845 at the age of nineteen). In the early 1970s also, South Carolina was one of the states that made an exemption for water-powered gristmills to operate. Thus began a long off-again, on-again process of restoration by the County of Pickens, culminating with the mill being “back in business” on a monthly basis around Thanksgiving 1996 with the help of Alan Warner, who served as miller until 2009. Warner, a mill historian, has documented over sixty gristmill sites in Pickens County…almost all of which are now gone.

Since 1996, the mill has operated, rain or shine, the third Saturday of every month from 10:00 until 4:00. These monthly “corn grinding” days became mini-festivals of traditional arts, folklife and music. Presently there are more than twenty-five regular demonstrators who share their skills in milling, blacksmithing, cotton ginning, moonshining, spinning, weaving, bee-keeping, metalsmithing, quilting, woodcarving, flintknapping, chair caning, open hearth cooking and more.

Present miller, Reed Severance, a nationally certified interpreter, likes nothing better than to share with folks his knowledge of life in and around the gristmill. All the demonstrators are talented and engaging… a few are a virtual “one man show” of vanishing technology, like moonshiner / farmer, Robert “Mountain Man” Perry and hard-working blacksmith, Roger “Griz” Hockwalt.

 

One never knows what they might find at a Hagood Mill event. From time to time, the site plays host to military and living history re-enactors, nature specialists such as the Carolina Raptor Society, primitive technology experts, crafts guilds and other special presentations. Often filmmakers might be seen on site as two short films have been shot on site.

 

In July educational programs are expanded to include traditional arts Folk Camps for children to learn pioneer skills. The one thing that makes these events possible is the wonderful community of volunteers who call the mill site home. Hagood Mill is always ready to adopt a new “son or daughter” into its family of volunteers. If you think you could help and wouild want to join us doing anything from helping with events to working after-hours with one of our many projects or demonstrating a traditional skill that isn’t already being shared, please talk to the Mill Site Manager, Ed Bolt, about your interest.

One of the mill site’s strongest suits is the music, and other entertainment, offered at the monthly Third Saturday events. Many of this regions best bluegrass, old time, and blues musicians have performed at the Mill, including many SC Folk Heritage Award winners. A list of just a few of the past performers that have graced Hagood Mill’s Family Farm Stage would include National Banjo Champion, Charles Wood; National Pedal Steel Champion, Joe Turner; Grammy winner, Otis Forrest; Billy Graham Crusade singer, Myrtle Hall Smith; and the fabulous old time string band now taking the world by storm, the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Autumn offerings at Hagood Mill have fast become local tradition. In September, the last “Ol’ Time Fiddler’s Convention” in South Carolina is held on site with prize money for the best fiddler, guitarist, banjoist and old time string band. In October the mill becomes the site for the annual Hagood Mill Storytelling Festival, hosted by musician, storyteller and WNCW radio personality, John Fowler. Capping off the Fall Season in November is what is possibly the Mill’s most popular event, “Selugadu: A Native American Celebration” featuring Cherokee and intertribal dance, drumming, storytelling, crafts, primitive skills and other demonstrations. 

Springtime also offers a variety of entertainment, skills and theme days at the mill. One event that has fast grown popular is “Kidsfest,” held the third Saturday in March. Hosted by Buffalo Barfield and P. Doodle Possum, and featuring the Young Appalachian Musicians (Y.A.M.s), who learn traditional mountain music in five of Pickens County Schools, this is an event with music and workshops by and for children and has been called by many, “a super-fun day”. Other months feature a “Blues Day,” Gospel Day,” Songwriter Day,” and a variety of other quality stage shows. Hagood Mill’s Third Saturdays’ entertainment is sponsored by an anonymous benefactor so that you can come out, enjoy the show, or even join in one of the “jams” at the site.

 All of these events are designed to enhance the visitors’ experience and none of them could be possible without our dedicated volunteers. For a complete list of upcoming Mill events please visit the Upcoming Events page. 

Almost without exception, the farmers that came to Hagood Mill were cotton farmers. They needed about five acres of corn to feed themselves and their animals, and then, ten acres or more of cotton to sell for cash. In tribute to these farmers, the mill site is proud to have and operate an 1890 Daniel Pratt Cotton Engine. Along with the old gristmill, it is an exceptional piece of nineteenth century technology and was completely restored by a team of skilled volunteers. Cotton farming was a way of life in this area… as were the many textile mills that dotted Pickens County and became its main industry for almost a century. Before the cotton gin, it took one person eight hours to pick the seeds out of one pound of cotton; this machine can do a thousand pounds (or two) in an hour. Come out and see this “mechanical marvel.”

Since 1996, the mill site has grown yearly. When first re-opened, there was just the mill building with its 20-foot overshot wooden waterwheel and a small barn. Since that time, the barn was remodeled into a family farm exhibit, a visitor building with gift shop was constructed, a three-quarter mile nature trail was developed, two historic Pickens County log cabins were relocated to the site, a blacksmith shop was built, along with a cotton gin building, a moonshine display and a large outdoor stage for the musical events.

 Recently, Pickens County Roads & Bridges installed the County’s last steel bridge, the 64 ft. Prater’s Creek Bridge, over the creek on the back of the mill site’s property. Originally built in 1930, this restored bridge, a beautiful example of WPA era craftsmanship, will allow access for responsible interpretive development of the several acres “across the creek” and formerly inaccessible by vehicle.

The County also has one other historically significant log cabin in storage, awaiting time and funds for restoration…the late 1700’s “Burdine” log cabin, which was home to Francis Asbury, who brought “Methodism” to the area. Future plans for the site do also include a one-room school and a reconstructed wooden covered bridge.

In 2003, perhaps the most exiting development at the site occurred when Native American petroglyphs (rock carvings) were discovered on a large, thirty foot long rock near the mill. The petroglyphs are difficult to see and easy to miss in the bright daylight, but when lit from the side after dark these ancient works of rock art stand out as if they were carved yesterday.

The carvings were found by a team member of the archaeologist Tommy Charles, while conducting a ten-year “SC Rock Art Survey” of the state for the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology. This survey documented over 300 petroglyph sites in the Upstate counties of Oconee, Pickens and Greenville. The seventeen human “stick men” on the Hagood Mill rock are thought to be between 1,000 and 2,000 years old. A 38’ x 80’ building is planned to go over the rock to protect the petroglyphs and to feature the photographic images of the survey and other related exhibits. This structure, which will look like a large barn from the outside, will become the “SC Rock Art Center” at Hagood Mill.

 The Hagood Mill Historic Site & Folklife Center went from 15 acres to 50 acres recently, when the County purchased the land directly across the road from the mill. The land includes a field that can park 400 – 500 cars on mill event days, plus much more land for future development.

In addition to the “Third Saturday” events, Hagood Mill has monthly “First Saturday” house concerts in the Visitor Building from 12:00 to 2:00 and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00 to tour the grounds and to pick up those “mill products.”

Guided tours are available by appointment. The site itself, located at 138 Hagood Mill Road in Pickens, SC 29671, is available every day during daylight hours to picnic or walk the nature trail. For more information contact Hagood Mill at 864-898-2936 or the Pickens County Museum at 864-898-5963.