Murray’s Mill Historic District, North Carolina (May 31, 2020)

I got out yesterday for a little outing. I went to the Murray Mill Historic District in the rolling countryside of eastern Catawba County along the banks of Balls Creek. Preserved intact are the 1913 mill itself, the 1890s Murray & Minges General Store, the 1880s Wheathouse, which is now used as an exhibit gallery, the 1913 John Murray House that is furnished to the period, and numerous outbuildings. Murray Mill was run by 3 generations of the Murray family who closed their operations in 1967 and has been well preserved and taken care of by the Catawba County Historical Association (CCHA) since 1980 when restorations began. Due to COVID-19, the general store was the only thing open and visitors could only tour the grounds. I would have really liked to have toured the mill and museum they have in the Wheat House.

The center of the historic district is Murray’s Mill which was built and operated by William Murray in 1883. William deeded the property to his two sons John and O.D in 1906. John operated and ran the mill, while O.D ran and operated the general store. In 1913 John replaced his father’s mill with this current two-story structure, adding the 22′ waterwheel rather than the former turbine. In 1938 John’s son, Lloyd raised the dam 6 ft and installed the 28′ waterwheel. I was not able to tour inside because things were closed but apparently inside is the original one-ton French Buhr millstones for grinding corn, as well as the rollers that John installed for grinding wheat into flour. The mill was closed in 1967 when Lloyd Murray shut the doors to bureaucratic red tape and increasing taxes. In 1980 when the CCHA took over to restore the mill the bins still held flour from the day Lloyd closed business. The flour had been preserved in storage bins, each partitioned by tongue & groove sheathing.

View of the mill house from across the street at the General Store. Farmers wishing to use the mill would bring their wheat and John would grind it for them. Farmers typically would not leave with the same product they brought in, instead, they would trade the wheat for some that was previously ground. Farmers did however often wait for their own corn to be ground because each farmer usually had their own preference.

The general store which was operated by one of the brothers O.D. Murray…..The name Minges was added later through marriage. Inside is an antique coca-cola refrigerator and cola in glass bottles, there are old-fashioned toys made by local woodworkers, old-fashioned soaps, sweets, and candies, locally made pottery, and aprons, as well as Murray Mill T-shirts, bags, and magnets. John Murray’s daughter married Frank Minges who is related to the same family who started the Pepsi Bottling Group.

The 1880’s Wheat house is two stories, has a board and batten front door, and six-over-six sash windows was originally used to store extra grain or damp grain. Inside is the original grain hopper and elevator used to move the wheat up to the attic then down a pipe into the mill (the pipe no longer exists). The building is now a museum where on the first floor is an exhibit about local textile making and the Jacob Weaver barn loom. Also on display are architectural elements from historic houses in the county and the legacy of C.H. Lester (1849-1940) the most significant early architect. I really wish things had been opened as I would have loved to have seen these things that were in the buildings.

John Murray’s House, a large bungalow built in 1912 is a beautiful home that sits on the hill.

View from John Murray’s house on the hill looking over the top of the roof of the Wheat House

Lloyd Murray’s house was built in 1935…..Lloyd was the son of John Murray.

View of the mill, pond, and property from Lloyd Murray’s house on the hill. Across from the Mill is the General story on the right behind the trees and where the cars are on the right is William Murray’s house.

Lloyd Murray’s chicken coop

View from the Mill side of the property….Lloyd Murray’s house, the garage, and the white house that was built in 1950 for Lloyd’s son Bill and his wife Mary Sue.

1946 Cottonseed House

William Murray’s house (1880)

The George Huffman House originally located near Conover, Catawba County was moved to the Historic Murrays Mill in 1998. The house was built by George Huffman sometime between 1807-1815. During these years he acquired 415 acres and formed his plantation. Huffman married in 1801 and eventually had 5 sons and 5 daughters. Huffman was elected captain of the 8th company detached from the second Lincoln Regiment at the outbreak of the war of 1812. Only a small number of N.C. troops ever saw active service in the war and there are no known details about Huffman’s wartime experience. Over the years from the censor records Huffman started with one female slave in 1820 and by 1840 from the county tax list he only had 3 slaves and his 415-acre farm was valued at $1,045. Huffman along with two of his sons farmed and Huffman was a wagon maker.

Other miscellaneous pictures from Murray’s Mill Historic District