Hagood Mill, managed by the Pickens County Cultural Commission, is an 1845 gristmill and one of the Upstate’s historical and cultural treasures. The site was established prior to 1793 by Bailey Anderson. The creek that powered Anderson’s mill was known as Anderson Mill Creek. William Jennings purchased the mill and surrounding property in 1793 and operated it for 10 years. When Jennings died in 1803, his widow and their son, John, continued running the mill.
Mrs. Jennings eventually remarried Joshua Smith in the early 1820s. The mill property was ordered to be sold by the court and enforced by the Pendleton District Sheriff. Sons of Jennings contested the sale and hired a barrister for court proceedings. The Jennings retained some of their property but a majority was sold to a wealthy neighbor, Ben Hagood, who was buying a lot of the property in the area due to an economic recession.
The Jennings had sold all of their property by 1825. Once Hagood purchased the property, the creek powering the mill became known as Hagood Branch or Hagood Creek. The property was transferred to Benjamin’s son, James Hagood, in 1845. The mill could have been built by James Hagood but it likely could have been designed by a millwright and slave labor used to completely rebuild the mill using hand-hewn logs on a fieldstone foundation. Some pieces of the former mill were thought to have been used in this construction.
The Hagood family continued operating the mill on and off for more than 100 years, producing grits, cornmeal, flour, and animal feed. The mill’s waterwheel, which stands 20 feet tall and four feet wide, is among the largest in the state, if not the largest.
Based on a 1999 interview with Ben Folger Hagood, who was born in 1925, the mill operated sporadically between 1930-1960 with operations ceasing production in 1960. The property was donated to Pickens County Museum Commission in 1971. According to Harold Wayne Turner, a resident of the area and a helper in the work completed, restoration of the mill began in 1973 with an inoperable waterwheel, the wheel was restored in 1978. The mill underwent renovations again in the late 1980s with building reinforcement, and finally by 1996 the mill was operational. The waterwheel and sluice (a sliding gate for controlling the flow of water) have been been replaced.
The restoration of the mill site included developing the property as a living folklife museum. Mill stones not just from Hagood Mill but other nearby gristmills were collected and displayed on the grounds, as seen below. Following the revival of the mill, two historic cabins were relocated to the property and restored, allowing visitors to experience nineteenth century rural Upstate dwellings.
The older of the two cabin is called the Murphree-Hollingsworth Cabin. It was built along the Twelve Mile River in Pickens around 1791 for the Reverend William Murphree, pastor of Secona Baptist Church in Pickens. A series of owners followed over the subsequent decades, with Columbus Lafayette Hollingsworth purchasing the cabin and property in 1868.
The Hollingsworth family lived in the cabin as they built a larger family estate called Twelve Mile, which burned in 1965. Eventually Hollingsworth descendants donated the cabin to the Pickens County Museum, which relocated it to the Hagood Mill site and restored it.
The “newer” cabin was built by Benjamin Hagood for his family some time after he purchased the property in 1825. It originally stood about a half mile from where it now rests and was moved once prior to being relocated to its present spot. An unusual interior room leads historians to believe that it was built as a store or trading post with a safe place to store inventory. It is known that Hagood did operate a store at his mill complex, which was a popular community gathering spot.
In 1960 the cabin was moved from its original location to the rear of property owned by Harold Davis. Davis’s son, Billy, had offered the cabin’s owner, W.E. Findley, $60 if he could disassemble the structure and rebuild it at his home. The offer was accepted, and the Davises rebuilt the historic cabin, where it stood until 2001. When the Davis property was sold in 2001, the log structure was purchased at auction by Dr.Larry Brotherton of nearby Easley. After briefly using the cabin for storing timber, in 2003 he donated it to the Hagood Mill Historic Site to be restored.
The Hagood Mill Historic Site continues adding relevant exhibits to the site, creating a popular historic attraction in this rustic corner of the Upstate. A reproduction blacksmith shop and cotton gin were erected on the grounds, seen above, replicating the vibrancy of a rural nineteenth century mill village. Interpreters are on hand to demonstrate not just milling – the ground goods are also for sale – but also other artisan trades and crafts practiced at the time, such as blacksmithing and quilting.
The mill is open to visitors from Wednesday through Saturday for tours and demonstrations, but the site’s biggest draw is its Saturday events. On those days, up to 2,000 visitors may descend upon the grounds for a day of music and folk art. The festival-like events also draw many musicians, from traditional string bands to blues to gospel. Noted pickers such as Nick Hallman – pictured below – regularly entertain people with their traditional bluegrass sound. The mill grinds every third Saturday, all year long.
Another interesting feature of the Hagood Mill Historic Site is the soapstone boulder sitting on the grounds, seen below. On the ancient rock are two bowls, carved by Native Americans 5,000 years ago. They were crudely shaped with flint chisels and broken off before being shaped. The boulder was brought to the area in the 1950s by Harold David.
Interior – Hagood Mill
The newest addition to the Hagood Mill Historic Site is a collection of petroglyphs, or Native American rock carvings, found on the site in 2003 and thought to be 1,000 year old. They were discovered by Dennis Chastain and Mike Bramlett, locals who were searching for such artifacts and struck historic gold. The first finding was a 30-foot-rock with a carving of a human figure, the first rock carving depicting a human figure discovered in South Carolina.
Twelve years after the discovery of that petroglyph and 31 others, the rocks are finally on display within a special building designed for viewing the ancient carvings. TThe building rests on the location where the petroglyphs were found. Features of the building include special lighting which helps visitors view the hard-to-see carvings and an audio program that explains the petroglyphs and their designs. Of the 32 petroglpyhs on display, 17 depict human forms, including the “Refrigerator Man,” a stick figure with a rectangular body nicknamed due to its shape. A replica of Refrigerator Man can be seen on the building in the above photo.
Hagood Mill is listed in the National Register:
Hagood Mill is a good example of the simple, functional building style employed by South Carolina upcountry pioneers in the first half of the nineteenth century. The gristmill and wooden water wheel remain as originally constructed with no alterations or additions and is one of the few such mills still in existence in South Carolina. Built in ca. 1826, the mill is an unpainted, two-story clapboard building mounted on a fieldstone foundation. Early construction methods are evidenced by hand hewn logs notched and pegged together to form the framework. Hagood Mill was built by James E. Hagood who served as clerk of court for Pickens District for many years. The mill was once part of an early commercial complex including the Hagood Store which no longer exists. Both mill and store were gathering places for residents of the surrounding agricultural area who came here frequently to have grain ground into flour and grist and to purchase supplies.
Reflections on Hagood Mill
Gary DuBose, whose photo can be seen above, says: “Hagood Mill is a popular attraction in Pickens County. Originally established in the early 19th century, an operating mill has been here for many years. Recently, a new water wheel was added and additions have been made to the property. Events are held here monthly and are free to the public. Highlights include blues, bluegrass, and old-tyme music festivals. In addition, a rare set of prehistoric carvings have been found on the site. A museum was built around them and is open during events.”
Denise Campbell writes: “A Saturday spent with church friends led us to the Historic Hagood Mill. The mill was running and many people were there enjoying the day. Being at the mill took us back into a time period we knew nothing of but thoroughly enjoyed and respected.”