I can still feel the excitement and that little tingle in my tummie when I first heard that the old mill was for sale. It was the fall of 1978. I could hardly wait to tell my late husband, Neal. I said, "The old mills for sale, let's go look at it." His response was "Why?" Mine...."We're just going to look." We went to look... We never dreamed how that day would change our lives!
How well I remember that day, the former owners gave us the key and we rummaged around the deserted building, spending several hours on each of the four floors.
The mill had been abandoned for nearly 40 years. Although most of the building was basically sound, the years of disuse and slow deterioration had taken its toll.
Under the dust and dirt, we discovered that the roof leaked; lots of siding needed repair; there were some crumbling foundations and some of the doors and windows were boarded up where vandals had invaded.
Right away, we knew, we had a very important decision to make. "Should we try to buy and restore this poor old mill or just turn our backs and try to forget it as many others had done?" Everything pointed to a negative decision. Yet, deep inside we felt a stirring of our being--we could almost feel Mr. Bowen's presence and the pride he must have felt when he pinned the post and beams together, back in 1864.
We could almost hear the laughter and joking of the "old timers" as they came with their wagons, loaded with grain to be ground and apples to be pressed. We could almost feel the heart ache and tears, when the various accidents and deaths took place on the mill grounds, so many years ago.
We could almost feel the despair when the dam went out in the 1901 and again in 1943 and the old mill teetered on the two-end foundations and flood waters destroyed the saw mill and basement and much of it's contents.
As we viewed the huge old broken gear, which was at last the cause for the water power to finally close down after 75 years of continuous operation--we could almost feel the disappointment--the let down.
We knew then we had a big decision to make when we left that day, a decision which would and did change our lives forever. A voice inside our heads was saying, a big "NO-NO!! You can't do it, with Neal's back problems and disability, there's NO way you can do it." Yet, something deep inside kept saying, "Yes, yes, yes." Something we hadn't counted on was happening--we were losing our sense of logic and we were thinking with our hearts instead of our heads. Something kept telling us "You can do it."
Before we knew it--we owed a mill!.
That's all for now folks, watch the next edition of Bowens Mills News for memories of our first year at the old mill.