by Jonathan Scott | Photography by Diana Matthews
Of the 70 water-powered grist mills that used to operate in what is now Wake County, Yates Mill is not just the only one standing, it’s actually still in use. The mill and the Yates Millpond were for centuries a place the local community gathered to socialize and, of course, have their grain ground into flour. Today, thanks to the combined efforts and resources of Wake County, N.C. State University and the nonprofit Yates Mill Associates, people visit the 174-acre wildlife refuge and park for exercise, to enjoy the natural beauty and to learn history.
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“I like to think of the mill as a survivor,” says Tim Lisk, park manager of Historic Yates Mill County Park, just south of Raleigh. “It’s been here since before there was a Raleigh.”
A legend says that Union troops tried to burn down the mill as retribution for the murder of a Northern sympathizer. A charred log on display in the visitors center might be evidence of its truth. In 1996 Hurricane Fran tore through the structure. The mill barely survived, but it took nine years to be fully restored.
Yates Mill now delights its 21st-century visitors and is likely to continue to be one of North Carolina’s finest examples of how things can get better with age.
The park is located in Raleigh at 4620 Lake Wheeler Road. Yates Mill offers live, costumed exhibitions of the millstones grinding corn into meal one weekend a month through November. A modest fee is charged. For more information, call 919-856-6675 or visit www.wakegov.com/parks/yatesmill