Barfield's Mill: A Rustic Part of the Past
(The following feature story, which appeared on April 5, 1978 in a South Carolina community newspaper, reflects my lifelong interest in old grist mills)
A country road dips down toward Big Cow Branch. To the right of a bridge crossing the slowly moving creek is a scene that a landscape painter might capture on canvas. Perched along the dam that forms a picturesque pond is Barfield's Mill, build around 100 years ago and still in operable condition.
The mill, which is located near the Little Lynches River in northern Kershaw Couinty, was bought about 18 years ago by J.W. Andrews who wholesaled meal there at one time. He lives with his wife in a house situated along the banks of the pond, tinkering with the mechanical equipment in the old mill house, making furniture, and dong what energy allows in the peaceful, sparesly populated country surroundings.
The mill is in an area of the county once referred to as the Roland Community. Roland had its own small post office, with mail brought by mule from Kershaw. The old post office building is still standing on the proeprty of Mr. and Mrs. Otis West up the road from the mill pond.
Farmers once ginned cotton at the mill for a time, but then it was used primarily as a grist mill for grinding corn. Usually about a fifth of the corn brought in was given to the owner as a "toll" for use of the mill, a friendly bartering procedure which is recalled in talks about the place.
Andrews understands and has a healthy respect for water power. He has restored and strengthened the mill, getting the turnbines and rotors operating, and has rigged up a generator powered by the cascading water which furnishes much of the elctricity for heating his home.
Back about 18 years ago when he took over the mill, he did some custom work for farmers, but primarily wholesaled grain to stores in nearby Bethune and surrounding areas. At one time he was milling one and one-half tons of grain a week. The job became too demanding, however, and he couldn't get the help he needed, so he phased out the operation.
Andrews has done many things. He's been a machinist, worked in a sawmill, and was in the motel business in Myrtle Beach for six or seven years until "I got tired of people and came up here in the wooods." He's a ham radio operator and dabbles in woodworking.
He and his small dog go from mill to woodworking shop as Andrews guides visitors around explaining what he does. "I have a lot of fun with it," he said, referring to his pastimes. "If I get lonesome I come down here to piddle a bit."
Andrews finds the place conducive to his needs and time. He and the mill are suited to each other out there in the still countryside, now being lit up by spring colors. There's a pleasant sound from the water rushing into the spillway below the dam. Then it begins to glide sluggishly once again down the creek into the Lynches rivers. Time, too, passes slowly here, as it should.