Nora Mills, Helen, GA

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Double click the image for a large size look at the picture…

Near the small town of Helen in the northern Georgia mountains is Nora Mill & Granary.  The mill itself is a four-story building built in 1876 complete with 1,500 pound French Burr Mill Stones and a 100 ft. wooden raceway that feeds water to a water turbine. The mill was constructed in 1876 by John Martin after he came to Georgia in search of gold.  In 1902 Dr. Lamartine G. Hardman, governor of Georgia from 1927 -1931, bought the mill and named it “Nora Mill” in memory of his sister Nora. Nora Mill remained in the Hardman Family until 1998, when it, along with 300 surrounding acres, was purchased by a group of investors.

After a succession of millers throughout the years, in the early 1980s, Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ron Fain worked with the Hardman family and leased Nora Mill for he and his parents to bring back to life and operate.  Ron worked with his parents until their passing, and then brought his youngest daughter Joann under his wing to learn the art of milling and work the business with him.

​Ron and Joann together developed and brought to market a number of corn & grain recipes that are famous to Nora Mill. Recipes such as “Georgia Ice Cream”, “Dixie Ice Cream”, “Pioneer’s Porridge”, and the like. They expanded the product offerings and opened the gift shop next door to the mill and named it “Nora Mill Next Door”. Joann and Ron worked shoulder to shoulder until his passing in June of 2001.

Nora Mill is now in the third and fourth generation of the Fain family.  Joann Fain Tarpley, with husband Rich, continues to manage and operate Nora Mill Granary. The fourth generation of the same family can be seen at Nora Mill Granary as the children of Joann and Rich are actively working with them at the mill.

There have been many changes over the years, but the main idea is still the same, to grind fresh grains with no additives or preservatives with old-fashioned quality. Nora Mill has recently gone through a major refurbishing. The dam, raceway, and penstock have been rebuilt.  A new porch & deck overlooks gigantic rainbow trout swimming in the beautiful Chattahoochee River.

I took this photo on Saturday of the wooden dam that was built to power the mill.  I’ll include other pictures that help you see the way the dam is constructed later!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1865, Henry Wirz, a Swiss immigrant commanding the notorious Andersonville prison in Georgia, was hanged for the murder of Civil War soldiers incarcerated there.

Wirz was born in Switzerland in 1823 and moved to the United States in 1849. He lived in the South, primarily in Louisiana, and became a physician. When the Civil War broke out, he joined the Fourth Louisiana Battalion. After the First Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, in July 1861, Wirz guarded prisoners in Richmond, Virginia, and was noticed by Inspector General John Winder. Winder had Wirz transferred to his department, and Wirz spent the rest of the conflict working with prisoners of war. He commanded a prison in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; escorted prisoners around the Confederacy; handled exchanges with the Union; and was wounded in a stagecoach accident.  In early 1864, he was assigned the responsibility for Andersonville prison, known as Camp Sumter.

While both sides incarcerated prisoners under horrible conditions, Andersonville deserves special mention for the inhumane treatment of inmates. A stockade held thousands of men on a barren, polluted patch of ground. Barracks were planned but never built; the men slept in makeshift housing, called “shebangs,” constructed from scrap wood and blankets that offered little protection from the elements. A small stream flowed through the compound and provided water for the Union soldiers, but this became a cesspool of disease and human waste. Erosion caused by the prisoners turned the stream into a huge swamp. The prison was designed to hold 10,000 men but the Confederates had packed it with more than 31,000 inmates by August 1864.

Wirz oversaw an operation in which thousands of inmates died. Partly a victim of circumstance, he was given few resources with which to work, and the Union ceased prisoner exchanges in 1864. As the Confederacy began to dissolve, food and medicine for prisoners were difficult to obtain. When word about Andersonville leaked out, Northerners were horrified. Poet Walt Whitman saw some of the camp survivors and wrote, “There are deeds, crimes that may be forgiven, but this is not among them.”

Wirz was charged with conspiracy to injure the health and lives of Union soldiers and murder. His trial began in August 1865, and ran two months. Over 160 witnesses were called to testify. Though Wirz did demonstrate indifference towards Andersonville’s prisoners, he was, in part, a scapegoat and some evidence against him was fabricated entirely. He was found guilty and sentenced to die on November 10 in Washington, D.C. On the scaffold, Wirz reportedly said to the officer in charge, “I know what orders are, Major. I am being hanged for obeying them.” The 41-year-old Wirz was one of the few people convicted and executed for crimes committed during the Civil War.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: A popular procedure in ancient Rome was scar removal, particularly scars on the back which were marks of shame because they suggested a man had turned his back in battle—or worse, he had been whipped like a slave. Foreigners would also have plastic surgery to fit better into Roman society.

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