Berry College, Mt. Berry, GA 30149
CThe Old Mill was moved from Hermitage to Berry, and was a gift to Berry Schools from the Republic Mining Company.
The wooden overshot waterwheel, considered one of the largest in the world at 42 feet in diameter, was originally constructed at Hermitage, Georgia in the 1800’s. At the time Hermitage, located between Rome and Calhoun, was a thriving mining community… home of the first discovery of bauxite (aluminum ore) in America and the beginning of ALCOA (Aluminum Company of America). The waterwheel and mill were owned and operated by a remarkable blind man named Tom Kennibrew. According to the late Rebecca Watters West, the huge waterwheel was used to power a grist mill and a cotton gin.
Mr. Kennibrew died in 1917 and the mill fell silent for several years. Then, Miss Martha Berry discovered the old mill, and solicited Mr. Tom Watters to donate the mill to Berry Schools. At that time the mining company had acquired the Kennibrew property, and Watters represented the company. So, he was able to oblige Miss Berry’s request.
So, in 1930 the mill was disassembled, moved to its present location at Berry Schools and reassembled by Berry Students, using new wood and all the original hardware. Afterward, the mill was operated by Mr. Green Berry Goodson, a white-bearded miller who ground Berry-grown corn into meal and grits. Water is piped directly from Berry’s reservoir lake to the wheel. Once primed, the force of gravity is strong enough to push the water up the stone column, and over the wheel, causing it to turn.
During 1977 the wheel was, again, completely rebuilt as a cooperative project involving Berry students, staff, alumni, and friends, and was dedicated to the memory of Mr. Gordon Keown on June 3, 1978. Mr. Keown was an alumnus of Berry, a long-time staff member and acting director of the Berry Schools from 1942-1944.
During 1985, physical plant staff and student volunteers restored the mechanism and made grinding of corn meal once again possible. The Old Mill is operated on special occasions such as Mountain Day. When available, the Oak Hill Gift Shop sells cornmeal ground at the Old Mill.