Located some four miles from Waynesville on U.S. 276, the mill is one of the last surviving structures of its sort in the county. The 1887 structure is undergoing restoration and the hope was that the 92-bucket wheel, put in place in 1914, could be repaired. However, consultation with national experts and millwrights indicated that excessive deterioration and rust made repair not feasible.
“If we want the mill to be restored to working condition — and we do — we must replace the wheel, something we were hoping to avoid. It will be a big expense, but in the long run, well worth it,” said Tanna Timbes, president of the Society and great-granddaughter of the original owner of the mill. “Bucket Up for the Wheel” Campaign expects to raise most or all of the funds for the new wheel through asking donors to contribute the approximate cost of $100 per bucket. Names of donors will be inscribed on plaques inside the mill. The Society had thought of inscribing donors’ names on the buckets themselves, but “knowledgeable millwrights pointed out that doing so would create an imbalance on the wheel,” said Timbes.
The WaterWheel Factory of Franklin will fabricate and install, with the help of volunteers, the new wheel. The Society hopes to see the new wheel turning in 2007, in time to celebrate the 120 years of the mill’s existence.
Much progress has been made in 2006 toward that goal. Workshop participants from the Heritage Conservation Network and volunteers this summer set concrete footers for the flume supports, built and erected supports for the flume, repaired supports for the summer beam, installed new siding as needed, and began installing batten strips over the siding and construction of the small front porch.
“We are immensely grateful to the local community, both businesses and individuals who remember the mill or want to preserve this piece of our heritage,” said Timbes.
“We are optimistic that Francis Mill’s wheel will be turning soon,” Timbes said.
Anyone interested in donating should mail $100 for each bucket and the name(s) to be listed on the plaque inside the mill to Francis Mill Preservation Society, 14 Hugh Massie Road, Waynesville, N.C., 28786. Donations should be received before Dec. 31 in order for FMPS to get the price quoted by WaterWheel Factory.