By Ben McNeely
Gene and Brenda Bost have put a lot of care into Bost Grist Mill.
The couple restored the mill — which has been in Gene’s family for six generations — after Hurricane Hugo came through in 1989 and damaged the mill building.
“Hugo knocked down a lot of the trees, tore some tin off the roof and took out the original windows,” Gene said. “We used to use it for storage, but we decided to fix it up for historical preservation.”
This month, Bost Grist Mill on N.C. 200 near Reed Gold Mine, opens it doors to the public for its annual Christmas open house. Each weekend from today until Dec. 21, the Bosts will offer building tours and sell country wares, such as jellies, jams and cornmeal and grits ground by the giant mill stones.
Brenda Bost said this is just one of the many events the mill puts on each year — events that educate the community about the mill’s history and rural living 100 years ago.
“I dress in period clothing and Gene does the blacksmith demonstrations,” Brenda said. “We want to educate the children.”
Started in 1810 by John H. Bost, Bost Mill was one of five mills along the Rocky River in western Cabarrus County, Gene said. Bost Mill and Pharr Mill near Harrisburg were the most famous, he said.
“There were hundreds of mills along the river,” Gene said. “And many of them were washed away by the river.”
The mill refers to the giant stones used to grind flour and corn, Gene said, and the river current powered the turbines that turned the millstones.
“Sometimes, all you had were the stones,” Gene said.v
Residents would bring their corn and wheat to mills to be ground up into cornmeal and flour.
“You didn’t have grocery stores back then,” Gene said.
Mill buildings, which enclosed the millstones and encase the pulley system that filled burlap sacks full of flour or cornmeal, were usually built next to the river.
The Bost Mill building, constructed in the 1870s, was originally right next to the Rocky River, Gene said, but it was knocked off its foundation by a flood in 1908.
So the Bost family moved the mill building up the hill, away from the river. This is where it stands today. They converted to steam to run the belt-driven pulley system, then converted again to gasoline engines, Gene said.
That is what they use today to grind corn for grits and cornmeal to sell in the mill building, Gene said.
Bost Mill is one of the very few operating mills left in North Carolina. There is a roller mill in China Grove that serves a museum of the southern Rowan County area, as well as to the milling business. But where there were hundreds of mills along the rivers and streams, now they are a rare breed.
That’s why the Bosts restored and opened it back up.
Bost Grist Mill Christmas open house runs every weekend through Dec. 21, from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
For more information, call 704-782-1600.
• Contact reporter Ben McNeely: 704-789-9131.