Tucked in the foothills of north Georgia sits the beautiful remains of an old gristmill made of local stone and dating back to about 1845. At one time, wheat and corn were ground on large stone wheels within. My Great Grandfather, William Franklin Ganus, or Frank as he was known, dressed millstones there. Thanks to old missionary journals, I learned that he lived and worked there.
Today the old mill is privately owned and is only open for private events and previously scheduled photo sessions. Luckily I was able to arrange a time on our recent trip to Georgia. The beauty there is incredible and exceeded my expectations.
Situated beside a large 80-foot waterfall and surrounded by lush foliage, the ruins of the mill appear almost surreal. I read about the mill prior to our recent trip to Georgia, saw the pictures of it on the internet and yet when I stepped into view of the old mill, it took my breath away. It is beautiful.
At one time, my second great grandfather John Monroe Ganus along with his sons Frank, Newton, Roderick, and Robert worked there. Were they as mesmerized by the beauty of the area as I was?
The following are just a few of the excerpts from missionary journals that helped identify this location as the place where my great grandfather Frank lived and worked and as a place frequented by other members of the Ganus family.
March 20th, 1883 “We arrived at Hightowers Mill at 6 p.m. – Met with Franklin Ganus and family–finding them all well.” William H. Kirby
October 16th, 1883 “Went to Hightowers Mill. Ate dinner with F. Ganus, thence to Brooks Mill overnight.” William H. Kirby
December 13th, 1883 Left Brooks Mill—south direction. No dinner. came to Hightowers factory — to F. Ganuses. 12 miles William H. Kirby
January 28th, 1884 “Left for south. Bid the saints farewell for the present. Thence on our journey for Hightowers Mill —Frank Ganus.” Elder William H. Kirby
July 11th, 1884 “We went to Hightowers Mill at Frank Ganus’. Ate dinner there. Went and stayed in the mill most of the day.” Elder William H. Kirby
August 30, 1884 “We then came to Hightower’s Mill. Ate dinner at F. Ganuses, then continued our journey to Haralson Co.” Elder William H. Kirby
September 11th, 1884 “After dinner, I went to the mill. Helped Franklin Ganus dress mill stones.” Elder William H. Kirby
“Sept. Thursday 9, 1886 Bro [John] Ganis and I went to Mr. Hightowers mill to see his son Franklin Ganus. I had a good time with him. While Bro. [John] Ganus and his 3 sons, John, Rody and Boby made shingles and hauled them to Mr. Hightowers mill.” Elder Pledger Murphy
Sept. Friday 10, 1886 …..about noon Bro. [John] Ganus and the boys come from the mill. They laughed at me about not stoping at the mill all knight. I told them that I had got tired of living or lying on the soft side of a board during the war.” Elder Pledger Murphy
I’m so grateful for those early missionaries who kept journals and mentioned the Ganus family. I’ve been equally grateful for their descendants who have generously shared copies of the journals with me. The journals have added so much to what I know about my ancestor’s lives.
Standing there at the foot of the mill, lines from the journals ran through my head such as “about noon Bro [John] Ganus and the boys come from the mill,” and “Bro [John] Ganis and I went to Hightowers mill to see his son Franklin Ganus.” I imagined Frank going through the tedious process of dressing the millstones and I imagined Frank’s father, John, and Frank’s brothers, John, Newton, Roderick and Robert coming and going, both to do work and to visit Frank.
I visited many places during our trip, but it was here that I felt the closest to my ancestors, it was here I could almost feel their presence and it was here than I longed to just remain for awhile. I’m so grateful that on that day, for just a brief moment, I was able to truly walk where they had walked.
(For information about booking this incredible venue for a photo shoot or private event, see here.)
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