An Old Southern Mill

By Staff
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Decaying boiler.
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Exterior of the old mill.
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Hardie Tynes steam engine, serial number 1195.
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Igniter Model 'M' sitting idly.
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Lineshaft which runs the length of the mill.
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Remnants of cotton gins.

101 Tate Drive Newton, Alabama 36352

I will never forget the first time I saw the mill. At the time I
was an impressionable teenager with a love for all types of old
machinery. Fresh out of basic training, I had just been picked up
at the local airport by a military taxi and was being driven to my
next duty station where I was to attend flight school.

Riding through the Alabama countryside on a misty dark night, I
was immediately impressed by how impoverished the various
communities appeared. Most of the buildings along the roadside were
either boarded up or had collapsed. Then I saw it. A large brick
building off to the left which was slowly disintegrating. Long out
of use and overgrown with trees, it was a powerful image that was
etched in my memory.

During my stay in flight school, I had neither the time or the
freedom to go out searching for old iron. I often thought about the
old building and what it might hold in store. I imagined a treasure
trove full of rusting machinery just waiting for me to
rediscover.

Many years later I returned to the same base. This time I was to
perform duties as a flight instructor and I had much more free time
than I had when I was a student. Many times I set out to find the
old mill but I was always diverted by other finds.

Returning from a trip to a nearby town to see a friend’s
recently acquired Fairbanks Morse diesel, I spotted the mill again.
The image locked in with the picture I had in my mind for all those
years.

The building was in bad shape. All of the roof had caved in and
all of the windows were gone. Large trees were now growing where
once a thriving factory had stood. My hopes of finding any
remaining machinery were dashed by the disheveled appearance of the
old building.

As long as I was almost there, I figured I would take a look. I
walked through a door that was almost impassable because of trees
that had grown up in just the wrong places. I stared into the dark
room and was surprised by what I saw.

It was really big! The single flywheel was nine feet in diameter
with a twelve inch face. The nameplate said, ‘HARDIE TYNES
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA SERIAL NUMBER 1195.’ It was a single
cylinder double acting Corliss style steam engine which was as big
as a house. I was so excited that I could hardly contain
myself.

I wandered through the remains of that factory in a daze. In a
room just to the left of the steam engine was a huge boiler. It was
thoroughly rusted out. The doors over the flues were hanging by the
threads that remained of the hinges. In another room was a three
horse power IHC ignitor model M which, dated by the serial number,
was manufactured in 1917. Running the length of the building was a
line-shaft which had apparently been powered by the steam engine. I
wondered what had gone on in this building so many years ago.

Other pieces of machinery were scattered around the area with no
apparent clue as to what their original purpose was. In the largest
portion of the building I found what I had been looking for.
Peeking up through some rotting hay bales were the saws of several
large cotton gins arranged in once neat rows with a lineshaft
running overhead. These cotton gins finally revealed what had
happened here so long ago. It had been a huge cotton mill.

Outside once again, I stared back at the mill. Many years of
wondering had been satisfied. It had been a very memorable day and
one that I will never forget.

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