When settlers came to this area hundreds of years ago and had to decide what communal buildings to build first, the choice was usually between a church and a mill, said Gene Bost.
Mills, vital for farmers, generally won. Besides, Bost added, you could always have church services in the mill building.
Gene Bost knows about mills, specifically the Bost Grist Mill on N.C. 200 in eastern Cabarrus County. His family’s been operating that mill for six generations.
The Bost Grist Mill was established in 1810 by John H. Bost on the banks of the Rocky River. “There were lots of mills around,” Gene Bost said. “A mill is really just a set of stones.”
Eventually, a community built up around Bost Mill with a store, lumber yard and just about everything residents could need. His aunt once drew a map of the property, as she remembered it in his heyday, with 12 commercial buildings. Bost himself can remember at least 12 tenant houses. “People survived off this place,” he said.
Before there were newspapers or radio, the mill was the place to get the news and to socialize. “This was the news headquarters,” Bost said. “If there was anything going on, people could find out about it at the mill.”
Saturday mornings were the busiest time, with folks lined up to get their grain ground.
On Nov. 7 and 8, Bost Grist Mill will once again become a community gathering place with its 18th annual A Touch of Yesterday event. It was originally scheduled for early October but moved due to rain.
There will be demonstrations of the mill, vendors and craft exhibitors, food, farm animals, hit-and-miss engines, music and more. In addition, folks can start their holiday shopping with stone ground cornmeal and grits, as well as mixes, dips and gift baskets.
Children can participate in a kiddie tractor pull, and everyone can enter the raffle to win a John Deere pedal tractor.
And of course, there will be opportunity to wander the lovely grounds and building of the historic mill. The original mill building on the Rocky River was washed off its foundation in 1908 and rebuilt at its current location by Gene Bost’s grandfather. The new mill was built to run on steam power rather than water.
Until 1932, when big mills became the norm, operating the grist mill was a full-time job for the Bost family. Gene Bost called his grandfather a “gentleman farmer,” and his father was a farmer and lawyer, as well as a mill owner. After repairing the significant damage from Hurricane Hugo 1989, Gene Bost and his wife, Brenda, opened the facility to the public for tours, historic exhibitions, weddings and special events.
Brenda Bost died earlier this year, but Gene is continuing to welcome guests to this special place where his family has lived for generations. He can’t imagine any other kind of life.
“I was just brought up in it,” he said.
Marcia Morris is a freelance writer: EasternCabarrusWriter@gmail.com
Want to go?
A Touch of Yesterday will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 7 and 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 8 at Bost Grist Mill, 4701 N.C. 200 in Concord. Admission is $6, free for children 5 and younger. For more information, check the Historic Bost Grist Mill Facebook page or go to www.bostgristmill.com.