Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 17

general store. It was a gathering place."
Since 1971, members of the Prater's Mill
Foundation have worked to restore and keep the
circa-1855 mill in operation. In the foundation's
early days, Sims remembers, "everything was done
by our little group of volunteers, from cleaning
out the septic tank to constructing walls to glazing
windows. ... They went and found millers. This was
[in] the days before the internet; you had to know
people, make phone calls, write letters."
Today, Prater's Mill is one of just a handful of
mills in Georgia keeping alive the tradition of grinding whole-grain corn. According to the Society for
the Preservation of Old Mills, spoom.org, only a few
of the dozen or so historic gristmills operating in the
state are still grinding corn for sale.

Nora Mill Granary

Miller Tommy Martin (left)
and fourth-generation mill
operator Joe Vandegriff work
together to keep Nora Mill
Granary one of the few
gristmills still in commercial
operation in Georgia.

Nora Mill Granary, on the banks of the Chattahoochee River just south of Helen, is a rarity. It is
a water-powered mill built in 1876 that is still open
to the public and sells its whole-grain ground corn.
Four generations of family have run the mill since
the 1970s.
As the miller, Martin is as much a driving force
at the mill as the original cast-iron turbine that powers the millstones.
"I was really fortunate to have been blessed with
mechanical ability and a father and grandfather who
could help teach me," he says.
That knack got Martin hired to help keep the
mill's equipment running. To learn the milling trade,
he relied on other millers who were willing to share
what they knew. He also turned to sources as old as
books from the 1890s and as new as the internet.
Martin enjoys sharing the history of the mill as

MIKEY SIMS

Prater's Mill Foundation volunteer
Mikey Sims created this photo to
contrast the mill's current condition
with a reflection of how the mill
appeared before restoration began
in 1971.

much as he loves tinkering with its equipment. He offers milling demonstrations
most weekends and group tours upon
request.
"I guess you can tell my passion for
this. ... I really love what I do," he says.
Nora Mill's success can be attributed to Lt. Col. Ron Fain and his love
of history. The antiques dealer stepped
in to run the mill in 1975, dismantling
equipment that had been added during
the Industrial Revolution and reinstalling the original, imported French Burr
millstones.
Those millstones and the waterpowered turbine were top-of-the-line
equipment when they were added in
1876 by John Martin (no relation to
Tommy, as far as he knows) with the
wealth he acquired as a gold miner.
"Water turbines are 80 percent
more efficient than vertical paddle
wheels," Martin says. But that efficiency
also brought a loss of quality. The additional power allowed millers in the
early 1900s to use newly invented steel
roller mills, which ground grain faster
than millstones. Ultimately, millers using
steel rollers traded nutritional value for
increased production.
"The corn has to be degerminated
[breaking down the kernels] so that the
oil doesn't build up on the rollers. But
that also strips out all the nutrients.
That's why it then has to be 'enriched'
again," he says.
www.georgiamagazine.org

17


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Georgia Magazine - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - June 2020

Contents
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 4
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 5
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 6
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 7
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 8
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 9
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 10
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 11
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 12
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 13
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 14
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 15
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 16
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 17
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 18
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 19
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 20
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 21
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 22
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 23
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 24
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 25
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 26
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 27
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 28
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 29
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 30
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 31
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 32
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 33
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - 34
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - June 2020 - Cover4
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