What do you see when you look at the forest? A riverbank? A farmer’s field? Of course you see trees, a river, grass or crops, yes. But underneath the surface, the land has a history. Here in the CSRA, our lands have remarkably deep and interesting histories. If only they could speak, what stories they could tell! The battles they have seen, the rise and fall of industry, the changing of the times and how the past has shaped our present.
Here at the Land Trust we are fortunate to preserve not just the land itself, but its enduring history, so it can be told by the generations to come. Recently, we were fortunate to meet one such storyteller, Patricia Hughes, who stumbled upon our Lombard Mill Pond preserve in South Augusta. Her curiosity led her to peel back layers of time and discover long-forgotten stories that took place on this very spot. We invite you sit back and listen as she recounts, in her own words, snippets of this fascinating piece of Greenspace, located right here in our town.
We also invite you to visit the Pond for yourself. To access it, take Dean’s Bridge Road south from I-520 and look for the “Old US 1” turnoff on your right, just before Morgan Road. We’ll also be hosting a community cleanup at the pond this spring. For details email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We traveled well over 2,000 miles, this mileage number changes depending on who you ask, along Route 1 from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida. It is an amazing historical journey that spans the growth and life of the United States. My friend, Roxanne Kilpatrick and I decided to take this route to see where that journey would take us. As a writer of lost treasure books and stories, I am always enthused when I see ruins on the road. I know immediately that there is history to be learned and shared. When Roxanne spotted the Old Highway 1 sign on our right as we traveled through Georgia on Route 1, we immediately turned around to explore this area. We found water-worn brick ruins, and I researched to learn the history of this amazing, quiet, off shoot of Route 1, known as the Lombard Mill Site.
The Lombard Mill Site is part of the Butler Creek Nature Corridor located about 7 miles from the beginning of Butler Creek. The first mill built here in the late 1780s was called Robinson’s Mill built on the south side of the Creek. It was a water-powered mill that used granite stones to grind corn into flour.
Whenever searching for historical information, always be aware that names will change, but the location is the same. Presently, this site is on Old Highway 1, but it was also known as Murray Hill Road in the early 1800s. It was at this time that Robinson’s Grist Mill became New Hope Sawmill, which featured 2 saws in the mill and a cotton gin mill at the same location. In the 1900s, the Lombard family owned the property, now called ‘The Oaks’, which was located across the road from the mill. Their second daughter, Marion Lombard, married Cyrus Raymond Cobb, better known as baseball star, Ty Cobb, in 1908 on this property.
In 1931, a murdered sailor was found at the mill site. The body of Raiford Grady Williams was found shot to death in the lumber yard. His father, a Methodist Minister, Reverend James Monroe Williams, was found guilty of the crime. Why did he do this? The reason is money, because he was the beneficiary of his son’s navy insurance policy. As a strange turn in this case, the alleged suicide note from Raiford was found to be faked by an unknown person to help James get a pardon. The Reverend was serving a life sentence for first degree murder.
This area also has ties to the military. In 1942, there was a concrete block factory set up here to manufacture blocks for the construction of Camp Gordon, today known as Fort Gordon. This mill was called New Lombard Mill. The mill finally stopped operating here in the 1960s when it was destroyed by a fire. It may have been the oldest working grist mill in Richmond County, Georgia. This newest mill may have actually been built over an older mill site, and this newer mill went back to its humble beginning, by grinding corn into meal.
Today, most of the ruins are bricks, old planks, or iron machinery. The Pond itself no longer exists. It was completely drained when portions of the drainage system were breached by flood water in 1990. Ironically, in 1977, this site was considered a ‘high hazard’ classification, meaning that if it was ever breached or failed, there would be a large loss of life or property, according to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The ruins first seen are brick and concrete structures and eventually become an earthen dam. Later on the trail, there is an area where the waterwheel and other structures once were. You can still view the original wooden planks on the dry pond bed, which routed the water from the pond to the mill in the 1780s. The old mill site is where the water-worn bricks can be seen on the left. The newer mill site has brick and concrete turbine wheel housing with gears and shafts still all around.This was a great stop on our journey through the history of the United States. Route 1 is truly ‘America’s First Mile’.
Submitted by: Patricia Hughes, www.patriciahughes.net
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- The Spartanburg Herald, July 24, 1934, Spartanburg, SC
- Ty Cobb, Safe at Home, by: Don Rhodes, Lyons Press @2008