New Exhibit at the Carl J. McEwenHistoric Village

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Visitors at the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village can see a new exhibit that has a very old local history.

Over twenty-five years ago, Joe Biggers of Midland entrusted the Mint Hill Historical Society with a family treasure.  He donated a stone burr mill used by his grandfather to grind corn into cornmeal. His grandfather, Will Biggers, operated a general store on Albemarle Road where he often ground corn into cornmeal for his customers.  Cornmeal was a staple of the time when corn bread was made daily by most rural families, and grits and mush were a delicious hot breakfast cereal.

So what took so long for the mill to become a “must see” village exhibit.  The mill requires a long leather belt attached to a tractor or a hit and miss engine to cause the 12” stones to shake together and grind the corn.  It was not until about five years ago that a beautiful large hit and miss engine was donated to the MHHS by Jerry Murray of Monroe. Since that time Boy Scout Aiden Fox, looking for a community project to complete his Eagle Scout requirements, approached the MHHS.  He was given several options and choose to build a mill house from reclaimed lumber to showcase our treasured Biggers Mill and the Murray hit and miss engine. He floored the building with old reclaimed brick and

hand wrought hinges for the doors were made by a local blacksmiths John Baird and Matt Wainscott.  

The next question that the MHHS faced was “do we have all of the pieces of this mill that we had stored for more than 25 years. Ron Pressley, a local expert on stone burr mills was contacted and agreed to see if he could put all of the many pieces back together and, most importantly, if he could get the mill to operate.  After all those year in storage, Mr. Pressley put the mill together in one afternoon and discovered only one missing piece, a piece that he was able to duplicate.

Sadly, Joe Biggers died and never saw the mill in operation at its new home in the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village, but his son Mike and daughter Karen, along with other family members and friends gathered as MHHS docent, Phyllis Jacobs, prepared ‘hoe cakes’ from the corn mill ground by the mill.  If you were brave enough, you could taste the cakes that were baked on the hoe – hot off the fire.

It is people like Joe Biggers, who had the vision to grow a historic village in Mint Hill. Not only did he want his family’s legacy to be preserved as merchant, entrepreneur, and farmer but he provided an avenue for children to see history in action, as dried corn from the field is ground into meal and then

mixed with other ingredients to make bread.   

Step into history at the Carl J McEwen Historic Village.

The Biggers family, at the request of the MHHS, provided this history of the mill and the Biggers family for our archives.

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Henry Norris Biggers family history provided by great grandson, Mike Biggers.

Henry Norris Biggers and his wife, Lou (Pinyan) Biggers, were married in 1898 and bought a farm off what is now Hwy 27 (Albemarle Rd.), about one mile beyond the Mecklenburg/Cabarrus County line. They raised 6 children to adulthood (Will, Madison, Lem, Jennie, Lela, and Louise). Four children died very young.

In about 1918 they cut trees and sawed the lumber to build a new home on Albemarle Rd. Over time they bought several tracts of land that eventually totaled nearly 400 acres. A grandson, Bill Purser (his mother was Lela) remembers his mother saying everyone had to get up at 4 a.m. every day to be ready for chores and fieldwork as soon as there was enough daylight. Madison told of how he and his older brother Will would cut and saw timbers to be sold to the railroad (today Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway Co.) to be used as crossties and of digging a well by hand. Will did this while being partially crippled with Infantile Paralysis (Polio).

Family historian and grandson, Boyd Biggers (son of Lem) confirms in the early 1920’s Henry or Mr. Henry as he was referred, opened a general store with his son Madison named H.N. Biggers & Son. An old receipt book shows purchase for Standard Oil products, tires, dopes (soft drinks), oysters, tobacco, work boots, etc. Extending credit to customers was common at the time as indicated by a receivables book. Locals would “charge” purchases at the store and “settle up” when crops were harvested and sold. Bill Purser also remembers his mother saying they had a generator that was used to provide electricity. Locals would gather at the store to listen to the radio until late at night. The family had one of the first reaping machines in the area and it would be pulled from farm to farm to help with the harvesting of grain.

The New Williams Burr Mill model N20 dates prior to 1924 when that company was purchased by the Meadows Mills, Inc. in North Wilkesboro, NC. which is still in operation today. This mill was purchased by Henry N. Biggers to grind cornmeal and flour for the people in the community. The mill was donated to the Mint Hill Historical Society by his grandson Joe H. Biggers in memory of his father William Robert “Will” Biggers.

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