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Walking up the pathway towards the luring sound of churning water, visitors to Hagood Mill Historic Site and Folklife Center - with reproductions of a blacksmith shop, two historical cabins, a cotton gin, a moonshine still, and more - are taken back in time from the very first moment they arrive.
According to Allen Coleman, executive director of Pickens County Museum of Art & History, between 40,000 and 50,000 people visit Hagood Mill each year, making it one of the county's most popular historic attractions.
Located about 3 miles north of Pickens, S.C., the site's focal point - an operating gristmill built in 1845 - is one of the oldest known mills still producing grain products in South Carolina today. At 20 feet tall by 4 feet wide, the mill has the largest waterwheel left in the state, and it's the only surviving one in S.C. that is made out of wood.
The facility is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. to tour the grounds and buildings, but each third Saturday of the month, special "Third Saturday" events are held, rain or shine.
These monthly mini-festivals - which can sometimes draw over 2,000 people - feature a variety of music and a small army of volunteers that offer historical folklife and traditional arts demonstrations on everything from blacksmithing to cotton ginning to chair caning.
Grinding about 800 pounds of corn and wheat at each of the Third Saturday events, the grist mill is in operation on each third Saturday of the month as well. According to site manager Ed Bolt, visitors can watch the demonstration then purchase meal and grits "right as it comes off of the stone."
Many of the Third Saturday programs are highlighted by special events, including a celebration of the banjo with two-time national banjo champion Charles Wood, an Appalachian Mountain dance celebration, a moonshine rally, a storytelling festival, a fiddlers convention, and "Selugadu: A Native American Celebration" - probably the mill's most heavily-attended event.
Throughout the year, the mill site also provides the setting for Pickens County Museum Field School classes. Designed to be hands-on experiences, these nature-based and primitive skills programs cover such topics as hearth cooking, beekeeping, plant appreciation, and herbal medicine. The classes help to fund conservation efforts at the mill.
Having undergone a series of expansions, Hagood Mill has grown to cover approximately 50 acres, including a large field capable of holding about 500 vehicles - adequate parking for the larger events.
In what was one of the site's most notable developments, Native American petroglyphs were discovered in 2003 on a rock outcropping located near the mill. Thought to be 1,000 to 2,000 years old, the rock carvings are protected by the S.C. Rock Art Center, a barn-like building that is currently under construction. "When finished, it will be a fully accessible archeological site preserving and presenting about 40 native carvings," Bolt said. Future plans include the completion of additional nature trails and the possibility of adding a covered music pavilion.
Entrance to Hagood Mill and the Third Saturday events are free.
Watch Cherish Benton's "Better Carolinas" interview with Ed Bolt, site manager for Hagood Mill. Video courtesy of Discover Upcountry Carolina Association and FOX Carolina.
(Image provided by Upstate SC.)
Looking for more happenings in the area? Check out spartanburg.com's comprehensive visitor center.
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