| backyard traveler | With New Eyes
Henry River Mill Village caught the attention of Hollywood. Now
its history will move it forward.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SEEING SOUTHERN PHOTOGRAPHY EExiting Interstate 40 that horizontally
78 LAKE OCONEE LIVING | FALL 2021
STORY BY JUDY GARRISON
dissects North Carolina
and heading south toward the Henry Fork River,
the vast countryside of Burke County opens
up to farmlands and dwellings that have stood
for decades. Within a short drive, weathered
structures appear, weirdly in symmetry and
regularity, having few unique characteristics
distinguishing one from the other.
History tells us that this was once the Henry
River Mill Village, a spindle mill for spinning
fine cotton thread for elegant garments. From
1905 until 1970, the mill village was the epicenter
of life for all the people who worked there.
Now, the once-abandoned, dilapidated village
is experiencing its renaissance, resurrecting
stories of the laborers who were the heartbeat of
Yesterday Once More
What is happening today to this crippled
village in the western mountains of North
Carolina is irrelevant without knowing its
history. It would merely be another business
venture which would include profit margins and
expenses. Owner Calvin Reyes is rewriting the
narrative of this crossroads that has been, and
always will be, an important piece in the fabric
of the South, the Carolinas, and America.
Homes were owned by those who employed
them, the Aderholdt and Rudisill families who
established Henry River Manufacturing Company.
In turn, workers in this rural Appalachian
community provided the muscle for the mill.
Little more than four-rooms with no electricity
or indoor plumbing, family homes were the
core of activity that sustained them beyond the
10-to-14 work day. Community ties formed
indelible bonds throughout the village that
extended beyond blood relations.