Cooleemee Mill House Museum needs a cook stove

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

COOLEEMEE ó More than 1,000 visitors have stepped through the front door of the Mill House Museum since it opened a little more than a year ago.
Tours have transported them back to the early 1930s when the nation was experiencing the Great Depression. Some want to see how their parents grew up, some to recapture their own mill hill childhoods. Others simply want to see how ordinary folks lived back then.
The mill house is fully-furnished ó with only one major item still missing.
“We need a good wood cook stove,” museum volunteer Peggy Hellard said. “Our aim is to cook on it ó biscuits, cornbread, pies and pintos ó as made by our mothers and grandmothers.”
Last year, the Davie High School masonry class installed two coal fireplaces and a stove chimney with a hole for the flue in the kitchen. Now the museum is turning to the public for help finding a wood cook stove with no cracks and a warming oven on top.
Hellard is sure that someone out there has stored their mother’s iron cook stove in an outbuilding. Operating on a shoestring budget, the museum hopes to have a stove donated by someone who wants to see the region’s heritage passed on. Such a gift will be tax-deductible for its fair market value.
Cooleemee’s Mill House Museum on Cross Street is already packed with hundreds of artifacts, articles of everyday home life like old iron beds, linoleum rugs and an “eight-day” clock.
This spring, the house will get a few new treasures. Retired town postmaster Judy Phillips plans to install a quilting frame, hooking it to the ceiling in “Mamaw’s Room.” Don Cover’s family recently donated three quilt tops, handmade by his grandmother, Susie Fields. Phillips, who grew up in Charlotte’s Highland Park mill village, has also volunteered to teach others how to quilt them.
“Mamaw’s Room” does double duty as the family sitting room because the Guerney Messick family radio sits along its front wall. Once powered by a six-volt battery, this radio might well have been tuned in to President Franklin Roosevelt’s single “Fireside Chat” back in 1934.
Hellard, who serves as vice president of the 19-year-old Cooleemee Historical Association, grew up in a similar mill house on nearby Joyner Street.
“We are thrilled to have visitors,” she said, “but it is when we hold classes for local school children that we really know that future generations will remember how we lived and made-do.” On May 9, Cooleemee first-graders will walk to the Mill House yard to perform “kids chores” from the old days, such as slopping pigs, feeding chickens, scrubbing clothes on wash boards, making butter, working a garden and walking a cow.
If you own a wood cook stove and are willing to donate it to the Mill House Museum, call 336-284-6040. The museum is open to visitors WednesdayńSaturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for seniors. Children 12 and younger can tour free.
Tour guides are available at 131 Church St. Large groups need to call ahead to schedule a visit.