Artifact of the Month: Bags for North Carolina mill products

Reminders of North Carolina’s agricultural roots are spread throughout the North Carolina Collection. One such example serves as the Gallery’s Artifact of the Month for January. A donor recently brought over several bags for different meal products from various mills across the state, and we have selected a few to highlight.

This 11.5” x 4.5” bag for Winkler Gingerbread mix comes from the Old Mill of Guilford. Located in Oak Ridge, North Carolina near the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Guilford County, the Old Mill of Guilford pre-dates the United States. Originally built in 1767, the mill has been through several transformations. The small tub mill for grinding grain into meal was moved 500 feet in 1819 for better access to the nearby dammed pond. It was also converted to an overshot waterwheel mill, which was then converted into a roller mill with a turbine in 1913. The owner brought back the overshot waterwheel in 1954, and the Old Mill of Guilford continues to operate and sell different types of water ground meal.

The Boonville Flour & Feed Mill located in Yadkin County dates to circa 1880 and has also witnessed several transformations. Originally powered by a steam engine and boiler, the mill converted to diesel engine power in the 1920s before adopting electricity as its source of energy. This 15” x 8” bag for Boonville’s Choice Flour features a colorful image of a natural scene while the Old Mill of Guilford’s Winkler Gingerbread mix bag shows the mill itself.


The China Grove Roller Mills in Rowan County was founded in 1896. The building currently in use for the mill operations dates to 1903 and also serves as a general store. The mill uses roller mills that date to 1906 to produce flour, wheat germ, wheat bran, cornmeal, and livestock feed. These 11.5” x 8.5” bags for different types of corn meal provide additional examples of the images common to twentieth century bags for various meal products.

Both the Old Mill of Guilford and the China Grove Roller Mills are on the National Register of Historic Places. Along with the Boonville Flour & Feed Mill, these historic institutions preserve the experience of the local businesses within the agriculture industry that dominated the North Carolina economy for centuries.

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