Bobby's Bama: Chandler's Mill

By Bobby Shuttleworth - bio | email

CHEROKEE COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - The original Chandler's Mill was built in 1860. But it was deserted when Jerry Don and Peggy Dempsey bought it and began to restore it.

"It was a jungle. It was a swamp. That's all it was," said Peggy.

Infested with mosquitos and snakes, it took her husband a year just to clean out the area. But Jerry Don saw beyond the swamp. He envisioned a working artifact linking the necessities of the past with the "green needs" of the future.

"To bring back the past. To let people know what it was like 150 years ago. The hard times people had, they depended on a grist mill," added Peggy.

Jerry Don was digging through mud and silt when he found a working 1860 turbine in the basement. After some sand blasting and restoration efforts, they were back in business. Even restoring the cabin was a major effort.

"I milled the logs on a little mill. In fact that timber comes from out of Fort McClelland army base," said Jerry Don.

He says it took about two months to put up the logs and foundation. As for the 45 foot water wheel - his third - he says he's been working on it part time for about six years.

"That wheel has got a hydraulic system on it and it's going to make me power," said Dempsey.

Jerry Don's wife says it's not the first time they made their own power. At another location they were some of the few people with power during the snowstorm of 1993. And that wheel turns the gears which makes the power and turns the grist.

"We grind corn meal, grits and wheat flour. And I also have some of my home made jams and jelly," said Peggy.

These wares are only a few things available for sale here. The Dempseys say they want everyone to understand the line between past and present.

"One thing that we're wanting people to know is that there is a past here and you can use that past to your advantage and the wheel is the future. We hope to make power off of this wheel to power the cabin and to run everything," said Perry.

The water is the center of life, providing food and a job for the folks in this part of Bobby's Bama.

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