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Fund-raisers have Trade Mill’s wheel turning again

By Jonathan Pleasant
It was a special day at the Trade Mill last Saturday as the Trade Community Center hosted an all day fundraiser in an effort to finish repairs that have plagued the historic landmark for the past couple of years. The organization had already received over $3,000 from Mountain Electric’s Operation Pocket Change, which helped to have the waterwheel turning once again. The site is not yet in full operation, and milling was done with small electric powered machines, but for many just seeing activity on the grounds was a big relief.
According to Bill Roark, one of the organizers of the event, “It all turned out really well. The biggest part of the money is going to finish the mill. It’s all about volunteers, a bunch of us just get together to keep it up and keep it going. We basically had to redo all the mechanical parts of the mill, the main axel, all the bearings. Things broke down and it was actually a lack of maintenance that was the problem. We’re trying to get it opened back up and our first goal after that is to build our museum. We want to build on to the mill and add a gift shop and museum.”
Originally the old Snyder Mill, the building was bought by local businessman Dennis Foley and relocated from its original site off Highway 421 several years ago. Inmate crews from the Northeast Correctional Complex went to work on restoration and Foley soon had the mill up and running. As Roark pointed out, the Mill quickly became a huge draw for visitors to the area and actually developed a steady customer base.
“Mr. Foley from Phoenix Medical got it here for us,” Roark said.  “After we got it going all we really wanted to do was have it open to show the community, but then we got to selling some of the things we were making and everybody got to buying meal, flour, and scratch feed here. We sold a lot of pancake mix as well as everything else. People love to come down and see the wheel turn.”
When the operation shut down almost two years ago, members of the Trade Community Center began looking for money to get it back to running. According to Roark, the group has been hosting bi-monthly shooting matches, special dinners including a Mother’s Day dinner, and live blue grass performances as well.
The Operation Pocket Change grant was enough to do some substantial repairs and with the final goal in sight, the group decided to host their biggest fundraiser yet this past weekend. The day went smoothly, drawing large crowds that came out to enjoy a variety of events including an auction held in the old Trade School gym. Even State Representative Timothy Hill was on hand, bidding on several items and generally supporting the cause. “The total for repairs is up over $8,000, but today was very successful,” said Roark. “All the stuff for the auction was donated to us. Everybody that put this together was volunteers, we mow, we do it all. The correctional center helps a lot, but most time it’s just a few individuals from around here.”
Besides the auction, the day kicked off with a shooting match at 11:30 and a pig picking at 3:00, which not only included barbecue but cakes, pies, and other desserts as well. Prizes were given out including some $100 cash prizes, along with raffles and other drawings. Live bands performed throughout the day, including local band Dirt Road, among several blue grass and country acts. In all, it was an evening of wholesome family entertainment that brought out a lot of support for the community.
Although it appears that the Trade Community Center may be able to get the Trade Mill back up and running, the group is still hopeful of growing and being able to do more in the community in the future. Membership is still open for anyone wanting to volunteer their time and there are still many projects that can and may be done to highlight the unique history and beauty of the Trade Community. Hopefully things will continue to improve and places like the Trade Mill can continue to be a big part of what makes Johnson County special.