The Falls of Rough Mill is an abandoned and partially collapsed mill along the Rough River in Falls of Rough, Kentucky.
Surveyors had been in the vicinity of Falls of Rough as early as the 1780’s, but the land was primarily acquired by speculators, including George Washington. 5 Washington owned approximately 5,000 acres, but like most never saw the land in-person.
The first settler in the vicinity of Falls of Rough was George Wilson from North Carolina, who constructed a mill and dam across the Rough River in 1890. 2 In 1781, Isaac Hite, a surveyor from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, acquired title to land around Falls of the Rough. 5
Benjamin Sebastian, one of Kentucky’s first Appellate Court judges, bought the mill, dam, and several thousand acres of land from Hite in 1811, who then, sold it to Willis Green II in 1821. Green, born in Virginia was the son of a prominent early settler to Danville. 5
Green, working in Hardinsburg as a lawyer and surveyor, 5 moved to the area at what became Falls of Rough in 1821 and built a sawmill, gristmill, and dam in 1823. The mill featured horizontal gears carved from white hickory and vertical gears of cast iron. 1
The Falls of Rough post office opened in 1830 and was named after Green. 3 4 It was renamed to Falls of Rough in 1850 after nearby rapids along the Rough River.
Heir to the farm and town was Willis’ nephew, Lafayette. 1 5 In 1855, a flood washed out the original dam. Lafayette borrowed $20,000 from B.F. Beard, and Edgar Bennett rebuilt the dam. Holes drilled into the bedrock were prodded with iron pins and the dam rebuilt with cut stone.
The grist mill was remodelled and expanded, and a three-story woollen mill was erected. 5 A new general store was built in 1880, and a sawmill, on the eastern banks of the Rough, was added in 1890.
Lafayette’s sons, Willis, Preston, and Robert, formed the L Green and Son. 1 5 Cut logs were rolled into the river where they were floated downstream to the mill. A water-powered tram car took the logs inside the mill, which were then placed onto a saw carriage. The logs were sawed into lumber and loaded onto a cable-operated tram car and put in the lumber yard.
In 1890, the Louisville, Henderson & St. Louis Railroad (LH&StL) was completed to Falls of Rough, and the Greens soon began shipping livestock, cotton, lumber, and ground meal on the trains. 5 They were best known for their Shetland ponies, which sold nationwide.
At the company’s height at the turn of the 20th century, the Green Brothers controlled over 6,000 acres of land and employed nearly 200 people. It was the largest single farming operation in the state. 5
Activities at the mill began to decline in the 1930’s as most of the timber stands had been exhausted. 1 In 1939, the Louisville & Nashville Road, the successor to the LH&StL, abandoned the Falls of Rough spur. 5The sawmill was sold and dismantled in 1941.
Jennie Green assumed control of the land in 1946. The property later passed to cousins from Texas, who continued to operate the gristmill until 1965.
The Falls of Rough was added as a national historic district in 1978. 5 At the time of its nomination, all that remained of the commercial area, excluding the mill, was a small row of structures built in 1880.
After decades of abandonment, the mill collapsed on August 14, 2016, around 6:00 p.m. 4 The owner, Harvel Escue, plans to donate the mill to the Falls of Rough Old Mill Preservation non-profit for the stabilisation and reconstruction of the mill. Escue worked with the group to dismantle the remains of the mill, saving all of the equipment, t-beams, and gears. Work on reconstruction is expected to begin in 2018.
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Support the Falls of Rough Old Mill Preservation so that the non-profit can reconstruct the mill on-site. Donations are tax-deductible.
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[su_spoiler title=”Sources” icon=”caret”]
- Chilton, Ashlee. “Green Mill.” ExploreKYHistory. Article.
- “Falls of Rough.” USGenWeb Archives Project: Breckinridge County, Kentucky, 1 Apr. 2017, article.
- “Kentucky Place Names.” Kentucky Place Names, by Robert M. Rennick, The University Press of Kentucky, 2013, p. 98.
- Elbon, David C. “Falls of Rough, Kentucky.” Kentucky Atlas & Gazetter, article.
- Wilson, Frederick T., and Camille Wells. Green Family Farm Historic District. National Register of Historic Places, 1976.