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Healan-Head’s Mill

A Historic Gem in Gainesville, Georgia
Healan-Head’s Mill was built in 1875, photo courtesy of Hall County Parks and Leisure
The warming room inside the mill, artifacts displayed were discovered during the restoration process (DeAnna Mayfield )
The Healan-Head’s Mill property sits on over 100 acres (DeAnna Mayfield )
The only grist mill standing in Hall County. Photo courtesy of Lieutenant Dan Franklin, Hall County Sheriff’s Department

Located in the heart of Gainesville, Georgia, Healan-Heads Mill stands as a testament to the region’s rich history and a reminder of its agricultural roots. This historic mill, situated at the headwaters of the Oconee River, has played a significant role in the development of Hall County and has recently gained attention due to the county’s plans to restore it.

The mill, originally built in the mid-nineteenth century, was a vital hub for the local community. It served as a gathering place where farmers would bring their grains to be ground into flour, cornmeal, and other products. The mill’s strategic location near the river made it an ideal spot for harnessing water power, which was used to turn the mill’s grinding stones and operate various machinery.

Over the years, the mill faced several challenges, including natural disasters and changes in agricultural practices. It fell into disrepair and was abandoned, leaving behind a structure that was a mere shadow of its former glory. However, recognizing the historical significance of Healan-Heads Mill, Hall County took steps to preserve and restore this cultural landmark after purchasing it from the Healan family in 2015.

“There is so much history in this place, lots of folklore, and maybe a ghost story or two.” – Becky Ruffner, Hall County Parks and Leisure

In recent years, Hall County initiated a restoration project to bring Healan-Heads Mill back to life. The project aims to not only restore the physical structure but also to create an educational and recreational space for the community. The vision is to transform the mill and the over 100-acre property into a living museum, showcasing the history of milling and the importance of agriculture in the region. “This is one of the longest projects that Hall County has ever worked on. Restoration of the Mill itself started around 2015,” says Becky Ruffner, a Public Relations Specialist with Hall County Parks and Leisure.

The restoration plans include repairing the mill’s infrastructure, such as its waterwheel and grinding machinery, to make them operational once again. “It was literally falling apart,” Ruffner says, “the work that has been done is nothing short of miraculous, but there is still a lot of work to do.” There are plans to build interpretive exhibits and walking trails that will provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the mill’s historical significance and the process of grain milling.

The restoration of Healan-Heads Mill is a collaborative effort that involves local organizations like the Healan-Head’s Mill Preservation Trust, historical societies, and passionate community members. Through their combined dedication, the project is gaining momentum and generating excitement among residents and visitors alike. “We are hopeful that the work here to preserve the old farmhouse will continue with 2024-2025 fiscal year budget,” says Ruffner. Hall County and the members of the Preservation Trust say they are committed to sharing the stories of the people who have lived and worked at the mill with the residents of North Georgia.

The revitalization of Healan-Heads Mill as a park and historic site not only preserves an important piece of Hall County’s heritage but also creates a space for education and community engagement. Once the restoration is complete, the mill will serve as a reminder to the region’s agricultural past, and the hard work of those who came before us. With the county’s restoration plans well under way, we can anticipate the day when Healan-Head’s Mill will once again become a thriving centerpiece of the community.

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