Aside from photographs of the Ford buildings at Berry College, there are few images more iconic than the old water wheel at the mill of the mountain campus.
Few folks probably realize that the historic old wheel was originally located in the Shannon community. A new mural depicts what historians believe the water wheel and its setting would have looked like around 1870.
Rome artist Frank Murphy has completed the huge mural inside the new addition to the Shannon Scout Hut at Shag Williams Park.
According to information developed by the Watters District Council for Historic Preservation, the massive 42-foot wheel was part of the Ridge Valley Mill and Gin, located about half a mile southwest of Hermitage Spring.
Readers today might better pinpoint the location as approximately half a mile northeast of the Marglen Industries plant on Ward Mountain Road.
Originally, the mill was built on property that was once considered to be a part John Ridge’s farm. Ridge was the son of Major Ridge, leader of the party that developed the Treaty of New Echota which led to the Cherokee removal and the Trail of Tears.
Ridge owned hundreds of acres in the area and had close to 400 acres under cultivation at the time.
Following removal, the mill was owned by settlers. It later became part of property owned by Republic Mining and Manufacturing Company, a subsidiary of The Aluminum Company of America, until it was donated to Berry College in 1930.
The mill was disassembled and moved to Berry, where student workers reassembled it in its current location.
In 1977, the wheel was completely rebuilt by Berry students, staff, alumni and friends. It was dedicated to the memory of Berry alum Gordon Keown on June 3, 1978.
Jack Dickey, a spokesman for the Watters District Council for Historic Preservation, said the mural by Murphy is just the first phase of a major historic project inside the buildings at the park.
“We’re going to put all these pictures on the wall, something over 500 square feet of wall panels,” Dickey said. “It’s probably going to take us about a year to get it all finished up.”