GEORGIA – For its last event of the season Saturday morning, the Georgia Historical Society (GHS) opened the doors to its second museum at the town’s Gordon’s Mill site, where the historical society stores its larger artifacts, for the first time in three years.
While a handful of Georgia residents were welcomed to tour the largely agrarian collection of salvaged farm equipment and signage, GHS director Colin Conger improvised a lecture on the history of the Georgia Plains, the former village hub perched in the fields just west of Georgia Center.
The current structure at Gordon’s Mill, a roughly 70-year-old pallet mill, was built after the original saw- and grist-mill burned to the ground at a brook-side lot adjacent to the pallet mill. That pallet mill “had nothing to do with Gordon’s Mill,” Conger warned.
“But if I could take you back, think about the 1800s,” Conger said. He described a world remarkably different from today’s thin suburbia buried in woods, where forests were cleared for sheep farms and commercial activity sprung up along the nearby Stone Brook.
The area surrounding the mill was reportedly home to several storefronts, a blacksmith, a post office and even a cheese factory. A railroad led into the Georgia Plains, dragging lumber from across Franklin County to the saw mill for processing.
“This was a booming place down here,” Conger said. “This was almost a center to Georgia.”
Stone Brook had reportedly been dammed near where a bridge currently spans the brook, built to raise the water level just before reaching the mill and create enough water pressure to turn the mill’s waterwheel powering both a saw mill and grist mill.
Behind the dam, enough water built up to flood a marshland that’s since been dubbed “Gordon’s Pond.” The water, Conger said, was high enough for people to launch boats into the swamp.
The area provided enough economic force and development to swell Georgia’s population to around 3,000 in the 1850s, a high watermark that wouldn’t be seen again until the current population boom that began in the 1980s.
In the 1850s, the promise of gold in the American West drained Georgia’s population, Conger said. With that went much of the economic hustle that dotted the landscape.
The town’s population almost halved between 1850 and 1860, dropping to 1,500 before eventually sinking further to 1,000 during the Great Depression, according to U.S. census data.
Today, all that really remains of those more prosperous days are some farms and an old Baptist church standing at the crossroads of Plains Road and Stone Bridge Road.
Gordon’s Mill itself, meanwhile, burned to the ground in the early 1940s. The Pierce Pallet Mill opened nearby on the site, which itself was forced to move out of Georgia Plains when electric companies couldn’t bring enough power to the site to power its mill.
That pallet mill eventually moved farther east along Plains Road, with a mill opening at the site neighboring the current town garage.
Georgia’s population began growing again in the second half of the 20th century. Suburban housing started building up along Georgia’s main routes – including in Georgia Plains – and forests eventually overtook the area’s rolling sheep pastures, creating the quiet residential life that currently defines Georgia Plains.
The town’s historical society eventually took over the Gordon’s Mill site sometime in the 1990s, and a crew of Bellows Free Academy – St. Albans students taught by Peter Mallet restored the building with the hopes that it could be used as a museum.
The place is officially a recreational area for the Town of Georgia, with a trail leading down to the scenic area where the mill once stood.
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