Clio Logo
The Historic Yates Mill County park that can be found in Wake County North Carolina. This 174-acre wildlife park has hiking trails, educational programs, environmental resources, and a water-powered gristmill. The Yates Mill, operable since the 1750s, is the last operating Mill in the Wake County of the 70 that existed over the decades; restored and operable one can take a tour of the mill for a fee ($3-5). All proceeds from said fees goes directly to supporting the maintenance and operation of Yates Mill.

  • Raleigh Historic Property and National Register of Historic Place Plaques.
  • The left leads down to the river; the right leads to the mill's workshop.
  • Historic graffiti inside of the mill.
  • Inside of the mill with examples of the different steps to corn milling on the right.
  • The outside view of the mill from the river.
  • The far side of the Millpond.

The gristmill standing in the Historic Yates Mill County Park was first built in the 1750s for the surrounding community. Today, it is one of two surviving waterpower mills in Wake County, and the only operable one, out of 72 know mills mapped in 1870. The Mills land was surveyed in October of 1756, for Samuel Pearson; Then granted to Pearson by the Earl of Granville, a Lord Proprietor for the colony. By his death in 1802 Pearson had accumulated more than 600 acres of land in which he passed down to his son Simon. However, in 1819 Simon had to sell the mill and the surrounding land at a sheriff’s auction in 1819 due to debts. Therefore, ownership of the Mill and property was bought by William Boylan; a Raleigh businessman and the director of the state band. Boylan modernized the mill several times over the next 30 year, even adding a sawmill in the 1840s.[1]

Over the years the mill has changed ownership a handful of times and gained some historic tales along the way. In 1853, three partners got together and bought the mill, Thomas Briggs, James Dodd, John Primrose, and James Penny. Although, a decade later they had to sell the mill and surrounding land due to the outbreak of a Civil War. Millers were exempt form enlistment, but James Penny volunteered to join the Confederate Army. While at war, his wife maintained the mill and one client, Mr. Franklin, a Union support, developed a $700 debt. When Penny returned and confronted Franklin about the debt, it turned violent, and Franklin died. Franklin’s widow supposedly told Federal troops occupying Raleigh that her husband’s death was due to his support for the Union. The soldiers tried to burn the mill by setting fire to the entrance. Charred wooden beams today attest to the unsuccessful attempt. In 1866, Penny was acquitted of Franklin’s death. Therefore, murder may have been why Phares and Roxanna Yates, James Penny’s son-in-law and daughter, bought the mill and land; therefore, the mill acquiring the name we know it as today, Yates Mill.

The Yates family owned and operated the mill until 1948 when A.E. Finley acquire the property.  He constructed a retreat lodge by the millpond for his family and employees. The use of the mill for grinding corn and wheat was scares during this period, with some local use still. However, in 1953 the mill was closed. Then ten years later was acquired by North Carolina State University, to consolidate into one large tract of experimental farmland. The students and faculty did repair the mill’s roof and some other smaller functions, understandable, their budget was mainly for education.[2] Therefore, the mill was used primarily for storage until 1989, when the Yates Mill Association was formed to restore the mill.[3]

Although, this was not the last major event for the Yates Mill. In 1996, the mill was nearly destroyed when Hurricane Fran busted the 250-year-old dame. Following the hurricane, the Yates Mill Associates and Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space unveiled a public-private partnership to rehabilitate the dam and mill as part of a 574-acre historic and environmental park; said restoration took almost ten years, being completed and open to the public in 2006.

[1] “Historic Yates Mill County Park,” accessed June 18, 2019,
“Yates Mill Associates Records, circa 1946-2016 | NC State University Libraries Collection Guides,” accessed June 18, 2019,
“Yates Mill Associates | Keep the Wheel Turning,” accessed June 18, 2019,