The Old Mill at T. R. Pugh Memorial Park has been in North Little Rock for almost 90 years. Its claim to fame is being in the opening credits of the 1939 film, Gone with the Wind. But it has hidden gems from much, much earlier in Arkansas and United States history. Here are five of the things you may not know about The Old Mill in North Little Rock.
1. See remnants of an 1800s steamboat. Three hexagonal beams, located behind the “Broken Tree Branch” bench, were cut from the stern wheel of a passenger steamboat that traveled the Arkansas River in the 1800s.
2. Discover a milestone from the forced migration of Native Americans. A rock etched with the number one, located on the west side of the park by the stone steps leading to the water feature, was moved here from an 1830s military road, along which the Cherokee and Choctaw traveled into the Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. The road had been laid out in Yell County, Arkansas, by Jefferson Davis, a young army engineer who would become the only President of the Confederate States of America. Edit: there is a second milestone etched with the number four somewhere in the park, but it was lost in a landslide. If you find it, let us know!
3. Though it was never a working mill, The Old Mill contains real parts from other mills. The grist mill inside The Old Mill came from the Cagle family of Pope County, Arkansas, and dates back to 1828. The large mill rock on the first floor dates to 1823.
4. The Old Mill contains hidden, intricate details to be as authentic as possible, like the cellar and coat hooks. This small door under the staircase in The Old Mill may look real, but you’ll be trying in vain to open it. The “cellar” was a common feature of mills, where workers could put their lunches to keep them cool during the day. Looking at the cellar, turn to your left and you’ll see hooks where workers could hang their coats.
5. Who is “Pugh”? Thomas R. Pugh was an agricultural leader in southeast Arkansas and close friend of Justin Matthews, the North Little Rock developer who constructed The Old Mill. Matthews dedicated the mill in his honor. Today The Old Mill’s official name is The Old Mill at T. R. Pugh Memorial Park. The Old Mill’s cornerstone and the mill rocks inside are actually from the plantation of Tom Pugh’s grandfather.
So how did these seemingly random historic objects end up at The Old Mill in North Little Rock, Arkansas? It seems Justin Matthews may have had a penchant for collecting and preserving items from the early 1800s, but the details of how he obtained them are mostly shrouded in mystery. We do know that Matthews was dedicated to providing as an authentic experience as possible and paying tribute to early American pioneers. His work changed the landscape of North Little Rock and is enjoyed by thousands of locals and visitors every year.
The Old Mill is a free, public park open daily sunrise to sunset.