History of Yates Mill

Earliest known photograph of Yates Mill

Yates Mill has its origins in a mill that began operating on this site in the 1750s. Today, it is the last mill standing of approximately 70 that existed over the decades in what is now Wake County.

Samuel Pearson, who built our mill, moved to central North Carolina in the 1760s, establishing a homestead in what would become Wake County. Mill construction would have begun in the following years to serve Pearson’s farm and others in the region

Pearson and his heirs owned the mill until 1819, when it was sold to local Raleigh businessman, William Boylan. While records are sparse, it is believed Boylan invested in updating the mill’s technology to incorporate the automated milling system patented by Oliver Evans in 1790. This same system is still used in Yates Mill today.

After changing ownership several times. Phares Yates acquired the mill in 1863. The Yates family owned the mill until 1947, when it was sold to a corporation under A.E. Finley. John Daniel Lea, the miller at Yates Mill, continued to operate corn grinding services until his retirement in 1953. A.E. Finley and Associates sold the mill to North Carolina State University in 1963.

NCSU Design School students began efforts to restore and preserve the mill in the 1970s. They created detailed architectural drawings of the structure and brought part of a tobacco barn to the site to serve as their blacksmith shop. Sadly, the students’ efforts were unable to ger much further at the time. NCSU did put a new roof on the mill, likely protecting the structure from collapse.

Members of the Raleigh community organized to form Yates Mill Associates in 1989 to launch fundraising and preservation efforts to save our old mill. Repair efforts began in the early 1990s and Yates Mill was fully restored by 2005.

Today the old mill stands as the centerpiece of Historic Yates Mill County Park, a 174 acre park and native wildlife refuge managed by Wake County Parks and Recreation in cooperation with NCSU, the property owner, and YMA, who is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of Yates Mill.