by David Cecelski
For a quiet country place, the little farming community of MillBridgeholds all kinds of interest. The other day I passed through there on the Mooresville Road west of Salisbury, in RowanCounty. It’s beautiful countryside—golden fields of soybeans, green pastureland, and meadows full of goldenrod and sunflowers. Weary of driving, I paused to look around and really fell in love with the place.
For one thing, MillBridge is an old community. Originally established by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, the community was called the Cathey settlement by 1749, was later known as “the Irish settlement,” and finally MillBridge. A local church, Thyatira Presbyterian, was founded circa 1750 and is one of the state’s oldest congregations west of the YadkinRiver. It has a lovely old cemetery and a little museum that you can arrange to visit if you call ahead.
After I visited the Thyatira church, I drove down to the community’s incredibly beautiful millhouse. Located on Second Creek, the mill was built by a planter named Joseph Kerr in the 1820s and was used for milling wheat and corn for more than a century. It’s located at SloanPark, a rural retreat great for picnicking and concerts that’s operated by the RowanCountyParks and Recreation Department.
I also learned that MillBridge is a good place to keep in mind for homegrown produce. While I was there, I visited Patterson Farms, which grows hundreds of acres of garden crops, mostly pumpkins, tomatoes, and poinsettias. First established in 1919, the farm has a retail market on Caldwell Road that sells what they grow, as well as local honey, mountain apples and other produce. There’s an ice cream shop there, too, and the Pattersons also offer farm tours to school and community groups from as far away as Salisbury.
The Pattersons also host charity fundraisers at their market. A couple days ago, they held a day of games, entertainment and food as a benefit for Rowan Helping Ministries-West, a community group that offers food, housing and financial assistance to people in need in the western part of Rowan County. The group’s motto is “Putting God’s Love into Action.”
Something that I hope to do one day is take in one of the local Ruritan Club’s fundraising breakfasts. According to the folks at the Patterson farm, the Mill Bridge Ruritans hold a big country breakfast one Saturday a month and they do them right—country ham and sausage, eggs, grits, biscuits, the works. The club’s building is located on Sloan Road, between the Mooresville Road and the Kerr Mill.
Around RowanCounty, the Mill Bridge Ruritan Club is probably best known for its chicken and dumplings. The club’s members sell plates of chicken and dumplings at the county fair every September. They work for months to get ready. For this last fair, they cooked 600 whole chickens—no canned white meat for them. These are folks who know the good that chicken broth does for a soul.
Cooking and de-boning all those chickens takes 3 or 4 nights. It takes them another 5 nights to make the dumplings from scratch—we’re talking 800 pounds of dough to make all those dumplings. They also turn out 200 pounds of vinegar slaw for a side dish. As you might imagine, the plates of homemade chicken and dumplings don’t last long at the fair.
Like the club’s monthly breakfasts, its chicken and dumpling dinners are good eating, but also support good causes. The Ruritans devote their profits to a host of community projects—wheelchair ramps, house painting, paying light bills, college scholarships and whatever else might help out a local family that’s going through some hard times.
Mill Bridge is located 10 miles west of Salisbury on theMooresville Road (State Highway 150). If you’re into motor sports, MillBridge is also home to the MillBridgeSpeedway, a 1/8-mile dirt oval used mainly for kart racing. It’s open for races every Saturday at noon, and Wednesdays for practice. Last Saturday, the speedway hosted a special event—stock lawnmower racing.