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A family story tells of William Francis moving from Tennessee to Haywood County, N.C. to seek his fortune. William met, courted and proposed to Polly Almon, daughter of Gideon Almon. Mr. Almon was supposedly the richest man in Western North Carolina at that time. It was said that he owned all the land from Scotts Creek in Jackson County to the French Broad River in Buncombe County. Almon approved of the marriage of Polly to William, therefore he gave them one square mile of land for a wedding present. William Francis built the Francis Grist Mill in the middle of what was and is called Francis Cove. Family, friends and neighbors would meet at the mill to catch up on news and swap stories while their corn or wheat was being ground into meal or flour.
The original mill wheel was made of yellow poplar which was probably harvested in the vicinity of the mill. That wheel measured twenty-four feet in diameter. In 1914, William's son, M.P. Francis replaced the wooden wheel with a steel wheel, which came from Fitz Waterwheel in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Other components of the mill include a white granite rock used for grinding corn and a similar rock for grinding wheat. These rocks were brought in from Richmond, Indiana.
Dewey V. Francis inherited the Francis Mill upon the death of Monteville Pinkney Francis. Dewey was known for his regular operation of the mill. He commonly milled wheat, corn and grits for his family and the local community until his death in 1976. Dewey's daughter, Hester Ann Francis Boone then inherited the mill. Mrs. Boone dreamed of repairing and restoring the mill to its original condition, but was unable to see it accomplished due to the untimely death of her husband and personal health problems.
Today, Hester's daughter, Tanna Timbes, owns the mill and has joined with the Francis Mill Preservation Society in seeking help to protect the local treasure from further deterioration. The Francis Mill Preservation Society has received all state and federal approval for charitable, non-profit status.