The Metcalf Mill was a familiar landmark for many of us who grew up in north Buncombe County. It was located on Hobson Branch Road at the Forks of Ivy, on the bank of Big Ivy Creek just a short distance east of where Hobson Branch Road intersects the Old Mars Hill Highway and where Big Ivy Creek joins Little Ivy Creek to flow on toward the French Broad River. The intersection of Hobson Branch Road and Old Mars Hill Highway also marks the boundary between Buncombe and Madison Counties.
Three different mills occupied the site over two centuries.
An old mill dating back to the 19th century was washed away in a flood in the early 20th century (1916?)
Another mill was built at the site and operated by Oscar Duckett and Zeb Foister at different times.
Ossie Vernon Metcalf purchased that mill from Zeb Foister in the mid 1930's.
He tore it down and replaced it with a new mill (the one shown in the photo) around 1937.
A great challenge of the construction project was to find a skilled millwright who could build the elaborate wooden chutes required to move the grain, meal, and flour around the building during the processing. While ordinary carpenters were available for a labor cost of one dollar per hour, a good millwright commanded ten dollars per hour.
During World War II, the mill went out of service, but afterward was revived by W. D. Metcalf who operated it for seven years more. During this period the mill ground as much as 600 bushels of corn per week and distributed the bagged corn meal to grocery stores all over western North Carolina. The mill used water power primarily, but kept a diesel engine for use in times of low water.
Later, the mill was operated by Paul Ramsey, and after that by Tony Roberts. The building was destroyed in a fire lit by vandals in 1988. See the report in the Madison News Record. [This account is based on a telephone interview of W. D. Metcalf, by Dwight Childers, 27 Dec 2007.]