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This page presents some history of the Millbrook Community, which originated some miles north of the original city of Raleigh limits. The content on this page is adapted from this blog posting from August 5, 2009.
Wake: Capital County of North Carolina, Vol. II: Reconstruction to 1920 by K. Todd Johnson and Elizabeth Reid Murray (see blog posting) provides a succinct early history of the Millbrook Community.
In the 1860s, the
Raleigh & Gaston Railroad built a small station at "Mill Brook."
This was the first stop for trains headed north. Around the
station and the tracks, a community developed. "Families, homes,
and some businesses." Two churches organized by 1875, Methodist
and Baptist. Schools appeared by 1877, public for whites and
blacks, a private elementary, and a private academy for whites.
Wake Baptist Grove Church-- later Wake Chapel Baptist Church--
was organized in 1899 by black residents, who utilized the
one-room public schoolhouse. Click to enlarge:
In 1887, a new railroad depot was constructed. In 1888, the Millbrook post office was opened. It was located near the depot, and the first postmaster was merchant Henry A. Bland. The office "was temporarily discontinued in 1906," but "reestablished in 1908."
Another general merchant, Nathaniel W. Hatch, oversaw postal activities from 1908 to 1915. The authors list several merchants from the 1890s to the 1920s, including the names Baugh, Bland, Dean, Harp, Holloway, Hunter, Rogers, Sanderford, Thompson, and "the firm Pine Ridge Store." The community had a cotton gin, as well as a lumber dealer, and a "well-known farmer and cattle producer."
Millbrook Post Office, c. 1970?, from Elizabeth Murray Reid Slide
Collection, Olivia Raney Local History Library, Raleigh, NC
A modern picture of the railroad depot, from 2002, appears in A Directory of North Carolina's Railroad Structures, Second Edition, compiled by Art. Peterson, Tony Reevy, and William L. Dowdy (editor), and published that year by The Old North State Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society, Raleigh, N.C.
building, a long, single-story frame structure with a high-roof,
was vacant at that time. From TerraServer, this U.S.
Geological Survey aerial photo shows
the structure present that year. However, Bing Maps shows a newer
aerial photo with
the building missing. Below is a very quick
sketch of same.
Mike Legeros illustration.
The Wake County Roads web site tells a little more about Millbrook. Back when Wake Forest Road was also Highway 1, this was the halfway point between Raleigh and Wake Forest. The crossroads had a couple "bed-and-breakfast type houses" for folks on the road. The original portion of Millbrook Road was completed by 1940. The east and west extensions were added by 1970, or abouts. When did Capital Boulevard become US.1? The same site notes 1948 was the year NC.59 was named North Boulevard, and renumbered Highway 1.
Millbrook Baptist Church
In October-November 1875, a one-room frame church was erected on the current of the current Falls of Neuse and Spring Forest roads. It was named Midway Baptist Church, because it was located about halfway between New Hope and Mt. Vernon Baptist churches. Architecturally, it resembled a small New England church. It was white and had one front door and a door on either side. The pews were handmade of heart pine and were sanded and polished until they shone. A well was dug near the church from which water was drawn for the thirsty members when there were occasional all-day services. Services were held once a month, and the first preachers came by horseback or on foot, spending the nights in the community.
At this time the Millbrook Community consisted of the church, the school, a post office, a general store, a sawmill, a cotton gin, and several homes.
On April 27, 1924, the first services were held in a new church building, located at the presently addressed 1519 E. Millbrook Road. The chapel his still used today, and the building has been expanded over the decades. Source: Millbrook Baptist Church history.
In 1904, Masonic Wake Forest Lodge #97 moved to the Millbrook Community, and shared a two-story building with the original Millbrook School. In 1930, it merged merged with Mt. Pleasant Lodge #157, which was in danger of losing its charter due to lack of membership, and finally, in 1945, the Lodge changed its name to Millbrook #97. By this time, the old lodge and school building had become so dilapidated that the Brothers called it "the leaning tower of Pisa." Plans were made for a new building, and Brother Joe Mann donated approximate one-third of an acre at the presently addressed 4305 Wake Forest Road. With Brother Frank Jones as principal architect, a beautiful two story brick building was erected, at a cost of $11,000. The building served the lodge until 1981, when a shopping center had grown up around the property and land prices had skyrocketed. It was sold to Firestone Tires, and the lodge relocated to New Hope Road. Source: Millbrook Lodge #97 history.
Onnis Norwood, who was born in north Wake County, established his 54 acre farm near the community of Millbrook north of Raleigh in the 1930s. He and his wife Lyda hired a North Carolina State University architectural professor, a Mr. Satterfield, to design their brick Tudor Revival style farmhouse. Onnis grew cotton, tobacco, hay and corn. His mule barn and numerous other frame outbuildings still stand on the property. To supplement his agricultural income, he operated a lumber mill on the farm. Source: Raleigh Architectural Survey, Phase 4.
Survey entry: WA2549 - Onnis & Lyda Norwood Farm. 1933. 4812 Old Wake Forest Road, Raleigh Raleigh East Quad Substantial brick, Tudor Revival style house designed by Raleigh architect Satterwhite. Still the center of a 54 acre farm.
Fires in Millbrook
On May 9, 1960, a home and former school building burned. The house, valued at $15,000, originally contained two rooms had been recently remodeled with five more added. The Six Forks Road volunteer fire department poured water on the fire for several hours before bringing it under control, reported the Raleigh Times. Mrs. Charles Billing, a widow, lived alone in the home. Defective wiring in the attic was cited as the probable cause.
On March 6, 1961, the Norwood Lumber Company burned. The main plain mill and about 8,000 to 10,000 board-feet of lumber was destroyed. The fire started about 10:00 p.m. Volunteer firemen from Six Forks, Stony Hill, and New Hope respond. The fire as controlled before midnight. Residents near the mill heard an explosion just before the fire was discovered. It apparently started in a tool said, said the firemen. The firm was one of the oldest lumber companies in this part of the state, noted the News & Observer on March 7, 1961. The planing mill and its machinery were located in a 40 by 80 foot open building. A truck parked next to the building was also burned. The burned lumber was stored in and around the building. Crews noted that the damage would have been greater if there had been any wind on the other largely windless night. The mill was located just east of Old Wake Forest Road.
On March 20, 1972, the Norwood Lumber Company again burned. The sawmill area was destroyed. The fire begins shortly before 3:00 a.m. The Bay Leaf Fire Department was dispatched, and they arrived to find the tin-roofed sawmill engulfed in flames. The shed was about 30 by 80 feet in size. "Firemen from the Wake-New Hope and Six Forks departments were also summoned almost immediately" said Bay Leaf Fire Chief George Norwood in the Raleigh Times on March 23, 1972. The mill was owned by Norwood's brother John H. Norwood and his nephew Jack E. Norwood. "Electric motors, saws and other electric mill equipment" were destroyed. Neither the Bay Leaf nor New Hope fire chief had any idea how the fire started. It was spotted by a woman who lived beside the mill. She notified Jack Norwood, who called BLFD. The fire was confined to the sawmill area, and no lumber was burned. The nearby lumber was "green", which helped. About 60 firemen answered the call, and remained on scene until 4:40 a.m. The mill was one of the oldest in Wake County.
A number of historic images are available at Olivia Raney Local History Library, both from the Durwood Barbour Postcard Collection and the Elizabeth Reid Murray Slide Collection. The former are circa 1920, the latter are circa 1970 (?). Click to enlarge each:
Vintage Aerial Photos
Source: USDA Historical Aerial Photos, via http://library.unc.edu/services/data/gis-usda/
Source: Wake County iMaps. Historical aerial photos are available for 1981, 1988, 1999, 2002, and later.
Help Identify These Sites in 1959
See this page for annotations and more views.
Below are maps from a couple eras, plus two contemporary photos from Lee Wilson. Click once or twice to enlarge:
Thanks to Lee Wilson for contributing information and images.
Comments From Original Posting
See the original blog posting for more comments, which have continued to be added.
Ms. Reid’s first volume of Wake County history adds a couple
more details. The Millbrook depot was six miles north of the
Raleigh depot. Mill Brook was named after a “local watercourse.”
The Millbrook post office closed in 1977, replaced by a larger
facility at Departure Drive. Some of Millbrook was still outside
the incorporated limits in 1981.
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Copyright 2021 by Michael J. Legeros