Prater's Mill managed to survive 155 years, but the most recent danger came not from floods or fires as in the past but from powderpost beetles, a tiny, wood-chomping pest.
"Left on their own, I think the beetles would eat forever," said Judy Alderman, president of the Prater's Mill Foundation. "They were in all the wood that didn't have a finish."
The foundation and Whitfield County officials are crediting a North Georgia pest control company and a pesticide maker for stepping in to save the building from severe damage.
Last week, Enviroguard Pest Solutions donated labor and Ensystex Corp. donated the chemicals to treat the infestation.
The bugs had chewed into about 30 percent of the building. That presented a perilous problem for the Varnell, Ga., historic site, which dates back to 1855.
"It warms the cockles of my heart to know they would do this for us," Mrs. Alderman said. "We have so much to take care of out there, so to know that this has been handled professionally is a real relief."
Ms. Alderman said the exterminators were convinced the application of pesticides killed the beetles and hopefully preserved the mill.
Officials with the pest control companies say they donated their time and materials as a charitable gesture to the community.
"We are a very civic-minded company, and we try to help when we can," said Lee Tubbs, owner of Ringgold, Ga.-based Enviroguard Pest Solutions. "We know the (Prater's Mill) foundation is trying to stretch its dollars, and we felt this would be a good civic project for us."
Recently, the Boring family, which owned the mill, donated the structure to Whitfield County.
According to its website, www.pratersmill.org, the building is still being restored following a 1995 case of arson that damaged much of the interior. The creek-powered grist, cotton and syrup mill was a Civil War encampment, in addition to being an important part of the community's past.
"Prater's Mill is a historic place, and we are interested in preserving history and making sure it's not destroyed by pests," said Dan Hill, a chemical representative for Ensystex.
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