I found myself in Hoke County recently. Since I was out that way, I decided to stop and take a peek at Mill Prong House. Today the house is derelict, but the hurricane-damaged home was once the grand residence of NC Senator John Gilchrist, Sr.
John Gilchrist, Sr.
John Gilchrist, Sr. was born in 1740 in Kilcalmonell Parish, Scotland. He married Effie McMillan in the nearby Highland Church of Campbeltown, Scotland, in 1770. Shortly after their marriage, the couple immigrated to present-day Hoke County, where they started their family.
Five years later, the American Revolution began. Scottish settlers were divided amongst themselves in their allegiance. Those settled around Cross Creek sided with the British, while those in upper Robeson County took up arms with the Patriots. John was among those who supported the crown; his loyalist sympathies would later haunt him.
After the war, John became an influential politician in Robeson County. He served as a member of the NC House of Commons from 1792 to 1793. Gilchrist stepped away from politics briefly after his wife, Effie, passed away.
In 1795, John married Flora McKay Currie. He started construction on Mill Prong House, a Federal-style home, for his new wife. The house was built on 860 acres of Raft’s Swamp, which included McPhaul’s Mill. The mill was a rendezvous point for local Loyalists during the Revolution.
John became a state senator in 1796 and was impeached for his earlier Tory sympathies. The impeachment failed to remove Gilchrist from office since two-thirds of North Carolina’s population were Tories or neutral during the Revolution. Gilchrist’s son, John Jr., went on to serve as a NC State Senator too. Between them, the Gilchrists served over fifty years in the NC legislature.
John Gilchrist Sr. died in 1802. He was buried at the homesite, and his grave can be seen in the Mill Prong Cemetery.
Mill Prong House
Gilchrist left Mill Prong to his sons Gilbert and John Jr., who took over sole ownership in 1811. He sold the property to Col. Archibald McEachern in 1834. McEachern remodeled the house by adding two upstairs rooms and converting it to a Greek Revival style.
Mill Prong House survived through the decades thanks to McEachern’s descendants. They used the house for tobacco and farm storage from the 1930s through the 1970s. Since the house served as a storage facility, neither electricity nor plumbing was ever installed – and chandelier hooks remained in the ceilings until the 1990s.
McEachern’s descendants controlled the property until 1978, when Lida Bullock granted a long-term $1-a-year lease of the house to Mill Prong Preservation, Inc. One year later, Mill Prong House was added to the National Registry of Historic Sites.
Most of the major structural work restoration was completed in 1993. At one point, it served as a museum of Scottish heritage in Hoke County. The museum contained an exhibit of the impeachment proceedings brought against Gilchrist in 1797.
Mill Prong House is located at 3062 Edinburgh Rd in Red Springs. Due to loose dogs roaming the property, I never got out of my car to explore. Even if I had been able to fight off the pups, the house isn’t in the best shape and doesn’t appear to be open to the public.
How You Can Help Preserve Mill Prong House
If you would like to help preserve Mill Prong House, donations can be made to Mill Prong Preservation, PO Box 32, Southern Pines, NC 28388.