The source is a two-page excerpt from John Cabe’s account book, detailing the purchases made by Irvin Laycock at the West Point Grist Mill in the years 1867 and 1868 .
The primary role of a grist mill is to grind up grains such as wheat and rice into flour which can be used to make staple foods such as bread. During the nineteenth century, grist mills served as the main form of food processing present in Orange County, accounting for around half of the manufactories listed in the 1860’s census . West Point Mills was one of many grist mills that operated on the Eno River, but what differentiates West Point Mills was the fact that it was the longest functioning and ‘most prosperous’ mill on the river .
West Point Mills served not only as a functional piece in the Orange County food story during the time, processing and providing staple ingredients for food making, but it also served as a center for community gathering. West Point Mills was situated in a desirable location, on a mail route from Raleigh to Roxboro and with roads coming from the north, south, and west . This resulted in a general store, blacksmith shop, cotton gin and a post opening up on the property . Unsurprisingly, the mill became a centerpiece of the community of over 300 families , members of which likely visited the mill not only to make purchases but also to socialize and exchange ideas or even recipes.
The owner of the mill at the time was a politician and businessman John Cabe McCown. He served as the justice of the peace and was a powerful member of the Orange County community . His account book spans years of 1858 to 1870. As shown by the image, some of the, presumably, many items sold include flour, corn, wheat, and cotton seed, with other pages also mentioning molasses, whiskey, salt and leather. West Point Mills also had an extremely large number of clients as the book contained around 333 pages of records. This is indicative of the mill’s large sphere of influence and importance to the community. In addition, a significant number of clients can be seen mentioned multiple times throughout the years of records, with some mentioned consistently from 1859 to 1869. This suggests a robust business and a loyal base of customers. The purchased items, especially flour and corn were also in extremely large quantities, suggesting most purchases to be in bulk for distribution and not home use.
West Point Mills was an essential part of the Orange County community during the 19th century as it produced ingredients that acted as the foundation for staple foods in households. In addition, the story of food processing and the early commercial food manufacturing industry is often a less told portion of the narrative that is equally as important to the food, as it illustrates how ingredients were produced at the time.
 Journal of General Merchandise, 1853-1871, Collection 02709-z, Folder 1, John Cabe McCown Account Books 1858-1874, The Southern Historical Collection, Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library
 United States. History and Architecture of Orange County, North Carolina. By Richard L. Mattson. 1996. 11.
 Anderson, Jean, and Margaret Nygard. “The Story of West Point on the Eno.” ENO Journal 3, no. 1 (1975). Accessed October 8, 2018. http://www.enoriver.org/store/journals/story/.
 “West Point on the Eno.” Eno River Association – Education, Advocacy & Conservation. May 09, 2018. Accessed October 10, 2018. http://www.enoriver.org/what-we-protect/parks/west-point-on-the-eno/.
 Anderson, Jean B. “Cabe, John.” Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 1979. Accessed October 08, 2018. https://www.ncpedia.org/biography/cabe-john.
– Hannah Cao