Golda’s Old Watermill, Tahlequah, Oklahoma

Goldas Old Watermill pc1Goldas Old Watermill pc2

Divided back, Real Photo Postcard, unused. Publisher:  The L.L. Cook Co., Milwaukee. Circa 1950s – 1960s.

Price:  $5.00

In keeping with a short “water theme” here’s a Real Photo Postcard showing a beautiful black and white shot of Golda’s Mill in Tahlequah, OK. This mill was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1972, and was still a working mill when it was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1983.

According to a Wikipedia article it was build by Dr. Nicholas Bitting around 1882, at the site of a previous mill. Nicholas Bitting, M.D. shows up on the 1900 Federal Census in Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation County, Indian Territory, as head of household. The census gives his occupation as Druggist, and he appears there with his wife, Mary J. and sons Nicholas, William and John. He was born in North Carolina in March of 1845, which would have made him about 37 years old when he built the mill. It’s always nice to see confirmation in census or other records, but looking further…

Much more about the mill was found in the following fascinating newspaper clip, which takes us back to the 1830s when the original mill was built, up to 1974 when the article was written. Golda was Golda Unkefer…the metal wheel that replaced the wooden one was made in France…the first mill was built by Cherokees, Tom Taylor and his wife, and the slaves they brought with them from Texas. (Just click to enlarge.)

Old Mill article 1Old Mill article 2

Update:  Inspired by the recent comments from Jim (September 6, 2018) we went hunting for more info, under the title of Bitting Springs, this time. Turns out there are many more articles to be found, but here’s a good one under the title, “Water Wheel Created Memories Along With Bags of Cornmeal” by Jim Etter, for The Daily Oklahoman, dated June 20, 1993:

Sources:  Golda’s Mill. n.d.’s_Mill. (accessed August 15, 2015).

National Register of Historic Places. n.d. (accessed August 15, 2015)

Year: 1900; Census Place: Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory; Roll: 1845; Enumeration District: 0033; FHL microfilm: 1241845. (

“Old Corn Mill Still Grinding” The Eagle (Bryan,
TX), November 24, 1974, p. 36. (

Etter, Jim. “Water Wheel Created Memories Along With Bags of Cornmeal.” The Daily Oklahoman. June 20, 1993, Sunday, p. 6. (

14 thoughts on “Golda’s Old Watermill, Tahlequah, Oklahoma

  1. I have memories of Golda’s water mill in eastern Oklahoma, sad to hear it was destroyed by fire.
    Is there any history left there?
    The place should be preserved.
    I have seen that water mill run I bought some ground corn flour, back in the 70’s.

    • Thanks for the comment Jeffrey. I was checking online to see if there is any history one can see there still. The forum Adventure Rider ( has some info from 2009. From what someone has written, the site is on private property, however it sounds like there is very little left, part of a wall from what I gather. Not sure if there’s anything else. Kinda sad, yep. I remember seeing an old mill or two in the ’60s while on vacation with the family, probably in the Smoky Mountains somewhere. One of those memories that stays with you as a big city kid who had never seen an old grist mill before.

    • Is there anything left of the old water mill after the fire?
      I as a kid seen the old water mill work.
      My mom has bought lots of flour there back through the 60’s.
      Is anything left there after the fire?

      • Hi Jeffrey, My understanding (from researching online) is that there’s part of a wall left. Not 100% sure, though. Apparently the site is on private property, but if anyone has any updated info, hopefully they will let us all know….Nice that you had gotten to see the old mill in action, and I guess benefited from your mom’s homemade bread, biscuits, gravy, etc. that were made with that flour!

        • Hello all, I was sad to read that the Mill is no longer there. Today while shopping at a thrift store I purchased an oil painting of The Golda’s Grist Mill. I did read the history about the Mill and who built it. Very interesting.

  2. I met Golda in 1963/64 playing duplicate bridge at Northeastern State College in Tahlequah, OK.
    My wife and I were invited to her home, which was at the mill and moreover at the artesian well which supplied the water to power the mill and keep the two tanks filled with pure artesian waters .
    I tried unsuccessful to convince her that restarting the mill and starting a trout farm would be a viable venture, unfortunately, she declined. Sorry to hear about the fire it would have been a wonderful venture!

  3. I cannot believe no mention is made of the artesian well that powered this mill. It’s flow was more than adequate to drive the wheel and fill two small lakes with reserve power to provide for the mill

  4. Thanks for your wonderful first-hand comments, Jim. Golda and bridge-playing. (The continual wonder of the internet!) I had to look up artesian, being not quite sure, and found this definition, “The word artesian, properly used, refers to situations where the water is confined under pressure below layers of relatively impermeable rock.” ( Yeah, and the only mention of the power source for the mill is Goingsnake Creek, aka Bitting Springs or Ned Christie Springs, nothing found (in quick searches anyway) of a more detailed nature. Seems Golda’s Mill articles are more readily found under “Bitting Springs.” Found a clip from June 1993, The Daily Oklahoman, and added it to our post, it’s a great article including an interesting tidbit about how the mill attracted lots of movie stars including Groucho Marxx and ” ‘ol Tarzan” (Johnny Weissmuller, I’m assuming) not to mention the fact that the area was the site of the movie “Where the Red Fern Grows.”

  5. I visited the mill as an early teenage and then went back in the late 70’s. 40 years later, my recollection of a conversation with Golda is she had come up with the process of using many high wattage lamps to flood the ground cornmeal with light after it went thru the grinding wheels. The purpose was to kill, if I remember correctly, the “weevils” within the meal. She said someone from the “government” had come to look at her process as her meal had less complaints than most. She was very proud to be continuing the historic process at the mill. Very unfortunate that it has been lost.

  6. My great grandfather was Nicholas Bitting. My Dad, Watie Bitting, used to take us to the mill and run in back in the early 70’s. It is a cherished memory. My Mother has written the actual history of the mill.

    • Hi Laura, thanks so much for commenting (I’m picturing kids playing and running around by the mill, and just the healing sounds of the water…) and if your mom’s history of the mill is anywhere online, please let us know! Anne

    • My dad was Golda’s cousin.. She had 2 sisters Crystal and Jewell. I was young when I saw them all. We were at Sequa h Club . They had cabins there and could walk down to the Illinois River and intertube with the kids I met there.. when we left made a trip to the mill.. it was really a place to remember.

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