Every business has a story and history, some longer than others. The supplier for our primary ingredient at Anna’s Gourmet Goodies, organic whole wheat pastry flour, comes from a mill that was a business before America was a country. Founded in 1755 by Thomas Lindley, Lindley Mills operates at the same location and is run by a ninth generation descendant, Joe Lindley.
It’s the only flour we’ve ever used for our cookies and brownies. And while I could get a distributor to deliver the product, I’ve made it a point to take time to get to know the folks at Lindley Mills and pick up our order at the mill. We usually stop in with a supply of our cookies made from their flour that are always well received. It might seem like a small thing, but I believe that having a personal connection to an ingredient produced by a descendant of the founder of a businesses started more than 254 years ago, adds more to our product than simply great flour.
The mill was the site of one of the largest and most hard fought engagements in North Carolina between the British Loyalists and the Whigs. Anna and I toured the battle ground some years ago where the markers tell the story.
On September 12, 1781, Loyalist leader David Fanning crept into the state capital, then in Hillsborough, secured the town and captured over 200 prisoners including Governor Thomas Burke. They moved the prisoners down to where the Wilmington road crossed Cane Creek at Lindley’s Mill.
On the morning of September 13, the Whigs ambushed the Loyalists as they were crossing the branch, killing their commander, Colonel Hector McNeil. The Loyalists managed to secure the prisoners at the rear of the Spring Friends Meeting House and Fanning organized a flanking attack on the Whigs. The Whigs held their position for several hours, but were eventually driven back. Fanning, who was wounded, turned over command to Colonel McDugald who managed to reach Wilmington safely with the prisoners.
In total, more than 250 men on both sides were killed or wounded. They were cared for or buried by the local Quaker community. While not a victory for the Whigs, the battle served as a turning point, inspiring them to double their efforts, fight on to suppress the Loyalists and ultimately, win the war.
The mill was operated by the Lindley family for more than 100 years. After that, it changed hands and operated as a variety of grain related businesses. In 1975, two hundred and twenty years after opening, Thomas Lindley’s descendants re-purchased and restored the mill to operation. They’ve been grinding organically grown grain there on the same site, for the past 39 years.
There are a lot of reasons why the cookies and brownies at Anna’s Gourmet Goodies taste so good. We developed the recipes and the process we use to make each small batch, by hand. Rather than simply tell you ‘we use the finest ingredients’ (a phrase you’ll find on just about every cookie or food site in the world) I thought you might like to know a little more about the history behind our ingredients.
We just picked up a large load of flour to begin getting ready for the holiday baking season. I placed our order with June and Dewey helped pull the bags. Mr. Joe was busy that day (as he usually is), but I’m pretty sure he managed to get one of the cookies we delivered. They loaded us up, and I stopped on my way out to snap this picture of the mill, surrounded by the brilliant colors of fall.
The history of Anna’s Gourmet Goodies is relatively short, going back a scant few years to 2001 when Debbie and I founded the company after I won Grand Champion at the Cheesecake Bake-off Competition for my Apple-Bourbon Cheesecake (yes – that’s another story). Lindley Mills not only provides us with a reliable source of a superior quality product, but adds an important ingredient to the soul of our business – a real sense of history and some perspective on time.
I always look forward to taking a ride out in the country to visit our friends at Lindley Mills whenever we need a load of flour and a dose of perspective. We’ll carry it back to the bakery, mix it up with our other ingredients, and continue to turn out incredible cookies and brownies that are filled with passion, love and more than a little bit of history.