Monday, October 6, 2014

"Visiting Woodson's Mill"

Howdy Friends,
Yesterday, Ravishin' Robbie and I took a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the beginning of fall's changing beauty. Robbie has long wanted to tour Woodson's Mill, so yesterday we finally did. What a spectacular gem hidden just across the Piney river from the village of Lowesville, a few miles from Crabtree Falls, another must see near the Parkway.
Front view of the majestic building - note the 2 water wheels on the ends - The left wheel powers an electric generator for lights, the wheel on the right turns the grinding wheel, and has turned that wheel since 1840
Mill race bringing water to the giant wheels
Smaller Wheel, this one powers the generator - All power for the mill comes totally ecologically sound from the waters of the Piney River, and has been meandering through the mill race since 1794
These giant cast gears have been transferring Piney River's power from the water wheel to the heavy grinding stone wheels almost continually since the earliest days of our nation.
Yesterday was the final day of milling until spring so luck was on our side and we had a grand tour. We also bought some 100% whole wheat flour and 3 grain pancake mix.  ... "We produce all-natural grits, flours and meals in small batches, by hand, from the best local ingredients available. Our grains are stone-ground slowly to preserve the oils, moisture content, nutrients, and flavor that are often lost in high-speed milling. We do not add preservatives of any kind. And, all the power for grinding comes from the Piney River’s water, which runs the Mill’s overshot wheel and our hand-dressed millstones, making the entire process renewable and sustainable." William Brockenbough – From their website.
Grinding the day away - In the background on the higher level you can see the housing surrounding the slowly turning stone wheel. Turning as it has since 1840. - In the foreground sacks of wheat are being dumped into the floor base of elevators (the small square tubes just behind the scale running floor to ceiling). The elevator's belts and buckets carry the wheat to bins on the third floor, all powered by water, power distributed by a series of very efficient belts.
Woodson’s Mill was built in 1794 by Guiliford Cambell. In the 1840's the Fulcher family added 2 runs (mill stones) the same stones used today! Half a century later Dr. Julian B. Cambell Woodson expanded the company to include an icehouse and lumber mill. Changing attitudes about stone ground mills, the new thinking of a hurry up world, and Dr. Woodson's death in 1963 silenced the mill's grand stones temporarily. During the stones quiet years Huren T. Cambell owned and guarded the mill, refusing to sell any of its timeless equipment, ever hopeful it would again resume operations. Then in the early 1980's J. Gill Brockenbrough purchased the mill, restored it and lived there until his death in 2001. 
The stone wheel grinds patiently, gently inside its housing as it has for over a hundred years -  Not the hopper on top. Below the platform you can see the big belts transferring power from water to stone.
Everyone of the handful of owners loved the grand old mill, and milling way of life.

Owned and operated today by Sarah and Will Brockenbrough with love and respect for the simpler, times, they preserve, promote and treasure a dying art – and fabulous building, with history as deep as our own nation's.
Visit their website to read more of their story and order some wholesome GMO free flour, corn meal, grits, batters and some great old fashioned pancake mixes. If you're near enough, be sure to visit and meet some outstanding folks. They love telling the stories of this historic landmark and the people who built it, ran it, treasure it and share it today.
The mill lake. A storage of power.
Yup, that's me, giving you an idea of the size of the small water wheel.
Be sure to order some!
What a lovely visit we had! Hope you all enjoyed reading about it, and if you ever have the chance, do yourself a favor and drop in, meet some swell folks, step back in time - and linger awhile.

 Gitty Up, Dutch Henry