North River Mills Day was Saturday May 11, 2013
Click here for photos of the past event!
Ice Mountain is now a Click here for our celebration!
A Brief Look at North River Mills, West Virginia
by Stephanie L. Bailes and Charles C. Hall
North River Mills today seems a forgotten point on a winding back road. Once it was a bustling village along the Great Wagon Road running west out of Winchester toward the frontier whose limits were then unknown.
Originally in Frederick County, Virginia, North River Mills is located on Parker's Gap Run (now Hiett's Run) where it enters the North River. This is where the old Great Wagon Road from Winchester continuing through Fort Edwards (Capon Bridge) to Romney came down from Sandy Ridge and Grape Ridge. To the north is the famous Ice Mountain, known for its cool environment supporting flora usually found hundreds of miles further north. Today the mountain is owned by the Nature Conservancy.
In the early colonial days when this was the frontier, there was a strong-house across the North River on Thomas Parker's 237 acre landgrant. During the French and Indian War the area of the North River Valley was attacked on at least two separate occasions. In the first documented attack, Sarah Gibbons, daughter of James Gibbons whose home was on the other side of the Parker grant, was carried off by the Indians. Eight or nine years later Sarah escaped and returned to her family.
After peace returned to the valley, the system of land grants by Lord Fairfax encouraged settlement in the area. Some of the land was bought by people like Evan Hiett, Christopher Hieskell, and Rees Pritchard, a Revolutionary War hero. Descendants of these men can still be found in Hampshire County today.
However, much of the land was bought by people like Dr. James Craik, George Washington's personal physician, who held it for speculative purposes. Washington himself had surveyed many tracts in the North River and Cacapon River valleys in the early 1750s and, knowing their beauty and fertility, encouraged settlement of the area.
When the settlers came, many small industries were developed. As the community grew, North River Mills (first known as Parker's Gap) took its name from the mills that were built on Hiett's Run and on the River itself. Although the creek seems small today, it once carried enough water to supply the large water wheel of a busy mill. Eventually there were three grinding mills here, the last one a gasoline-powered mill built in the early part of this century.
In the time of the War of the Rebellion, North River Mills was the scene of several small incidents. The proximity of Ice Mountain, which served as a lookout point, brought several skirmishes to the village. Although the area was predominately sympathetic to the Southern cause, the village's blacksmith, Frederick Kump, lost one son, William, who fought for the Union.
Today there are many reminders of those earlier days. The Church, which is built on land given by William Miller in 1893, is still in regular use today. To the east starting up the road to Grape Ridge, Craik Spring, named for the original grantee, still supplies water for local residents. Further up the road just to the west across Hiett's Run lie the remains of the lime kiln once run by Perry Gess.
The Miller house, at the intersection of the Great Wagon Road and the North River Wagon Road, was once an inn and later home of several generations of the descendants of William Miller. Behind it and a little to the west against the hill is the foundation of one of the early mills. Just to the west of town at the intersection of the dirt road crossing the river to the Parker land grant is what remains of the foundation of the Snapp mill.
On the hill to the southwest of the village is a restored log house believed to have been built about 1802 by the Morelands. Near it is the Kump cemetery, final resting place of several early residents including Shorts, Wills, and Chilcott. In the surrounding area are family cemeteries of the Mendenhalls, Hendersons, McDonalds, Smaltzs, Hietts, and Loys.
Today much has changed in North River Mills and it is no longer a bustling community. Two mills are entirelhy gone and only the stone foundation and a mill stone remains of the Miller mill. However, the community is a peaceful, hospitable village waiting for you to discover its charm and interesting history. Each year in June the village celebrates North River Mills Day and invites everyone to come enjoy the hospitality of this peaceful community.
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Next North River Mills Day is Saturday, May 11, 2013
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