Script of Video Romney On the Menu_ North River Mills
North River Mills (research By Stephanie Bailes Brown and Charlie Hall)
adapted by Steve and Terry Bailes
How do you tell the story of a town. How do you capture the lives of the people who lived there. We will try to share a story somewhat chronologically.
We shamelessly plagiarized the work of our daughter. She began researching North River Mills when she was in fourth grade.
North River Mills is located between 8 miles from Capon Bridge and 4 miles from Slanesville on the Cold Stream Road at the base of Ice Mountain.
Over the years North River Mills has changed. What was once a booming town is now silent and still. The post office (which closed in 1972) had 100 mail boxes. When we married in 1976 there was a store with gas pumps, and 8 families. This town that had three gristmills, a store, a church, a strong house (Fort Thomas Parker), an inn, a lime kiln and a blacksmith shop-- now is deserted.
George Washington surveyed the North River Mills area in what was Frederick County, VA. He made mention of it in his diary during peacetime. He returned to spend at least two nights there as a soldier.
The town was first called Parker's Gap. This came from Fort Thomas Parker, located just west of town, which played an important role in the French Indian War. Named after its owner and builder, a land surveyor, Thomas Parker, the fort was built in the fall of 1754. Located between two larger forts, Loudoun (Winchester) and Pearsall (Romney), and 8 miles from Fort Edwards on the Great Wagon Road, it was used as a stopping place for the troops, convoys, and couriers. There are no records of troops being stationed there. Even Thomas Parker spent little time there. Fort Thomas Parker or the North River Stockade was not a fort as is usually understood, but a fortified home or blockhouse with rifle slits and few windows. It is believed a stockade encircled the house.map
The French and Indian War. also called the seven year war, began in
1756 and ended in 1763. Most of the war was fought in Europe but a small
portion took place in what was to become the United States . Some of the
fighting took place in what was to become Hampshire County West Virginia.
This was a war where the French and Indians fought together against the
During the French Indian war, Washington ordered hunting parties to search for Indians. Capt. Richard Pearis, a former Indian trader, headed one of these parties. His party was made up of Cherokee Indians and militiamen. They marched to the North River until they came upon Fort Thomas Parker. Arriving at the fort they found it to be surrounded by hostile Indians. Capt.Pearis fired on the Indians and reclaimed the fort. The battle lasted about 30 minutes. The enemy commander, a Frenchman Sieur Douville was killed and three warriors were wounded. Capt.Pearis lost one man while two others were hurt. Sieur Douville’s scalp was presented to Colonel Washington at Winchester. Washington sent the scalp to Governor Dinwiddie with the written hope the governor would pay the bounty. The bounty was divided among Pearis’ men.
map Another scalping may have occurred near the fort or this may be a different version of the previous story. Capt. Joshua Lewis and eighteen men of the Virginia Regiment came upon a small band of Indians led by a French officer. A skirmish followed in which the French officer was killed and two others were wounded. The scalp was also sent to the Governor, and probably the bounty was paid. William H. Ansel's, Frontier Forts... describes the event. Barry Bostwick movie depicted the presentation of the scalp to Washington in Winchester.
The Gibbons family was living near Fort Thomas Parker. When Sarah Gibbons was 13 years old Indians kidnapped her. (Ulike Jane McCrea shown in the photo.) She was taken to an Indian village and was kept by the Indians for nine years. Sarah had a “half-breed child. The child was named Abraham Gibbons.
In 1765 or 1767 Sarah left the Indian village to find her natural parents. Her home place had been sold to Dr. James Craik, Her father, James Gibbons, had died in 1760. Her mother had married Durret Covey. Mr. Covey was a member of Lewis’s militia who had come to the rescue when the Indians had kidnapped Sarah. Sarah’s brother, Jacob, was now living along Opequon Creek, near Winchester.
Sarah gave up her son to Daniel Sowers as an indentured servant. In 1774, Sarah filed charges against Sowers for child abuse. The child was returned to her. Sarah married Cornelius Lister and lived three miles south of Winchester next to her brother’s home.
Thomas Parker later sold the land to Robert Pritchard. It was then sold to J. Rees Pritchard. Kenny Baker now owns the land believed to include the fort site. (In 2016 the state legislature declared the section of Cold Stream Road in or near North River Mills an historic trace, honoring Washington, Craik, Pritchard, Croston.)
Dr. James Craik, mentioned earlier, was Washington’s personal physician who attended him from the Braddock's disasterous campaign in the French Indian War until Washington’s death. (On the east end of town you can visit Craik's Spring. He was an early landholder of a large tract in and around North River Mills. But George Washington prevailed on Craik to move to Alexandria to be closer to his patient.
We're going to go to the north west suburbs. Bull Croston has researched his N. River Mills Revolutionary War ancestor, Gustavus Croston . Bull found that Gustavus fought in 5 major Revolutionary War battles including Kings Mountain, Cowpens, Musgrove Mills, Eutaw Springs, & Ninety- Six. He fought with a Virginia battalion under Gen. Nathaniel Greene. In the June siege of 1781 Croston was captured in South Carolina during a siege. He was likely taken to a Charleston,S.C. prison ship and released after Cornwallis surrender at Yorktown Oct. 1781. Gustavus walked to Richmond, Virginia in 1818 to collect his pension. His grave is at the west end of North River Mills on the north side of Cold Stream Road, near the junction of Maple Run and North River. map
We will return to the town which was later later known as North River Mills. Any question about any of the locations so far? The town’s name was derived from North River and the three mills that were a major part of the community. The town’s main economy was based on the three gristmills. Each Mill was uniquely different in style from the others. Ironically, only one mill, the Snapp Mill, was powered by North River. Part of the river’s current was diverted to the undershot wheel. Undershot wheels are known for their many long paddles like that of a river boat. The more paddles--the more power created. The wheels were built using the formula: the distance between the paddles was to be equal to the width of the paddles. For a while during the Civil war James Slane, an ancestor of Kenny Baker,owned the mill. With thirty- percent efficiency rate, and resembling a river boat paddle wheel it was the least efficient of the mills.
Just after the Civil War, Mr. Snapp became the owner of the Snapp Mill. Maude Pugh (author of CaponValley...) opens her book with a delightful description of a walk through the village. In 1930 the Snapp Mill was blown up to make room for a new roadbed. The ruins can be found on the Slanesville end of town just as you turn onto Harmison’s Lane/Zion Church Rd. The foundation and a pool from where the wheel turned are still visible. Any questions based on the map?
Walking south east to the center of town we find a mill race from Hiett’s Run supplied sufficient drop for an overshot wheel at the Miller Mill in the center of town, on the Slanesville side of the Old Inn. Instead of paddles, it used buckets. The wheels ranged from ten to thirty feet. The number of buckets varied according to the size of the wheel. A ten foot wheel needed around 24 buckets and a forty foot wheel needed over a hundred buckets. With a seventy-five percent efficiency rate this was the most efficient type of wheel.
The mill had three stories. In the 1930’s flood the Miller family took refuge on the third floor of the mill. The Miller Mill fell down in a large snowstorm in 1936. The Millers built a shed on the remaining foundation that still remains today. No mortar was used in the foundation. One grinding bur remains at the mill site. Sloan Miller’s family owns the other stone.
The Millers also ran an inn which is next to the mill. The inn consists of 2 log structures joined by a frame section. The original structure was built in 1790. John B. Miller was commissioned as postmaster in 1840. The Millers had a walking (spinning) wheel. The "cave" or root cellar has the year 1812 and the mason's initials carved into it. There is a log smoke house just outside the kitchen. I'm sure you will be impressed that the outhouse made it into the National Historic Register.
The third and last mill was diesel turbine powered-- the Shanholtz Mill so no water was needed. The poured concrete foundation can still be seen across from the old store near the center of town. Henry Shanholtz operated this mill.
The three mills were never running at the same time. There was a short period that the Shanholtz Mill and the Miller Mill were operating together.
Returning to the Civil war era, Carol Shaw related a story about Rebecca and Esther (Etta) Washington, who lived at Ridgedale, Carol's home. They were sent by their father, George William Washington, to travel on horseback to Winchester and deliver a message to Stonewall Jackson in May of 1862. . He directed his daughters to travel over neighboring farmland to avoid the main roads. “The journey is about 50 miles, but it will be longer than that for you, since you are not to venture on the highway until you get to North River Mills. There are pickets all about, and you must take no chances of meeting them. “ His neighbor, Hiram Alcar (Alkire?) would let down the fences to let them through, and the Millers would do the same plus put them up for the night. They traveled over South Branch Mountain.” (Printed in a 1930 article for a rail road magazine.)map
Frederick Kump was a blacksmith whose log home still stands a fourth of a mile south of Cold Stream Road. The land was part of a huge land grant once owned by Lord Fairfax who sold the property to Mr. Biget, who sold it to Mr. Moreland. Mr. Moreland built the front part of the house in 1802 (or 1808?). The house did not have a kitchen. Frederick Kump's wife indicated she wanted a kitchen. Frederick moved a blacksmith shop, and hooked it on to the house.
There are twenty unmarked graves in the cemetery. Two of the unmarked
graves belong to Frederick Kump and his daughter Hattie.
William Kump was the son of Frederick Kump. According to the October 8,
1850 census he was born in 1848. William decided to join the union army. His father was a southern sympathizer. One story tells that the father, Frederick followed William out of North River Mills pleading with him not to go. You can imagine the father asking how William could fight against his own country, Virginia, his friends and family. But William had apparently decided his country was the United States so he continued to Paw Paw, to enlist. On February 23, 1864, to get into the army, William lied about his age. He apparently said he was eighteen when he was two years younger. He was killed in action six months later at Halltown, near Harpers Ferry. (The sketch of Halltown was doen by David Strother, known as Porte Crayon. Strother was a tourist at Ice Mountain in the 1840's.)
We have the enlistment papers where someone recorded his name as William S. instead of William F. Kump. William apparently was illiterate since he only signed with an "X". Nine years after his death the assistant adjutant general figured out William's correct name.
map In 2016 the bridge across the North River at the west end of town was named for Private William Kump. It is the only memorial I am aware of for a Union soldier in Hampshire County.
Union and Confederate forces camped, near Ice Mountain. A young Confederate (home guard?) stood lookout on Raven Rock. He looked west, and saw a cloud of dust coming from (what is now) "Thorne-town". The young soldier took off down the back side of Ice Mountain sounding the alarm, "The Yankees is comin'!" And pretty soon there was a stampede of retreating Confederates heading up Grape Ridge heading for Capon Bridge and points east-- away from the presumed blood thirsty Union horde. Major Deaver (I was told the rank was honorary) caught up with the retreating Rebels, slapping them with the flat of his sword. He managed to reform them, and march them back to Ice Mountain. When they inspected the invaders more closely, they were not able to discern whether the invaders' sympathies were for the North or the South. But the most important discovery was that they were not soldiers-- but cows! Mr. Duliere published a related article in his "WV Advocate"-- maybe in the late 70's.
In "Fighting Guerrillas in West Virginia", the author, Capt. William E. Nichols, of the 153d Ohio Volunteer Infantry wrote that Company D of that regiment, which was called out for one hundred days to guard the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in West Virginia. He had previously served in the 5th Cavalry, and had fought at the Battle of Shiloh. The experiences of the 153d Ohio consisted chiefly of operations against the noted Confederate partisan leader, Captain John H. McNeill. On SATURDAY May 21, 1864, Nichols wrote from Camp Kelley. Paw Paw Post Office, Virginia.
“I just came in from a long scouting expedition with Captain Stevens and twenty-seven volunteers. We started out on the Winchester road and searched for bushwhackers for two days but didn't find any. At length we went to the house of an old Rebel named [Johnny B.]Miller at North River Mills. The house was a very large one, 100 feet long and two stories high. which we searched thoroughly without success. We ordered Miller, who was the mill owner, to get a nice breakfast for the two officers and the 27 men. He stared a little, but we ordered him to get it quick, and he called up his two daughters, wife, and Niggers, and they soon had the nicest breakfast I have had since I left home. Hot biscuit, good butter, homemade molasses, corn cakes, coffee, ham and eggs, cucumber pickles. We ate enough for 50 men.”
The Union troops had been searching for Asa Hiett, who served in the Confederate legislature. Another story describe how Union troops were on both sides of a worm wood fence firing at Asa who surprisingly escaped unharmed.
While the meal was being prepared, the Union troops searched the house, knowing that Johnny B. Miller was “sesech”. They broke open a closet. The closet has never been repaired. Ted Kalvitis has suggested we deserve a procrastinators award.
Fort Thomas Parker may have been involved in a skirmish on July 3, 1864 it was reportedly lead by General Lewis Wallace who had his Union headquarters in Romney. Many people believe he was writing his classic, Ben Hur, while he was in Romney.
Buried in the Kump cemetery is the gravesite of Amos Chilcott of the 13th Va. In recent years a ceremony was held honoring Amos. It was eery to see reenactors of the 13th Virginia march up the dirt lane to Chilcott's grave.
Dr. Gordon's Slonaker's did his master's dissertation on “Hampshire County in the Civil War.” I'm hoping his children will allow us to post this paper on line. Similarly, I hope the family of Dick Ansel will allow the publication of manuscript on the mills of Hampshire County.
North River Mills was an industrious town. Perry Gess operated a Lime Kiln. The structure can be seen past the east end end of town across from the map O'Brien property near where Hiett Run flows under Cold Stream Road, on the back side of Ice Mountain as you climb Grape Ridge.
Perhaps not all the residents are industrious. There are numerous accounts of spirits hanging around the town. A traveling salesman, then known as a drummer, paid for one of the expensive rooms upstairs, not the cheaper common room downstairs by the bar. The drummer supposedly came back downstairs with a sack over his shoulder. The night was cold and wet, but he insisted he needed to go out for a walk. He returned without the sack. People have speculated that the bag may have contained riches. Anyway, he returned upstairs and died. Years later, Lake Henderson, Charlie and Wilma Miller's daughter, believed the dark stain on the floor of the “drummer's room” was blood. She was offered that room for her own bedroom, or she could sleep with her grandmother who snored. She shared the room with her grandmother. The room is now referred to as the “Russell Room or simply the haunted room.
There have been many reports of one of the father or son blacksmith hanging around the homeplace.
In the 1860's the town supported a general merchandise and a grocery store. Store operators included Hiett, Moreland, Harmison, Deaver and Miller. In 1885 the North River Mills store was located in the what was Audra Croston's yard, on the south side of Cold Stream Road at the west end of town. It was built and owned by William Moreland. During a flood the store was washed away.
John Gess built the current North River Mills Store and was it's first owner. Another early owner was Love Wolfe,who owned the store in the 1920's. Rumsy
Martin ran the store for only a month. Chris Harmison ran and lived in the
store later. In the early 1950's Lee Deaver, World War I veteran, owned the store, then he sold it to Bruce Miller and moved to PawPaw. Later Lee moved back and bought the store. When Lee Deaver died in 1952 Bruce Miller again bought the store.
One of the workers in the store, when it was owned by John
Gess, was Wade Pugh. He was so admired by Alma Gess, John's wife, that she
named her son, Wade Goode Gess, after him. Goode Gess can remember being set up on the high counter of the store and given animal crackers out of a large box, since he didn't like candy. The store also sold and dressed turkeys which were put in large barrels, that held 367 pounds of food. To help sell items, John Gess would take a wagon of goods to Riggs Hollow. Sometimes, people would barter for goods. Then he would make a circle, coming back by the North River Valley.
The store has always been the center of town and is more than a grocery
store. It serves as the chamber of commerce, information center, local
gathering spot and delivery drop off area among other things. The North
River Mills Post Office was in the store twice. The postmistresses were Alma
Gess and Betty Miller. In the 1960's Bruce and Betty Miller held Turkey Shoots from the back of the store.
One time Lynn Bailes Hall was flying in from across the country, and her luggage
was lost. The airline policy said they were to deliver her luggage to the place she was visiting. Lynn said they could leave her luggage at the store. The man who was delivering the luggage probably had not been out of
the DC area, and he had many questions such as, "What are the store's hours?
How will the owner contact you? What should I do was confused and asked, “What if the store is closed?"
Lynn left the man speechless when she answered, "Don't worry. They will
be there because they live there."
The store also served as the local cooking school. When my Terry Bailes was a newlywed, she would go to the store to buy some last minute items for dinner. The store would be filled with the wonderful smell of what was cooking for the Miller family's dinner. The store often didn't have the things Terry was seeking for her recipe, but the proprietor, Betty, when asked could tell Terry what she was fixing, and she would tell her what she needed to fix it, where on the shelf the
ingredients were, how long to bake it, and all the other details.
The store resembled a museum, with stuffed animals and antique guns lining the walls.
The North River Mills Church was not the first Methodist Church in the area. An earlier church was built at the top of Grape Ridge. William Miller felt the North River Mills area also needed a church that was closer, and so he gave the land and in 1896 the North River Mills Methodist Episcopal Church was built. There is a balcony that was used by the Blacks (although there may have been only one Negro family in the church.) The Methodist church was progressive and was one of the first churches to allow blacks and whites to worship together.
The ceiling is stenciled in black paint and the top of the walls are stenciled in red. The patterns are considered simple. It is felt the congregation did the work themselves. Pastor Deborah McKown invited an expert on historic art to look at the stenciling. The expert said the stenciling may have been made from thumb prints of all the parishioners. There are lantern lights in the center of the church. These were used full time until electric was added to the church in 1981 by Rev. Nelson.
The church used to have church picnics during the summer. Some of the men
would go up to Ice Mountain and get enough ice to make ice cream and lemon-aid. Mrs. Lake Henderson remembered doing this as a small child.
The church has always had honey bees in the walls. While Rev. Groscup was serving the church (1920-1924) he would take a piece of wood siding out and get the honey and then put the siding back. Stacey, Rev. Groscup's son, was born in the old Capon Bridge parsonage. Stacey also became a pastor. and was Terry Lynn's pastor in Morgantown. He was well known in the archery world, and was featured on ESPN shooting baby aspirin tossed in the air with bow and arrow.
A one room schoolhouse is located beyond the church where children from grades one to eight attended. It was the second school in North River Mills. The first one was located just behind the one there today. The second school came from Shiloh when Shiloh got a "big" two room school house.
This map shows the location of the schoolhouse.
Lake Miller Henderson attended the North River Mills School until High
School. The high school was located in Capon Bridge eight miles away. At
that time eight miles was considered quite a distance. Lake had to stay with
a family in Capon Bridge. Sloan Miller, Lake's brother, only attended the
North River Mills School for one year. Then they had buses and would bus
them up to Slanesville. Slanesville had a two room school house.
The North River Mills School had some interesting traditions. On the first
day of school the older boys would build a teepee. When I asked how this
tradition was started no one was sure. The back wall of the school has
writing where the students would sign their names. Some of the teachers were
Maude Pugh, Arthur Slonaker, Ebbie Saville, and Love Wolf.
Christinkling is a mix of Christmas caroling and trick-or-treating. At Christmas time, youths would go house to house in disguise and sing Christmas carols. They would try not to let anyone know who you were. The youth of the church would go around to different houses in
the community and sing.
John Whitacre said he bought a pair of new boots three or four times his
actual shoe size just so no one would recognize him. He hid them in a barn so
no one would find them. A sheet was also part of his costume. One time
someone chased him. John punched the chaser to avoid being identified.
The North River Mills School closed down in 1933. It was then turned into a
garage. The sign on the front still remains today.
Gene Williams shared a photo of his grandfather, Samuel Holland Williams. S.H. Williams, called Holl, was born in 1840. His father was George Sharf Williams, and his mother was Mary Mendenhall Williams. His homeplace was at what's now the Baker farm. The old cemetery is on the ridge. The old house burned long ago. He was a private in Co. K, 18th Va. Cavalry. He married Harriet "Ella" Taylor of Mechanicsburg, west of Romney. Their children were Nelle, Marvin, George, Phil, Dan, Paul (Gene's father, b. 1894), Gene, John and Louise.
The Smaltz family was German. They lived a mile and a quarter past the Kump house. William and Caroline Smaltz had five children. After some of
William's daughters died, he tried to commit suicide. He went up on Raven's
Rock and was going to jump off. Luckily the sheriff, William Miller, talked
him down. Let's locate the Smaltz farm. map
Henry and Ella, were two of William's surviving children. The story goes that when Henry died, Ella never touched anything in his room so you could see the impression of his body on the feather tick.
Ella had about twenty five mangey cats and a blind chicken at one time. The cats would get up on the table, and Wilma Miller used to tell how much she hated going to their house to eat because the cats would eat off of the plates. The Smaltz family cemetery is located on a hill near the house.
HistoricHampshire.org hosts a list of Local cemeteries including the Mendenhall/Williams; Kump (Chilcott, Short, Wills); Smaltz; Loy; and Hiett.
map The McCauley farm is about a mile and a half southwest of the center of North River Mills. The house was probably built in 1918. Charlie McCauley first lived in a smaller structure. When Charlie McCauley got the land, the only cleared land was the garden spot. This is where he built the house. The McCauleys cleared many fields.
Charlie McCauley's first barn burnt down. Charlie Harmison told of a
thunderstorm and how lighting struck the barn. Someone saw the fire and told
him. He ran across a few fields and North River. By the time he got to the barn,
there was nothing he could do. Along with many farm tools two large work
horses were lost in the fire. The whole community got together to have a
barn raising. They rebuilt the barn in two days with the wood supplied by
Next to the house is an ice house. The walls are eight inches thick and
filled with sawdust, which acts a insulation. The McCauleys would go down to
North River when it froze and cut large chunks of ice. They would put the
ice in the ice house where it would keep through the summer.
Lennie McCauley, Charlie's wife, liked to eat squirrel. When she got hungry
for it she would go out and shoot two or three herself. She would also clean and cook them herself.
We have Audra Hawkins Croston's journal from 1935 and 36. I doubt that she realized she was recording history, but she left a fascinating account of record floods, the dust bowl cloud that blotted out the sun for days, a fire that threatened to destroy the town had they not worked together to build back fires, worship services in homes, neighbors helping neighbors-- building barns and gathering in crops.
Now, imagine you are taking a walk on a day that is ninety degrees and feel cold air coming out of holes in the ground. When you look closer you notice ice.
Maybe the sun is starting to affect you or maybe you are at Ice Mountain, "Nature's Ice Box."
Ice Mountain, with an elevation of 700 feet above sea level. A hanging rock formation collapsed and formed a slope of Oriskany sandstone which traps the cold This is called a algific talus slope. The talus slope recharges itself each winter, trapping ice, snow and cold air. The rocks also provide shade against the sun.
The environment has combined Appalachian, Canadian and Arctic species. This combination is very rare. Many botanist have studied the arborial plants growing on Ice Mountain. Dwarf dogwood, bristly wild rose, northern bedstraw, and the delicate twinflower are present. These plants are common in Canada and Arctic regions, but rare in West Virginia. The mountain also has tremendous white pines and yellow birches that grow from the rocky slopes. In the moister areas there are Hemlocks and hardwoods such as walnuts, oaks and maples and cucumber trees. The West Virginia state flower, the Rhododendron, grows in thick clusters along the mountain side. It blooms each year around the state's birthday, June 20. Ice Mountain is also noted for its birds, and other wildlife. Over 80 species of winter and summer birds have been spotted on Ice Mountain on recent bird counts. Nesting warblers, which migrate to Latin American rain forests in the fall have been found on Ice Mountain in the spring.
If you were to hike up the path you would come to a summit called
Ravens Rock. It's name comes from the Ravens that nest on the 200
foot high cliffs.
Ben Wills was one of the people who lived on Ice Mountain. In the
winter he would cut ice off of North River. Though he wanted to be buried at Three Churches, he is buried in the Kump family Cemetery. When Ben died there was a large flood and no one could get out to bury him.
The some generations the Deavers owned Ice Mt. Lamar Pugh's mother was a Deaver. He lived in the 1800's log home until he died in 1962. He would collect a small fee to cross the bridge. He maintained a pavilion with picnic tables. This is a photo of Steve and Wendell Moreland's forebears on Raven Rock.
Gordy Fultz's home was ½ mile as the crow fliessouth of the town. Folks who frequented Mountain Top Restaurant might remember his daughter, Etta Onile Fultz Kimble. Her grandmother, Sallie Kidwell ran the Poor Farm at the Glebe. The Kniplings now own the land. Maybe you know Rachel Carson's environmental classic. Flip back in the book to the index, and you will find Carson featured Dr. E. F. Knipling for his pioneering work controlling insects with DDT.
Even though North River Mills has almost died away, the stories told by its residents keep it alive in our hearts and minds. The tales tell of a diverse community that could almost be mistaken for one large family. Many people in the area have worked hard to preserve what is left of North River Mills. The town’s heritage is celebrated every year in at North River Mills Day, the day before Mothers Day.