Stephanie Bailes articles on North River Mills

     The North River Mills Society for Antiquarian Arts and the Diffusion of Knowledge is proud to present several short articles written my Miss. Stephanie Bailes for a school project. Stephanie was born and raised in the suburbs of our wonderful little village. We appreciate the fact that this young student took the time to learn about the history of the village and then wrote about it so it could be shared with everyone. History is not meant to be left hidden away in some archive or attic. We hope the presentation of these articles will encourage others to share their memories or research of Hampshire County history. Even though the articles are short, they have interesting bits of information that should not be lost.


       The Miller House

    The Miller house is one of the oldest houses in North River Mills. The Miller  family is not sure when it was built. I was told it was built in the early 1700's. The "cave" or cellar has the year 1812 carved into it.

    The Miller House has been the miller house and innserving the community for a long time. It has been an inn, a post office, a bar, and a home. It is currently used as the local meeting place and recreation hall.

    One room is called the Russell Room or the Haunted room. A drummer also known as a traveling salesman stopped in for the night when the house was an inn. During the night he had a heart attack and died. When Lake Henderson was young she thought the room was haunted. I'm not sure where they decided to bury the man.

    The Miller family has always served North River Mills. Johnny B. Miller was the postmaster. William, his son, was the sheriff, and his son Charles was named "Keeper of the Keys". Charlie was also the local story teller.  Through the years the Miller family has been well respected.

    Charlie once told a story that happened not to far from his home. During the Civil War northern soldiers were after a man who lived in North River Mills.  The Yankee soldiers started shooting at him. To get away he jumped across a rail fence only to find soldiers shooting at him on that side too. He just kept jumping from side to side. He finally got away without being hurt.

    Fraya Clark added to the story by explaining that the man was Joseph Hiett, her great-great grandfather. Joseph was born on November 11, 1815, and he died August 3, 1897.

Written by Stephanie Bailes 1999


       The Miller Mill

    The Miller Mill was located beside the Miller House. It had an overshot  wheel, meaning the water flowed over the wheel. The millrace began several hundred yards upstream at Craig's [Craik's] Spring. The mill had remains of the miller millthree stories. In an early 1800's flood the Miller family took refuge on the third floor.

    The Miller Mill fell down in a large snow storm in 1936; because of the heavy snow the roof collapsed. The Millers built a shed on the remaining foundation. It still remains today. The foundation is not held together by  any mortar, the stones are just laying on top of one another. One grinding burr remains today.  

The Overshot Wheel  

    The overshot wheel is a vertical wheel that is turned by the weight of the water falling from above. To run, it needs a dam to store water and a mill race to bring the water. Instead of paddles, it uses buckets. The wheels range from ten to thirty feet. The number of buckets varies according to the size of the wheel. A ten foot wheel needs around twenty-four buckets and a forty foot wheel needs over a hundred buckets. This was the most efficient type of wheel. It had a seventy-five percent efficiency rate.  

Written by Stephanie Bailes 1999


        The North River Mills United Methodist Church

    The North River Mills Church was not the first Methodist Church in the area. A church was built at the bottom of Grape Ridge. William Miller felt the North River Mills area also needed a church, and so he gave the land and soon the North River Mills Methodist Episcopal Church was built. The word "Episcopal" was later dropped and, in the 1960's the word "United" was added.

    Inside 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 very progressive and was one of the first churches to allow blacks and whites to worship together. Most other denominations made blacks stand outside and listen to the services from there.

    The ceiling is stenciled stencil on the church ceilingin black paint and the top of the walls are stenciled in red. The patterns are considered simple. The leaves look like they may be fingerprints. 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 was made from thumb prints which followed a pattern. She also said it would be easy to copy. (The congregation has considered restoring the church.)

    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. Today they are used only for special services like the Christmas and Easter programs.

   The old pump organ in the church is the second organ for the church. This was given by Goldie Moreland. This organ is still used for services today.  Miss Heather Bailes is the organist.

    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 remembers doing this as a small child.

    The church has always had problems with 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 like it was.

    When the church was built, North River Mills was a busy town with nearly two hundred people living and working there. Today, it is a very quiet town with just a handful of people. The church has kept its doors open all the time. The church means a great deal to the people of North River Mills. The church is still operating with service every second and fourth Sunday of  every month.

Written by Miss Stephanie Bailes 1999


        The Story of Sarah Gibbons

    The Gibbons family was living near Fort Thomas Parker. When Sarah Gibbons  was 13 years old she was kidnapped by Indians . She was taken to an Indian  village and was raised by the Indians. Sarah married one of the braves and  had a 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. (This was George  Washington's personal physician.) Her father, James Gibbons, had died in  1760. Her mother had married Durret Covey. Mr. Covey was a member of  Lewis's militia who came 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 filled 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.



Do not let your memories die with you. If you really are proud of your community, honor it by leaving more than just a gravestone and your own epitaph.

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2010 Charles C. Hall.
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updated: March 31, 2010