Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Mildred McConnell's Scrapbook Articles

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Landmark Turns 100 --- 1897-1997

 

Bush Mill Has Storied Past In Scott County

     If the walls of the Bush Mill could talk, they would most likely spout a century's worth of adventure and activity.

     Since they cannot, the history of the structure that serviced local farmers for generations has been passed down by the local folks who best know its secrets.

     The Bush Mill turned 100 years old with several local celebrations marking the event. But a mill has been located on Amos Branch in Copper Ridge even longer.

     Valentine Bush and his wife, Nancy Gose Bush, moved from Russell County in the late 1800s and bought the land where the historic landmark now stands.

     The first mill was a log structure. It either already existed when the Bushes arrived or they built it after purchasing the land.

     History tells us that the original mill was destroyed by fire on April 1 before the turn of the century. But some locals say that the fire is only a legend.

     Nevertheless, because the fire had occurred on April Fool's Day, it is said that farmers working in nearby fields were reluctant to leave their crops and help fight the blaze, fearing the story was only a joke.

     After those farmers realized that no joke was being played, they rushed to help. But it was too late. The structure was already turned into an inferno and their salvage efforts were futile.

     Valentine Bush built the present mill in 1897, with the assistance of his sons, Stephen and William and W.T. Frazier.

     Limestone rocks were used to build the structure's foundation along with the dam on Amos Branch. The rocks were hauled from Copper Ridge.

     The mill race that supplies the flow of water to the wheel consists of a 1,500 foot ditch and 70 feet made from a wooden structure. The ditch portion was dug on a hill which would have made it difficult to complete.

     The machinery in the mill was purchased from Tyler and Tate of Knoxville, Tenn., shipped by railroad to Gate City and then hauled by horses and wagons to the mill site by J.R. Frazier and Jim Bush.

     James and Franklin Stewart built the mill's first water wheel from wood. During the 1920s, the wooden wheel was replaced by a metal one. The present metal wheel is 30 feet in diameter and four feet wide. It cost approximately $3,500 when purchased and erected. It generates approximately 30 horsepower when operating at maximum capacity.

     Valentine Bush, who lived from 1807 to 1902, also owned a water-powered sawmill near the mill. On the same stream, Bush operated a carding machine which is used to clean wool.

     After Bush, the mill was owned and operated by S.H. Bond and the structure was sometimes referred to as the Bond Mill. After his death, it was operated by S.H.'s son, Verle. Over the years, the mill was later operated by Lonnie Hartsock and James Howard Dixon.

     The mill is said to have stopped operating in the 1950's. The machinery didn't turn again until 1975 when restoration began.

     Although the mill served a practical purpose in the community, a few tragedies did occur through the years.

     George, Valentine Bush's son took a horse to water at the fork of Amos Branch on Aug. 4, 1866. While he was sitting on the horse he was shot and killed.

     The metal wheel replaced the wooden one in the early part of the 1920s. Clyde remembers it being installed. What I remember about it is that the metal wheel was supported by wooden beams approximately 10xl0 in size.

     These beams were replaced in the early 1930s by a rock structure to support the metal wheel. This rock structure is standing today. The person who did the masonry work was Sherman Hartsock. Mr. Hartsock was the best mason in the area. This rock support is still serving its intended purpose.

Bond is the son of Samuel Bond, former owner of the Bush Mill, and currently lives in Deland, Fla.

 

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