Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Mildred McConnell's Scrapbook Articles

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The Bush Mill located on Amos Branch in the Copper Ridge section of Scott County, Virginia, is sometimes called Bond Mill. It is now owned by the Scott County School Board, but is leased to the Nickelsville Ruritan Club on a long-term lease. The mill is presently being restored by the Ruritan Club.

Valentine Bush and his wife Nancy Gose Bush, moved from Russell County and bought land. The first mill, a log structure, is believed to have existed already or to have been built by them after they purchased the land. It stood on the exact location of the present structure. The original mill was destroyed by fire on April 1 in the late 1800's. It is said that because of this taking place on April 1 (April Fool's Day), farmers working in nearby fields

were reluctant to come help fight the fire when asked because they thought it was an April Fool's joke. After they became aware that the mill was actually on fire, they came to help; but it was too far gone to save it. The present structure was built by Valentine Bush about 1896 or 1897. The builders assisting were W.T. Frazier and Stephen and William Bush, sons of Valentine Bush.

The machinery in the mill was purchased from Tyler and Tate of Knoxville, Tennessee; shipped by railroad to Gate City, Virginia; and then hauled by horses and wagons to the mill site by J.R. Frazier and Jim Bush. The mill now has a large, overshot metal water wheel which was erected in the 1920's or 1930's. This metal wheel replaced a wooden wheel built by James and Franklin Stewart. The present metal wheel is 30 feet in diameter and 4 feet wide. It cost approximately $3,500 when purchased and erected. It generates approximately 30 horsepower when operating at maximum capacity.

Limestone rocks used to build the foundations and dam were hauled from Copper Ridge. The mill race that supplies the water to power the wheel is an open ditch dug along the foot of a hill for 1,500 feet representing an amazing and stupendous labor job.  The final 70 feet of the race is a wooden structure.

After Mr. Bush, the mill was owned and operated by S.H. Bond. After Mr. Bond's death, it was operated by his son, Verle Bond. In addition to these men, it was owned and operated later by Lonnie Hartsock and finally by James Howard Dixon. It is said to have quit operating in the 1950's. The machinery did not turn again until 1975 when restoration was started.

Valentine Bush, the first owner who lived from 1807 to 1902, also had a water-powered sawmill upstream from the mill and below the mill, also on the same stream he operated a carding machine. (A carding machine was used to clean wool. Before this, it was done by hand.)

A son of Valentine Bush's named George (born October 16, 1838), on August 4, 1866 had taken a horse to water at the Fork of Amos Branch and while he was sitting on the drinking horse, a shot was fired from ambush and the young man tumbled dead from the horse's back into the waters of Amos Branch. The assassin fled and was never caught! The tombstone at the grave of this young man in the old Nickelsville Cemetery has an epitaph which reads: "He fell at the hand of an assassin." George Bush was 27 years old.

Another tragedy connected with the old mill was the death of Clint Frazier. He was killed in an accident on the old original, wooden water wheel. Clint was the son of W. T. and Elise Bush Frazier. He was born August 30, 1885 and died May 11, 1902.

The restoration of the old mill by the Nickelsville Ruritan Club will serve a two-fold purpose. The first and most important purpose is the preservation of this historical structure, since it is a very outstanding landmark in our community. The second purpose is that the club offers for sale as a souvenir (or for human consumption), stone ground meal produced by the machinery of the old mill. The money realized from these sales will be used in the further restoration. A lot of work remains to be done before the mill is completely restored. Since Ruritan Clubs are self-supporting and labor on projects is usually volunteered, it will naturally take a lot of time to complete this project. The Nickelsville Ruritan Club asks for and welcomes all the support and help from the public in this endeavor.

The Nickelsville Ruritan Club will be sponsoring their annual Fall Festival and the 100th anniversary of the mill, Oct. 5, 1996 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Our Festival at the mill will include an apple butter stir-off, arts & crafts, soup beans and corn bread (made from the stone ground mill which is turned by a water wheel), church bake sale and country music with speakers throughout the day.

If you are interested in setting up a booth at the Festival please call Barbara Bass (540) 479-3091 or write to her at P.O. Box 212, Nickelsville, Virginia 24271.

No setup fee will be charged, but all donations will be appreciated. Everyone is invited to come join us and help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Bush Mill with a day of mountain fun and hospitality.

 

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