Welcome to John Moser's Image Workshop / Playground


My mother’s mother’s family lived in Craig County, Virginia, near the town of Simmonsville. The house in the photo above is what we refer to as the family homestead. I’m told this is where my great great grandparents lived. Their name was “Givens.”

I believe the Givens were among the original members of the Gravel Hill Church (Disciples of Christ) when it was established in 1835.

The church sits high on a hilltop above the town of Simmonsville, Virginia.

About a mile away, my great grandparents, The “Reynolds,” owned and operated a grist mill called “Valley Roller Mills.”

When I visited on July 9, 2010, Valley Roller Mills was still standing, just barely.

I’m drawn back to this place and the nearby New River as if by gravity.


15 responses

  1. Brian Vick

    That first image is gorgeous, and it’s very cool the way the utility lines work in rhythm with the fence.

    July 14, 2010 at 5:17 pm

  2. I’m all about the New River. Great photos!

    July 14, 2010 at 9:45 pm

  3. O3

    Great to see the old house is still there! We saw this at the Byrd at a film festival and this movie was shot in Craig County.


    July 15, 2010 at 12:50 pm

  4. O3

    Is this the same place???

    July 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

  5. boatdog

    The first link you mention – http://bigkball.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/valley-roller-mills-2.jpg – shows the house my great grandparents lived in circa 1900. I didn’t photograph that house when I was there on July 9th because I was a little timid about just showing up in the front yard with a camera. Now, of course, I wish I had done it! It’s pretty scary looking, with a redneck, junk cars, home-school kind of aura about it that was a little off-putting when I was there. I may go back soon with a larger troop strength, though.

    July 15, 2010 at 3:32 pm

  6. boatdog

    The other link – http://bigkball.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/valley_roller_mills_in_operation.jpg – shows the mill in operation, date unknown, but probably sometime in the 1930’s. This is the same building in the pictures I shot on July 9, 2010 that are shown in photos 5,6, and 7 above.

    July 15, 2010 at 3:36 pm

  7. boatdog

    Here is my great grandfather, John Alexander Reynolds, who owned the mill, which I had posted previously on the Daily Muse – http://thedailymuse.org/2008/12/02/regarding-daguerreotypes/
    It’s compelling to revisit this family history, and to entertain thoughts of moving to Craig County and preserving the old mill. But I feel a bit uncertain about all of it…. these stories are passed down through the generations and may have been subjected to the “folk process” along the way. I would like to verify as much of the history as I can…

    As far as living in Craig County goes, though it is *adorable* in the way the wheels of progress seem to have missed it altogether, I expect I’d have a hard time actually adjusting to living there. Someone (KB, I think) related recently that his friend who lives there commented on racism that may be active up there, possibly involving the KKK. …and I did see a lot of confederate flags displayed proudly way back in the woods there. All that might be hard for me to cope with, given my views on hatred.

    Then again, I might be just what the place needs.

    July 15, 2010 at 3:52 pm

  8. O3

    Take the old photo as a gift (worked great in Hollywood Cemetery when Arthur was trying to find where he shot the 70’s panorama), then again if you watch this movie I mentioned you may want to have atleast a Deputy with you.

    July 15, 2010 at 5:04 pm

  9. boatdog

    Yeah I had a nice print of the old photo with me last week to offer as a gift, but I still chickened out.

    July 15, 2010 at 6:50 pm

  10. Vikki Reeves Sloan

    boatdog–I love the pictures of Craig County you posted. I am also a Givens descendent. After the Civil War, my Givens ancestor left VA for north Texas. He and his family (he married a Ross) wound up in Oklahoma. And yes, the Givens were members of the Gravel Hill Church; I found the roster and meeting minutes in a tiny book at the Dallas, TX, library. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in our shared family history. I’ll receive notice of follow-up comments via email~Vikki

    January 3, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    • J Moser

      Hi Vikki… Glad you found my post about Craig County. We are almost surely some kind of cousins… my great, great grandmother was named Sarah ROSS Givens! I’m not much of a genealogist, but I do love the area around Craig County. I have temporary possession (my sister is the rightful owner of it) of a book titled “A Givens – Hall Family History from Pre-Revolutionary Times” that details many branches of our family, and includes a number of charts of “interconnected” family trees where the Ross and Givens names appear again and again. Glad to hear from you and please stay in touch.

      I have a number of historical photos of the homestead and Gravel Hill and may post some of them here if I can find the time. I don’t do much blogging these days, but I enjoy it when I can get away from work. By the way I used to use the pseudonym “Boatdog” on this and other blogs, but now I just use J Moser (John Moser).

      January 4, 2014 at 12:53 am

      • Vikki Reeves Sloan

        Greetings, John!

        If I got all of our common greats correct (Ross and Givens), then we are fourth cousins once removed on 2 separate sides of the family. I have the book you mentioned. The author, Dorothy Hall Givens, was at several Givens Reunion in Oklahoma during the 1970s. My grandma Givens Reeves gave her incorrect (and sanitized!) information for her book, The Texas-Oklahoma Clan of Daniel Givens Descendants. Sarah Ross Givens was the sister of my 3xgreat grandmother Elizabeth Ross Givens (who married James S, brother of your Floyd Givens!). My gg-grandfather who left VA for TX was married to an Albert–George Edward Givens and Malissa Ann Albert Givens. It gets so confusing after years of intermarriages in the Valley of Sinking Creek!!

        I have a photo dated 1912 of the Simmonsville-area homeplace which was posted on ancestry.com by a Givens ‘cousin’. I’ll be watching for postings of the old photos. Let me know if you would like to see what I have and I’ll send you an invite to my tree.


        January 4, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      • TerriA

        Thank-you for posting your photos! My Duncan (and Kirk) relatives lived in Simmonsville, Sinking Creek, Huffman and then west, a farm between Rocky Gap and Bastian VA. I can relate to how you are drawn to the area 🙂

        January 25, 2016 at 8:41 pm

      • Richard McPherson

        My name is Richard McPherson and I live in Kansas City. My 5th great grandfather Alexander and his brothervJacob McPherson settled in Simmonsville. Their home was used for the first school and church until Gravel Hill was built. Jacob was a founder of the church and buried somewhere near the church on the hill. There is a marker for him and many other McPherson’s in Ross Cemetery. I am visiting this area for the first time in mid April. I’d like to experience any remaining landmarks where my 1800’s family lived. Their house, the school are no longer standing. Do you have any recollection of the McPherson property along this area or have pictures from the era that may be viewed?

        I’d appreciate any pictures you may come across for either the McPherson or Lugar families.

        Thank you,
        Richard McPherson
        Kansas City

        Mcphersonsales @sbcglobal.net

        March 21, 2016 at 2:06 am

  11. John
    My McPherson family from Sinking Creek has the Ross-Givens ties as well via marriage. Alexander sold the land to the Givens and he and one of his sons Jacob, founded the Gravel Hill Christian Church.

    I would very much like to obtain any copies of photo’s or documents you may have from Gravel Hill Church or Sinking Creek to share with family and the Craig County Historical Society. In 2018 McPherson’s from around the country are going to set a new grave marker for Alexander and Mary (Beall) McPherson in the cemetery on private land once owned by the McPherson family. It would be great to share any pictures from days gone by in Sinking Creek.

    My email is mcphersonsales@sbcglobal.net

    Rick McPherson
    Leawood, KS

    November 15, 2017 at 3:23 pm

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