Welcome to John Moser's Image Workshop / Playground

The Annual Pilgrimage

As a side benefit of my fishing addiction, I’m a member of a fishing club, and we try to go to fishing on the New River once a year. Last weekend was our weekend. Besides getting me out on a beautiful river, this trip takes me through Craig County where I always try to visit the old Valley Roller Mills that was operated by my great grandparents. I go there to just be in the same place where they lived for a while. Every time I go there is some bit of imagery or feeling or smell that adds to a cumulative experience. This year, some great new material came in thanks to my brother-in-law. He visited the area recently and stopped by a local store where the owner had old flour bags from the Valley Roller Mills. This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything produced by the mill:

While I was up there last Sunday, I stopped by the Sinking Creek Store (established 1867), the source of the flour bag:

It was a bit early in the morning for a Sunday, and the store was not open. I had prepared a gift for the store-keeper, but, when no-one answered the door, I decided to leave the gift anyway. It was a copy of this photograph, from one of our family albums. The picture shows the house where my great grandparents lived and where my grandmother was born. Valley Roller Mills is just out of the frame in this photo, which dates to sometime around 1910:

I put my name and contact info on the back of the photo, along with a request that anyone who has pictures or items from the old mill while it was in operation contact me. We’ll see what happens. Back on the road, I headed for the mill, traveling through this little area:

And here’s the mill:

I’ve got a number of pictures taken from this spot, over several years. This year I wanted to explore inside, and I went to the house where the current owner lives. It was pretty obvious that the family was home, but nobody answered the door when I knocked. So I finally decided to ignore the no trespassing signs and see what I could see. This is the view of the side of the mill:

Deeper into the weeds there’s a view of the old mill wheel (another fun walk in prime snake country – and in this place you get the added benefit of copperheads AND rattlesnakes):

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5 responses

  1. Robin Eshleman

    OMG! OMG! OMG! Can’t you just IMAGINE John Alex in there working??? These photos make something funny happen in my chest. I wanna go!!! Did you use my FB photo of the bag, or did you get one? Sounded like you weren’t able to get into the store. Here’s some news for you – I’m PRETTY SURE that – somewhere in the piles and piles of Oma’s stuff in my basement – are a few cotton flour sacks with the VRM logo on them. I’ve been pretending I was going to go thru all of that stuff and find them, then have them framed for each of us. So if I die before you have one – don’t throw that stuff away w/o looking through it! Or…..if you’re game for a visit to dig through, we can do it!!!

    June 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    • boatdog

      I used your photo of the bag! Thanks! I must have one for real. Maybe the next time I get up there. I don’t know if the photo I left at Sinking Creek Store will do any good. They might think it’s really weird that somebody left it there. Anyway, thought I’d give it a try. I’m going to be in Crozet all weekend, but I’ll be towing the Airstream and doubt that I’ll be able to swing by your place. One of these days, though!!!

      June 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm

  2. O3

    We spent every free time we had for a decade on Craigs Creek near Eagle Rock back in the1990’s. I really miss it and was told by a water control guy fishing that it was the cleanest water in the state. We saw this film at The Byrd during The Va Film Festival that was filmed near where you were. It really is gods country but you have to watch yourself around the mountain folk.

    http://blueridgemovie.com/

    June 19, 2011 at 9:53 pm

  3. Matthew Peters

    Hello, i know the mountain behind the sinking creek store pretty well, i hunt off hall road every year, but i cannot figure out where your mill is. I have somewhat narrowed it down to wear it could be. Could you give me directions so i could go up and take pictures of my own? Sorry about this comment being put on another page, computer lagged

    January 15, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    • boatdog

      If you go south from the store to Simmonsville, turn left just before the Rt 42 bridge, then another left after about a mile or less. I think the road is named “Valley Roller Mills Road”, or something similar.

      January 15, 2012 at 11:58 pm

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