Wade's Mill

Raphine, VA
(540) 348-1400

Exploring a working mill has always been high on my wish list.

During the Great Depression, my father's family left their farm to run a flour mill. That is where he spent his adolescence and his tales of life at the mill were intriguing and always made me want to see the operation of a water-powered flour mill. Unfortunately, that mill is now a restaurant/bed and breakfast.

I recently discovered a wonderful mill, predating the American Revolution by 30-odd years. Mr. Jim Young, the miller, is extremely good with children and thoroughly shared his operation with us. From the top of this four-story building, we looked down on the water wheel and he led the kids in a discussion about circumference, radius, and diameter (the wheel's diameter is 21 feet). This was followed by an explanation of water pressure and gravity as he explained how the water pipe from below allows the water to rise before it is released by a control that turned the wheel.

One level lower, we saw the internal movements of all the gears and pulleys that cause the stones to grind the wheat. The heavy stones are imported from France. We saw the huge bin of raw wheat (supplied by local farmers) and talked about history as he explained to the kids that the mill was older than our country. Not only were we seeing a flour mill in operation, we were exploring math, science, and history - in a practical, real-life situation!

The ground level of the mill is his marketplace. We could purchase organic, stone-ground grains in a variety of flavors...whole wheat, unbleached white, buckwheat, rye, grits, semolina, cornbread, spoon-bread, scones, pancake mix, and many others. The mill supplies flour to area restaurants and bakeries. They have a mail order business as well. Prices were reasonable and there was no pressure to make a purchase. Miller Young simply seemed to enjoy sharing his trade with a bunch of inquisitive kids. There was no charge for the tour.

Getting to the mill was definitely part of the fun. The Shenandoah Valley is always a treat for those of us who live on the other side of the mountain. Wade's Mill is about 20 miles down Interstate 81, south of Staunton. Take the Raphine exit (205) and go west on Route 606, then travel four miles on some of the most gorgeous countryside the Valley offers. The well-maintained farms made me wonder what would be next. Arriving at the mill, we immediately saw large gardens of colorful herbs. Seeing the mill itself made us understand why it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (c1750). The setting and the mill were strikingly attractive. The mill itself, with huge beams and beautiful old woodwork led me to take a lot of photographs. The mill opens Wednesday, March 31st, 2004, with hours 10-5 Wednesday through Saturday and 1-5 on Sunday, but closed on Sundays in June, July, and August. Of course, it is best to call ahead. Wade's Mill has a gift catalog that can be ordered by e-mailing wadesmill@rockbridge.net.

There is a BIG difference between re-enactments and the real thing. Wade's Mill is the real thing.

Exit 205 is also the turn off for the Cyrus McCormick Farm exhibit. Just head east instead of west on 606. It is self-guided, free and an interesting place to stretch your legs.

Mary Wilson...
Email: mary@trailz.org

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