Fall Foliage Series: Mabry Mill

Today I am celebrating my 100th blog post! To make this day extra special, I am posting photos from one of my favorite places: Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mabry Mill’s claim to fame is being the most photographed place on the Blue Ridge Parkway and some even say it is the most photographed place in the US.

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Mabry Mill - Page 006   Mabry Mill quilt - Page 001My quilted rendition and design of Mabry Mill. Mabry Mill - Page 001What makes this places extra special is the history of the couple who built it.

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Courtesy of the National Park Service

At age twenty, Ed moved to Pulaski, Virginia, to work in the coal mines. He returned two years later with cash and something bigger and better than money—Mintoria Dehart Mabry, known as Lizzie. A man with big ideas needed a big wife. She stood five foot ten, wore a man’s size eight shoe, and needed nine yards of material to make a skirt. Ed and Lizzie married in 1891. He called her “Boss” and they were together almost forty years before he died.

Operating a mill, never an easy task, brought special challenges to the Mabry’s. They encountered problems that would have been overwhelming for most people—but not for Ed and Lizzie. He built the gristmill between 1905 and 1908.

Lizzie was anxious and ready to be the miller. She hadn’t gone to those mines and pumped those bellows just to be a good housewife. As a “modern woman,” she wanted to be the miller and by golly—she was. Customers brought white corn, stood on the mill platform, and poured shelled corn into a hopper that fed kernels between the rotating stones. Lizzie controlled the space between the stones with a lever to obtain a proper texture of meal or flour.

Mabry’s Mill served as a community gathering place. Customers paid a toll of twelve and one-half cents, a bushel or one-eighth of their ground meal. By 1908, Ed had earned a local reputation as a “man who could fix ’most anything.” They operated the mill until 1936, grinding corn and sawing lumber for their Meadows of Dan neighbors.

Ed Mabry specialized in wagon wheel repair charging ten cents per spoke, fifty cents for a whole wheel, and fifty dollars for an entire wagon.

Ed’s legacy forges on with the forge fire burning and the anvil ringing through the country side at Mabry Mill.

Ed and Lizzie’s innovation, resourcefulness, and determination continue to live-on. Their entrepreneur and “can-do” spirit is an inspiration to all who stroll over the stone walkway at Mabry Mill.

On Sunday afternoons, between May and October, flat footers kick up their heels at Mabry Mill while musicians pick the banjo, strum a mandolin, thrum the guitar, play a fiddle, pluck the bass, and toot a harmonica. Bring a lawn chair and your dancing shoes to join the fun. Mabry Mill, located at milepost 176.1 continues to be a gathering place for local folks, as well as travelers.

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Extensive history and photos of Ed and Lizzie Mabry are in my book Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Available online at www.bbotw.com or call Infinity Publishing toll free at 1-877-289-2665 (1-877-BUYBOOK), 610-941-9999.

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