With all due respect to the Friday Night Jamboree and its popularity, Mabry Mill stands as Floyd County’s most popular tourist attraction (although the county shares Mill property with Patrick County).

The Mill also ranks #1 on the Blue Ridge Parkway’s list of attractions and was even used as a backdrop for Salem cigarette commercials back in the days when tobacco companies could push their products on TV.

Like most Parkway attractions, the Mill draws most attention during the Spring, Summer and Fall months, but I’ve always liked to visit it during the Winter and early Spring, when the water in the Mill trace is diverted and the grounds are quiet.

Even now, as the grass returns to green and the weather warms, the Mill is a more a place of solitude, not tainted by the mass of tourists who will start arriving just before Memorial Day and pack the place until just after Labor Day.

In 1910, local resident Ed Mabry built the grist mill near Meadows of Dan, but the flat land lacked a stream strong enough to generate power for milling. He and his wife Lizzie began buying land to gain the water rights. It took them another four years to put together five small parcels of land and build an extensive flume system, complete with a small dam to store the runoff from rains and Spring thaws.

Mabry’s Mill used two sets of stones, one for grinding cornmeal and the other for a grain mixture fed to livestock. Mabry had many loyal customers and he complimented the mill with a blacksmith shop, sawmill and carpentry shop.

Mabry died in 1936 and his wife operated the mill until designers of the Blue Ridge Parkway chose Mabry Mill as a special scenic places to be preserved. Although the mill remains operational, it grinds meal only occasionally.

Mabry’s blacksmith shop and other parts of the Mill property form the Mountain Industry Trail, a collection that includes a blacksmith shop, soapmaking facilities and — of course — a moonshine still.

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Long-time newspaperman, photographer and videographer who still shoots photos and covers government and courts for a newspaper, shoots video for TV and documentary use and owns web sites like Blue Ridge Muse, Capitol Hill Blue and American Newsreel.