The Cannery at Mill Point

February 20, 2013 |

Cannery from US 219. Photo by Jaynell Graham.

“During the Depression years, when every morsel of food was needed, the government encouraged citizens to raise and save as much food as possible to feed their families and neighbors through the hard times. The folks in the southern end of Pocahontas County were given the means to preserve that food when a government-funded cannery was put into operation in Mill Point.”- Jaynell Graham.

Jaynell writes for the Pocahontas Times. Her article on the Canneryat Mill Point continues: The small, white building, supported by chestnut timbers, still stands today, located just south of the intersection of  Rts. 219 and 39, just up the hill from the McNeel Mill. The little building has had many uses through the years and holds memories for each generation. In the 1960s, it was the site of a near-tragic car accident, which precipitated moving the building a bit farther back from the highway and giving it a new foundation.

But in 2010 93-year-old Edith Workman, a lifelong Hillsboro resident who has since passed away, had a more pleasant memory. Workman remembered watching women trek up the Levels in Hillsboro with bags and baskets of produce, making their way to the little building in Mill Point.

The building was originally owned by former postmaster and store owner Rubin Auldridge and his wife, Belvesta, whose house is right across the road.  The store, which was right across the creek from the Mill, has since been torn down. Winters Hefner worked for Auldridge, eventually becoming postmaster himself.  As a result of those two families’ connection through the years,  Winters’ son, Richard Hefner, purchased this little bit of history in the 1980s from the Auldridge heirs. The Hefners had purchased the house above the cannery in the 1950s from the Auldridge family.

Hefner owns the former cannery, but he is widely known for his preservation of music as one of the original Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys. The Mill Point cannery was small, but provided a huge service to the community.

Virginia Callison Campbell, sister of Hubert Callison, of Locust Creek, was a student at Berea College in Kentucky when she spent her summers there teaching women how to can fruits, vegetables and meat for a longer shelf life.

Carried from the farm to the cannery, the food was put into cans and sealed.

‘The cans weren’t labeled at that time, so every meal was an adventure,’ recalled Hubert’s wife, Virginia Beard Callison.

“It was good for the community and as best as I remember, it was free,” said Hubert Callison. “The program was set up through the West Virginia Extension Service when C. P. Dorsey was there.” Dorsey was the Pocahontas County Agriculture Agent in the 1930s and played a major role in the development of the sheep industry in Pocahontas County. He later was director of all 4-H programs in West Virginia.

The idea of community canneries seems on the verge of making a comeback in Pocahontas County, offering expanded opportunities for the farmers and gardeners of the area.

In this rural area, the garden has remained a joy and sustenance for many families. And now the Local Foods Initiative is gaining momentum and people are discussing the possibility of adding a cannery to that program.

Looking back and going forward, canneries are an old idea, pulled from the shelf and dusted off, just like these memories.

-this excerpt and photos are from an article by Jaynell Graham, staff writer with the Pocahontas Times.


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