Second Creek

January 4, 2012 |

Illustration by Aaron Williams.

There’s that mesmerizing sound of tumbling corn kernels, as Larry Mustain shows me an overflowing handful of Bloody Butcher corn ready to be ground. “They’re red, yellow and purple, see. This is an heirloom variety of corn, which means when you plant the seed it regrows.” Then he gives a pat to a 10-pound bag of the cornmeal which I’ve just bought.

The seeds from Larry’s Bloody Butcher Corn have been passed down for generations, from when Larry’s uncle Aubrey Reed owned the mill. The kernels go back much further than that, as farmers would traditionally offer up the local miller a sample of their year’s corn harvest—all the way back to 1791 when the mill at Second Creek first opened.

This last two years, however, the local crops of heirloom Bloody Butcher corn were devastated by deer and turkeys, and Larry is having to make a difficult decision- to switch to grinding hybrid, genetically modified corn, or find an affordable source of Bloody Butcher, or other heirloom corn, grown outside of West Virginia. So far, he has not found a source for next year, and 2014 may find Reed’s Mill without its treasured Bloody Butcher. Larry says that presented with the choice between the fields of genetically modified corn that both he and his neighbors grow, the wildlife simply prefer the heirloom corn, especially the Bloody Butcher. This summer, he has counted as many as 17 deer grazing just outside of Reed’s Mill.

Reed’s Mill was, until a few years ago, a water powered turbine mill, deriving its power from Second Creek. The creek has its source in springs located at the bottom of Peter’s Mountain, outside the town of Gap Mills. It flows about 30 miles until it empties in to the Greenbrier River. Second Creek has been called a power stream by those who have lived and prospered by its swift waters. It is said that at one point there were over 22 mills located along Second Creek, including grist mills, woolen mills and lumber mills. A number of large family farms have also benefited from the rich bottom land provided by its waters. Today, the old mills have all shut down except for Reed’s Mill, which operates an electric gristmill and small broom factory inside historic Reed’s Mill, about a mile down Second Creek Road off US 219.

To take a tour of Reed’s Mill or to make an order, call Larry Mustain 772-5665.

Watch a video of Reed’s Mill, featured on WCHS News:

“The Cream and the Eggs are Mine” Betsy Degges grew up on her family’s cattle and dairy farm in Monroe County during the Great Depression. Her family was not hit terribly hard by the Depression, and in fact she probably grew up eating better than most children today. Her family ate all their food right off the family farm, and her first taste of ice cream was made in her grandmother’s kitchen. Betsy would go down to the ice house out back, shave off pieces of ice, and make ice cream from fresh cream from one of the family’s cows.

For more information about traveling to nearby attractions like historic Organ Cave, Gap Mills, Sinks Grove, and Pickaway, contact Travel Monroe, located in Union (304-772-3003).

Or the Greenbrier Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, located in Lewisburg (1-800-833-2068) and the Southern West Virginia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, located in Beckley (1-800-847-4898).

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Category: Food & Farming, Lewisburg to Rich Creek

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