Mabry Mill: (Not Your) Run of the Mill Excursion


It's one of the most recognizable and photographed places along the Blue Ridge Parkway. At Milepost 176.1 near Meadows of Dan, Va., stands Mabry Mill, where the National Park Service has preserved a water-powered gristmill built in 1905 by Ed Mabry. With the kids in tow, we visited the mill on a recent Sunday afternoon, and we enjoyed learning about life as a Blue Ridge mountaineer.

Ed Mabry was born in about 1867 in Patrick County, Va. It was with his second wife, Lizzie DeHart, whom he married in 1891, that he bought the land for the mill. The couple operated the mill for about 30 years. Ed died in 1936, and Lizzie continued to run the mill until their land was acquired for the Blue Ridge Parkway project in 1938. Lizzie died in 1941, and the couple did not have any children.

In addition to the mill, Mabry's blacksmith shop has also been preserved. According to the ranger giving us the tour, the shop was built in about 1910. Our kids listened intently as the ranger explained how as a blacksmith, Mabry was vital to the community, because it was here he worked on horseshoes, wagon wheels and farming tools. In 1910, Mabry added a sawmill, which was also powered by the water wheel, to make furniture and framing lumber.

On the grounds also stands Matthews Cabin, which was donated to the National Park Service in 1956. The cabin was restored and moved to its present location. It was the log cabin home of Samuel and Elizabeth Matthews of Galax, Va., and was built in 1869. The two-story cabin was built with hand-hewn oak logs with sawed lumber for the rafters, ceiling and doors.

The highlight of our tour was, of course, learning about the mill, where people in the community would come to have their corn ground into cornmeal. The mill operated six days a week and as payment for the milling, Mabry received 1/8 of the grain produced or 12.5 cents per bushel. (An average customer order would have been about one bushel.)

In addition to the gristmill building, our tour took us along a loop trail, dotted with many structures and exhibits, showcasing Appalachian culture. Visitors can see actual mill stones, used to grind mill; a lumber drying rack; log cart, used to transport heavy logs to the sawmill; a moonshine still; wagons; farming tools and much more. My kids loved the checkerboard game, which used sliced pieces of dried corn cobs for the game pieces.

Mountain craft demonstrations are common at Mabry Mill, and we watched blacksmithing, basket-weaving and quilting. We also spent a half-hour listening to live bluegrass music and watching flatfooters, who will perform every Sunday in October from 2 to 6 p.m. Unfortunately, our kids' didn't have a long attention span or appreciation for the old-time bluegrass music, so we didn't listen and watch as long as I would have liked.

We took a picnic lunch that we enjoyed on the Parkway, but Mabry Mill also has a restaurant, which is well-known for its traditional Southern cuisine such as country ham and blackberry preserves. Adjacent to the restaurant is a gift/craft store, which is stocked with regional handmade crafts.

Additional nearby Parkway attractions include Rocky Knob at Milepost 169 with visitors' center, gift shop, cabins, campground, hiking and fishing; and Chateau Morrisette Winery, located between mileposts 171 and 172.

266 Mabry Mill Road
Blue Ridge Parkway Mile Post 176.1
Meadows of Dan, VA 24120

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

8 Scenic Drives in North Carolina for Families

North Carolina is home to many scenic routes for families who enjoy road-tripping.

Family-Friendly Fall Festivals in North Carolina

Venture out of town for a day trip or weekend getaway to enjoy one or more of the state's best fests.

Kid-Friendly Music Festivals in the Carolinas

Regional music festivals offer fun for the whole family.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Newsletter Sign-Up

Stay connected to what's going on for kids and families in the Triad by signing up for our FREE e-newsletters!


Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The all-new 2015-2016 Education Guide is packed with everything parents need to know to navigate more than 500 education options and resources in the Triad, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

GPS [Go. Play. See]

It's your complete family guide to Triad living. Parents are busy and on the go. Use this guide to help you explore all this great area offers for families in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point and surrounding communities.

Exceptional Child

For parents of kids with special needs, finding help and support can be challenging. We've compiled valuable resources for Triad parents in our latest annual publication, Exceptional Child, which is also available as a digital guide.