James Culbertson built a grist mill in 1831 on Amos Branch outside Nickelsville. The mill was a simple log structure, but it quickly became the bustling center of the community, providing residents with corn meal and flour for their tables, feed for their livestock, and a lively place to exchange information and gossip. Farmers traveled for miles on horseback with their sacks of grain, or in horse-drawn wagons with loads of Indian corn and wheat. The mill created a community and also relieved the farmers of the arduous task of grinding grain on hand “gritters”.
The land and mill later passed into the hands of Valentine Bush and his wife, Nancy Gose Bush, who moved to the area from Russell County. The Bush family added a water-powered sawmill upstream and a water-powered wool carding machine downstream. They also continued to operate the grist mill until April 1, 1895, when a fire broke out in the structure. Although the Bushes sent for help from nearby farmers, the date worked against them — “Is this an April Fool’s joke?” the farmers asked, only reluctantly accepting that the mill was actually on fire. By the time help arrived, the mill was too far gone to save.
But the community could not function without a mill. Over the next two years, Valentine Bush — then 88 years old — and his sons constructed the historic Bush Mill that now stands outside Nickelsville. The mill continued to operate until well into the 1950s.
Today, the Bush Mill is newly restored and operational with a 30′ diameter and 4′ wide metal wheel that generates approximately 30 horsepower at maximum operation capacity. The structure is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, and its current owner — the Southwest Virginia Community Foundation — has ambitious plans for its future. The Foundation is currently raising funds to perform a curator-quality restoration, plus hire a faculty of interpreters who will operate the mill and tell its fascinating story.
Enjoying apple butter at Bush Mill Days
Bush Mill Days
Although you can stop by at any time to snap a shot of the Bush Mill or picnic by the creek, the mill is currently operated only a few times a year. The best time to visit is during Bush Mill Day in October, when the Nickelsville Ruritan Club uses the mill to grind corn for sale. Other activities include arts and crafts, mountain music, apple butter making, and Clinch Mountain cuisine. Proceeds from the festival are used to fund community needs.
Plan Your Visit
Bush Mill is located at the intersection of VA 680 (Twin Springs Road) and VA 681 (Bush Mill Road) two miles outside of Nickelsville. For more information, please call 423-863-7311 .