Dave Powers “loves bringing old stuff back to life.” For this reason, he has spent the last few years restoring the Powers’ family original Mill and also replicating a small railroad track, complete with a steam-powered engine.
He is the fourth generation Powers to be involved in the operation of Powers Mill, which is located on Sinking Creek Highway, about one mile from the Scott/Russell county line. Dave’s vision is to “preserve this landmark,” which has been operating as Powers Mill since 1921.
It was his great-grandfather, John Wesley Powers, however who originally purchased the corn grinding machinery to feed the men working on the Clinchfield Railroad at Miller Yard and also his own family. According to Dave, John Powers had the contract to build and oversee the railroad yard.
“At one time, he had as many as 20 people living in his house plus his own family,” Dave said. “My understanding is he got this engine and a new wagon at the same time, with the Clinchfield guys putting up part of the money for the machinery.”
According to Dave, John Powers was a real horse trader and, after the railroad project was complete, he traded for some property on Sinking Creek and moved both the mill and his family in 1936. The next Powers to operate the Mill was Theodore, most commonly called, Teddy. He lived on the property and operated the Mill until 1961 when he moved up on Twin Springs Mountain, and turned operation of the mill over to Dave’s uncle, Clifford Jonas Powers. Clifford, who is now 85, continued grinding mill until 2000.
Dave and his father, Robert Earl Powers, never got into the Mill grinding business but, instead worked mainly as carpenters. “All of my dad’s family were good carpenters, but they were also mechanically inclined.” Dave also loved working on engines and in 1981 restored his first truck, which he sold to Dolly Parton 10 years ago. The truck now resides at Dollywood.
While he was doing carpentry work with his father, Dave also started taking vocational classes at Gate City High School. Dave found that he had a natural aptitude for working on engines. His instructor, Nathaniel Moore encouraged him to test for the nationwide Plymouth Trouble Shooting program. Out of 200 local students, Dave made the highest score.
He was then off to the finals in Hampton, Virginia, where he and his friend, Roger Wilhelm, won the state competition. The pair borrowed a “test” car from Martin Alley, owner of Alley’s Plymouth in Kingsport. “Martin told me whatever the outcome—win or lose I had a job waiting for me at Alley’s,” Dave said.
When he returned from the state competition, Dave explained he was a “poor kid who didn’t have the money” to buy his own tools, a requirement to work at Alley’s. O.E. Roberts, owner of Roberts Tire and Recapping in Weber City gave Dave his first job. He stayed there for about five years, and the company sent him to Northeast State for additional training.
Then in 1990 Scott County Superintendent of Schools, Jim Scott offered Dave a job working on the county’s school buses and police cars. In his spare time, Dave opened his own garage near the family home place on Sinking Creek. He finally decided to work on his own in 1995. “I remember telling Jim Scott that I wanted to try running my own business and he told me I always had a job working for the county if it didn’t work out.” It’s now 2013 and Dave is still operating his own garage, appropriately called Powers Garage, and has put one child through school.
Being his own boss has enabled Dave to do what he loves best—“bringing old stuff back to life.” When you visit Powers Mill and Powers Garage, you can see all the old stuff Dave has brought back to life, like a Pepsi Cooler, where the drinks were just six cents, plus the store’s highlight, the grist mill.
With the help from friends around the United States, Dave has built locomotives and train cars. He even called Rick Dale, of “Rick’s Restoration” fame in Las Vegas to get help restoring the Pepsi Cooler. Rick didn’t have the right part, so Dave decided he could just build the part himself.
While your kids ride the train, which Dave hopes to eventually to extend to a ½ mile, you can shop at Powers Mill. The store naturally carries fresh ground corn meal with no preservatives, plus the old-timey country store candy. Upstairs is filled with aromatic candles, wreaths and some reproduction railroad memorabilia.
Depending on where you live in Scott County, it is a little drive to Powers Mill. But, it’s well worth the trip. Dave is the nicest guy, and store is a real treasure, plus the train offers great entertainment for the kids. The Mill hosts several special events throughout the year and even makes homemade ice cream, with a machine built by Dave.
Dave’s wife, Peggy, sells primitive decor in the mill and has a nice line of boutique clothing. Items can be purchased at the store or online via Powers Mill Primitives Facebook Page. Items can be shipped to all 50 states.
Powers Mill is open Mon. thru Sat., from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For directions or more information, call 276-467-1084.