The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Growing Up On Tuggles Creek - Born Engineers

By YKW © 1985

Issue: February, 1985

(Editor's Note: Tuggles Creek is located in the Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the tiny mountain community of Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Meadows of Dan is a crossroads community where US Highway 58 Business and the Blue Ridge Parkway cross. Mabry Mill is north about 1.6 miles and Mayberry Trading Post is about 2.8 miles south on the Blue Ridge Parkway.)

Our little farm on Tuggles Creek was previously owned by my uncle, Walter Reynolds who married my Aunt Genny (Virginia). Like so many others of that day he was obsessed by the dream of an easy life to be had by making water power do all the work. There were several grist mills around the neighborhood, but Uncle Walter wanted one of his own. So he went up the creek about 800 yards and found a place where he could easily divert the water with a small dam to flow into a mill race. Then he set to work digging a big ditch through a heavily wooded bank down to his spring branch.

There, he planned (but never did) to build an aqueduct to carry the water over to the next bank as the creek curved to the left. From there on, about 500 yards, the race was dug to a spot where the mill was to be built. It never was.

But maybe Uncle Walter was satisfied just working on his dreams. It must have been back breaking labor with just a pick and shovel, but it was quite an engineering accomplishment. don't know if the water ever ran in that race or not, but anyway, it looked like it would have. The ditch is still there to remind us of his pioneer dream.

Later on his son, Estel Reynolds, got the fever also and bought a narrow strip of land further down the creek and dug yet another mill race. This one was even more difficult for he encountered huge rocks projecting out into his intended race. But these he got around by actually building a curved aqueduct of planks and poles around them. But this dream too, was never realized after untold hours of toil and hardship.

There was no doubt about Estel's ability as an engineer. However, once I remember he whittled out a very small model of a steam engine that turned the wheels. Held over a steaming tea kettle, that little engine would run like crazy.