Floyd County mill named to National Register of Historic Places

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By Mike Pulice, architectural historian, with help from Regina Cox

On December 12, 2019, the Virginia State Review Board, which functions as an arm of the

Virginia Department of Historic Resources, determined Roberson Mill, in Floyd County, to be eligible for the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

The mill, located on Roberson Mill Road SE (Rt. 714), about one-quarter mile from Route 8, is significant for its historical role in the areas Industry and Processing, and Architecture and

Craftsmanship, broad thematic categories the NRHP recognizes.

The book The Water-powered Mills of Floyd County, Virginia: Illustrated Histories, 1770-2010

[Franklin F. Webb and Ricky L. Cox, 2012: 111-114] contains good descriptions and history of the Roberson Mill, which John W. Epperly built in the 1880s. Epperly is noted as “one of Floyd

County’s most accomplished millwrights.” Cleve Smith bought “John Epperly’s old mill” from J.W. Brammer in 1922 and sold it to John Smith in 1926. Smith sold it to Homer Roberson in

  1. Homer’s son Harry Roberson operated the mill at varying capacities until 1988 and currently retains ownership. As stated in the book, “The mill was one of the last two commercial mills to operate under water power in the county and one of only two existing flour mills that was neither designed to incorporate a roller mill nor modified afterward to accommodate one. . . . The Roberson mill represents, therefore, the county’s most authentic picture of flour milling as it was done in the United States through most of the nineteenth century. At the same time, it is the most distinctive among mills (that were still standing in 2010) in design and machine layout, and also demonstrated some of the finest craftsmanship in wood and metal components. The pride

Epperly took in what he built, evidenced by the stamping of his name on the forged steel arms of the stone hoist, was well justified,” the book said.

Although the mill and steel water wheel are currently in overall poor condition, recent investigations confirmed that the mill building remains structurally sound, with the roof and many inner workings still intact.

Harry Roberson’s daughter, Regina Cox, applied for the historical evaluation and hopes to see the mill restored and opened to the public as an education and heritage tourism attraction. It will be the only attraction of its kind in Floyd and surrounding counties. A non-profit preservation group with 501c(3) non-profit status so that charitable contributions will be tax deductible is now in place. Contributions may be sent to .Floyd County Cares; c/o Shannon Zeman; 100 E. Main St., Room 108; Floyd VA 24091.