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"Old-Fashioned Things"

Yellow Spring Memories

By Cecelia Mason

Photographs by Michael Keller

The grain mill at Yellow Spring, Hampshire County, was the center of activity for this Capon Valley community for more than 150 years. It ceased operation in 1990.

Yellow Spring Mill

Southeastern Hampshire County is a lush and sparsely populated corner of eastern West Virginia known for its popular resorts and excellent hunting and fishing. Nestled along the Cacapon River is the tiny town of Yellow Spring - a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it cluster of small homes and businesses scattered along State Route 259 at the foot of Timber Ridge. Yellow Spring was once a hub of rural activity, however, with a history dating back nearly 250 years.

Yellow Spring and the surrounding Capon Valley were surveyed by George Washington in the mid-1700's. Early businesses in Yellow Spring included an ink factory that used local sumac berries to make red ink and a factory that produced parlor organs in the late 1800's. A local entrepreneur named Tilbury Orndorff achieved quite a reputation for distilling legal rye whiskey, while a successful hymn-book publisher named Jesse B. Aiken also lived nearby. The center of activity in Yellow Spring was a large grain mill which stayed in operation for more than 150 years. Before it closed in 1990, the mill produced as much as 40 tons of poultry and animal feed a day. The mill still stands in the middle of Yellow Spring - one of the many remnants of the community's long and colorful past.

Yellow Spring also holds fond personal memories for Robert Orndorff, a retired medical technician from Bunker Hill with deep family roots in Hampshire County. Robert's relatives - the Orndorffs and the Clines - go back several generations in the region. In 1912, his father and grandparents moved from Yellow Spring to Jefferson County to "better their lives," Robert says, "because they were just crop share farmers around Yellow Spring."

The family remained in close contact with their Yellow Spring relatives, however, and when Robert was a child in the 1930's, his family spent many weekends and vacations at the home of his aunt and uncle, Lona and Clarence Cline. Lona Orndorff Cline was his father's sister.

"We had a 1928 Dodge automobile," Robert recalls, "and it would take quite a while for that old car to get up the mountain. You'd go up past Winchester and get up Lockhart's Hill, as it was called. And once you got up that hill, you were up in the top of the mountain, and Yellow Spring was on down the way there."

You can read the rest of this article in the Winter 2001 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.