From the summit of one of those picturesque mountains which traverse the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, in what is now Hardy County, there emerges from some subterranean fountain, a rivulet of clear, cold water.
At first it is only a wobbly little stream and lies quietly for a time in the swampy grassy bed into which Mother Nature has so unceremoniously precipitated it. Very soon however, this little new-born stream begins and cautiously wriggles toward the brow as though seeking a glimpse of the scene below. Apparently satisfied with the view, it at once begins a headlong descent down the mountain side. Having once started down the steep decline there is no turning back; so on it goes, gathering momentum with each bound. Wild flowers and ferns nod and beckon as they seek to moisten their foliage in its spray; the wild things of the wood timidly approach its banks, then scurry away to cover, as though giving an invitation to game of tag or hid-and-seek. But none of these attractions deter this plucky little stream, or swerve it exploring the wonders of the world into which it so recently has entered. So on and on it goes, leaping and bounding from boulder to boulder, beaten and buffeted, whipped into spray, until at last it plunges into a rocky bed at the foot of the mountain.
Perhaps now in this quiet retreat our battered little stream can be content to stop for a time and furnish a hiding place for the frightened minnow which that barefoot urchin seeks to ensnare; or a cool drink for that thirsty dog which we see approaching; but not so; as though not satisfied with its recent acrobatics, it rushes across the narrow country road, on past the old mill site, the ancient burying ground, across the valley, on, on until it waters finally mingle with those of the mighty Potomac.
At the foot of the mountain down whose rocky side this stream has made such a noisy descent, there are a few not-too-well-kept dwellings and farm building owned and occupied by typical country folk of that region. All save one of those dwellings appear to have been erected within the last half century. No traces of other similar pioneer buildings remain to tell the story of those who braved the dangers and privations of that region, and sowed the seeds of civilization at that early day.
The outward appearance of this particular dwelling -- a gaunt two-story structure built of hewn logs, indicated that the storms of more than a hundred winters, and the hot sun of as many summers had done their bit toward reducing it to those elements from whence it came. And now it stands alone, a mute reminder of another day, apparently issuing a challenge to those elemental destroyers of its fellows. Were inanimate things endowed with the power of speech, what stories...what scenes with its walls might this harbinger of the past relate.
Within the memory of those yet living, there stood at the rear of this ancient building, a chimney of high proportions, built of rough stones evidently gathered from the neighboring fields. This chimney, tradition tells us, was part of a fort or stronghold which served as a refuge in times of threatened danger from the Indians. Perhaps upon more than one occasion the terror-stricken inhabitants of the valley had hurried to this refuge, and huddled around the blazing logs, in this same fireplace had cooked their food, and of molten lead had made the bullets with which to defend themselves from the howling savages without. A farm cellar now occupies the site of the legendary fort, and a garden fence has been built of the stones that comprised the chimney.
A few dozen feet from the old log dwelling can still be plainly seen the remains of the millrace to which the aforementioned mountain stream once lent a portion of itself for the purpose of turning the mill wheel. At the bottom of the race, almost covered with earth, there lies a hug iron-bound stone burr which was used in crushing the grain. These, and the traditions surrounding its memory, are all that remain of the "Old Brake Mill, " a once-busy-and-necessary institution.
Not far from the site of the mill there are yet visible some slight traces of another supposedly necessary institution of that day -- the distillery. This building too, as well as its one-time busy operators, has long since gone the way of all the earth. In its heyday this was a busy place making and dealing out to thirsty souls that fiery potion which not only drives dull cares away, but hastens the journey from the cradle to the grave.
Across the narrow country road, and within sight of the old log dwelling, enclosed by a few strands of broken and rusted barbed wire, is the family burying ground. A few white and badly weathered gravestones rear their heads above a thick growth of weeds and briars as though standing guard over the remains of those mortals who lie beneath in their last long sleep. The inscriptions on the stones are barely legible. This ancestral "City of the Dead" presents indeed a pitiful picture of neglect, and from all appearances, in a few more years the spot will be forever lost to future generations.