Johnson’s Mill remains in the family

Published 11:34 am Friday, March 13, 2015

In order to preserve the building that has meant so much to her family and the residents of Southampton County, Cheryl Johnson purchased Johnson’s Mill on Wednesday afternoon. Johnson acquired the property from her aunt, uncle and father, with the latter handing down his share.

“I’m so lucky to have this opportunity and feel blessed to have my parents in my corner supporting me in this undertaking,” she said. “I couldn’t do it without them.”

Johnson’s Mill in Sedley has been closed since 2006. The mill and a nearby home are for sale. -- FILE PHOTO

Johnson’s Mill in Sedley has been closed since 2006. The mill and a nearby home are for sale. — FILE PHOTO

Once a thriving business, grounding the likes of cornmeal, hush puppy mix, seafood batter and chicken batter, the 161-year-old grist mill has sat vacant and nonoperational since 2005. Johnson’s grandfather, Edward Lee, closed the mill due to his declining health; he passed away in 2008.

The business began as Vick’s Mill in 1824, and was originally established on the pond across the street from its current location. Deed records show that Johnson’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, George Washington Johnson, bought the property for $300 in 1852 from Joseph Vick of Courtland. He erected the present structure two years later.

When Edward passed, he bequeathed the property to his three children. They did not want to carry on the business, so they placed the mill and the adjacent home with an in-ground swimming pool and smokehouse on the market. The house at 16437 Johnson’s Mill Road sits on 11 acres and is still available for nearly $400,000.

The 36-year-old Virginia Beach resident does not anticipate grinding the millstones again for profit, but she hopes to restore the building to its original glory.

“I haven’t made any real plans, yet, but I have no intention of using the mill for a commercial product,” she said. “Being the last Johnson, I just want to restore it and hang pictures and newspaper articles about the mill.”

The outer appearance of the mill will not change for quite some time, Johnson said, as she’ll first focus on electrical rewiring throughout. She hopes to have the building completely refurbished in the next five to seven years.