The Storied History of the Mill Gap Ruritan Club’s Maple Doughnuts
“Gloria said, yesterday, she says, ‘I remember. We’d come home from the dance at twelve o’clock. At two o’clock, you all were getting us up to go make doughnuts.” Laughter follows this statement.
That is the voice of 82-year-old Lillian Dever, affectionately known to many as “The Doughnut Woman.” She is describing a memory with one of her daughters regarding the humble beginnings of the ever-popular maple doughnuts that are a highlight of the Highland County Maple Festival. Since the early 1960s, many thousands of people from near and far have stood in line to get a taste of the Mill Gap Ruritan Club’s maple-glazed doughnuts. Lillian and her husband, 90-year-old Garland Dever, spoke with Allegheny Mountain Radio about the storied history of these tasty treats.
Lillian says, “Well, when it started, they had a minister down at Mustoe, and they did ‘em down there, and that got over in our side, the Kings. Ellis King’s bunch and us got in to it big, and then others joined.”
“And I think that minister came from Texas if I’m not mistaken. I reckon he’s the one that brought the recipe,” adds Garland. Lillian affirms, “Yeah.”
Garland continues, “The Ruritan Club had just started, and The Maple Festival’s already been going, and we was wondering about something we could do at The Maple Festival for make a little bit of money for the Ruritan Club.”
Lillian says, “Our friends and so forth in Mill Gap, we would get together and have doughnut fries, families together. Well, then comes the Ruritan Club without much money, and I suggested, and demanded almost, that we make the doughnuts and sell ‘em, and it was something else.”
In the early years, the doughnuts were made right in the Dever’s home south of Monterey.
“They were made in the basement here,” says Lillian. Garland remarks, “Now these doughnuts have to be raised. They had yeast in ‘em, so they wasn’t just something you could get right away.”
“And we’d get up at two or three o’clock in the morning and start ‘em, and we had four little kids around here under five, and we made doughnuts. It was fun all the way through, and a lotta disappointments, and, phew, can you imagine this house smelling like doughnuts all the time? But it was a deal making the doughnuts here, letting ‘em raise, and getting ‘em up there to fry,” remarks Lillian. Chris asks, “Now, how’d you do that?” Lillian responds with a laugh, “Manpower!”
The location of where the doughnuts have been sold has moved around to a few different areas of Monterey.
“It was up here in Monterey, and we put a tent up in front of the hotel and figured we’d sell a doughnut, and they get to eat it. I remember a lady coming and getting a doughnut and then walking back up street and eating it, and she came back and wanted more, maybe a dozen. I’m not sure, and we never could keep up with doughnuts since then. Guess you’ve seen where forty or fifty people stand, waiting to get doughnuts,” says Garland with a laugh. Lillian adds, “And you’d go to Staunton or anywhere you went to, and they knew you was from Highland, you’d get the doughnuts in the conversation, everywhere.”
The doughnuts are now made and sold at the Mill Gap Ruritan Club Trailer at the lot just south of the intersection of Monterey, and the Devers recollect people showing up for doughnuts as early as 5:00 in the morning. It is the club’s biggest fundraiser of the year, but the Devers say they never expected the doughnuts to be so popular. The numbers are staggering, though, as, currently, during any given Maple Festival, between 40,000 and 45,000 doughnuts are made with almost 2.5 tons of flour and 1 ton of powdered sugar! Most of the money that’s raised goes back in to the community.