The History of Waterford, Virginia
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History photos of Waterford VA
Waterford was settled by Quakers Waterford was pro Union Waterford was an active mill town Waterford was the second largest town in Loudoun before 1860 Waterford's history is its people Change comes to Waterford Furniture making was an important part of Waterford
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History of Waterford and Loudoun County
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The Old Mill of Waterford

An excerpt from the book, When Waterford & I Were Young, by John E. Divine. This book shares the author’s experiences and love of Waterford as he grew up in the early 1900s. About this book

More on Waterford's mills »

Old mill early 1900s
The mill and its race as it appeared early in the 20th century. The additions at the rear of the building have since been removed
Located at 40105 Main Street

Amos Janney settled in the Loudoun Valley in 1733 and soon after built a log mill on Catoctin Creek, not far from the present location of the Old Mill. His son, Mahlon, developed this family mill into a larger operation by 1762, when he erected a larger mill of wood on a stone foundation, at the site of the present mill. Mahlon's new mill was a custom mill, grinding not only wheat grown on his own land but also providing services for other farmers settling around "Janney's Mill."

Mahlon eventually erected a larger, two-story mill "of wood and of stone" on a near-by site, which he eventually bought from his Uncle Francis in 1762 "with improvements thereon." For more than half a century after the family's arrival the tiny settlement that developed around the structure was known simply as Janney's Mill. Over the years many other mills were built in the area, but the one Waterford now calls simply "the mill" remained the best known.

Mahlon Janney leased and then sold his mill to Jonas Potts several years before he died in 1812; ownership changed hands many times after that." It was apparently Thomas Phillips who around 1831 rebuilt Mahlon's mill into the three-story brick structure that stands today.

Activity at the Mill in 1910

No matter who the mill owner, there was always interesting activity in that end of town. In my time, "Parks and Recreation" was phrase unheard of, so each youngster made his or her entertainment wit what was at hand. Quite often it revolved around the mill. The large wheat and shelled-corn bins offered fun when we could jump from height of several feet to sink into the grain. This could be done only if w managed to sneak by the miller to the upper floors where the bins were. got one of the better beatings of my life one day when I got caught in the bin and then didn't get out quick enough when the miller's assistant told me to leave. Then there was the cob bin, which offered hiding places an. ample 2mmimition for corn cob wars.

There was another use for the corn cobs, incidentally. Sarah Rucker Gordon (1896-1992) remembered it was one of her family jobs as a chit to go to the mill around suppertime, especially in the summer when there might not be a good bank of coals in the cook stove, and buy-for five cents-a large sack of dry cobs for a quick fire start in the stove or to increase the speed of one.

Teams of four or six horses would haul in wheat or corn to be ground into flour or meal. I even saw a yoke of oxen come to the mil one day, the only ones I ever saw in Waterford. Henry Clapham, farmer from near Milltown north of the village, had this team, and it was a sight to see those two oxen go swinging along. [Some historians occasionally refer to "Milltown" as an early name of the village that is now Waterford. I have seen no evidence to persuade me of that. There is, however, a tiny settlement called Milltown about two miles north of Waterford (at the intersection of modern Rts. 681 & 692).]

In my youth a metal-clad frame elevator was attached to the west o creek end of the mill. This also housed a cider mill in the early to mid 1920s where the men pressed cider one day a week in the fall months. A row of horse stables stood about forty feet behind the elevator. In my time, I can remember the miller owned only one four-horse team. But a historian writing of Civil War days recorded that Samuel C. Means [Samuel Carrington Means (1827-1884)], the prosperous miller of that time, had 28 horses at the outbreak of war to haul his products across the Potomac to Point of Rocks for shipment or the B&O Railroad or C&O Canal, and for other mill-related hauling.

The Mill Race

The millrace was quite an engineering feat for its 18th-century 1 builders, both in design and construction in diverting water to drive the mill. Adam across the main body of Catoctin Creek started water on its way toward the mill carried by nearly a mile of race.

On its course, it picked up waters of Balls Run through a curious contraption called The Chute. This had overhead bridging supporting swinging gates that turned the water of the run at the race junction but also allowed flood waters to push open the swinging gates. Two small lift gates, one between the dam and the chute, and one between the chute and the mill, were used to flush the race of silt. I can remember some nights during a summer thunderstorm seeing the miller or his helper, with lantern in hand, going up the race to lift the gates to release the flood, his lantern bobbing as he rushed to get to each gate.

In the mill's later years a gasoline or kerosene engine was added for power so that grinding would not be interrupted in times of drought. The old overshot waterwheel and later turbine were giving way to a more modern way of milling. But the noisy exhaust from the engine never matched the distinctive rhythmic rumble of the big wheel. The romance of water-driven mills was gone and with it waterground meal and Waterford's White Lily flour, that being the trade name of the product that came from the mill.

The End of the Mill

The Old Mill ceased operation in 1939. Recognizing its importance to the history of the village, the newly formed Waterford Foundation purchased the building in 1944 to ensure its preservation. The building has been used to display traditional 18th and 19th-century crafts during the annual Homes Tour and Crafts Exhibit for the past 55 years.

Copyright © Waterford Foundation


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