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Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Mills of Waterford Village, Virginia

Image of the Waterford Mill as it is today.

In 1733, a Quaker from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Amos Janney, purchased 400 acres along Catoctin Creek in Loudoun Valley. He constructed a log mill on the creek not far from the site of the present mill. Janney was soon joined by others drawn to the rich farmland along the banks of Catoctin Creek. From this site, a little settlement grew rapidly until the mill was the hub of a thriving agricultural community. Known as Janney's Mill until the 1780s, this early commercial center became what is known today as the village of Waterford.

By 1762, the growing population of grain farmers had necessitated the building of a larger grist mill on the site of the present mill. An adjacent saw mill provided lumber to build houses and barns, and roads were constructed to facilitate travel to and from Janney's Mill. Reflecting the fertility of the surrounding farmland, the mill was again rebuilt and enlarged in the 1820s. This is the structure that exists today.

Image right: the Schooley Mill.

Two additional mills operated in the village; Schooley Mill, primarily a saw mill, also ground corn, limestone, and clover and another mill which functioned as a cloth manufactory, or fulling mill.

By 1835, the settlement had grown into a village and served as the commercial hub to the surrounding farms. In the 1850’s, thanks to the nearby Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Waterford's mills were providing products for an even wider market. Barrels of flour were hauled to Point of Rocks, Maryland, ten miles north of Waterford, where they were loaded onto C&O Canal barges or the Baltimore and Ohio railroad to be taken to the lucrative markets of Washington, DC, Alexandria, and Winchester.

Even though the Civil War devastated Waterford's economy, the mills continued to operate. The Washington and Old Dominion Railroad was extended from Leesburg west in 1870, bypassing Waterford and depriving it of its once dominant trading position. The village never returned to its former commercial success because area farmers and village residents could now import machine-made goods. However, enterprises supporting agricultural needs such as blacksmiths, wagon builders, harness makers remained working in the village until the early 1900s. Waterford's mills continued to operate and export grain to markets made accessible by the railroad.

The Old Mill was the last of Waterford's mills to cease operation. In 1939, the mill stopped grinding, marking the end of the milling industry in Waterford. The Waterford Foundation purchased the Old Mill, and later the Schooley Mill, to ensure the preservation of these buildings which housed one of the main livelihoods of the village for over two centuries.

Information and images provided by the Waterford Foundation.


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