Aldie Mill

Posted by on Feb 8, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

Aldie Mill Historic Park, John Mosby Highway, Aldie, Virginia

Aldie Mill Historic Park, John Mosby Highway, Aldie, Virginia

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

Aldie Mill

Aldie Mill at Aldie in Loudoun County is one of the best preserved mills in Virginia. Managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, the mill is one of only two working water-powered mills remaining in the Virginia Piedmont. The mill is the center-piece of the Aldie Mill Historic District.

The mill was constructed between 1807 and 1809 by Charles F. Mercer. Charles Mercer was the youngest son of James Mercer who had operated a small tub mill on the Little River since 1764. The power for a tub mill is derived from the sweep of the water as it is forced around the interior walls of the tub, imparting some of its force to push the paddles of the wheel along before falling through the bottom of the tub. This was not a very efficient means of operation.

Aldie Mill Historic Park, John Mosby Highway, Aldie, Virginia

Aldie Mill Historic Park, John Mosby Highway, Aldie, Virginia

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

The new mill was operated by two overshot water wheels driven by water from a mill pond created by a dam across the Little River. The mill was built under contract by William Cooke who became the joint owner with Charles Mercer. The project included the mill, granary miller’s house and store, as well as the now-disappeared distillery, blacksmith shop, sawmill, cooperage and wheelwright’s shops.

The name Aldie comes from James Mercer. Wherever a Mercer settled abroad, he named his new domicile Aldie, after the family’s ancestral home in Perthshire, Scotland. Aldie was the name Mercer applied to the village and his own home as well as to the mill. The Virginia General Assembly chartered the village in 1810 which provided it legal status in the state. The Little River may have provided the power for the mill, but it was the three turnpike roads which met in the village which provided the impetus for growth. Within a decade of the charter, Aldie had become the fourth largest community in Loudoun County.

Aldie Mill Historic Park, John Mosby Highway, Aldie, Virginia

Aldie Mill Historic Park, John Mosby Highway, Aldie, Virginia

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

The two overshot water wheels of Aldie Mill powered five millstones imported from France. This allowed the mill to serve many customers at a time. Customers came from the neighboring counties of Fauquier and Prince William as well from the surrounding farms of Loudoun County.

A Virginia law decreed that when a millstone was vacant the mill could not turn away a customer. Payment for the mill’s operation was usually in the form of a toll whereby the mill kept a share of the ground product – one-sixth of the initial weight of corn and one-eight of the wheat (wheat being denser than corn).

The refined product from the mill was transported to the seaport at Alexandria. From there it was shipped to Europe. The Little River Turnpike, the modern day Route 50 in Loudoun County, ran a nearly straight-line course from the mill to Alexandria. The wagons returning from Alexandria brought with them staples for the village and surrounding area which were sold in the store located alongside the mill.

The mill and its surrounding operations were so successful, when Mercer bought out his partner, William Cooke, in 1816 he paid $11,250 for the 50% share. This valued the operation at over 10 times the assessed value of Mercer’s home and nearly 70 times the average man’s annual wage of the time.

One Comment

  1. A delightful place – looks very English!

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