Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Before Mantua, Mills

What came before? What came before my house, my subdivision, the roads in Mantua (said Man- TOO-ah by residents, as opposed to MAN-chu-a like its Italian namesake)?

Off the trail in the section of Eakin Park between Pickett Road and Barkley Drive, signs attest to an old mill, Chichester Mill. When the land is dry, you can see hand-hewn posts and stones that were part of the operation. That's it. If there was no Fairfax County sign saying so, most people would not know where to look.

There used to be eight mills on Accotink Creek, stretching from Fairfax Circle Mill to past Accotink Lake, where one operated south of Route 1. The mills ground grain into flour.

Daniel McCarty Chichester's mill was on land willed to him by his father in 1796. A water-powered grist mill diverted water to his mill via a channel called a mill race. That's what you see remnants of today. His small operation started after 1801 and lasted until 1839.

On a sign, an 1869 plat shows where the mill races were and who owned the land. Chichester's mill was long gone when the plat was made. In 1869, I would have been standing on Peter Gooding's land, or J. Maynard's, or William G.'s

The park area today is often underwater. Owls live overhead. Through erosion the creeks are becoming rivers. The land in 2014 looks nothing like it might have in 1869.

How can we preserve the treasure within our neighborhood?

(Those are raccoon paws in the sand.)

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