Beverley Mill and the ‘Plaster Industry’

"Beverley Mill in 1938."

“Beverley Mill in 1938.”

In October 1981, Henry H. Douglas published an article in “Northern Virginia Heritage” titled simply “Beverley Mill” which featured the history of the Mill. In the following excerpt, Douglas discusses how and why the Mill was used to grind plaster in the years leading up to and following the Civil War.

As the mill was rebuilt [following an 1858 fire], new machinery was installed, probably for plaster grinding.  The mill may well have been used as a plaster mill as well as a grist mill. A plaster mill grinds crushed gypsum into ‘plaster’ or ‘lime’ for use as a fertilizer and soil conditioner.  This development was doubtless due to the opening of more and more farm land in Northern Virginia, and to the advent of the railroad to handle the heavier hauling that was part of the ‘plaster’ industry.

Where did the gypsum come from? Some have said that it came by boat from Nova Scotia to Alexandria, and by train from there.  A much more likely explanation was provided by Robert Beverley Herbert of Avenel, near The Plains, grandson of the first Beverley to be connected with the mill.  He said that his cousins, Robert and Bradshaw Beverley, operated a quarry in the Gap where they crushed stone.  They also quarried near Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley.  He always thought they shipped the gypsum from Front Royal on the railroad  After quarrying, it was crushed into pieces not more than 1/2″ in diameter.  At some point, either at the quarry of near the mill, it was subjected to intense heat to ease the  final grinding process.

Douglas’ full article can be found online.  Click here to read more.

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