Category Archives: History

Memories of Thoroughfare Gap

We’re rediscovering some real gems in our collection!

Just about 7 years ago, Mr. Rick Campbell was kind enough to share his memories of the Chapman – Beverley Mill and the Broad Run, VA area with Turn the Mill Around Campaign representatives.  In this short clip from the interview, Mr. Campbell remembers the impact of hurricane Agnes and how Beverley Mill Drive in Broad Run, VA got its name.

Archaeology at the Mill Progress Report – Pt. 2

Earlier this year, lead archaeologist, Dr. Mike Johnson, wrote up a progress report of the archaeological work that has been done at the Mill to date.  We’re excited to present  Part 2 of his “Thoroughfare Gap Archaeology News” below (Click HERE for Part 1).  Expect to see Part 3 of the September TGA news posted here in the near future.  


Based on that assessment, at the beginning of this year three, four-foot squares were laid out in that area.  Square 1 was placed adjacent to and outside the western wall of the historic foundation.  That was to identify a possible builder’s trench for a possible house and to avoid historic disturbance to the prehistoric stratigraphy, which might be higher inside the foundation.  Square 2 was placed just inside the foundation immediately east of Square 1 and Square 3 was placed in the center of the foundation immediately east of Square 2.

Excavations on the three squares have been going on throughout the Spring and Summer of 2016.  As of this writing they are approximately 15 inches deep and several inches below the last historic evidence.  The historic part of the site was extremely interesting and produced a wealth of data.  The artifacts indicated that the feature was occupied throughout much of the 19th century.  Burned soil, charcoal and burned artifacts indicate that the site may have burned down, although not due to a fire of the intensity needed to melt glass.  Rock rubble within the foundation indicated that the house walls were stone part of the way up from the ground.  Artifacts also indicated that a female occupant possessed fine quality clothing as indicated by the quality of the female buttons.  The ceramics and glass also indicated some degree of affluence (Figure 5).

tga-1Figure 5.  Sample of historic artifacts from the 2016 test excavations.

Figure 5 shows: (1) a floral decorated brass button; (2) a floral decorated black glass button; (3) one side of a carved bone utensil handle; (4) an agateware doorknob sherd; (5) a cluster of in situ “ironstone” basal sherds; (6) a cut glass (jet ?) cross pendant; (7) a floral embossed tableware bowl sherd; (8) a brass, two piece, Civil War, eagle shield button (the only Civil War era artifact recovered from the excavation); (9) the bottom portion of an elaborately molded black glass bottle, and (10) several mended, hand painted floral and annular pearlware sherds.

Figure 6 shows the raised feature that is within the rectangular lines of large rocks that are the foundation walls.  One can see the drop-off to the screening area on the far side of the raised landform.  One of the large rocks that form the foundation edge can be seen exposed next to the water level to the left.  The closest test square (Square 1 – N960E3468) is just outside the west wall of the foundation.  Two foundation stones can be seen to the south (right) – one under the kneeling pad and the other behind the white spray bottle.  Unlike the other two squares, it produced very little construction rubble, indicating that whatever foundation stone that was above ground collapsed inward.  One can also see a slightly higher mound between the farthest square and the screen area.  It is likely chimney rubble.  The foundation has not been mapped but it paces off at approximately 20 feet east-west and 18 feet north south.

tga-2Figure 6.  Looking east toward the 2016 excavation area showing the raised landform of the foundation.

It is possible that the site is one of the two shown in the foreground of Figure 7 as it is located immediately before the bend to the north in the current railroad bed.  It appears that the collapsed chimney rubble on the archeological foundation is at the east end, like those in the photograph and the position and distance in relation to the mill and old railroad tracks are similar.  The alternative is that the archeological foundation is located from where the picture is being taken.  At some point it might be possible to approximate the distance from the mill to the nearest house by measuring known distances in the photo and relate them to dimensions of other features in the photo.

tga-3Figure 7.  Late 19th century (?) photograph of the mill and Thoroughfare Gap from the east.

Part 3 of this article coming soon!

Where Did All the Flour Go?

Corn Meal Bag

By the early 19th century, the Mill was a major producer of ground corn and wheat in Northern Virginia.  Interestingly, it’s likely that some of the meal being produced at Chapman’s Mill found its way to the Caribbean and Europe.  Read more in this excerpt from Beverley (Chapman’s) Mill, Thoroughfare Gap, Virginia by Frances Lillian Jones.

Portugal was a large importer of Northern Virginia corn, wheat, and flour from 1801 to 1815. Spain also imported much wheat and corn during this period. England received substantial amounts of wheat from Alexandria, prior to the enactment of the Corn Laws. The West Indies, however, received the major portion of flour exported from Alexandria. Domestic trade with northern states along the east coast of the United States may have equaled or exceeded Alexandria’s foreign trade during Ante-bellum days. Grain and flour from Alexandria was traded at Washington, Richmond and Norfolk, and small amounts went to Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans.

The demand for grain and flour abroad reached an all-time high between 1800 and 1840. It is presumed that a portion of the flour that was shipped abroad, primarily to the West Indies, Spain and Portugal, was ground at the Chapman Mill.

Legends of Thoroughfare Gap


Have you ever wondered how some of the areas around Thoroughfare Gap got their names?  Here’s one legend according to Beverley (Chapman’s) Mill, Thoroughfare Gap, Virginia by Frances Lillian Jones

According to tradition, George Washington surveyed the land at Thoroughfare Gap in 1748-49, at the request of the Northern Neck Proprietor, Thomas Lord Fairfax.  Washington supposedly measured the heights of the Bull Run Mountains on the north and south of Thoroughfare Gap and named them, Pond Mountain, on the south side of the gap, he supposedly named after the large fishing pond formed by the damming of Broad Run.  Prior to that naming, Pond Mountain was called South Mountain, and before that it was known as “Broken Hills.”  Washington named the mountain on the north side of the gap Leathercoat Mountain, after “Mother Leathercoat,” a woman who, according to legend, operated an inn at the foot of this mountain and always wore a leather apron or overcoat.

An Act to Create Fauquier County


One of the defining characteristics of the Mill is that is is located on the boarder between Fauquier and Prince William Counties.  But did you know that the Mill is actually mentioned in the 1759 Act that created Fauquier County?  Here’s and excerpt.

The act dividing Prince William specifically refers to Chapman’s Mill as a landmark:

     “that from and immediately after the first day of May next the said county of Prince William shall be divided into two distinct counties, that is to say:  All that part of the said county that lies above a line to run from the head of Bull Run, and along the top of Bull Run Mountains, to Chapman’s Mill, in Broad Run thoroughfare, from thence by a direct line to  the head of Dorrel’s Run …and from thence by a direct line till it intersects the nearest part of the line dividing Stafford and Prince William counties, shall be one distinct county, and called and known by the name of Fauquier…”

Remembering the Mill: 1862 – 1926 (Part Three)

The ‘Quarry Trench’ used during the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap

The following is an excerpt from a circa 1926 piece written by Mary Susannah Walker McDarment.  It was transcribed by her daughter, Sarah M. Turner in 1993.  In this the third and final part of her article, Mrs. McDarment relates the story of a soldier who visited the Thoroughfare Gap battlefield years after the Civil War.

Some years after the war an old soldier came from California to visit the old battle ground. He said the hardest fighting he was in was in the Battle at Thoroughfare Gap, that his company in Ricket’s Division lost more men than in any other engagement; that with one volley from Longstreet’s men thirty of his men fell, killed and wounded. His own brother was killed at his side.
“The Confederates,” he said, “used a paper cartridge containing a round ball and three buck-shot. When Longstreet’s men rose and fired they were so near us that the round ball went through my brother’s forehead; one buck shot grazed one cheek, one the other and one pierced his chin. At first, I thought I would stay with my brother, but seeing that he had been instantly killed, and knowing that I would be captured, I retreated with the rest of the company. The next morning we sent a flag of truce and buried our dead.”
The breast-works thrown up by Longstreet’s men are still standing.
Some twelve or fourteen years after the war in walking over the crest of the mountain near the Gap, I saw something that looked like the handle of a cup sticking out of the ground. I pulled it up and found it was a silver cup. After cleaning it I found on it the following inscription, “Lieut. R. A. S. Freeman, Company A, Second Regiment, Volunteers.”
I found that the Surgeon of that Regiment was a Doctor Gregory of Alexandria Virginia. I wrote to him and he replied that he knew Lieutenant Freeman well, that he had come out of the war alive and was at his home at West Point , Georgia.
I wrote Lieutenant Freeman and received an interesting letter from him telling about the battle in Thoroughfare Gap. He was delighted to get his cup that had lain buried for so many years on the old battle field. He said he went into the fight with the cup fastened to his belt, and as there was a dent in the bottom he supposed a bullet had knocked it off. The cup may have intercepted the bullet and in that way saved his life.
Near the mill in The Gap there is a hole where stone had been quarried to build the mill. In this hole the Federals placed sharp-shooters who were picking off the Confederates above. When Longstreet made a rush through The Gap the men in this hole were killed and twenty-five dead soldiers were later taken out.

Remembering the Mill: 1862 – 1926 (Part Two)

Modern View of Avenel, The Plains, VA.

The following is an excerpt from a circa 1926 piece written by Mary Susannah Walker McDarment.  It was transcribed by her daughter, Sarah M. Turner in 1993.  In this the second part of her article, Mrs. McDarment relates William Beverley’s reminiscences of the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap.

“When I was a small boy I went with my mother, who was a near relation of the Lees, to visit at Arlington, the old Lee home.  I knew the General when I was a student at The Virginia Military Institute.  I was at Lexington when he died and saw him laid in his last resting place.

I can remember incidents connected with the Second Battle of Manassas, fought in August, 1862.

Just after McClellan’s defeat on the peninsular, he was ordered to withdraw from the peninsular and go to the aid of General Pope who was in command of the Federal forces before Washington.  Lee, hearing McClellan was ordered to reinforce Pope, gave orders to Stonewall Jackson to make a forced march and strike out Pope’s army before McClellan could reach him.

Jackson, leaving Culpeper, made a rapid march to Marshall – then called Salem – from there via The Plains through Thoroughfare Gap, and was at Manassas capturing General Pope’s provision train before Pope knew that Jackson was within a hundred miles of him.

When General Pope, who had headquarters near Warrenton, Virginia, was informed that Jackson was at Manassas, he at first discredited the information but a second courier informed him that Jackson was at Manassas and had captured his (Pope’s) provision train.

Pope gave orders at once to General Ricket, who commanded a Pennsylvania Division to occupy Thoroughfare Gap and cut off Lee, who was following Jackson from Culpeper on the same route, through Marshall and The Plains.

On the night before the Second Battle of Manassas General Lee with his army had reached the Western entrance to Thoroughfare Gap, his army going into camp along Broad Run Creek and near the present Broad Run station.

General Lee and his staff spent that night at my old home “Avenel.”

Being anxious about Jackson, General Lee walked the floor until midnight when a courier arrived with a dispatch from Jackson assuring the General that Jackson was in no immediate danger and could hold out until Lee’s army could reach him.  This courier was Lieutenant Tom Turner who was reared at Kinlock, the old Turner home near Avenel and who was a nephew of Admiral Turner of the United States Navy. Lieutenant Turner knew every inch of the ground and reached Avenel from Manassas by making detour from Jackson through Hopewell Gap to Avenel to General Lee, and was later awarded a beautiful sword.

Early the next morning General Lee mounted his grey horse, “Traveller” and with his staff rode toward Thoroughfare Gap, and gave orders to General Longstreet to drive back the Federal forces and to take the Gap.

General Longstreet sent a regiment over the mountain North of the Gap, one South of it, and a body of troops along the road leading through it.

Ricket’s Divsion had a battery on a ridge a quarter of a mile from the East side of the Gap and shelled both sides of the Gap continuously in front of his advance. General Ricket’s Pennsylvanians were hard fighters and brave men. After hard fighting General Ricket was forced to retreat and was driven back in the direction of Washington.  General Lee then pushed rapidly forward, joining Jackson and inflicting a disastrous defeat on Pope’s army.

Next week: A soldier visits the Thoroughfare Gap Battlefield after the war.

Remembering the Mill: 1862 – 1926 (Part One)


Thoroughfare Gap 1862

The following is an excerpt from a circa 1926 piece written by Mary Susannah Walker McDarment.  It was transcribed by her daughter, Sarah M. Turner in 1993.  In the article, Mrs. McDarment talks of the Mill as it appeared in the 1920’s and then goes on to record the Civil War recollections of William Beverley.

Following the old pike from Haymarket we come through the hardly visible old town of Thoroughfare to Beverly Mills.  The Mill is today in probably as good condition as the day it was built.  It is of stone five stories high with walls at least three feet thick and was built some time in the 1700’s for a plaster mill.  It is now used for flour mill and though modern machinery has been installed the old wheel turned by the water from Broad Run used except in time of emergency.  When things are scorching in summer one may enter and find it delightfully cool due to its thick stone walls.  The beams are “beams what am” and put together with big wooden pegs.  The mill is in Thoroughfare Gap and beautifully located.

Approaching Thoroughfare Gap from either direction I always want to stop and commune with old spirits there.  We all know of the terrible fighting at the two battles of Manassas but few know of the hard fought battle of Thoroughfare Gap.  A Federal soldier said that the hardest fighting he was in during the war was in the battle of The Gap.  Mr. William Beverley gave me the following account of the battle in The Gap as he remembers it. Mr. Beverley was about twelve years old at the time and lived in the old Beverley home, Avenel, a short distance from The Gap and he remembers many incidents of the Second Battle of Manassas.

Next week: William Beverley’s reminiscences of the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap.

A Snapshot of Mill Workers and Wages in 1880

100_7425An excerpt from Beverley (Chapman’s) Mill, Thoroughfare Gap, Virginia by Frances Lillian Jones.  Here Mrs. Jones notes employees and wages at the Chapman – Beverley Mill in the 1880’s.

“According to William Beverley’s diary, as many as seven 14-ton boxcars at a time were waiting on the mill siding to be loaded. Among the employees were four grinders, three packers, one miller, and a manager. The mill’s manager during the Beverley ownership was Hugh White, a wheelwright who also acted as the mill’s traveling agent. According to the 1880 Industrial Census, the average day’s wages for a skilled mechanic at the mill were $1.30, and for a laborer the rate was $.50 per day. Beverley Mill paid a total of $800.00 in wages in the year ending May 1880, operating 12 hours per day from May to November and 8 hours per day from November to May. The value of the limestone processed was estimated at $12,000 and the value of the finished product estimated at $15,800. The mill was then operating one overshot wheel, measuring 6 feet in breadth. The water tumbled over a 24-foot-high waterfall. The wheel, which made 10 revolutions per minute, generated the equivalent of 27 horsepower.”

The Furr Family at the Mill


The Furr House shortly before it was demolished in the early 2000’s.

The following discussion of the last decades of Mill operations was taken from Beverley (Chapman’s) Mill, Thoroughfare Gap, Virginia by Frances Lillian Jones.  Here we learn a little more about the Mill’s final owners and how they sought to improve the business.

“In 1903, W. W. Jordan and Son sold Beverley Mill to C. C. Furr and J. N. Kerr for $8,500. At the same time, Furr and Kerr also assumed two deeds of trust, each for $3,000, to J. R. Hornbaker. One of the deeds of trust had been granted in 1898 and the other in 1901.

Charles Craig Furr, Jr., came to Prince William County from Augusta County, near Staunton, Va. His daughter Audrey Furr married James Newton Kerr, Mr. Furr’s partner in the mill. Mrs. Kerr was employed in the mill as the bookkeeper. The Furrs and later the Kerrs lived in the frame house beside the mill which had been built in the early 1900s.

A roller mill installed in the early 1900's.

A roller mill installed in the early 1900’s.

In 1908, C. C. Furr negotiated a note for $5,000, using the mill as collateral. It is believed that at about that time new roller milling equipment was installed in the mill because, beginning in 1910 in a directory of advertisers in the Northwestern Miller, a millers’ trade publication, the mill was listed as “Beverley Roller Mills,” with an average daily capacity of from 50 to 75 barrels of flour. Sometime in the early 1900s, the present 29-foot diameter metal water wheel replaced the old wooden one formerly used.

Between 1924 and 1929, Furr and Kerr borrowed money from banks on several occasions, presumably to improve the mill. At this time, a Fairbanks Morse diesel engine was reportedly installed, to provide power to operate the mill during dry periods. Between the two World Wars, Furr is said to have purchased some modern flour milling machinery, though some of the old equipment continued to be used.

In August 1934, Beverley Mill was chartered as a Virginia corporation. T. Otis Latham was named president, Robert B. Swart vice president, and C. C. Furr secretary. Latham, Swart, Furr, and J. N. Kerr were named as directors.

Corn Meal Bag

This 1940’s corn meal bag was designed to project a sense of wholesomeness to buyers.

It is said that the installation of the new equipment in the early 1920s was a mistake, because in doing so, Furr and Kerr overextended themselves, and by 1937, they were in serious financial difficulties, when payment on a loan made in 1925 could not be made. Mr. Kerr died in 1939. At that time, William Wilbur became a major financial backer and the mill’s business agent. In 1940, new flour-grinding equipment was installed. During the early to mid-1940s, the mill reached its peak output, processing 100,000 bushels of wheat annually and with a 75 barrel-a-day flour-producing capacity. At the same time, the mill attempted to project an image of old-time goodness, with its corn meal sacks which displayed the phrases “Old Fashioned,” “Home Made,” and “Water Ground on Rocks.””