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Setting the Stage

A mill is a building equipped with machinery that processes a raw material such as grain, wood, or fiber into a product such as flour, lumber, or fabric. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Virginia's mills were powered by water in creeks or rivers. In a flour mill, water flowing over the mill wheel was converted by gears into the power to turn one of two burr stones. Kernels of wheat were then ground between the two stones. The grinding removed bran (the outer husk) from the wheat kernel, and then crushed the inner kernel into flour. Flour mills were an important part of rural communities across the country, including Waterford in the fertile Loudoun Valley of Virginia.

Among the earliest arrivals to this area were Amos and Mary Janney, members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). In 1733, Janney purchased 400 acres along Catoctin Creek. By the early 1740s, he had built a mill of logs for grinding flour and sawing wood. As fellow Quakers came to the area seeking fertile farmlands, a settlement grew up around "Janney's Mill." Local farmers brought their wheat to the mill for grinding, and by 1762, Mahlon Janney, Amos's son, had built a larger, two-story mill of wood on a stone foundation.

Through the end of the 18th century, the settlement at Janney's Mill drew Pennsylvania Quaker, German Lutheran, and Scotch-Irish Presbyterian small farmers. As Loudoun County built and improved roads, the village grew rapidly. Homes and shops were built, and in the 1790s the settlement was renamed Waterford. Waterford continued to prosper and reached its manufacturing height in the mid 19th century.

 

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