“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Fredericksburg, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Harnessing The River's Power

Harnessing The River's Power Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, July 4, 2016
1. Harnessing The River's Power Marker
Inscription. Native Americans came to the falls of the Rappahannock River because seasonal runs of spawning fish provided food. Europeans settled near the falls to take advantage of the riverís powerful flow. This area reflects more than a century of industrial activity, from a water-powered grist mill to an early hydro-electricity plant. Around 1740, Francis Thornton constructed the first river-powered enterprise in this area. Following the American Revolution, Robert Dunbar acquired Thorntonís Mill and changed its name to reflect his new ownership.

As local farms increased their harvests of corn and wheat, additional mills were built to process the agricultural bounty. In 1822, Joseph B. Ficklen extended the raceway past Dunbarís Mill and established his Bridgewater Mill. In 1887, a local company converted an existing grist mill near the Falmouth Bridge to a hydro-electric plant, but this lower canal would soon fall into disuse. In 1910, an electric company constructed a larger dam across the Rappahannock River, which increased the head pressure for a new plant that could provide electricity to the entire region.

In 1907, the Bridgewater Milling Corporation improved its raceway by constructing a concrete dam and gates where Thorton's \/Dunbar's Mill had stood. This lower
Harnessing The River's Power Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher
2. Harnessing The River's Power Marker
canal served several mills, which made such improvements appear worthwhile, but a new hydroelectric plant constructed in 1910 made this lower canal and its mills obsolete.

This map dates to an 1806 court case and clearly shows the lower canal, Dunbarís Mill, and its diversion dam (which was improved in 1887 as shown below).

In 1887, this stone and timber crib dam directed a greater flow of water into the lower canal to power the Rappahannock Electric Light and Power Company, near the Falmouth Bridge.

This 1890 painting by Fredericksburg artist Annie Arnaud shows the upper canal and the stone and timber dam that converted the canal from navigational use to a raceway. Note the canal lock on the left. Image provided courtesy of the Rowe family.
Location. 38° 19.183′ N, 77° 28.511′ W. Marker is in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Marker is on Riverside Drive 0.1 miles west of Woodford Street, on the right when traveling west. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Fredericksburg VA 22401, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Contact: An Industrial Society Confronts A Native American Culture (here, next to this marker); Historic Old Mill District (within shouting distance of this marker); Amoroleck Encounters John Smith (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Veterans of Foreign Wars Eternal Flame (approx. ľ mile away); Gari Melchers Home and Studio (approx. 0.3 miles away); Bound for Freedom (approx. 0.3 miles away); A History of Floods (approx. 0.3 miles away); Caretaker Cottage (approx. 0.4 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Fredericksburg.
Categories. Industry & CommerceMan-Made FeaturesSettlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 151 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page was last revised on July 4, 2016.
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