Beginning in 1829, the Rappahannock Company constructed a series of dams and canals along the river, to transport bulk cargo. Gold had been found in Spotsylvania County in 1806 and a canal could bring heavy equipment and other materials to the area's numerous mines. Gold production grew in the Rappahannock valley during the 1830s and 40s and the Town of Fredericksburg invested heavily in the canal enterprise that appeared to support a promising future.Panel design by Jackson Foster, The I.D. Entity
Extracting gold by crushing quartz required heavy equipment and proved expensive. When the California gold strikes in 1849 drew mining companies to the West, Virginia mining declined. The canal system had been extended 50 miles upriver, but insufficient revenues forced it to close in 1853. The Fredericksburg Water Power Company constructed a dam across the river and turned this part of the system into a raceway. The new millrace supported several local industries.
In 1849, the U.S. Mint received $129,382 in Virginia gold, while receiving $5.5 million in California gold.
When the Fredericksburg Water Power Company constructed a dam across the Rappahannock River, it included a canal lock at the dam, to allow continued navigation to the upriver reaches.
Early plans for a canal were developed by Laomi Baldwin,
in 1817. The navigation company had to build a bridge where its canal cut Fall Hill Road. The original stone bridge abutment is visible under the modern bridge in front of you. The concrete on top of the stones is an adaptation for a 1950s bridge.