Sitting near the junction of the Potomac River and the Great Seneca Creek, the Seneca Mill had a long tradition at this pivotal location.
By 1725, a grist mill functioned here as a commercial staple for the small village. Early proprietors recognized that their business had the ability to reach communities outside of Seneca, for the town was "believed to be equal of any in the state...(it) will always command considerable trade from Frederick and Washington Counties, also from Virginia."
Making the most of developing transportation routes, the mill received goods and shipped finished products on the C&O Canal. Cargo was stored in a warehouse at the mouth of Seneca Creek, and a small railway connected the facility to the grist mill. After merchandise and milling supplies were moved downstream on small boats to the intake (or guard) locks between Riley's Lock and Violette's Lock on the Potomac River, they were then transferred to cargo boats that took the supplies to their final destination.
The mill property went through a succession of owners until 1855, when it was acquired by John Darby and his son, Upton. During the Darby's tenure, the "Darby Mill" was altered several times. The most significant change was moving the mill from the north side of River Road to across the street. Although the building
was unharmed during the Civil War, it suffered two devastating fires within an 18-month span, forcing Darby to rebuild the main surface twice. The business remained in the Darby family until 1900 when it was purchased by Wilson Tschiffely.
Seneca Mill ceased operations in 1931. The physical structure began a slow demise that was completed in 1959 when it was removed from the landscape to make way for the erection of a bridge at the then newly realigned River Road. Only a 4800 foot mill race remains today.
(Inscription under the image at the top left) Employees manning the equipment inside the Seneca Mill, ca. 1901 Courtesy: Montgomery County Historical Society.
(Inscription at the center top) Seneca Mill and Vicinity-various photographs.
(Inscription under the image at the top right)Sales receipt for milling goods supplied by Upton Darby and Son. Courtesy: Collection of the Maryland State Archives.
(Inscription beside the image on the center right) From the infamous—Col. E. V. White-to the relatively unknown African American James Wootten, the Seneca Mill catered to the needs of the local community. The facility supplied such essential items as guano, a fertilizer that rejuvenated the once over-taxed tobacco fields of Montgomery County. Courtesy: Collection of the Maryland State Archives. <[p>
(Inscription beside the image
on the lower right) In a 1900 trustee sale, the Seneca (Darby) Mill was described as "the best milling property in the county, in addition to the capacity of the mill itself and the unusual facilities for handling the product thereof it has for 50 years been the center of the purchase of grain and sale of fertilizers for one of the largest and most prosperous sections of the county." Courtesy: Collections of the Maryland State Archives.