Ballendine's Ironworks & Janney's Cotton Mill
John Ballendine established Occoquan's first industry, the Occoquan Iron Works, in 1755. it consisted of a blast furnace and a forge. The furnace was located above the western end of present-day River Mill Park, while the forge was erected on the riverbank. In 1758, during the French and Indian War, Virginia militia Col. George Washington ordered three tons of irons from the works for Fort Loudoun, which was then under construction near Winchester. The ironworks changed hands several times and operated until 1780.
Samuel M. Janney constructed a four-story, 38-by-55-foot cotton mill and related buildings to your left in 1828. The complex, enclosed by a fence, stood on the site of the park. A passage connected the mill with a picking house, while the waterwheel was located on the south side of the mill near the millrace that flowed along the hillside. The warehouse stood between the mill and wharf. The tollhouse, which stood to your left, was where the keeper collected fees from travelers going to or from Alexandria and crossing the bridge.
By 1830, Occoquan was a bustling town. The cotton mill employed more than thirty women, and John Morgan's general store did a thriving business. Houses were under construction, partly in hopes of attracting a much-needed tailor and shoemaker. Over the next century, two automated
grain mills, a country grain mill, a plaster mill, and sawmills operated here. An arsonist burned Janney's Mill on May 3, 1862, during the Civil War.
On May 1, 1836, Janney's Mill was advertised for sale in the Alexandria Gazette
: "The house is substantially built of stone and contains 1,088 spindles with a large proportion of carding machinery of the best kind and in good order. It has twine machinery just completed, capable of converting nearly half the yarn into seine twine [strong small-diameter twine], and there is a room in the building for looms and power to operate them.
Part of the ironworks wall, ca. 1900 All photographs courtesy Mill House Museum
Grain mill complex, bridge, and cotton mill ruins, ca 1900s.
Cotton mill ruins, south side, 1906 photo — Courtesy Mill House Museum
(You Are Here map legend) Bridge to Alexandria, Cotton Mill, Cotton Warehouse, Janney's Country Mill and Saw Mill, Janney's Merchant Grain Mill, Picking House, Toll House, Upper and Lower Mill Race, Waterwheel House, Wharf. Courtesy Darryl Hawkins