Fredericksburg's Lower Canal
The falls of the Rappahannock River powered local industries for more than two centuries. Francis Thornton established the first grist mill around 1720. By 1770, James Hunter operated an iron forge complex in Stafford. The Falmouth Canal (c.1800) fed additional Stafford industries and an extension of the raceway at Thorntons Mill also served newer industries. Water power helped Fredericksburg recover from the devastation of the Civil War and even attracted hydroelectric production as early as 1887. In time, electrification allowed plants to be built away from the river, which often flooded. After a new hydroelectric plant opened in 1910, fed by Fredericksburgs upper canal, this lower canal fell into disuse.
1. Hunters lron Works, c. 1770-1862
2. Falmouth mills, c. 179O-c. 1880
3. Lawrences Mill, 1806
4. Diversion dam to feed lower canal, 1887/1907
5. Stone bridge abutment
6. Concrete control gates, 1907
7. Thorntons Mill, c. 1720
8. Knox Mill, (became Rappahannock Electric Light & Power Co. in 1887)
9. Bridgewater Mill (Ficklens Mill), 1822-1912
10. Fredericksburg Wood Working Plant (Knox), 1896-1904
11. Hollingsworth Mill (later Knox)
This 1856 lithograph
shows the lower canal as well as several mills. (Courtesy of James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library)
These concrete control gates (site #6 on the map) were constructed in 1907 to improve Fredericksburg's lower canal. Though sometimes obscured by nature, the remnants of water-powered industries can still be found.
The Bridgewater Mill (once called Ficklen's Mill) is site #9 on the map. The surviving stone foundations are extensive.
Fredericksburgs Upper Canal
Fredericksburg's upper canal was initially part of the Rappahannock Navigation system. Construction began in 1829 and a navigable system of dams and canals that bypassed the rivers rapids had reached 50 miles upstream by 1849. Canal boats carried agricultural goods and timber downstream and moved supplies and equipment upstream for a thriving gold mining industry. New railways, however, cut into the navigation companys markets and gold strikes in California drew mining activity to the West. In 1854-55, the Fredericksburg Water Power Company acquired this under-used canal and converted it to a raceway. As a power canal, it remained in use into the 1960s, feeding the turbines of the Embrey Power Station to produce hydroelectricity.
A. Site of Fredericksburg Water Power Co. Dam (1855/1889) and Embrey Dam (1910)
C. Stone bridge abutment
D. Holding pond (for municipal water treatment plant—demolished)
E. Paper mill site
F. Canal turning basin
G. Shepherds Mill
H. Germania Mills (Myer & Brulle), 1866/concrete grain elevator, 1917
I. Municipal Electric Generating Plant, 1901-1919
J. Washington Woolen Mills, 1859-1910
K. Embrey Power Station, 1910-c. 1962
L. Klotz Throwing Co. (Virginia Silk Mills), 1889-1934
This 1856 lithograph shows the lower canal as well as several mills. (Courtesy of James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library)
The once prominent Klotz Throwing Company (also known as the Virginia Silk Mills) is site "L" on the map. Though reduced to a single story structure, some of its architectural features remain evident.