Reportedly, the earliest presence of a mill in Raccoon Ford dates to the late 18th century. We continue to piece together information about this important enterprise within the community. As research continues, our goal is to transform the informational nuggets below into a chronology of mill operations in the ford.
A notice in the Richmond Enquirer of July 19, 1825 advertised the Rackoon Ford Mills for sale. (Many references cite this spelling, Rackoon, as the original name of the village or as the early spelling of the village name. However, a letter to the editor printed in the Enquirer in August 1862 also used this spelling.)
The ad states:
The subscribers having purchased the above mills under a deed of trust, but not being acquainted with the milling business, are disposed to sell them very cheap. They lie on the Rapid Ann River, in the counties of Orange and Culpeper, and consist of a Manufacturing, Grist, Saw, and Plaster Mill; a picking Gin and a Carding Machine. The Manufacturing Mill is undergoing suitable repairs for the next grinding season. The Grist Mill, &c. are new.
This property is so advantageously located that it is believed twenty-five thousand bushels of wheat can be commanded with much ease–that the toll from the corn mill will (e)average two hundred and fifty barrels, and that the saw mill, (c)arding machine, &c. will command a valuable custom under proper management. All persons disposed to engage in the milling business, are invited to make a personal inspection, as the subscribers feel confident, so good a bargain will rarely be offered in property of this kind.
The Richmond Enquirer of August 10, 1838 posted an auction notice for the estate of William Hansbrough, whose property straddled the Rapidan River. As a selling point to generate interest in the property, the auction notice refers to “three very fine merchant mills upon the river,” one of which was identified as Raccoon Ford Mills.
The Richmond Enquirer of July 22, 1845 contained the following notice:
This is to notify Jeremiah Beckham that I shall proceed to take the deposition of John Porter and others, at the Rackoon Ford Mill in the county of Orange on the 30th August near, between sun-rise and sun-set, and continue the same from day to day until completed – to be read as evidence in a suit pending in the Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery for the county of Orange, in which I am plaintiff and you are defendant. JAMES BECKHAM
From the Alexandria Gazette of January 12, 1866:
WANTED immediately a good MILLER to take charge of the Raccoon Ford Mills on the Rapidan River, in the county of Orange. A man without a family preferred. Apply at once to C.B. Porter at the Mill. For particulars, apply to Messrs. T.A. Brewis & Co., Alexandria, VA.
The map below is an overlay of a plat found in the Chancery Causes at the Library of Virginia in Richmond (microfilm reel LVA632-P301; chancery cause 1882-011 Orange County; Phillip Pannill v Jeremiah Pannill, etc.).
The colored parts are current conditions, with lot lines in red. The plat detail in black was drawn by a surveyor of that era, Joseph J. Halsey, in 1874. Many of his property lines are still recognizable today. Many have also been superseded. Note the one acre rectangular parcel that appears to cross the “Rapid Ann” River. Could that be a mill? Halsey had noted: “Mill Tract 99 1/2 acres.”
The Midland Journal of Rising Sun, MD reported on November 19, 1886:
I.M. Clayton Carhart of Zion recently paid a visit to Haines England, an old neighbor, who is at present established in the milling business at Raccoon Ford in Culpepper county, VA. While there he killed a wild turkey and “any number” of partridges.
The Fredericksburg Free Lance on May 23, 1903 reported the death of R.H. England of Raccoon Ford.
Mr. Robert Haines England died Thursday at his residence, at Raccoon Ford, aged 76 years. Mr. England was a native of Cecil County, Maryland but moved to Virginia 27 years ago. He was a well known farmer and mill owner at Raccoon Ford. He is survived by a widow and three children – Mr. Edward E. England of Culpeper County, Mrs. Edward Difford of Pennsylvania, and Mrs. E.J. Haskwell of Baltimore. His body was taken to Cecil County, Maryland for interment.
The Richmond Times Dispatch on November 25, 1904 reported that Mr. E.E. England has sold his mills at Raccoon Ford on the Rapidan River and has purchased the Nalle Mills in Culpeper county. The Times Dispatch reported on March 5, 1905 that Mr. Allie Rhoades, of Orange county, has purchased the Raccoon Ford mill and farm in Culpeper county and the store and stock of goods from Mr. G.B.W. Nalle at that place.
On April 2, 1911, I.S. England of Raccoon Ford placed the following ad in the Times Dispatch:
WANTED, A MILLER AT ONCE AT the Raccoon Ford Mills. Address I.S. England. Raccoon Ford, VA.
However, shortly thereafter in June 1911, Raccoon Ford Mills ceased operations due to fire. On June 13, The Free Lance ran the following notice about the loss of the mill, attributing ownership to E.E. England:
On December 31, 1911, six months after the fire, I.S. England again placed a classified ad seeking a miller AT ONCE. Perhaps Raccoon Ford Mills had been rebuilt?