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Full text of "Riggs Mill."

RIGGS MILL 
THESIS 



Presented To- 

TAU BETA PI 
April 28,1930 



By: William Edward Roberts '31 



L„ Dr. 1, L e Taliaferro - U. of M. 

2. Mr. Will Freeman - 

3. Mr. Enos Ray - 
4» Mr. John Joy - 
5„ Mr. Ellin - 

o. The Washington Star - June 7, 1914* 

7, The Washington Herald - July 13, 13 13 . 

8. Land Reoords, Prince Georges County, Maryland, 

at Marlboro. 



SUM M ART 

Ri t _L; i -_ , urted in 17b-j, and finished in 1775* remains 
today one of the historic spots in the valley of the Northwestern 
Branch of the Anaoostia River. After a life run of one hu 
aid bhirty~fi irs it ceased to operate in 1}10. It was noted 

for the quality of its flour. Tne mill is one of the largest ever 
built in this vicinity. The stone structure of rubble masonry is 
in a state of decay. The interior, although it has been mis— 
treated, is in fair sondition. 

Tin mill, be sides being u center of industry, was th« center 
of social attractions, as the older residents will recall. -h 

proper care this historic mill could be preserved for future gen- 
erations. 



R I a S MILL 

I 

INTRODUCTION : 

Riggs Mill, or Riggs Mills as it appears on some of the maps, 
is the oldest mill in this vicinity which still stands. It is situat- 
on the Northwestern Branch of the Anacostia River, about five miles 
from the plaoe where the Branch flows into the river. It is about 
one hundred and sixty years old. TThile it is almost in ruins, the 
structure remains as a historic and picturesque relic of the days when 
this country was first inhabited. 

There are not many who know its ancient history and importance 
or there would be more visitors to see this old structure; likewise there 
are not many who yet living near by and knowing it is an ancient struct- 
ure, with a part in history, know any definite facts connected with its j 
origin and early history, as the persons who did know have since died 
and not many are left who are heirs to this information, 

Riggs idll played a big part in the history of the valley in 
which it stands and has several legends connected with it which are an 
integral part of its history and intimately connected with it, 

OTHER HILLS 

It is interesting to note other mills of past generations . 
The oldest mill but one which no longer exists was the Duck Penns 
Mill of 31adensburg, which was not so large as Riggs Mill. Other 
mills near by and almost as old are Burnt Mills, which has been traced 
as far back as I778, Calvert Mill, also in Bladensburg, but now destroy«d, 



J- 2 - 

Ray*s Mill. All of these were on the Northwest Branch. On Rock 
Creek, were Adams, Lyons, Pieroe and Blagden Mills of lesser importance. 



-5 - 

It was in the year of 17^7 that a party of hardy Englishmen with 

their wives set sail from London aboard a small and quaint wooden vessel, 

"bound for the shores of the vast continent which offered new opportuni- 

i 

ties. In the summer of I768 they reached the mouth of the Chessapeake 

and entering it sailed up to the Potomao and then up the Potomac and its 
West Branch to a peaceful and enchanting valley where they went ashore 
to make a settlement. The boat's cargo of brick was unloaded and the 
boat returned to England. 

THE FIRST HOUSE IN THE VALLEY IS BUILT. 
For a year the men toiled laying the bricks and hewing the timber 
and finally the brick home was finished. It was in this house, which 
stjll stands today, that the families lived while the grist mill and the 
little house across the road v/ere being built. The leader of the proup 
and the first owner of the mill was a nan named T/arfield. The stone was 
quarried and cut in that same valley, a? were all the beams and woodwork 
to go into the mill. The mill was fin imposing structure and the largest 
in the neighborhood. Tim little colony flourished ana en.ioyed happiness 
in the valley until an incident occurred which caused deep sorrow to every- 
one. This was the death of Ann Barber, and it is necessary to tell the 

whole legend in ordt=r to show why her death affected the froup so greatly. 
) 

THE LEGEND OF ANN BARBER. 

Ann 3arber was born in London in l800 aid her childhood days were 

filled with fear and wonder at the stories Iter mother told her of the creat 

land across the sea and its red men and vast wildernesses. As she grew 



-4- 

older she became more and more beautiful. She could not pass down the 
street without having someone remark about her grace and charm. 

After the din of war had died away, in the year l822, Ann's parents 
decided that the time was ripe for them to sail. But this was not good, news 

to Ann for she had fallen in love with a London youth, yet she spoke no word 

l 
nor shed no visible tears. As the ship sped on its way her parents stood 

in the bow looking ahead, Ann sat in the stern facing East. Vftien the party 

arrived at the mill, Ann was the only ore to shed tears. Warfield, who was 

Ann's Uncle, warmly welcomed them. 

During the nexz three years Ann changed, yet so slowly that it was 

not noticeable. One night, in the fall of l825,Ann was svtddenly stricken 

with a fever. The Doctor could do nothing when he arrived. Ann spoke 

of no pain, yet continued to groan. Then in the room lit by the glowing 

embers of the fire a flame burst forth and then died down again, and with 

this flame Ann passed into the next world. Ann was buried on the summit 

of a hill overlooking the valley. Her parents were grief-stricken and, 

although they hated to leave the body of their daughter behind, sailed 

tiack to England on the next boat. Several years later on their departure 

for England a group of her friends erected a monument to the memory of Ann, 

which still stands today. 



" 5 " 

HISTORY OF THE I.3LL. 

The mill came to be known as Adelphia Mills and remained so until 
Way 17, 1833, when it was conveyed to Nancy Lo^an by Thomas Ferrall;$t»s 
name was then changed to Logan's Mill. The next owner was George W, Riggs 
who bought it in 1863. Shortly after the Civil War the name was ohanged 
to Riggs ifi.ll, whieh name it bears today. The mill was owned by reveral 
generations of the Ftigg*s family, viz: T, Lowrason Riggs, in 1884, and 
E. Francis Riggs in 1897. In 1^20 the mill was sold to Mr* W» Bladen 
Jackson, who in tuna sold it, in 192J), te its present owner, Mrs. Mcuormick- 
Goodheart. The mill ceased to operate in 1310 after a life-run ©f one 
hundred and thirty-f?ve years - a very creditable showing for any institu- 
tion. 

Ax Handles and Spokes. 

For two years after the mill ceased to operate an aged man tramped 

from Washington to the mill every day and back again in the evening, when 

the day was drawing to a close. He; trudged up the rickety stairs to the 

top floor where he worked. His work consisted in turning out ax handles 

and spokes. One day he failed to show up and, when tne second day passed 

with no sign of him, an inquiry led to the discovery that he had reached the 

end of his journey at the seventy-fourth milestone. Br, W, L, Taliaferro 

I 

has a hammer handle which was turned out by this came man. There were two 

lathes on the top floor, but all that is left is part of one of them lying 

in the cellar of the old mill. 



- 6 - 

Mother Chew*s Recollections. 
Up the road a short distance from the mill is an ancient frame 
structure which used to be a smithy. The blacksmith *s name was Will 
Freeman who lived in the brick house built by Warfield. She iron that 
he worked with had been brought over from England for use in the mill. 
He recalled the stories of Old Mother Chew, whose real name was Mrs, 
Tabitha Chew, who died in 1885 at the age of Mnety-four, She had 
lived close by the mill all her life and clearly recalled ships of a 
fairly large lize sailing up the Northwest Branch to the mill - something 
whioh today seems inconceivable. She recalled the time when Nancy bogaib 
was the proud owner of the mill. There was painted or. the walls of the 
mill in red letters a brief history of its construction and of the period 
in which it was built, but which has since been destroyed, as was the cor- 
ner stone by playful boys. Mrs. Chew also recalled workmen putting a new 
shingle roof on the brick house, showing the- age of the structure, because 
shingle roofs last a long time. There is another house in this vicinity 
built of English brick •) a rare occurrence. Mother Chew said the ships 
brought over brick and took back a cargo of flour. 

QUALITY OF FLOUR MANUFACTURED . 

The flour was not white but was exceedingly sweet and in constant 

demand. It was of a variety widely known. In 1305 the flour won first 

prize at the Hyattsvill© Fair. Both rye and wheat flour were turned out. 



- 7- 

L«ENFANT*S ORIGINAL BURIAL GROUND 
The mill stan<?.s On a traot of land formerly known as Elizabeth *s 
Delight. In this traot of land the Rigg's family later had their priv- 
ate burial ground, Pierre Charles L 'Enfant, the great French military 
engineer, who designed and laid out the City of Washington, was buried 
here before his body was exhumed for reinterment in Arlington National 

Semetery. 

STRUCTURE OF" THE MILL. 

The mill is a stone structure of rubble masonry. The stones 
are blue stone and iron stone obtained from the valley in which the 
mill stands. There is one story underground. Above the ground 
there are two stories of stone, above which there is a super struct- 
ure of wood, covered .by a hip roof of one full story and an attic. 
The mill has a front of about fifty feet and if sixty feet In depth 
with the North side *ls the front, as indicated by the large doors 
on that side. 

Water Wheel 
The overshot water wheel - on the South Side of the mill which 
is nearest the stream — was a wooden structure with an iron bear- 
ing. The wheel was about ten feel in diameter and eight feet long. 
The axle of the wheel was a piece of wood over two feet in diameter 
into which the two by six wooden spokes were jointed by hand. There 
were some iron bars running parallel to the axle to reinforce the 
wheel* At the bearing, which rests upon the stone wall, the axle 
has three iron bands encircling it and an iron bearing about six 
inches in diameter driven into the end. 



-8. 

One- third of the water wheel is now covered by dirt and debris and the 
structure is now almost in ruins. (Reference Figure 5) Most of the 
machinery and gears connected with the wheel are just inside the wall. 
There is still some heavy machinery in place and also some large gears 
with wooden teeth. These wooden teeth are held in place by iron bands 
encircling the gear. 

Cellar . 
That the mill was a spacious and a splendid struoture is evidnnced 
by its interior. The cellar which is almost half covered by sand had, 
at its northwest corner ,a spring which came up through a hollowed stone, 
especially made for that spring. The water from this spring was noted 
in that valley. k large bin still stands in the north end of the cellar 
into v:hich the incoming grain was dumped and carried to the top floor by 
elevator chutes. A. fireplace stands in the northeast corner. 

First Floor 
On the first floor are the two burrs. Not every mill had two 
burrs as this one had. These mill stones are natural stone shaved down 
into shape. Une of the supporting boards bore the legend "Adelphia Mills." 

Second Floor . 
) In the Northeast corner of the second floor is a fireplace sur- 
rounded by a partition which must have enclosed the office. It was prob- 
ably on this floor that dances were held. This mill was a favorite spot 
in ufri ich to hold dances. On this floor there is one remaining piece of 
machinery and two bins. (Reference Figure 7) 



•9 - 
Third floor 

The third floor has a torn crusher in & fairly good condition. 
Figure o shows One piece of machinery} this figure also shows how the 
roof was built - with a stria ei half »ay up the roof on cash side on 
which the roof pests. The oak planking v; a.s used in an unfini di- 
ed condition and wa? not closely joined can be seen also. The rafters 
are mortised and tenoned at the top and the joints held by dowel pins. 
The stringers are poplar and the columns oak„ The columns are octag- 
onal shaped and about seven inches in diameter. All the stringers 
rest on the columns by means of mortised and tenoned joints and dowel 
pins. The workmanship was evidently very painstaking and slow. The 
main stringers On each floor are about twelve inches by five inohesj 
each floor rests on the one below. The second floor stringers pro- 
ject clear through the wall to the outside. The years have taken 
their toll of the building by disjointing some of tht column s* 

THE HILL RACE. 
The mill race is about nine hundred feet long, six fret wide i ai 
three feet deep. It is built up of dirt and reinforced by stone v/alls 
at the mill, at the dam, and also at one place where the stream passes 
beneath the race. The entrance from the dam consists of a stone arch 
about fifty feet long. The race could be checked at the dun or by an 
intermediate run-off (Reference figure 9) 



_* 10 - 

THE MILL DAM. 

The can a as a wooden structure reinforced by stone and concrete 

on either side. It was abcout twelve feet high ^nd backed up wa' 

/ I 

for ovft half a mile* In the winter crowds of two or three hundred 

. pie used to z. i e. In the summer there was extra fine fish- 

ing »s it hat 1 been stocked with fish. n rs. Goodheart bought t] 

mill she had the darn torn down, perhaps to destroy the fishin/r, but 
more than likely to prevent the boys fron swimming there which they 
There accustomed to ^ . Figure 8 shows all that ir left of the dam 
and how the stream that was fifty font wide is now only about eight fret. 
Cuttings of natural rocks can be seen which were used as footings for the 
wooden structure. 

OOHOHTSHS 
This old mill of real historic inportance is in i. state of decay. 
The cuter walls are crumbling rapidly and before long t] - strueture .ill 
, s. k few people are beginning to realize its value an haps 

one 1.0 pres« rv« ~ ' que spot. 



Figure #1 South View of Mill & Mill House 




Figure #2 South View of Mill 



Figure #3 North View of Mill 









Figure #7 Second Floor 




Figure #8 Site of Mill Dam 




Figure #4 House and Mill 




Figure #5 Water Wheel 




Figure #6 Third Floor of Mill 





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