Among the Ruins at Jericho Mill

Edward Alexander and Chris Mackowski

As a volunteer at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, I had the privilege this week  to join an NPS site visit to Jericho Mills on the North Anna battlefield. The property still belongs to the Civil War Trust, although it will eventually be ceded to Richmond National Battlefield. Because of various legal and liability issues, the property is not yet accessible to the public. Fortunately, we were given special permission to access the property as part of ongoing efforts for study and preservation. Fellow ECW author Edward Alexander, a ranger at Pamplin Historical Park, was among the other historians on the trip.

As part of the excursion, a number of us forded the North Anna River itself and walked among the ruins of the old mill.

Hard to see, the ruins of the mill peek out from under the diagonal tree on the left.

The mill site sits on the north bank, barely visible poking through the trees. Large rock formations jut out from the north bank and spill into the river. A dam once stretched diagonally across the river here, and stone foundation offers a path to the far side. The water is relatively low despite the recent rains, but the path still requires wet feet, shins, and thighs.

The water was moving pretty quickly, and it took a couple intrepid interns from Richmond National Battlefield to first take the plunge. Edward was in the water soon thereafter, taking a more direct—but deeper—path across the river. My honor at stake, I plunged in after him!

As I crossed, I thought of the description offered by an infantryman who made the crossing 151 years earlier: “The bottom of the river was stony, and the stones were slippery,” he wrote. “This, with the swiftness of the stream, made the footing of the most active rather precarious.”

Edward and I stand on the far shore after having waded through a deep spot while others follow a shallower route. (photo courtesy of Becky Oakes, who stands in the river, right)
Edward and I stand on the far shore after having waded through a deep spot while others follow a shallower route. (photo courtesy of Becky Oakes, who stands in the river, right)

Soon, eleven of us made it to the far bank to explore. The ruins are extensive. They evoked the feel of an old Irish castle somehow transplanted into a jungle.

The north river bank is steep, and the mill complex climbed up the bank in multiple levels, topped by a pair of high chimneys, with yet another level above.

The road to the river ran through the mill complex. “[T]he road down either side was very rough,” a V Corps surgeon said, “being partly new corduroy, and in part a series of rocky steps and shelves caused by the irregular wearing away of the road by a small stream which flowed down its center.”

Edward and I thought we would share with you a glimpse of life among the ruins of Jericho Mill.

Two levels of the mill are visible in this photo; the lowermost level was a veritable maze of walls.
A fireplace in the hillside.
One of two chimneys that stand near the top of the ruins.
After the group explored Jericho Mills, historian Bobby Krick from Richmond explained some of the background about Hanover County's North Anna Battlefield Park at Ox Ford.
After the group explored Jericho Mills, historian Bobby Krick from Richmond explained some of the background about Hanover County’s North Anna Battlefield Park at Ox Ford.

(In a friendly bit of rivalry, kudos to the interns from Richmond who headed into the river first and who climbed to the highest level of the ruins. Edward was the first one over the river, though, and he and I were the first to the ruins, so we staked our claim! Reps from Monocacy, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, and Manasass also explored with us. Our thanks to all those who made the trip possible.)

9 Responses to Among the Ruins at Jericho Mill

  1. Thank You! Those words are not enough to express how I feel about your article and pictures of this location that was in my family. I will save to my files about my family heritage. My only regret is that I am too old and crippled up to take on such trip. I can only dream while reading and looking at your posting.
    My line: Houston, Hargrave, Quarles, Redd, Hacket.

  2. Why bother picking your steps for the safest way when recklessly charging across will get you there quicker? James Ledlie would agree.

  3. The Fontaine Maury Family Society is hoping to have a tour of the Fontaine Farm on the Anna River/Jericho Mills battlegrounds. Can you advise me on steps to take to contact the correct persons to contact. Thank you, Mary Borjon, Fontaine family descendant.

  4. It is fascinating to read all of the articles and see the pictures that have been taken of the Jericho Mills project. Yes, it was the Fontaine Farm years ago, but my father and mother, Capt. Cecil G. McKinney and wife purchased, give or take 517 acres, the farm in Aug 1946, renamed it Anchor’s Down and it remained in the family until it was purchased by the Civil War Trust from my nephews. As a teenager I would ride my horse through the wooded areas and not realize the history behind the land. Down by the North Anna River in July 1993, my husband, with a riverside congregation of about 60 people and an Episcopal minster was sent down the North Anna in a Episcopal burial service. He used to love the rocks out in the middle of the river to recline on.
    I know my father would be very pleased of the wonderful purchase. If alive he would be 118 years old.

    1. Charles McKinney was a teacher of mind. He lived near the property you are speaking of. Was he in your family?

      1. Charles was my brother. He lived on the property starting in 1947 until he moved to Ashland and I purchased my mother home and lived there off and on until I moved to Florida and sold out. Charles was 15 years older than I, and he once was my teacher at Ashland High School, back in 1953. The nephews I spoke of are Charles’ sons.

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