Mention the 1864 Autumn Campaign in the Shenandoah Valley and among historians and Virginia locals an image comes to mind: a landscape with burning buildings and fields. Union General Sheridan directed his officers and soldiers to destroy the agriculture, mills, and production in the northern half of the Shenandoah Valley. Few farms or grain mills escaped The Burning.
However, the mill at Edinburg was spared, remaining one of the few antebellum or war-era mills in the area to still stand.
According to local story, granddaughters of the mill’s owner, Major George Grandstaff, saw Union soldiers torch the structure and rushed to see General Sheridan. The girls, Nellie and Melvina Grandstaff, approached the general, quickly and clearly telling about their grandfather’s military service in the Mexican-American War and begging the Union troops to spare the family establishment. Impressed, Sheridan wrote orders instructing the soldiers to extinguish the fire at the mill. The invaders and local citizens formed a bucket brigade and saved the mill; a large burned beam was the only destruction. Despite the general’s generosity, the girls stayed unrepentant rebels; according to the story, Sheridan asked them to name their puppy after him, but Nellie retorted “she would not even name a dog after him!”
Today, historic Edinburg Mill is a museum and hosts a fine restaurant. Retired from milling in 1978, the structure tells the story of the local area literally in its walls and beams and through interior displays. The Edinburg/Madison District museum hosts some of the exhibits.
Learn about the mill itself, agriculture in the area, transportation on the Valley Pike and local railroads, the Civil War in the Valley, and other history of regional interest. Most of the displays are located on the mill’s second floor (elevator or stairway accessible) and an admission donation is requested; be sure to plan time to view the documentary about The Burning while touring the mill.
If you don’t have time to tour the whole museum, stop anyway! There are some fine historical displays on the lower floor, antique and local shopping, and gourmet cuisine at The Edinburg Mill Restaurant. If you’re traveling with little ones, be sure to visit the ducks and take a stroll along the river.
Make Edinburg Mill a stop on your next trip through the Shenandoah Valley and enjoy the local history and Civil War artifacts and stories.
- Mill Website – www.edinburgmill.com
- Edinburg Mill – 214 S. Main St., Edinburg, VA 22824 (along Route 11)
- Hours: Monday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. (call ahead if the weather is bad to see if the museum is open)