Locke’s Mill

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Reliable transportation via the Shenandoah River, and Clarke County’s agriculturally rich limestone soils combined to make milling a remarkably profitable enterprise in the county. Locke’s Mill is a legacy of Clarke’s rural milling industry, which survived during the Civil War and the subsequent collapse of the South’s slave-based economy. The milling industry from 1870 to 1930 constituted the bulk of Clarke’s economic activity, according to the U. S. Agricultural Census. Locke’s Mill exemplifies the advanced system of “continuous milling” employed in the county. That system, developed by 18th-century inventor Oliver Evans, relied on elevators, pulleys, and augers to move grain and flour through the mill. The Oliver Evans system eliminated the manual labor required to haul sacks through a mill and enhanced production, radically transforming America’s milling industry. The system, along with others, heralded the Industrial Revolution in Clarke County. The original Locke’s Mill was likely adapted to the Evans system in the late 1700s by John Holker, a European industrialist attracted to investment opportunities in Clarke County. In 1876, Joseph Price rebuilt the mill re-incorporating the Evans system, and the mill remained active until 1936, when flooding heavily damaged the mill and production ceased. Advances in technology – steam power, ‘rolling mills,’ and the railroad – and flooding rendered Locke’s Mill obsolete for nearly 60 years. In 1992 the mill was restored, largely reviving Joseph Price’s work, although only pieces of the Evans system remain. Today Locke’s Mill, located in the Greenway Rural Historic District, primarily serves local distilleries for custom milling work, maintaining a two-and-a-half-century tradition of local milling.

Last Updated: November 9, 2023

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VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark

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