The Fairfax Resolves Chapter, Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), had the honor to host the commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of the opening of Mt. Vernon’s gristmill. Our celebration was held at 1PM on 30 October in conjunction with Mt. Vernon’s own commemoration of the event. We set up near the fence line with the property’s distillery as a backdrop near the public’s access to both the gift shop and the gristmill. We were pleased to note that some of the public stopped and watched our program, thus achieving some of the objectives of the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution Recognition Program.
Special guests Jeff Thomas, Virginia SAR President and Richard Rattan, Registrar for the Virginia Society Organization of the Founders and Patriots of American gave greetings after the opening of the program.
Tim Dioquino, Chairman of Virginia’s SAR 250th Anniversary Committee, spoke of the National Society’s America 250 Committee’s efforts at the national, state and local levels to promote the commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution and the establishment of the United States. Celebrations are to include 250th events which began from the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1764 to the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, a span in the modern era from 2014 – 2033. Activities to support this great celebration will include the publicizing and raising awareness of these historical events in partnership with organizations such as Scouting, veterans, civic clubs and other patriotic lineage societies.
Jeff Thomas spoke next and gave an excellent presentation on the history and significance of Mt. Vernon’s gristmill. The present gristmill is a reconstruction of the mill completed in 1771. The 1771 mill was a replacement of an earlier mill as the older mill was incapable of producing sufficient high-grade flour. The increased production of the new mill enabled Washington to begin to transition from tobacco to wheat. The new mill also allowed Washington to become less dependent upon tobacco prices set in England as his grain was exported to a wider market.
With the onset of the war in 1775, long standing channels of trade were suddenly closed to merchants, farmers and fishermen. However, grain farmers fared relatively well as their products were in great demand. When the Continental Army moved to New York in the spring of 1776, it found that New England could not provide sufficient wheat, so the Army began to import flour from Maryland and Virginia, which was contracted from mills on the James, York Rappahannock and Potomac rivers.
It is probable that Mount Vernon’s gristmill provided flour for this effort. During the Virginia military campaign of 1781, Washington’s need for increased supplies was conveyed to Virginia’s Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr. The Governor subsequently issued a requisition system requiring all farms to provide a quarter of their wheat crop to the mills which in turn supported the Army.
The success of this anniversary’s commemoration was due in large part to the contribution of compatriots from the Col James Wood II, George Washington, George Mason, and Culpeper Minutemen Chapters. Following the ceremony, all had the opportunity to tour both the gristmill and distillery. Many of us also sampled 18th century baked goods from the Half Crown Bakehouse which uses grains ground in Washington’s Gristmill, the latter was a part of Mt. Vernon’s commemoration.
By David E. Cook
Photograph Caption (L to R)
Marc Robinson, Sean Carrigan, Darrin Schmidt, Brett Osborne, Tim Dioquino, Charles Jameson, David Cook, Larry McKinley, Jeff Thomas, Ken Morris, John Thomas, Paul Christensen, and Dale Corey.
Photograph provided with the permission of Compatriot Charles Jameson