Mount Vernon: Gristmill

Augustine Washington, George Washington’s father, likely had an operating mill on his plantation (the future Mount Vernon) as early as the 1730s, but by the 1760s this dilapidated mill was in great need of a replacement. By 1769, George Washington had decided to create a new mill that would be located along Dogue Run, about a half-mile away from the old mill.

Washington’s resolve to improve and expand his Gristmill enterprise marked a significant turning point in the management of his plantation. During the 1760s Washington moved away from tobacco cultivation and began to plant more grains, primarily wheat and corn. This transition gave Washington a dependable cash crop that was not dependent upon markets in England. With an expanded and more efficient Gristmill, Washington could turn his crops into flour and cornmeal. The Gristmill could also bring in revenue by charging neighboring farmers a fee to grind their grain.

In 1783, Washington described the mill in one of his letters, “two pair of Stones, one pair of which are French-burr, employed in the merchant business. The Mill house is of Stone, large and commodious, the dwelling house, which is convenient, is within 30 yards of it; and has a garden enclosed adjoining. A Cooper’s Shop is also near, and the whole convenient to tide water.”

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