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New historical marker erected at River Mill Park in town of Occoquan

The Town of Occoquan recently received a new historical marker, situated at the base of the Nathaniel Ellicott footbridge and the town’s River Mill Park.  This new marker details the history of the Ballendine Ironworks and the Janney Cotton Mill. 

According to Mayor Earnie Porta, the marker is the brainchild of Mill House Museum Administrator, Dolores Elder, who spearheaded the effort through the Occoquan Historical Society, which paid for the marker. 

“The credit for this really belongs to Dolores,” said Porta.  “She is the one who came up with the idea, put together the draft text and photos, and then shepherded things through to completion.”

The text of the marker was edited by John Salmon, a historian for the Civil War Trails Program who has served as the archivist for state records at the Library of Virginia, while the map on the marker was drawn by Darryl Hawkins, according to Mayor Porta.

Ballendine Ironworks, which was established in the middle of the 18th century by John Ballendine at the falls of the Occoquan, represented the first significant industry near what is today the town of Occoquan.  It was Ballendine who built the iconic Rockledge in 1755, which is currently the oldest structure in the town.

Janney’s Cotton Mill is a later structure built in 1828 by a prominent Quaker family – the Janneys – who eventually owned Rockledge, as well as the large mill complex that was important for more than a century in Occoquan and several other businesses in town.  Destroyed by fire in the 1860s, the now nonexistent ruins of the Cotton Mill were a popular social gathering spot well into the 20th century. 

Mayor Porta said Occoquan prides itself on displaying a great deal of history in a small, walkable area and using a variety of different types of historical markers to tell its story.  These include state and county historical markers, town historical markers, Civil War Trails Program markers, traditional markers installed by the Occoquan Historical Society, and QR code markers that link to a website.  This latest marker is a great new addition, according to the mayor.
Settled in the middle of the 18th century, the historic riverfront town of Occoquan is home to a variety of historic buildings and an eclectic mix of more than one hundred shops and restaurants. It is particularly well known for its annual spring and fall craft shows held in the streets of the town.

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