Some of the earliest business in Occoquan was King Carter's landing where copper and tobacco were shipped down the river. Later John Ballendine built the mill and Rockledge Mansion on the west edge of town. Nathaniel Ellicott took over the mill, established the town in 1804, and set up one of the first toll crossings of the Occoquan, making it a key part of the route from Alexandria to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Because of the importance of this route, this town became a crossing for Civil War armies, and a few clashes took place around town.
Today the historic downtown is about three blocks by three blocks. The highlights are the old mill, Rockledge, and numerous small shops on Mill Street along the water. The town boasts numerous buildings from the 1700s and 1800s, many included on Occoquan's ghost tours.
During the Civil War, the main road between Alexandria and Fredericksburg passed through Occoquan. A pontoon bridge, built in 1863 by Union forces, provided the north's route over the river, while the river was also often forded.
On 19 December 1862, Occoquan saw military action as Confederate cavalry under JEB Stuart and Wade Hampton captured some 25 Union supply wagons and 50 soldiers. On the 28th day of this same month JEB Stuart clashed with Union Cavalry from the area, killing 50 additional Union soldiers in an ambush.
As some point in 1862, Hampton made Occoquan's Hammill Hotel his headquarters.
In July 1863, on the way to Gettysburg, portions of Lee's army crossed the Occoquon here in town. A few weeks later, after Lee's devastating defeat at Gettysburg, portions of the retreating Confederate army reentered Virginia, eventually crossing the Occoquan here before retiring around Richmond.
The Occoquan's old wharves were located on the river right at the center of town. Today this area is known as Mamie Davis Park, and it provides access to the river walk and docks. Next to this historic site are modern buildings that look like expensive new apartments or condos on the water. Across the street is the VFW.
A plaque at the site of the former wharves reads:
Occoquan’s Public Wharf was here.
This wharf and others at the
Occoquan River’s highest navigable
point were key to the 19th- and
early 20th-century town’s pros-
perity. Ships were built, barges
carried grain to Ellicott's Mill,
and flour, logs, fish and ice were
shipped downstream. Boats brought
traveling shows and weekend
Town of Occoquan.
The Potomac Nationals -- or P-Nats (Pee Gnats?) -- are the Washington Nationals' A-level team that plays about 20 miles south of the city in Woodbridge, Virginia. Their home field is called G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium and it is located in the suburbs of Northern Virginia.
We saw the Lynchburg Hillcats (Pittsburgh Pirates A affiliate) play the P-Nats on 15 July 2009. The game started quickly with a solo home run by former Nationals prospect Lastings Milledge hitting a solo homer, before Washington went up 4-1. Later Milledge hit his second homer, a two-run shot to tie the game at 4, before Washington eventually won 8-4. During the game, Pittsburgh's #1 draft pick in 2008, Pedro Alvarez, showed up in street clothes to cheer on his former squad. This future star, who recieved a $6.4 million signing bonus from the Pirates, was very friendly and happy to chat with all the fans and players. I look forward to seeing him and Milledge play in Pittsburgh.
The Stadium was originally called Davis Ford Park, when it was constructed in 1984. Later its name changed to Prince William County Stadium, before being named for Prince William County Supervisor G. Richard Pfitzner in 1995. Pfitzner is known as the man who brought (stole?) the team from Alexandria, Virginia in 1984. Pfitzner Stadium supposedly holds 6,000 spectators, but it looks much smaller than that to me. I'd guess only 200 to 300 people watched the game I attended.
The Potomac Nationals began play in Alexandria, Virginia in 1979 as the Alexandria Dukes. In 1984 the team moved to this modern facility and was renamed the Potomac Pirates. Since its relocation to Woodbridge, the team has also been the affiliate of the Yankees, White Sox, Cardinals, Reds, and since 2005 the Nationals.
Hammill Hotel stands at the corner of Union and Commerce Streets in historic Occoquan. This building, constructed in 1804, is the oldest brick structure in Occoquan. During the Civil War, Confederate General Wade Hampton established his brigade headquarters here in the winter of 1862.
A sign in front of the old hotel building reads:
Old Hammill Hotel
The three-story hotel, named for operator Edward Hammill, may be Occoquan’s first brick building. Tradition says it was built in 1804, but it likely dates from c. 1830. It was the Town’s premier inn. Confederate Col. Wade Hampton made it his headquarters in 1862. The 1916 town fire damaged the hotel. It was converted to apartments in 1942.
Town of Occoquan.
Like many other communities throughout America, Prince William County was directly touched by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Twenty two Americans from this suburban county died that day, most 20 miles north at the Pentagon. In 2006 the county created a memorial to honor the victims of this terrible crime. It consists of a pentagonal-shaped pool in honor of the Pentagon with two identical fountains to memorialize the World Trade Center, surrounded a Pennsylvania flagstone plaza to commemorate the heroes of Flight 93 who died in the crash in Pennsylvania. Near the pool and fountains is a piece of the Pentagon that was removed from the rubble of the destroyed section.
Nearby is the Roll of Honor which contains names of those from PW County who died in World War I, World War II, and Vietnam.
A plaque near the monument reads:
This memorial is dedicated to the greater Prince William area residents and all those who died as a result of the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. The shape of the reflecting pool and plaza recall the 184 lives lost at the Pentagon. The two columns of water represent the 2,749 lives lost at the World Trade Center in New York City. The stone that encircles the plaza is Pennsylvania Flagstone, a tribute to the 40 lives lost near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The single stone to the left of this plaque is an original limestone block from the collapsed portion of the Pentagon. The names of the greater Prince William area victims, most of whom perished at the Pentagon, are inscribed on the West wall of the reflecting pool.
Today, we stand united to honor their memory and embrace America's patriotic spirit.
Rockledge is a beautiful stone mansion that sits on the west side of town just across the street from Ellicott's Mill. It was constructed by John Ballendine around 1757, just a few years after he built the mill. This house and the mill existed almost 50 years before the town was laid out by Ellicott.
Rockledge is a popular spot for weddings and other large functions.
The marker reads,
John Ballendine built this finely
proportioned Georgian House,
“Rockledge,” in c. 1760. William
Buckland, a premier colonial
Chesapeake architect, reportedly
designed it. “Rockledge” is a rare
example of a Tidewater Virginia
stone dwelling. Several entre-
preneurs who sought to maximize
Occoquan’s potential as a port and
industrial town resided there.
Town of Occoquan.
Occoquan's first mill was established in 1755 by John Ballendine, who also constructed the Rockledge mansion directly across the street during the same time period. Later the mill was run by Nathaniel Ellicott, who also, in 1797, built the first toll bridge over the Occoquan River near the mill. and, in 1804, laid out the town of Occoquan.
This mill was the first automated grist mill in the entire US, and it remained in operation for 175 until it was destroyed by fire. The original mill house remains as the museum, some remnants of the mill's foundation are visible along the river below the mill house.
The sign at Ellicott's Mill, on the west end of the historic district, reads:
John Ballendine established
this gristmill at the Occoquan
Falls ca. 1755. By 1800 it was
owned by Nathaniel Ellicott and
housed machinery to unload grain
from wagons or barges, grind it,
and return it to its carrier.
The building, the region’s first
automated gristmill, burned in
1924. Only the Miller’s House, now
the Mill House Museum, remains.
Town of Occoquan
10 miles (16 km) south of Occoquan is a very nice forested area perfect for hiking and camping. Run by the National Park Service, Prince William Forest Park has a wide variety of hiking trails for all levels of fitness. It's a pleasant diversion from the bustle inside "the Beltway."
Entry fee is $5 per vehicle per week. An annual pass for the Park costs $20. National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass ($80) is valid.
If it's a nice day, take advantage of the opportunity to wander around. Admire the architecture and unique designs. Window shop, or if you're feeling bold and/or rich, go inside the shops and buy something.
Across the stream from town is a nice little waterfall. There are nice walking paths around the area as well. If you like, you can walk right above the waterfall and look down -- but be aware this is a popular "make-out" area, so be careful not to disturb anyone. ;)
After the damage from Hurricane Agnes in 1972, the town had to be reproduced to reflect its original glory. Besides the colonial style architecture, there is plenty to do here from shopping, antiquing, fine dining, water sport, and people watching. It seems rather artsy from the outside, but go into town, meet the folks. They're artsy without being snooty.
Held on June 4th & 5th every year, the first full weekend, as well as in the first full weekend in September. Arts and crafts, food as well as a children's booth. Get there early, as the place becomes packed very early.