Millers Gather at Colvin Run Mill for Special Workshop

Millers came from across the country to learn about Colvin Run Mill.

On a muggy morning in early May, a dozen millers from six states gathered around Mason Maddox at Colvin Run Mill Historic Site to learn about the historic gristmill. Maddox, the site’s miller for the past 15 years, shared his intimate knowledge of the mill with the group which was in town for a two-day workshop on running and preserving antique gristmills.

Manager Mike Henry said, “I’m sure you’ll find this hard to believe, but courses in how to run an 1811 gristmill aren’t being taught at most venues of higher education.”

This was the third consecutive year Colvin Run has hosted a Society for the Preservation of Old Mills (SPOOM) workshop. The comprehensive class, billed as “All hands-on. No lectures!”, covered operation of an overshot water wheel, milling on horizontal stones, handling and cleaning grains, packaging, storage of grain and milled products, lubrication, cleaning/housekeeping/pests, conducting tours and interpretation, safety precautions, grits separation, milling on a Meadows Mill, belting machinery and belt splicing, and wooden gearing/machinery. Attendees earned credits toward SPOOM Miller Certification, which verifies their expertise in the craft of operating antique mills.

Miller Mason Maddox discusses the inner workings of the mill.

In his laid back, friendly manner, Maddox spoke with enthusiasm about the mill and shared anecdotes from his experiences over the years. Attendees listened intently and asked questions and pointed out similarities and differences between Colvin Run Mill and their mills. Gary Hobbs, a miller from Beck’s Mill in Salem, IN, noted that his mill uses a pitchback water wheel (the wheel rotates in the opposite direction as Colvin Run’s wheel) and uses under runners (the bottom stone turns while the top stone remains still). Colvin Run’s overshot water wheel was built of oak in 1970 to reproduce the water wheel that powered the machinery in the c. 1811 mill.

The millers attended the workshop for a variety of reasons. Myron Short, also from Beck’s Mill, said, “I’m here to learn the different styles of milling.”

“I’m more interested in the grits,” stated Hobbs, as he explained that his main reason for attending the workshop was to find out how to increase grits production. No matter why the millers came, they left with a better understanding of Colvin Run Mill’s inner workings and how the Fairfax County Park Authority interprets the site for the public.

Colvin Run Mill is a restored c. 1811 gristmill.

Colvin Run Mill Historic Site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Virginia Landmark. The park also holds a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark designation from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The public may attend grinding demonstrations from noon to 3 p.m. on May 20, June 3 and 17, July 1 and 15, and August 5 and 19.

Written by Matthew Kaiser, deputy public information officer

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

2 thoughts on “Millers Gather at Colvin Run Mill for Special Workshop

  1. The Flippins

    We can’t begin to express how much we enjoyed the milling workshop. And Mr. Maddox is as much of a treasure as the mill itself.


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