People are survivors, and we celebrate and acknowledge that when they recover from a deadly illness, come out of a terrible experience, or find the courage to keep going after loss. What if I told you there’s a monument to survival and community work? Not a monument in the traditional sense – rather a structure that survived an inferno that consumed the Shenandoah Valley through the courage of two young women and and a rather compassionate Yankee.
The place? Edinburg Mill. Let’s stop here and take a look at the history…
If you’ve been in Winchester or Strasburg, you’ll head south on Interstate 81 or Highway 11 until you reach Edinburg which is approximately twenty miles south of Strasburg. If you’re on the interstate take exit 279 for VA-185/VA-675 and follow the signs to Edinburg.
The mill is located on the south side of town and is easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. If you’re driving south it will be on your right, just after the bridge over Stony Creek. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to grab a map of the valley or put the address in a GPS to help guide you to the location.
- 214 S. Main Street Edinburg VA 22824
- Monday- Saturday, 9:30 – 5:30; Sunday, Noon-5
- Admission: $3 to view the 2nd and 3rd stories of the building and the film
- Phone: (540) 984-8400
- Website: https://www.edinburgmill.com/
- The mill is multi-level, but handicap accessible. Most displays are located on the mill’s second floor and include Civil War artifacts and other items of regional history interest.
- Plan time to view the historical documentary “The Burning” which focuses on autumn 1864 in the Shenandoah Valley. Tip: if you don’t have time to see the film, ask to purchase it on DVD!
- Be sure to visit the ducks and take a stroll along the creek.
- I have not had the chance to dine at Edinburg Mill, but I’ve heard rave reviews! Give it a try, tell me what I’ve missed, and I’m already in a hurry to get back…
Let’s Talk History
Major George Grandstaff built this mill in 1848. Since the Shenandoah Valley offered prime agricultural opportunity, mills were a necessary part of the towns and local societies to grind the grain and prepare it for transportation. The large mill structures relied on a water source to turn the heavy millstones and mechanical advantages, pulleys, weights, slopes, and other examples of science at work to make the mill operate.
During the 1864 Autumn Campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, Union General Sheridan directed his officers and soldiers to destroy the agriculture, mills, and production in the northern half of the Shenandoah Valley. Few farms or grain mills escaped this event which became known as “The Burning.” However, the mill at Edinburg was spared, remaining one of the few antebellum or war-era mills in the area to still stand.
According to local story, granddaughters of the mill’s owner saw Union soldiers torch the structure and rushed to see General Sheridan. The girls, Nellie and Melvina Grandstaff, approached the general, quickly and clearly telling about their grandfather’s military service in the Mexican-American War and begging the Union troops to spare the family establishment. Impressed, Sheridan wrote orders instructing the soldiers to extinguish the fire at the mill. The invaders and local citizens formed a bucket brigade and saved the mill; a large burned beam was the only destruction. Despite the general’s generosity, the girls stayed unrepentant rebels; according to the story, Sheridan asked them to name their puppy after him, but Nellie retorted “she would not even name a dog after him!”
Edinburg Mill operated until 1978, when it was privately purchased. Now, the mill is preserved on the National Register of Historic Places and a team of volunteers and historians keep the mill and local history alive.
What We’re Looking At
Today, historic Edinburg Mill is a museum and hosts a fine restaurant. The structure tells the story of the local area literally in its walls and beams and through interior displays. The Edinburg/Madison District museum hosts some of the exhibits that occasionally change to highlight new stories. Be sure to go inside and explore for yourself!
About fifteen minutes south of Edinburg on Route 11, you’ll arrive in Mount Jackson. If you’ve read campaign studies about the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War, you’ve certainly heard this town’s name before. Armies frequently passed through, and there’s one easily accessible place that “witnessed” the passing of the soldiers.
Mount Jackson Union Church stands at 5401 Main Street, Mount Jackson, VA 22842. The current brick structure was built in 1825, even before Edinburg Mill. Sometimes, you’ll find the church open, but even if it’s not, see if the grounds gate is open. The historic church is surrounded by a wonderful old cemetery. Look carefully on the northside of the church, and you’ll even find the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier, Daniel Gray.
Many of small towns along Route 11 have historical centers and some even have self-guided walking tours to explore and see the old buildings. Don’t be shy about politely asking a town resident if that’s available!