The Germania Mill Blaze

As the first Germania Mill blazed, local artist Gustavus Erickson captured the fury of the flames. Earlier, he had painted the conflagration at the woolen factory. The painting was given by Mrs. Frances Jones in memory of Charles Seddon Latham and William Deacon Latham, both Gustavus Erickson paintings are owned by the Fredericksburg Museum and Cultural Center.

 This image appears on HistoryPoint courtesy of the Fredericksburg Museum and Cultural Center, who retains all rights to further publication.

John H. Myer, a native of Hanover, Germany, located in Fredericksburg in 1846. He was employed for a short time as a saddler, but then established a baking and confectionery business.

Frederick Brulle, a native of Prussia, came to Fredericksburg about 1850. He opened a bakery and confectionery business and was a friendly competitor with Mr. Myer until 1866.

In 1866 these two gentlemen, neither of whom had previous experience as millers, formed a partnership and spent $45,000 building the Germania Mill just above the Woolen Factory and facing the Rappahannock River (currently the 1900 block of Caroline Street).

Germania was completed and operating in 1867, utilizing six run (sets) of stone powered by water from the modified Rappahannock Canal. The water power cost them $500 annually whether they used it or not.

As the first Germania Mill blazed, local artist Gustavus Erickson captured the fury of the flames. Earlier, he had painted the conflagration at the woolen factory. The painting was given by Mrs. Frances Jones in memory of Charles Seddon Latham and William Deacon Latham, both Gustavus Erickson paintings are owned by the Fredericksburg Museum and Cultural Center. John H. Myer, a native of Hanover, Germany, located in Fredericksburg in 1846.

He was employed for a short time as a saddler, but then established a baking and confectionery business. Frederick Brulle, a native of Prussia, came to Fredericksburg about 1850. He opened a bakery and confectionery business and was a friendly competitor with Mr. Myer until 1866. In 1866 these two gentlemen, neither of whom had previous experience as millers, formed a partnership and spent $45,000 building the Germania Mill just above the Woolen Factory and facing the Rappahannock River (currently the 1900 block of Caroline Street). Germania was completed and operating in 1867, utilizing six run (sets) of stone powered by water from the modified Rappahannock Canal. The water power cost them $500 annually whether they used it or not.

The mill produced the Germania Family Brand Flour which acquired a reputation equal to any other in the country. This flour was marketed by the barrel both at home (New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Richmond) and in South American ports.

The financial recession of the mid-1870s had been aggravated in Fredericksburg in the Fall of 1875 by the burning of the Woolen Factory on a lot adjacent to the Germania Mill. Imagine the shock to the community just a year later when at three o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, September 10, 1876, spontaneous generation in a smut box on an upper floor torched the mill.

The miller, acting in the capacity of watchman, had gone over the mill at noon, then had gone to sleep. He was awakened by two passersby who noticed the smoke. Together they made an effort to extinguish the flames, but their efforts were in vain. Within an hour, the whole building was a pile of ruins and the awakened miller had lost his gold watch!

When Frederick Brulle, who at the time was residing in Baltimore, arrived, he found Mr. Myer severely burned in the face and on both arms. Although their mill was insured for only a third of its value, making their loss quite heavy, the partners announced their determination to rebuild with all possible dispatch.

And rebuild they did, but the second Germania Mill is another episode.

This article originally appeared in the June, 1991 issue of the Fredericksburg Times magazine. It appears on HistoryPoint with the writer's permission.

Read More About Old Water Mills Online and in the Library

New Process Milling of 1850-70
http://www.angelfire.com/journal/millrestoration/newprocess.html
A lengthy description of milling that includes diagrams and links to several interior views of old mills.
Walk Through History . . . Mill Sites and Water Power
http://www.historypoint.org/columns2.asp?column_id=493&column_type=tour
The Fredericksburg Area Tourism Department's brochure gives much detail about the old mill sites along the Rappahannock in Fredericksburg. Please note: the Embrey Dam is no longer in existence.
Watermill Machinery
http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/watermill-machinery.html
Photos, diagrams, and explanations of machinery used in Norfolk's watermills in Britain.

In the Library

Early American Mills by Martha & Murray Zimiles.

The Grist Mill by Bobbie Kalman.

Available on Microfilm

"The Germania Mills," The Virginia Star, June 3, 1877, p. 3, column 2.
A description of the new building and a recounting of the fire of 1876.

"Premium Flour," The Virginia Star, November 10, 1877, p. 3, column 1.
Though newly reconstructed, Germania Mills' flour received an award at the Virginia State Fair.