Millstones Found As Dam Work Begins

Kit Huffman

Eureka!  They found them.

A pair of historic millstones first reported by civil engineer Nick Brash 12 years ago after his 2007 inspection of the Jordans Point dam for the city of Lexington were once again located in the Maury River just downstream of the dam and successfully removed from the water by a large excavator.

The millstones are surmised to have been originated at the grain mill formerly located on the south side of the millrace at the Point.  It’s thought that the stones may have been discarded and replaced by newer rolling mills technology in the early 20th century.

Finding and rescuing the millstones were part of an exciting morning at Jordans Point, in which the last six of eight former concrete railroad piers were also removed by a rock hammer and excavator, in the first stage of a Department of Game and Inland Fisheries project to demolish the dam at the Point.  The contractor on the DGIF project is Shenandoah Streamworks out of Weyers Cave.

The first two piers were broken up last night, Wednesday.  A total of 13 piers were built to support the former C&O Railroad bridge crossing to the Point and Lexington beyond.  Five piers are being preserved for historic interpretation.  These surviving piers will remain in the water near the north bank of the river, farthest from the Point.

The salvaged millstones − initially placed by the excavator on rock foundations of the piers − will be moved to dry land on the Point until the city of Lexington decides where to place them for exhibition, said DGIF’s Louise Finger, project director.

Among those coming to the Point Thursday morning to watch the pier demolition and millstone rescue were several City Council members and Mayor Frank Friedman.  Fire and police chiefs stood by. 

Assistant fisheries biologist Jason Hallacher was one of two divers who found the millstones.  He said that the first stone removed was a few feet downstream from the dam in about 8 to 10 feet of water.  He wove a strap around and through the iron mechanical workings still attached to the stone for it to be lifted out of the water by the excavator.  The second stone was found farther downstream in shallower water.  This stone was wrapped with a metal chain for removal.

The other diver in the water Thursday morning was Brash himself, wearing a wet suit and snorkel to peer beneath the surface of the river and pinpoint the millstones he’d first spotted years ago.  After making his 2007 report, some people doubted his findings of the millstones, said Finger of DGIF.  Thursday morning was confirmation for Brash − and a good day for historical salvage at the Point.




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