Moving a Piece of History

Moving a Piece of History

Cub Scout Pack 1859 relocates historic grinding wheel.

Cub Scout Pack 1859 moved an historic grinding wheel from the woods within the Little Rocky Run community to Union Mill Elementary School, where it will be displayed in front of the school.

“[The grinding wheel] is written up in the books on local history, but this is really a new discovery,” said parent Al Francese. The wheel, discovered earlier this month by Art Keuhne and his son Alex while mountain biking, was not visible until Hurricane Isabel swept through the area last year, and uncovered the area.

After the discovery Keuhne, the Scout Master, relayed the news to the rest of the Cub Scouts. The Scout’s reaction was captured by Andrew Shaw who said, “[The grinding wheel] is just cool.”

WHEN THE SCOUTS returned to the site, they discovered not only a grinding wheel but a historic mill.

Working with county officials, Keuhne discovered it was called the Old Dominion Soapstone Mill.

The mill was documented in the book “Stone Ground: A History of Union Mills,” which is written and edited by Centreville resident Paula Elsey and published by Fairfax County. According to the book, the mill opened in the early 1890s and was owned by George Hunter. Used to drill rock, the mill was steam operated and had 20 horsepower. Then steam was generated by taking water from a nearby stream and heating it with a coal-fueled furnace. The steam generated then powered the drill which mined the rocks. The rock was then shaped into various ornamental designs, for use in house construction.

In 1896, the mill was shut down and the company was dissolved. The mill remained idle in the woods until 1915 when the Navy reopened it. During World War I, the Navy used the mill to mine and produce talcum powder which was used in the manufacture of gun barrels.

“It’s fun to do [this project], because you learn about old-fashion stuff,” said Alex Keuhne.

Now resting on Little Rocky Run common grounds, the mill was owned by the Little Rocky Run Homeowners Association (HOA). The HOA agreed and allowed the Scouts to relocate the wheel to a prominent place in the community where everyone could enjoy it.

“The whole event was educational, and the students would appreciate [relocating the grinding wheel to their school], so after internal deliberations we decided on the school,” said Al Francese. “Plus the principal [Molly Kingma] agreed with a lot of enthusiasm.”

“ALL OF US here [go to Union Mill Elementary], except for the parents,” said Alex Keuhne.

“[I can tell other kids] that we pulled it,” said Andrew McLeenigan. “All the Cub Scouts pulled it.”

With permission granted, the Scouts built a wooden sled on which the 500-pound wheel was placed. Once the rope was attached to the sled the massive pulling effort began, to get the wheel out of the woods.

“Hopefully we have enough horsepower,” said Art Keuhne. “I can just picture the Egyptians dragging stones to the pyramids.”

Once out of the woods, Keuhne attached the rope to his pick-up truck and dragged the wheel the rest of the way to school. At the school the following children helped lower the wheel into its final resting spot: Colin Jared, Andrew McLeenigan, Andrew Shaw, Sergei Keuhne, Alex Keuhne, Emily McLeenigan, and Brian McLeenigan.

“The object was to remove the wheel from the common property and relocate it, and that is what we did — it was a success,” said Al Francese. “Now it’s going to be next year’s Easter egg hunt to find the other missing wheel.”