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The Mohler House and Family

<bt>Long forgotten or unknown to most current residents, the Mohler house was situated adjacent to the Old Stone Church on Braddock Road in Centreville's Historic District. Unfortunately, it was razed under questionable circumstances in 1969. Both the Mohler family and the house were well known in the Centreville society of the 19th century.

LITTLE IS KNOWN about the Mohler house's origin or its date of construction. It figured prominently in the background of the famous Matthew Brady photograph of Centreville showing a lone Union sentry standing guard on Braddock Road. According to records it was a "Stage, Stable, Boot" owned by Alexander Grisby prior to the Civil War. In 1860, Grisby sold the house to William Beckwith — Beckwith to Brauner/nee Alexander (Liber. G5 Vo4 folio). It was occupied during the War by Dr. Robert Alexander, a surgeon. One can easily surmised that Dr. Alexander retired to his home after long hours of performing amputations and other required surgical procedures at the Old Stone Church or St. John's, which both served as field hospitals throughout the war and are within easy walking distance of the house.

Folklore maintains that the basement of the house was used as a Civil War prison. Having been born and partially raised in the house I can personally attest to the bars on the basement windows and the fear I had as a child carrying freshly plowed Civil War bullets from our family's garden to the basement for storage. The basement was dark, damp and eerie!

MY GRANDFATHER, Claucus Jasper Mohler, was deeded the house by his father, John W. Mohler in 1899 (Liber. A Vo folio 393). John W. had been deeded the house by the Alexander heirs in 1879. Grandfather Claucus was a farmer who had 19 children to feed. One of his favorite sayings was, "Corn won't grow in lead" obviously in reference to the amount of Civil War ordinance found just under the topsoil on the property. If or when the Mohler house site is archeologically excavated, I have no doubt many Civil War relics will be found.

The Mohler family can be traced to the Centreville area (including Ayre Hill — or as it is known today, Belle Pond) during the 1800s. They were descendants of a group of German immigrants that arrived in the United States on Aug. 29, 1730, on the ship "Thistle" out of Glasgow, Scotland. The progeny, Ludwig Mohler, was a Dunkard (Mennonite/Amish — present day Church of the Brethren.) It has been difficult to research the Mohlers because Dunkards were known as 'The Plain People' and lived by recollection rather than public record.

"Their tireless energy was modest and forebode them leaving public records of their achievements" (The Mohler Family in America/Family Archive Press — World Book Encyclopedia).

THERE REMAINS a colony of Mennonite/Amish Mohlers in Ephrata, Penn., (Lancaster County) today. Over time family members migrated to Ohio and the Shennandoah Valley of Virginia. The Virginia Mohlers may have settled near Weyer's Cave/'The Grottos' as there is a "Mohler Cave" there today. Since the Mohlers were tanners/shoemakers and farmers, I can only presume that part of the family was drawn to Centreville because of the tanneries prominent here during the early to mid-1800s. They were also undoubtedly impressed with the abundance of cheap land in the area. Like many other families of the time, my relatives dabbled in real estate. Records indicate that John W. Mohler at one time owned the Havener house (also known as the Red House Lot) as well as over 300 acres of land in the area.

The Mohlers were very civic-minded and their home was always a beehive of activity. The following is taken from the Fairfax County Circuit Court Archive records:

1855 — Mohler family licensed to keep a House of Public Entertainment

(COB p 223)

1860 — JW Mohler elected constable for District (COB p343)

1860 — Mohler family petitioned to change road from Centreville to Chantilly — to avoid heavy grade at Wren's Hill (Record of Roads, pp 120-121)

1863 — JW Mohler to work on road from blacksmith shop to Big Piney Brance (COB p217)

1869 — JW Mohler and James Crass — collectors for Centreville Township (COB p217)

1869 — JW Mohler and James Machen — appointed trustees "Sons of Temperance" (COB p428)

1889 — CJ Mohler appointed Centreville Postmaster.

RECORDS SHOW that many Mohlers served honorably in all our nation's wars despite the pacifist dictates of their religious beliefs. John W. Mohler signed the Ordinance of Secession in 1861. In many ways the Mohlers were typical of the families that inhabited Centreville in the 19th century — hardworking and civic-minded. Several Mohlers are buried in St. John's Cemetery, and their graves can be seen on the self-guided tour of the cemetery during Centreville Day scheduled for Sept. 17.