Historic Occoquan Historic Town

Historic Town of Occoquan

The Occoquan valley was settled by the Dogue Indians who named the area "Occoquan" meaning 'at the head of the water' or "at the end of the water". Early in the 1600's Capt. John Smith sailed and explored the Occoquan River.

1734 Occoquan appears in public records as the Virginia General Assembly directs that a Tobacco Warehouse is to be built on the north side of the Occoquan Creek.

1755 Occoquan was noted as a major industrial town with "certain forges, tolling mills, bake houses, saw mills, store houses, and dwellings".

1757 The Country Grist Mill was built.

1758 Rockledge was built by John Ballendine under architectural supervision of William Buckland, an indentured servant, who also was associated with the construction of George Mason's Gunston Hall.

1759 The Merchants' Mill was built (one of the first' fully automated grist mills in America). The iron works foundry was in full operation; it is thought that cannon balls and cannon were produced from this forge for the American Revolution.

1795 The Virginia General Assembly authorized a toll bridge to be built across the Occoquan River which became the main thoroughfare between Richmond and Washington D.C.

1801 Writer John Davis describes Occoquan: "On descending the last hill I was nearly stunned by the noise of two huge mills whose roar without any hyperbolical aggravation is scarcely inferior to that of the great falls of the Potomac, or the cataract of Niagara." According to D'anne Evans, "Davis' description of the noise of the mills was not far off; the thunderous noise Davis wrote of might have been explained by the magnification within the high banks of the swift flowing stream, or he might have been listening to three water wheels and six sets of mill stones going at the same time."

1804 The 31 acre tract of Occoquan was laid out with streets and lots and formally named.

1805 The Great Southern Mail Route was authorized through Occoquan. During the Civil War, Alexandria and Washington were blockaded and Occoquan was one of the last post offices in which mail could be sent between the north and south.

1809 A stage coach fine was established by Nathaniel Ellicott of Occoquan to travel between Alexandria and Dumfries.

1828 The cotton mill was built (a four story building which operated 1,000 spindles and was one of the first such manufactories in Virginia).

1835 Noted by Joseph Martin in his Gazetteer. "It (Occoquan) contains about 50 dwelling houses, several mercantile stores, and various mechanics - a cotton manufactory in complete operation and one of the first established in the state, now running 1,000 spindles; I extensive manufacturing flour mill, grinding in the ordinary season 150 barrels per day with the necessary appendages of grist, saw and plaster mills. Thro' the town runs the Great Mail Route from Washington to the south. This village is in flourishing condition and with confidence looks forward to further improvement ... This is the market for many of the most important shad and herring fisheries on the Potomac. The scenery at and near Occoquan has frequently been the theme of praise."

1836 A stage coach line was established between Occoquan and Petersburg.

1850-60 Occoquan had the first commercial ice storage house in this area. River ice was harvested and stored for shipment in the summer to Washington D.C. (in 1917 reports indicate that ice on the Occoquan River was 26" thick).

1860-65 The toll bridge and the cotton mill were burned by Union troops.

861-62 General Wade Hampton of the Confederacy established winter quarters in the Hammil Hotel (206 Union St.).

1874 Occoquan became an incorporated town and remains so today.

1878 A Pratt Truss Bridge was built where the walking bridge now spans the river.

1890's Excursion boats brought Washington residents to Occoquan to enjoy the natural beauty of the river town. Traveling shows and circuses set up at the public wharf located at the end of Washington Street.

1910 The Bank of Occoquan was established. The District of Columbia Workhouse (Lorton Prison) was established. The first prisoners were brought by train and walked through town to tents on the workhouse property across the river. Prisoners were put to work constructing permanent buildings, thus the name "workhouse"

1916 A major fire swept Occoquan and destroyed much of the town including the town jail, stables, Methodist Church and Alton Hotel. The nearest fire department in Alexandria took 43 minutes to arrive.

In 1916, 43 minutes was a speedy trip from Alexandria.

1921 The Occoquan Light & Power Co. was formed and provided electricity to 28 units in the town.

1924 The Merchants Mill was burned by an accidental fire from the power company next door. (The Millers office was not destroyed and now houses the Mill House Museum.)

1929 Route 1 was rerouted to its present location and Occoquan was no longer astride the main North/ South route.

1938 The O.W.L Volunteer Fire Dept was established (Occoquan, Woodbridge, Lorton ).

 1972 Hurricane Agnes flooded the town, destroying many of the buildings along the river's edge.

1972-74 Occoquan began to rebuild as the town you enjoy today.

This page is sponsored by:

The Business Guild of Occoquan