We believe that an important way to preserve history is to gather and share the stories, facts about the homes, places, and people who lived here. To do that, we are continuing our signature event: the Christmas in Hillsboro Historic Homes Tour, as well as continuing our series called “History Talks, Trips, and Treasures.” We will also hold events to raise funds for our projects and other efforts.
Unlock History by Reading a Forest, Sunday, May 19
Join the Short Hill Historical Society on Sunday, May 19 for a talk about how to unlock the history of an area by reading a forest featuring Kyle Dingus, Loudoun County Urban Forester. The talk will be from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Between the Hills Community Center (11762 Harpers Ferry Rd, Purcellville, VA 20132). Light refreshments will be provided. A suggested donation of $5 per person will be accepted at the door. Register online by Thursday, May 16.
2019 Season of History Talks, Trips, and Treasures Kicked off with Annual Membership Drive on April 7!
The Short Hill Historical Society kicked off the 2019 History Talks, Trips, and Treasures series, and the start of our new year, with a talk about conservation easements featuring Ben Lenhart, a board member of Save Rural Loudoun, attorney, and a local resident with a farm property that is in easement. He was joined by Steve Price of Land Trust of Virginia. Join us at the Old Stone School in Hillsboro on Sunday, April 7 from 2 to 4 p.m. See photos from the talk.
Next Greens Workshop and Christmas in Hillsboro Historic Homes Tour will be in 2019
We have already started planning the workshop and tour for 2019.
Historian Rich Gillespie Featured at the Burnt Mill on Sunday, October 21 for History Talks, Trips, and Treasures
About 80 people joined us on Sunday, October 21 at the Burnt Mill to tour the historic ruins of the mill and the miller’s house and to hear from Rich Gillespie with his talk called “The Power of Symbolism in our Burnt Mill: Autumn, 1859–Another Moment in Time for A Local Landmark.” Here are highlights from his talk:
There are places on our landscape–especially on an historic landscape as we have in western Loudoun County–that are symbols of where we are and what we’ve been through. They are symbols of our communal historical experience. The Burnt Mill–the Potts-Neer Mill ruins just southwest of Hillsboro–is such a symbol.
That we care about such symbols enough to invest in their stabilization or preservation shows our understanding that our past–both the good and the bad–needs to be understood. We recognize both the value and complexity of that past in being cognizant of our current situation. In western Loudoun, we have a long tradition of preservation and of passing the stories along. The Short Hill Historical Society, this annual pumpkins-in-the-mill program, and the greater Hillsboro area are all examples of that stewardship tradition, still alive in a time of removing “offensive” symbols.
Most know of the story of the Burnt Mill–built 1824, rebuilt 1842 by E.D. Potts, purchased 1848 by Nathan Neer and still being run by him when it was burned by Gen. Wesley Merritt’s federal cavalry on Wednesday November 30, 1864. This was part of General Sheridan’s orders to make the civilians pay for John Singleton Mosby’s guerilla exploits in the Loudoun Valley of Loudoun and Fauquier. Mosby’s 43rd Virginia Cavalry lived amongst the civilians of the southern Loudoun Valley and fed his men and mounts with forage from the northern Loudoun Valley during 1863-65. Mosby’s exploits were legendary and Sheridan wanted to make those supportive civilians (and even those who merely had their crops seized for the Confederate war effort they didn’t support) pay. The miller’s house here was burned when the mill was burned due to a wind out of the southwest that day. Only the miller’s wife was home when the federal troops arrived, according to local lore.
Yet Nathan Neer’s mill and his experience show us more than just the moment in time–the Mosby story and the suffering of Southern civilians–as a symbol, it also tells us of pre-war days. An interesting moment to examine is when John Brown raided Harpers Ferry in the autumn of 1859 ten miles away. Although his raid failed–most of his raiders were killed or captured, tried, and hanged–it led to a deep-seated fear in this region of Virginia in the weeks that followed. Most felt that, despite the bravado of their leaders and the local media, it had been a close thing; the slaves might well have risen. Loudoun alone had 5,501 enslaved people. Nathan Neer owned six people in bondage, though likely a moderate as a local merchant miller. At the time, late 1859 into 1860, Hillsborough organized a new militia unit, the Hillsborough Border Guards, to guard against crossings of the Potomac into the Catoctin Valley and Between the Hills by abolitionist bands. Bake sales were held to fund the fancy new uniforms, the Virginia Manufactory in Richmond provided the arms. Slave patrols were upped and hyperactive; not only runaway slaves but anyone without a very good explanation of who they were and why they were out and about were arrested and brought to the jail in Leesburg. Writer Constance Cary Harrison of western Fairfax County observed of that pre-war time, “Peace had flown from the borders of Virginia.”
Though in early 1861 when Southern states began to secede from the Union due to the election as President of the anti-slavery Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, Virginia was more treasuring of that Union she had helped to establish. But when Lincoln called for four regiments of troops from the Old Dominion after the Confederate firing on Ft. Sumter, attitudes changed rapidly. In the May 23, 1861 plebiscite on secession, Hillsboro voted 84-38 for joining the new Southern Confederacy. Are we, then, unsurprised that Nathan Neer voted with the majority after the events of 1859-60?
Sites like the Burnt Mill are a nudge to our curiosity. What happened here? What was this? When and why was it burned? As we investigate through a web search, a visit to the Thomas Balch Library of History and Genealogy in Leesburg (our local history library), a talk with our neighbors who may know more than we, or attendance at a program like this one by the Short Hill Historical Society, we open up a better understanding of where we live and the nuances of our past.
Our annual pumpkin-laying in the mill’s still-scorched ruins brings the slumbering old site by the side of the road to our attention. It is a marvelously effective prod to our curiosity.
Thank you to Ryan Siemers, owner of the mill and board member of the Short Hill Historical Society, for giving us the opportunity to visit these historic ruins! This event is part of the Short Hill Historical Society’s History Talks, Trips, and Treasures series, sponsored by The Purcellville Gazette-the Title Sponsor, and Jason P. Sengpiehl of the Sengpiehl Insurance Group.
Historian and Author Meredith Bean McMath on featured at September History Talks, Trips, and Treasures
More than 80 people joined us at North Gate Vineyard on Thursday, September 20 to hear from historian, playwright, and author Meredith Bean McMath, winner of the Loudoun History Award. Her talk was called Seldom Told Stories from Loudoun Civil War History during which she shared a letter from a Confederate nurse, the Union soldier’s conversation with a Loudoun slave, the pro-Union female journalists who helped with the Underground Railroad, the only Union troop that formed in Virginia, the Confederate resident of Hillsboro who took in a Union soldier, the Union Burning Raid and its even-handed destruction – all little known true stories from Loudoun Civil War history. Over the years, Meredith Bean McMath has brought their stories to life through plays, museum presentations, documentaries, books, and an opera. Meredith is a former resident of Hillsboro who, with her husband, Chuck, spent 27-years restoring Birkett’s Tavern, Meredith is an historian, author, prize-winning playwright, and the Managing Director of Run Rabbit Run Productions, Inc. Her Creative work includes documentaries, plays, lecture series and living history presentations and programs commissioned by museums and preservation groups which include the National Museum of American History, the Newseum, Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Waterford Foundation, Oatlands Plantation and the Lincoln Preservation Foundation. She is a recipient of the Loudoun History Award and a League of Women Voters Award for advancing the knowledge of women’s history, and holds a BA in History from The College of William and Mary and an MS in Arts Administration from Shenandoah University. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of VSA – Loudoun County.
This is part of the Short Hill Historical Society’s History Talks, Trips, and Treasures series sponsored by The Purcellville Gazette (title sponsor) and Jason Sengpiehl of the Sengpiehl Insurance Group. Food for this event was provided by Bear Feet Retreat B&B.
Becky Ottinger Featured at August 30 History Talks, Trips, and Treasures
Ms. Ottinger has considerable knowledge and a passion for teaching, history, and community. After 32 years, the last 25 years at Loudoun County High School, she retired from teaching government, economics, and AP American history. She is the Vice President of the Loudoun Education Foundation and is a past president and now historian of The Ladies Board of INOVA Hospital. Her volunteerism has extended to work at the Thomas Balch Library for more than 20 years where she mainly processes collections which are preserved in the archives of the library. Her love of history and old houses has led her to do research on the buildings in Hillsboro seeking to understand the history of the small community through the architecture and purpose of the buildings as well as the changes made over time. This was the focus of her talk on August 30.
The Short Hill Historical Society’s History Talks, Trips, and Treasures series is sponsored by The Purcellville Gazette—the Title Sponsor, and Jason P. Sengpiehl of the Sengpiehl Insurance Group.
History Talks, Trips, and Treasures with Dr. David Clark
Nearly 60 people joined the Short Hill Historical Society on Sunday, May 20 to hear Dr. David Clark talk about the First Loudouners. The event was part of the non-profit organization’s History Talks, Trips, and Treasures series. In addition to his presentation, professional archaeologist Dr. Clark brought many ancient Native American artifacts for people to examine, including pottery shards, arrowheads, weapons, and tools.
During his presentation, Dr. Clark said that Loudoun County has the potential for 15,000 to 16,000 year-old sites, and emphasized that Loudoun County had the geophysical characteristics necessary for settlements to thrive: water, rocks, minerals, rich soil, plants, and animals. He talked about the value of rock shelters and caves, prehistoric tribes, the eight types of rock in our area that were used to make tools, Loudoun Clovis projectiles which are not found anywhere else in the world, how there used to be elk in this area, and that only 5% of the “arrowheads” found are from arrows—many are Atlatl (spear throwing) points. He also discussed ways to protect archaeological resources in our area. Before moving on to the artifacts, he asked the audience how much they thought was known about ancient native Americans in Loudoun. The answer, according to Dr. Clark, is only 1%.
Dr. Clark has an impressive amount of experience which includes serving as the Executive Director and principle investigator of the Loudoun Archaeological Foundation (2007), conducting scientific research and community outreach programs that engage more than 7,000 area residents each year. He has taught at the collegiate level for 38 years and has been a pre-collegiate educator for 43 years. Dr. Clark has national archaeological experience in 8 states, international archaeological experience in 8 countries, and is a community outreach specialist with experience from Washington D.C. to Hawaii. He currently maintains archaeological research and/or community outreach partnerships in Loudoun County with National Trust properties of Oatlands and Waterford, Virginia.
The History Talks, Trips, and Treasures series is hosted by The Purcellville Gazette and Jason P. Sengpiehl of the Sengpiehl Insurance Group.
About Dr. David Clark
David Clark is a professional archaeologist, collegiate (Catholic University-35 years; NVCC-15 years) and pre-collegiate educator (High-School to Elementary-40 years). Dr. Clark has national archaeological experience in eight states, specializing in both historic/prehistoric archaeology and forensics. He is a Public-Archaeology Outreach specialist with experience from Washington DC to Hawaii. David has international archaeological experience in eight countries including Kenya, South Pacific Islands, Vietnam and New Guinea.
Dr. Clark is a specialist in Zooarchaeology and Osteology (Osteoarchaeology) investigating animal/human remains, and human-diets from prehistoric, historic, military, and shipwrecks sites. He has compiled over 125 related publications.
He is a Forensic Education and Field Specialist teaching forensic anthropology and archaeology, human remains recovery techniques and laboratory analysis, and Law-Enforcement Forensics. He has worked in the DC-Northern Virginia area for over 38 years, the last 16 years as a resident of Loudoun County, Virginia.
Dr. Clark is executive director and principle investigator of the LOUDOUN ARCHAEOLOGICAL FOUNDATION (2007) conducting scientific research and community outreach programs engaging over 10 thousand area residents, yearly.
David specializes in PRIMARY/SECONDARY STEM-BASED SCIENCE EDUCATION (Science, technology, engineering, math) including classroom programs for elementary, middle and high school students, archaeology summer camps for 3-6 grades and Weekend Workshops In Science.
Currently, Dr. Clark maintains archaeological research and/or community outreach partnerships in Loudoun County with Claude Moore Park, Oatlands and Waterford.
History Talks, Trips, and Treasures Resumed April 15, 2018!
More than 80 people joined the non-profit Short Hill Historical Society to kick off its 42nd year and its second season of History Talks, Trips, and Treasures on Sunday, April 15 at the barn at Silverbrook Farm Bed and Breakfast. Historian and mapmaker Eugene Scheel was the main speaker and shared interesting facts about the history of the Short Hill. The board and officers of the non-profit were voted in, photographer Luke Greer showcased his photographs, and there was a chance to win prizes. Get more information and see photos.
Watch for details about the next History Talks, Trips, and Treasures scheduled for May 20 featuring archaeologist Dr. David Clark at the Between the Hills Community Center.
Donations and membership dues for the Short Hill Historical Society will be accepted and may also be made online.
Other guests planned for the series this year include Rich Gillespie, Meredith McMath, Mark Ware, Gary Heath, and Dr. David Clark. Watch for updates, dates, other guests, and more!
History Talks, Trips, and Treasures is sponsored by Sengpiehl Insurance Group and The Purcellville Gazette. If you are interested in sponsoring, please contact us at ShortHillHistoricalSociety@gmail.com.
2017 – Our Year in Review
Christmas in Hillsboro Historic Homes Tour
December 9, 2017
Thank you to our sponsors:
- Alta Terra Farm Bed and Breakfast
- Bank of Clarke County
- Birch Hollow Yoga
- Browning Equipment
- Doukenie Winery
- Fieldstone Farm Bed and Breakfast
- Hillsborough Bed and Breakfast
- Hillsborough Vineyards
- Hunt Country Jewelers
- Keel Point
- Old 690 Brewing Company
- Silverbrook Farm Bed and Breakfast
- The Purcellville Gazette
History Talks, Trips, and Treasures
Our Third History Talks, Trips, and Treasures featuring Historian Rich Gillespie at the Burnt Mill was Amazing!
On a chilly, overcast Sunday at the beginning of November, a sizable crowd gathered at the Burnt Mill to hear the history of the mill and about the burning raids during the Civil War from historian Richard Gillespie. This gathering was the third of the Short Hill Historical Society’s series called History Talks, Trips, and Treasures, and was hosted by the caretaker of the mill, Ryan Siemers. Read more and see photos from the event. The Short Hill Historical Society’s History Talks, Trips, and Treasures series is sponsored by Sengpiehl Insurance Group and The Purcellville Gazette. The October 29 event is also supported by Southern States and hosted by Ryan Siemers.
History Talks, Trips, and Treasures–Recaps
The second in our series called History Talks, Trips, and Treasures featured award-winning author Linda Harris Sittig at Old 690 Brewing Company from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, September 14. Beer and non-alcoholic beverages were sold by the glass and we will serve cheese and crackers. All ages were welcome! Ms. Sittig had a book signing after her talk about how history shapes women’s lives.
Many thanks to Mrs. Sittig for her engaging talk, and to Old 690 Brewing Company for their generosity in opening their doors for us and for donating a percentage of their sales from the evening! Thank you also to our board members and volunteers who made the evening possible, including Carrie Crossfield, Sandy Simmers, Jan Goodrich, Claire Cutshall, and Dee Taplin.
Our first of our History Talks, Trips, and Treasures series featured Eugene Scheel at Hillsborough Vineyards.
We are planning our next History Talks, Trips, and Treasures now…watch for details!