History Talks, Trips, and Treasures at the Burnt Mill with Historian Rich Gillespie

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.

The remains of the Burnt Mill, visible from the road, along with the miller’s house are incredible pieces of local history. Rich Gillespie shared details of what led to the burning raids and painted a grim and terrifying picture of the thousands of troops who marched with lit torches toward Hillsboro. After hearing from both Ryan Siemers, whose property the mill and the house are located, and Mr. Gillespie, attendees were invited to explore the ruins of both buildings. People saw the stones tinted orange from the heat of the fire that destroyed them during the Civil War, where the grindstone once worked, and the massive fire place in the miller’s house. It was a special opportunity for all.

Mr. Siemers refers to himself as the care taker of the Burnt Mill and the miller’s house, which are both in his property. Mr. Gillespie and the Short Hill Historical Society thanked him for continuing to serve as the steward of these pieces of history. The remains of both are becoming more fragile, and people at the event were asked to observe them with care and respect. Mr. Siemers purchased the property in 2015. He has enjoyed learning about the mill and continues to research ways to preserve the remains of both buildings for future generations. He has also preserved the tradition of having jack o-lanterns in the mill each Halloween.

The guest speaker at the third History Talks, Trips, and Treasures was historian Rich Gillespie who taught U. S. History and ran the huge, very locally involved History Club at Loudoun Valley High School from 1973 to 2004.  During that time, he gave many students intern and volunteer experiences with local historic sites. From 2004 to 2014, he served as the Director of Education at the Mosby Heritage Area where he ran public programming, school outreach, and publications. For the next year, he was the Executive Director of that Association and is now the Historian Emeritus for the Mosby Heritage Area. The Short Hill Historical Society thanked both of them for being part of this event.

The Short Hill Historical Society’s series History Talks, Trips, and Treasures is sponsored by Jason P. Sengpeihl of the Sengpeihl Insurance Group, and by The Purcellville Gazette. This specific event was also supported by Purcellville Southern States and the Leesburg Costco.

The History Talks, Trips, and Treasures series will resume in 2018. If you have a specific historical topic you would like us to consider or know a local historian, author, or re-enactor who would like to be featured, please contact us at ShortHillHistoricalSocity@gmail.com.

For the remainder of the year, the Short Hill Historical Society will focus on its signature event, the Christmas in Hillsboro Historic Homes Tour which will be held on Saturday, December 9. Information about volunteering, sponsoring, and buying tickets is available at www.ShortHillHistoricalSociety.org.