Social and Sacred Aspects of German Milling in the 19th Century Shenandoah Valley

Author: ORCID icon
Wietor, Katelyn, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Johnston, Andrew, University of Virginia
Sewell, Jessica, University of Virginia
Hofstra, Warren, Shenandoah University

Drawing from architectural survey, participant observation, historic daybooks, mill ledgers, and oral history accounts, this thesis argues that milling landscapes of the Shenandoah Valley were interwoven with sacred aspects in addition to determining economic and spatial organization of European settlement in the 19th century. Although the primary roles of a mill were economic and agricultural, they were also semi-public spaces where clergy labored, where baptisms were performed, and were materially marked with folk-religious protective symbols. As regional milling declined over the 20th century, knowledge of these once-routine aspects of mills became obscured. This thesis focuses on three aspects of socioreligious milling: the Henkel’s Plains Mill (Rockingham County, Virginia) as a business that solidified social prominence and supported the extended family’s religious activities, German Baptists and their mills as places both of daily work and baptisms, and the apotropaic (protective) markings found within a sampling of mills in Virginia. These markings are discussed within existing scholarship on protective building strategies in England, German folk-art, and emerging studies in the United States.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Mills , Grist Mills, Shenandoah Valley, Apotropaic , Henkel Family
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