Falling Creek Today
Falling Creek is part of the Chesterfield County Parks system. If you stand on the promontory to the north of where old Marina Drive ends, you can see the entire site.
The site has two sets of falls. The upper falls has a drop of less than 3 feet and the lower falls has a drop of about 6 feet. On the right or south bank on the stream edge several square and rectangular post sockets are visible. These are thought to be part of the dam and flume system for the ironworks. Some were visible in the 1950’s but the floods of the 1990’s and early 2000’s have exposed far more. At the lower falls, a small set of post sockets extends across the upper lip of the falls, probably supporting a strongback dam.
The concrete walls just below the falls with the automobile axle that is a vertical support are remnants of Roger Bensley’s 1930’s planned community.
The pool east of the lower falls is about 20 feet deep and has been a favorite swimming hole for generations of residents. Before Gaston, a sycamore tree with a rope provided a swing out to drop into the water. A rock ledge is visible on the east side of the pool. This was exposed by Gaston and also has post sockets cut into it.
There are also signs of rock quarrying on the south side of the creek. Various 1” diameter holes can be seen that were used to place gunpowder to obtain quarry blocks probably in the 1823 for the bridge just upstream. Some may be part of the Falling Creek Ironworks and/or part of Cary’s Forge operations.
The south channel has wooden timbers of Archibald Cary’s Forge visible. The timbers are currently interpreted as a raceway for water power for the working apparatus that powered the forge. The flume that supplied the overshot wheel that was the first in the line was just below the promontory to the east. The width of the raceway and the construction characteristics indicate that it functioned to hold water. That in turn means that the wastewater from the overshot wheel then spilled into the chute and in turn powered an undershot wheel. Although undershot wheels don’t have as much power as overshot types, they are useful. Alternatively, we are now exploring modeling the system to see if we can get two overshot wheels to conceivably work in the system.
At low tide, the highest timber is nearly out of the water. Beneath it, if the water is clear, two 24” square timbers can be seen placed at right angles to the east-west upper timber. These are the foundation for the water wheel, the axle and bellows for Cary’s forge. They were cut in two phases. The first were cut from 1730-40 and the second set were cut from 1760-1770 according to the dendrochronology work done that calibrated the tree-rings to calendar year dates.
The stone building on the north bank was a gristmill. It may have been built by William Byrd in the late 17th century. It was certainly in use by Archibald Cary. He constructed a headrace that appears on an 1802 plat. The gristmill was last used in the 20th century to grind mica which makes glossy paint “glossy”. On the high ground behind the mill there was a whiskey distillery that operated in the early 20th century. That area also includes the miller’s house shown on the 1802 plat.