Connecting History on the Trail
For more than 30 years, plans have been to put a trail along the Appomattox River incorporating the canals and historic mill sites at the center of Petersburg and Ettrick’s industrial history. Friends of the Lower Appomattox River have been diligently working to implement the trail master plan while Capital Region Land Conservancy has been helping to acquire the land for future trail development.
Capital Region Land Conservancy entered into a contract to purchase the 32+ acres and closed on the portions in Colonial Heights and Petersburg in 2021. CRLC is working to close on the remaining acquisition and has received $300,000 from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, $375,000 from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, and $1.725 million from Chesterfield County. Yet, we still need your financial support to complete this project!
Campbell’s Bridge was the first crossing of the Appomattox River and was built at the river’s narrowest point that happens to also be its fall line. The first mill and canal was built on this land in the 1790s shortly after the bridge was completed. It added to a network of dams, canals, and other mills that dotted the southern shore of the river as early as the 1730s. In fact, the project required CRLC to investigate the title and legal rights to the water dating to orders from the General Assembly in the 1830s. This includes “half the flow” of the Appomattox River that served the Ettrick Mills on this property.
Understanding the growth and decline of Ettrick and Petersburg is exemplified by the numerous mills that were once prominent on this property. One mill is credited with having been the first to process cotton seed oil as an innovation for fueling lamps. Another mill had as many as 400 laborers working there in the 1850s and was later commandeered by the Confederacy to manufacture tents and clothing for soldiers. It was by these mills that Robert E. Lee’s army crossed Campbell’s Bridge and retreated from Petersburg on April 2, 1865. Seward Trunk Co. that was once the nation’s largest manufacturer of steamers, trunks and luggage also operated a warehouse on the property.
In addition to this incredible history, the areas natural beauty is breathtaking. Class 3 rapids rush the scenic Appomattox River by the shoreline. Loblolly pine trees are some of the tallest trees in the forest giving eagles favored nesting areas while prothonotary warblers dance along the rocks and shrubs along the water’s edge. More than 550 species have been documented within a 2 mile radius of the property. It hosts several threatened and endangered species and helps protect water quality for the Atlantic Sturgeon and American Shad who navigate ancient fishing weirs of the Appomattuck.
Support Campbell's Bridge Mills With a Financial Contribution
We are seeking financial contributions from the public in order to support this major acquisition. Your contribution to the Campbell’s Bridge Mills purchase will be restricted solely for acquisition costs with 100% of the donation going toward the project. Please click the button below to help make this important acquisition possible.