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Dam on Hazel River near Culpeper will be taken down in next year.
The structure in the background is all that's left of the plant. The dam was built or modified in about 1928.
DONNIE JOHNSTON/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
The dam above Monumental Mills on the Hazel River near Culpeper will be taken down.
Jean Scott confirmed this week that she has signed a contract with the Army Corps of Engineers to have the 84-year-old concrete-and-rock structure removed.
Within a year, the barrier that has prevented fish from swimming upstream, stopped canoeists from paddling downstream and been at the center of a legal controversy for almost a decade should be demolished.
"I thought it was a good idea from the beginning," said the 83-year-old Scott. "The dam serves no purpose whatsoever except to impede fish and canoeists."
The dam was built (or modified) in about 1928 by Culpeper entrepreneur Fred Hitt as part of the county's first hydroelectric plant.
The actual seven-story-tall Monumental Mill was about a quarter-mile downstream past the confluence of the Hazel and Thornton rivers, below what is known as the Double Ford Bridge.
That mill was built in the 1840s by George Ficklin, then the richest man in Culpeper County. It was one of three mills that Ficklin owned along the Hazel (Castle Mill and Middle Mill were above it) and was part of the Hazel River Canal system on which agricultural products were shipped from Rappahannock County to Fredericksburg.
Like the Hazel River Canal, the electric plant fought a constant battle with the muddy and unpredictable Hazel River on which it sat. Floods in 1937, 1942 and 1946 each did serious damage to the facility.
Originally the electricity was sold to Virginia Public Service, the forerunner of Dominion Virginia Power, but in 1942 Hitt sold the plant to what became Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, which decommissioned it after the 1946 flood.
Twice, in the 1942 flood and in the Hurricane Agnes flood of 1972, the dam, where three generators were located, blocked the Hazel to such an extent that it formed a new channel around the structure. Part of that rerouting is now a C-shaped, deep pond on the Scott property.
During the 1950s and early '60s, the sand that accumulated in that pit was dredged and sold. Jean Scott and her late husband, John, bought their property from the company that ran that operation.
NOTHING BUT TROUBLE