Hydraulic Mills/Union Ridge and Albemarle Training School

Hydraulic Mills

Hydraulic Mills was a thriving village located in Albemarle County at the juncture of Ivy Creek and the Rivanna River just north of River View Farm.

Early on, Hydraulic Mills played an interesting role in local history. Contractor John Perry established the mill site in 1818 from which he supplied much of the lumber used to build the University of Virginia. Sold to Nathaniel Burnley in 1829, the mill complex grew to include a grist and merchant mill, a miller’s house, a cooper’s shop, a store house, a blacksmith’s shop, a country store and briefly a silk worm industry. By the mid-nineteenth century Hydraulic had become the head of navigation for the Rivanna River. Farmers from throughout northern and western Albemarle brought wheat and tobacco to be processed and sent down river by batteaux to Richmond and beyond. Tragically, a devastating flood in September of 1870 ended river navigation in Albemarle County forever.

In the 1880s, Rawlings Sammons, who had been a free black miller in Milton before the Civil War, bought the property and Hydraulic Mills became a commercial and social center for the growing African American neighborhood known as Union Ridge.  In this community Hugh Carr lived and traded throughout his adult life.

In 1966, the newly constructed South Fork Rivanna Reservoir flooded the junction of Ivy Creek and the Rivanna River, erasing all vestiges of this once vital community center.

Albemarle Training School

For years African American children attended separate schools, and improvements in facilities, teaching resources and course offerings lagged behind those funded for white children. Though full high school instruction was not available to them, beginning in the 1890s black students from Albemarle and surrounding counties could continue their education beyond grade school at the Albemarle Training School on Hydraulic Road. Most of the complex has since been demolished. ATS grew out of the Union Ridge Graded School and at first offered practical training along the lines advocated by Booker T. Washington, with courses in Vocational Agriculture, Domestic Science and Industrial Education. In later years a full four-year high school course was added. Mary Carr Greer served as principal from 1930 to 1950 following fifteen years as the Domestic Science teacher. As a child she had attended Union Ridge, and had gone on to study at Virginia State College, Fisk and Cornell. Greer Elementary School is named for her. In 1951, when black high school students were transferred to the joint city-county Burley High School, Albemarle Training School became an elementary school and eventually was closed in 1959.