by Robert Archer and Lynn Rose
Milner’s Town was located on the western branch of the Nansemond River, about ten miles north of Suffolk. An inspection station and tobacco warehouse were located there. One branch of the Nansemond River and tributaries of the Nottoway and Blackwater River led to Milner’s Town. The movement of produce from outlying sections, as far away as Emporia, to the wharves at Suffolk was made easier. The area became prosperous and trade increased. Vessels came through to discharge and load merchandise. They brought rough stone for ballast when the vessel was light – some of that stone can still be found in the area. The town thrived until the Revolution, when it was burned by the British. The Virginia Militia and the British fought a battle in the vicinity. The British were driven across the Western Branch at Milner’s Town – perhaps using the bridge that had been built to draw trade to the town. Milner’s Town was burned to the ground on November 1, 1780 by 250 British soldiers. Efforts to revive Milner’s Town were never successful.
Milner’s Town was located in what is now Russell’s Point. Much of the area is now under water due to the new dam and Western Branch Lake
Reference: Flag Day, Suffolk, Virginia, June 12, 1976 by W. E. MacClenny, page 22. Sponsored by the Nansemond River Power Squadron Suffolk Bicentennial Commission.
The following is written by Robert Pocklington who lives at Russell’s Point
Milner’s Neck begins near the Veterans’ cemetery on Lake Prince (604) and Milner’s Road and continues to Russell’s Point and down Girl Scout Road to the dam. The only surviving Milner’s building foundation, as far as we know, is our six acres at the end of Cherokee Lane on Lake Western Branch. We purchased the land in 1980 and learned that no one had lived on that land since before1930.
The foundation, discovered by one of our daughters who spied a red brick just poking up, probably moved upward by freezing and thawing. I spent a winter digging out the dirt that had been accumulating for many years and found much evidence of pottery, dishes, hand made nails, pine knots that refused to rot, and parts of wine bottles. There were other items and I gave to Kermit Hobbs. Before I put the removed soil back in the hole I sifted every bit of it. The largest item found was on the very bottom, a one man crosscut saw about five feet long, probably left there by mistake. State authorities took many pictures of the brick patterns and estimated the foundation was a warehouse.
I also took over a thousand handmade bricks that obviously had been made and fired on the site. I used the bricks for edging around several flowerbeds. The bricks had come easily from an early foundation because the mortar was crushed oyster shell and Lake Western Branch had at one time been a branch of the Nansemond River. Norfolk created Western Branch, Lake Prince and Burnt Mills by placing dams to provide reservoirs. The size of the building was 26’ width by an unknown length. We know that a pier went out into the lake a few hundred feet and we found the dock in eight feet of water. But on the outside of the dock the depth is 24 feet. A huge tree stump by the dock reveals itself at low water. So the building could have housed goods waiting shipment to other ports, perhaps tobacco or cotton for England.
We spent many hours at the courthouse to learn more about previous owners, but there had been a fire about 1749 and we were unable to determine much after that until the 1780s. The rest of the history came from local citizens who “knew” much about it. We were told that the British had shelled Milner’s Town during the Revolutionary War, and the Yankees had done it again when they came south. That was about it until two very old ladies drove up in a very old car. They were very excited because their mother and father were buried in a private cemetery and they hadn’t been able to penetrate the heavy growth since they lived here before 1930. Their father had turned the foundation into a home years before and eventually abandoned it. They showed us the cemetery and where the outhouse stood by a small cedar. That tree was about sixty years old when they saw it again. We had purchased the land in 1979 from a widow whose husband had intended to build 20 homes on the 30 acres we originally purchased but died before he could start. It was literally a jungle of grape and rose vines, broken trees and brush. It took a few years before we knew what we owned.
Then one day history jumped up and bit us. Working in a flowerbed I stumbled and my foot kicked one of the bricks into the air. It flipped several times and landed on its edge. There it was, clear as can be, “T.M. 1765”. Many years ago it was customary to place what they called a chimney brick to identify the builder. How could we not assume that was Thomas Milner? We gained some respect for him because he built it with handmade bricks and fastened them with crushed oyster shells from the nearby Nansemond River. That was eleven years before we became a nation with its own constitution. In 1765 George Washington was but 33 years old and Tom Jefferson, 22. Today those bricks and Milner’s Town are at least 246 year old. Perhaps there are more foundations nearby. We have yet to see a map or diagram or any other account indicating the town existed.