So, who was Cabell? The name is a misnomer, taken from a misspelling of the owner's name - Edward Caple - on a Civil War-era map. Caple bought what was known then as Triplett's Mill in 1845. Edward died in 1865; the mill on a 20-acre tract passed to his son, James S., with Edward's widow, Ruth, given life tenancy in the two west rooms of the dwelling house. Ruth Caple also was granted pasturage of one cow, would have her fuel cut and hauled, and would receive an annuity of $100 per year. In 1870, James S. was a 26-year-old miller, living in the miller's house with his wife, a two-year-old daughter, and a domestic servant. James S. Caple sold the mill property to Erasmus M. Pittman in 1875, ending his family's 30-year period of ownership. Pittman converted the operations to grinding sumac. The 2-1/2 story stone structure once had a 26-foot-tall overshot wheel on its eastern side. The walls of the first two stories are two feet thick!
New owners of the mill in 1908 described the saw and grist mill as running full time in 1909 under the supervision of a first class miller. The mill's last operators were Harvey and Olive Nichols, who sold the property in 1916. Rocky Run was diverted and the mill race was filled in during renovations of the mill in 1929 by John Rixey-Smith. The following year, Rixey-Smith moved into his summer residence at the mill and constructed a dam to impound water for a swimming pool.
Now part of Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, a 650-acre nature-themed park of the Fairfax County Park Authority, the mill was converted into a guest house by the new owners, Ellanor C. and David Lawrence, in the mid-1940s. The Lawrence's were residents of Washington, D.C. and initially used the property as a weekend retreat. The adjacent miller's house, called Middlegate by this time, was renovated by the Lawrence's into their country residence. They added a wing constructed of stone connected to the main house by a breezeway in 1944. After Mr. Lawrence retired, the couple settled at Middlegate.
David Lawrence was the founder of U.S. News and World Report. He recorded weekly newscasts from the property from 1945 to 1970, broadcast on the NBC Network. After Mrs. Lawrence died, Mr. Lawrence donated the property to Fairfax County to be used as a park. The mill served as a local Community Center in the 1970s. After major renovations of the interior of the mill by the county in 1980, the mill was made available for event rentals. The miller's house, Middlegate, is used by the Fairfax County Park Authority staff and is not open to the public.
Cabell's Mill and Middlegate are listed on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites.