Part of the USA Today Network

One-tank road trips: Rock Run / Stafford (CSA General J J Archer’s birthplace)

IMG-20150507-00077James J. Archer, a lawyer and officer in the U. S. Army during the Mexican War,  later served as a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He was born in this house, the Carter-Archer Mansion, which is preserved today as part of the Rock Run Historic Area of the Susquehanna State Park north of Havre de Grace, Maryland.

Archer, seized at Gettysburg on July 1 by a member of the Iron Brigade, was the first general officer captured during Robert E. Lee’s tenure as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. He would be transported to northwestern Ohio, where he was imprisoned in the Johnson’s Island prisoner-of-war camp in the midst of Lake Erie. It was a far cry from his days growing up in his parents’ “Stafford” estate.

The Rock Run area is open to the public to walk and tour the grounds. The mansion is open on weekends during the summer season.

IMG-20150507-00089The Rock Run Historic Area consists of the mansion, an old grist mill, a barn, a miller’s house, and other structures. It is located off Stafford Road (named of course for the old estate).

IMG-20150507-00076According to the park, the “majestic 14 room stone mansion built in 1804 by John Carter, a partner of John Stump in the Rock Run Mill. When Carter died a year later the house passed to the Stumps’ daughter Ann and her husband, Dr. John Archer, Jr. One of the Archer’s children was James J. Archer, a general in the Confederate Army. Several rooms are restored and furnished with period antiques. Associated with the mansion are a large stone barn and a stone spring house. The barn houses examples of early farm equipment and water still runs clear and cold in the spring house.”

IMG-20150507-00078The buildings are very well preserve, as evidenced by the carriage barn.

According to the park’s website, “history buffs will love touring the operational 200-year-old Rock Run Grist Mill, as well as the Carter-Archer mansion. This area also contains the Jersey Toll House which at one time was the collection point for travelers crossing the covered bridge spanning the Susquehanna River. The remnants of the Susquehanna Tidewater Canal can be seen here as it parallels the river from Havre de Grace to Wrightsville, Pennsylvania. Hours of operation: Open Memorial Day to Labor Day on weekends only.”

IMG-20150507-00079The old bed of the long-defunct Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal is in the center of the photo with the grist mill beyond it.

“Between the mill and the river runs a section of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal, which was built in 1836. The canal linked Havre de Grace with Wrightsville, Pennsylvania. With mule drawn barges plying its waters, the Susquehanna and Tidewater was a major commercial waterway until 1889 when the combined efforts of railroad competition and a flood forced its closing. Two of the canal locks are within the park’s boundary.”

IMG-20150507-00080The grounds are tranquil and well manicured, and are delightful to stroll.

IMG-20150507-00081In its heyday, Rock Run was a bustling community with the canal, mill, river landing, bridge, and other commercial and social interests.



IMG-20150507-00084The Jersey Toll House once served a covered bridge that spanned the Susquehanna River at this point.

IMG-20150507-00085An old grindstone recalls the days when water-powered grinding of flour was a mainstay of most communities.

IMG-20150507-00086Another view of the old Rock Run grist mill, tucked along Stafford Road between the Susquehanna River (out of view to the left) and the old canal (off to the right).

“Rock Run Grist Mill, erected in 1794 by John Stump, a prosperous businessman who owned several mills in Harford, Cecil, and Baltimore counties, is a three story stone structure and is fully operational. Inside are displays of 19th century farm and mill equipment. The water powered mill is operated during the summer months.” Stump’s daughter married Dr. John Archer, Jr., the future general’s father.


IMG-20150507-00087The river here is simply beautiful. Several boaters were enjoying the pleasant early May weather on the evening I visited Rock Run.

IMG-20150507-00088In the winter when the river froze over, it provided a source for harvesting blocks of ice.

IMG-20150507-00090Another view of “Stafford,” now known as the Carter-Archer Mansion.

Courtesy of the Susquehanna State Park
Courtesy of the Susquehanna State Park