A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

February 16, 2022

Nettie Barnes and her Pig

Several years ago I when I was building the water mill on my layout, I read a story about Nettie Barnes and her pet pig.  I finally got a chance to put them on the layout near the water mill. The little girl figure came from Modelu's Ragged Victorians figure collection. They call her Harriet. I don't know what Nettie actually looked like, but the Modelu figure looked correct for this era. Her pose is perfect for this vignette.   I painted her as a red-head as her strong will and determination  reminded me of my own red-headed daughter, Danica, who is also a fierce animal lover. The pig is a 3D print I downloaded from the internet.

The Barnes family owned the Piney Branch Mill at the time of the civil war. Her father, Jack Barnes, and some of her brothers enlisted in the Confederate army. Wikipedia  has this following information about the Mill and the Barnes family.

 "Also known as Piney Branch Mill or Hope Park Mill, Robey's Mill is a 3-story frame building on a high stone foundation on the west side of Piney Branch stream. The gristmill likely was built between 1790 and 1804 by either Edward Payne or David Stuart. The property was part of a plantation named Hope Park. Stuart was the husband of the widow of Martha Custis Washington's son. Stuart offered the mill for sale in 1815. A miller named John Barnes Sr. bought the mill in 1837 and trained his eldest son, "Young Jack," the trade. Young Jack (Jack H. Barnes) inherited the mill and miller's house from his father's estate in 1853.

Jack H. Barnes became one of the band of infamous Confederate guerrillas known as "Mosby's Rangers" during the Civil War and was captured three times. 

The miller's office on the southwest corner of the second floor contains wall carvings made by both Union and Confederate soldiers during the war. Fairfax County saw repeated occupations by both sides during the war. The mill was a Confederate outpost "No. 3" during the winter of 1861 to 1862 but was in an area mainly controlled by the Union after this. Family history tells of Union soldiers raiding the mill property and confiscating a pig that was one of the pets of a Barnes daughter. The child and one of the family's enslaved servants went to the Union camp and successfully pleaded for the safe return of the pig."

More detail on the incident is described in  Charles V. Mauro's The Civil War in Fairfax County: Civilians and Soldiers

"During the winter of 1861/1862, Confederate troops used Hope Park Mill as Post No. 3.Confederate forces vacated the Hope Park Mill in March 1862, as Union Army troops advanced into western Fairfax County to conduct foraging and resupply operations against civilians. Union soldiers confiscated everything they could carry, including vegetables and pigs. One of the confiscated pigs belonged to ten-year-old Nettie (Jack and Mary Barnes' daughter), who according to the Barnes family story, objected vociferously. 

Nettie carried on so that mama finally told one of the slaves to take her over to the camp and see if the Union soldiers wouldn’t give the pet pig back. The two were met by sentries, who took Nettie and the servant before the commander. Nettie, between sobs, told about the theft of her pig and pleaded for its return.

        The Yankee officer asked Nettie if she could point out the soldier who had taken her pig. She said she could. So the officer lined up the raiding company up in front of Nettie and she quickly picked out the guilty one. The officer didn’t order the man shot, but he did order him to return the pig post-haste. The soldier saluted, got the pig and carried it back to our home, with Nettie and the servant trudging along beside him. "


  1. Adding this story to your layout brings it to life! I think is a part of the hobby we miss at times. I am trying to collect similar stories for my 1925-era layout. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Is your mill based on an actual prototype that was near the USMRR?

    1. The prototype mill is in Fairfax Çounty and not on the Aquia Line. You can search my past blog posts for Piney Branch and you will get more detail about how it ended up on the model railroad.