Tide Mill Institute

Conference 2009



1) Medieval Tide Mills: Some Economic Issues—Bud Warren

As an introduction to tide mills, this presentation discussed key economic issues about medieval mills and milling as presented in Wind, Water, Work: Ancient and Medieval Milling Technology by Adam Lucas(2004).  Lucas describes how milling was integrated into activities of ancient and medieval people and explored how it contributed to modernization and industrialization in the medieval period.  The impact of the milling revolution on European life was as significant at the time as is the computer revolution of today. Lucas distinguishes between agricultural and industrial mills and milling.  The different roles of horizontal and vertical wheels relative to political and ecclesiastical power are explored, as are the comparative costs of new construction for medieval watermills, windmills and tide mills.  Because tide mills were the most expensive kind of mill to build and maintain and tended to occur when alternative milling technology was not available, the number of tide mills tended to wane except in certain more populated areas of England.

2) Hodgkins Mill on Goose Cove—Chester Brigham

There were once 15 water mills in Gloucester, Massachusetts, at least two of which were tidal.  The structure of one of these two, the Hodgkins Mill on Goose Cove, still stands today as a private residence.  It was built in 1833-34 in conjunction with a causeway that dammed Goose Cove into a mill pond, with a sluiceway fitted with tide gates.  Initially the mill was both a sawmill and grist mill, but sawmill operations were discontinued early.  The mill shut down around 1900, and the tide gates were removed to restore boat traffic to the cove.

3) A History of Rice Culture and Water-Powered Mills in the Rice Kingdom—Richard Dwight Porcher, Jr.

Rice culture began around 1685 on the tributaries of the Cooper River in Charleston County, South Carolina. It spread to North Carolina, Georgia and East Florida, and these four states formed the Rice Kingdom of the United States until replaced by the Southwest around 1884. Rice was grown for the first few years as an upland crop, but when it was found that the plant responded to flooded conditions, cultivation was shifted to reservoir-fed fields, then to fields supplied by tidal freshwater waters from adjacent rivers.

Preparation of rice for market required three steps: harvesting, threshing and milling. Harvesting was done by hand using a sickle for the entire industry. Threshing and milling was done initially by primitive hand labor by slaves. As the industry progressed, machines replaced labor and three sources of energy were used: animal power, water power and steam power.

This presentation, although it covered all four sources of energy, stressed the use of tide water power to drive the machines that ran the threshing barns and mills.

Cultivation in the Rice Kingdom ended around 1911 for the following reasons: Destruction of the infrastructure during the Civil War, loss of slave labor, severe shortage of capital, competition of rice from the southeastern states starting in 1884, and destruction of the infrastructure from hurricanes.

4) Tide Mill Sites in the Spanish Provinces of Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia—Richard Duffy.

Studies have shown that tide mills existed in the greatest geographic concentrations of western Europe at  different points on the north coast of Spain.  But their abundant history has been little known compared to their “cousins” in England, France, and Portugal.  This presentation reviewed some of the major successes of projects of the late 20th and early 21st centuries to restore the mill buildings and dams, often as part of larger redevelopment projects in both rural and urban settings.  Mill interpretation has most thoroughly been carried out in the context of relating natural history at the Santa Olaja tide mill, where the wheels turn once again for visitors who are often surprised to discover this ancient “green industry” among the flora and fauna of the rocky Cantabrian marshes that have become part of an extensive “eco-park.” 

Asturias possesses remarkable sites of vanished mills, and opportunities await for enhanced public access and understanding of the principality’s tide-mill heritage.  

Old sites and numerous extant mill structures can be discovered in Galicia, where the tide mill of Pozo Cachon at Muros has been principally re-purposed as an art gallery.  At the mill of A Seca, near Cambados, opportunities for “passive interpretation” (i.e., when the mill museum is closed) were described that could broaden understanding of the “working landscape” and importance of tide mills for the many tourists drawn to the province’s many historical attractions, wineries, and scenic vistas.  

5) Maine’s Initiatives in Ocean Energy Development—Frank J. Heller

To answer the question whether offshore winds and ocean currents can provide us with unlimited electricity with minimal environmental impact, Mr. Heller provided an overview of Maine’s legacy of tidal power.  Then he spoke about overcoming environmental regulatory hurdles and the coalition that has emerged to promote ocean energy programs.  He provided a review of some projects already tried or underway to determine the possibilities in this area such as the Tidal Energy Center coalition, Chewonki Foundation, and Riverbank.  The future depends on refocusing downward, entrepreneurs with hydrokinetic devices, fish passage v. power generation, etc.   He described a proposed development project for eastern Maine, envisioned by hydroelectric engineer Dexter Cooper, involving the construction of a tidal harness for electricity generation was initiated in 1935 under U.S. Public Works Administration funding and with the blessing of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose summer home was on nearby Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada.  Also known as the Quoddy Project, it proposed impounding Cobscook Bay and part of Passamaquoddy Bay with a series of dams and control structures to exploit the resulting water level difference to generate electrical power. The electric turbines for power generation would have been located at the isthmus on Moose Island, Eastport, with the water passing between Passamaquoddy Bay and Cobscook Bay, with the "used" generating water released from impoundment at low tide. Other  proposed projects include a pumped tidal storage power plant in Wiscasset, the Aquabank. 

6) Gorlov Helical Turbine—Alex Gorlov

Alex Gorlov gave a presentation of still pictures and videos showing the installation of various sizes of his Helical Turbine in South Korea.  The turbine works with both in-flowing and out-going tides in either a vertical or horizontal position.  He spoke about the first experimental models and the latest permanent installation capable of producing 1 Megawatt of power.

7) The Basin Tide Mill, 1760-1850: A  Contextual Case Study—Bud Warren, presenter. Presentation based on the research of Peter Hutchinson.  Mr. Hutchinson has been writing about the Basin and its mills for over three years.

The Basin is a large cove off the New Meadows River in Phippsburg, Maine.  The Basin tide mill is used as an example of how to study early industrial sites.  Conference participants offered key issues to explore during the process.  The Basin region and location of the mill were reviewed, and archaeological remains illustrated.  The historic, economic and social nature of the Basin region and those involved were uncovered.  Using the approach suggested by Adam Lucas, the Basin tide mill was shown to integrate into activities of people in the region.

8) Update on the Souther Tide Mill, Quincy, MA

Earl Taylor read a statement from John Goff, former Editor of the Tide Mill Times, about renewed efforts to stabilize and restore the grist mill segment of the ancient Souther Tide Mill(s) in Quincy, MA, whose old saw and planing mill were lost to fire in 2007.  Early in 2009, the City of Quincy delegated its Parks and Recreation Department to spearhead the project, which was put on hold to allow John and Carolyn Marks to submit a grant request to the Massachusetts Preservation Project Fund.  Because the grant was not funded, John Goff and Dennis Gray submitted a proposal to resume work on the mill with available resources, and their proposal is now being reviewed by the City of Quincy.

The Tide Mill Institute is on record as favoring preservation of this important part of the industrial heritage of this region.

Announcement for Conference:

To register to attend the conference, e-mail Earl Taylor at ERMMWWT@aol.com

The Tide Mill Conference for 2009 is scheduled for Friday, Saturday November 6-7, 2009. The venue will be the Dorchester Historical Society's William Clapp House at 195 Boston Street, Dorchester (Boston), MA

Call for Papers to be Presented at the Fifth Annual Tide Mill Conference, Nov. 7, 2009

The Tide Mill Institute, under the auspices of The Dorchester Historical Society, 195 Boston Street, Dorchester, Massachusetts, 02125, will host the fifth Annual Tide Mill Conference.

Researchers and amateurs who would like to report on their work in the field of tidal power, tide mill history or mill technology are encouraged to contact the President of the Society, Earl Taylor, by e-mail at ERMMWWT@aol.com or at his day job at 781 272-6700.

Speakers confirmed:

TIDE MILLS OF CAPECOD- Jim Owens Tide mills are peripheral to Jim's real interest in windmills, but during his 34 year stint as Historian and Miller at the Eastham Windmill, he's gathered images and history about the tide mills on the Cape. Originally a commercial artist, he taught art at the high school level for years and has written and illustrated two windmill books that are at the publishers for release next year.

THE ROLE OF THE TIDES IN SOUTH CAROLINA'S RICE MILLS - Richard D. Porcher Dr. Richard Porcher is a highly-respected expert on the rice culture of South Carolina's and Georgia's Antgebellum and Colonial eras. Botanist, author, historian and video-documentarian, he is now retired from the biology department at The Citadel. He is a board member of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation.

TIDE MILL SITES IN THE SPANISH PROVINCES OF CANTABRIA, ASTURIAS AND GALICIA - Richard A. Duffy  Duffy is a regional historian who has researched, written and lectured extensively on the Mystic River in Massachusetts, with emphasis on its historical tide mills.  He produced the annotated edition of J. T. Trowbridge's novel "The Tinkham Brothers' Tide-Mill."   Duffy will report his findings from a 2009 expedition to northern Spain. 

ACTIVITY AT ANNISQUAM'S GOOSE COVE - THE HODGKINS TIDE MILL - Chet Brigham Chet Brigham lives at Goose Cove, and is a neighbor of the Hodgkins Tide Mill. A retired business writer, he became interested in and has published two books about the history of the Cape Ann and Gloucester region. He has done extensive research on and has lectured about the history of the Hodgkins Mill, which began operations in the 1830's. 



UPDATE ON the Souther Mill in Quincy 

HYDRO ENERGY - Frank J. Heller, Katahdin Energy Works, Maine's leading source of Micro-Hydro energy.  Maine has become a hotbed for testing ocean energy devices under the coordination of the Governor’s OCEAN ENERGY TASK FORCE. 

While the initial focus is on offshore wind turbines; Groups like the Ocean Renewable Power Company, LLC (ORPC), founded in 2004, “is a Maine based developer of technology and projects that generate clean, predictable, competitively priced electricity from the virtually unlimited energy resources of the world’s tidal, river and deep water ocean currents” is now operating under FERC permit an experimental prototype in the Cobscook bay.

A large turbine array was permitted for the ‘chops’ in the Kennebec River; and  withdrawn after encountering opposition from an environmental group. Individuals, like Dot Kelly of Phippsburg are exploring tidal devices that individual shoreline owners can operate. The University of Maine has created an ad hoc ocean engineering group; while CIANBRO and the Maine Maritime Academy are also working on several prototypes. The Town of Wiscasset has received a FERC permit for the lower Sheepscot river and delegated the testing of tidal turbines to Chewonki Foundation, which is known world wide for their pioneering effort in using solar energy to make hydrogen which powers a fuel cell array for back up power.

Frank Heller will explore these efforts with on-site interviews; and attempt to gauge the depth of opposition by citizen groups and the extent of the opposition to them by various environmental, shoreline, and fishing groups; and how this determines the final design.