Tide Mill Institute

Tide Mill Times, August 2012

8th Annual Tide Mill Conference

The Power of the Tides: 1194-2012

8th Annual Tide Mill Conference, November 9th and 10h

Plan to attend this year’s Tide Mill Conference, being held November 9th and 10th in Bath, Maine.

Tidal power was a key element of the industrial scene from medieval London to 19th-century New England and it’s being harnessed again in 21st century Maine. Historians, an archaeologist, environmentalists and a 6th generation Maine sawyer will share how they explore and plan to implement this technology. Join other participants on a low-tide visit to several tide mill sites exploring how to study the way topography was used and how water was controlled to by tidal millwrights.

We hope many of you will attend this year’s November 9th and 10th Tide Mill Institute conference being held in Bath, Maine, a real hub of tide mill activity through the years. More than thirty sites have been documented in a radius of nine miles.

An exciting pre-conference treat beginning at noon on Friday November 9th offers early arrivals a close-up look at remains of a number of interesting tide mill sites in the area.
This year’s keynote speaker will be Simon Davis from MOLA, the Museum of London Archaeology. He was involved in the archaeological discovery of a Thames River Anglo Saxon era tide mill in 2009. Because more exploration of that site will happen later this summer, he will be able to offer the latest findings. For details on the discovery, see the November 2009 issue of Current Archaeology, Issue 236.

John Goff will present the history of Winnegance, perhaps the greatest concentration of tidal sawmills in the world, where eight separate double sawmills sat on one dam. John Morse, sixth-generation sawyer will share the story of his family’s Winnegance area tide mill. The day’s program will end with field trips to these sites and to the 1716-1928 Potter/ Spinney mill site in nearby Arrowsic.

Fred Gralenski will describe his search for details of a 19th century tide mill on Pennamaquan River in Pembroke, and Todd Griset will tell about a tidal power project being proposed for the same waters today.

A special invitation to this event is being offered to historical societies along the coast of Maine, for most coastal towns boasted tide mills. This conference will be a great opportunity for learning about these early examples of America’s industrial heritage.

Map of the Bath Maine area, showing its many tide mill sites.

– SAVE THE DATE! – November 9/10

The Program – will be held at Winter Street Center 880 Washington Street, Bath, Maine

Friday Nov. 9 – Noon to 3:30 – Pre-Conference Field Trip to area mill sites 6:00 -8:00 PM - Informal reception

Arrowsic - Spinney/Potter 2010

Saturday Nov 10 - 8:00-9:00 - Registration & Coffee 9:00 - Welcome & Introduction 9:15-Noon Presentations Noon –Lunch 12:45-2:00 – Presentations 2:15-3:30 – Field trip to Winnegance and Arrowsic tide mill sites

Conference $20, refreshments and lunch included Register early! Contact Earl Taylor at  Ermmwwt@aol.com 617-293-3052 or 123 Ashmont St., Dorchester, MA 02124



ENGLAND: ELING LOSES ITS WEDGES! - David Plunkett who is a key player at Eling Tide Mill in Hampshire recently reported: “Had 12-13 steel wedges lost out of securing one end of the waterwheel at Eling. Has taken a week to get the Mill back in working order again. All the steel wedges are now tack welded in place. Need to rebuild flour stocks again ...” Eling is a working 18th century tide mill still producing flour. It sits atop a causeway. The earliest mill at the site was recorded in 1086.

HUNTINGTON, NEW YORK: VAN WYCK-LEFFERTS MILL CHANGES HANDS! - There has been some good progress on the status of this historic 1790’s tide mill. After years of uncertainty, the local Nature Conservancy has reached an agreement with an abutting landowners association for ownership of the property and an arrangement has been reached with the Huntington Historical Society to manage a program for interpretation and public access.


Deer Isle-Stonington's tide mill exhibit features student's model (DISHS photos)

Several Maine historical societies have jumped into the study of tide mills in their area: 1) A new exhibit at Deer Isle-Stonington Historical Society was mounted this spring, featuring photographs, a model of an island tidal grist mill made by 6th graders and wheels from another local tide mill. 2) After a presentation by Tide Mill Institute, Bruce Thurlow, Program Chair of Scarborough Historical Society, spent hours researching its archives and studying its collection of maps to prove that at least three of the many old mills in town had been tidal. On October 16th historical societies from Hancock, Lamoine, Franklin, Sorrento, Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor will gather at the Sullivan Historical Society to hear about tide mills in their area and learn about finding, researching and interpreting them for their members and the public. At least nine or ten tide mills once operated in these towns. Two organizations, Lubec and Boothbay Region mounted tide mill exhibits long ago. Lubec’s exhibit features the infamous “Klondike” mill that supposedly drew gold from seawater, and Boothbay’s the famous Hodgdon Brothers mill in East Boothbay. Tide Mill Institute is pleased to be assisting some of these local historical societies who are beginning to focus on the important tide mill aspect of the story of Maine’s industrial heritage.


Mud Creek scene (Photo: Bud W.)

Question: When does a pile of rocks translate into a tidal saw mill? Answer: When a clam digger finds a lot of sawdust. Explanation: Several weeks ago your editor and tidemill sidekick Bob Goodwin spent a few days in downeast Maine’s Washington and Hancock Counties seeking elusive tide mills. Our first stop was with Arnie Smith at Jonesport’s Hay Creek, where the remains of an old tide mill dam lay prominently visible in the mud. Arnie told us that often when digging clams in the creek, he’d run into layers of sawdust, left over from the old tidal sawmill. Several days later, Richard and Roberta Cunningham took us to the site of the one-saw tide mill of her great-great-great-great grandfather, Samuel Ball, on Mill Creek off Skillings River in Hancock. On the way to the site and standing above the creek, we conversed with a local clam digger who confirmed that the pile of rocks at the mouth of the creek was in fact a saw mill site. He told us that he had the same experience here that Arnie described earlier. Not only had he run into lots of sawdust in the process of his work, he said that buried in the mud there were many slabs, those first-cut edgings sawn from logs at this old site. As we found only rocks once we got down to the site, this local knowledge was most helpful to confirm the old mill. Other old tide mill sites places have Mud Creek scene (Photo: Bud W.) such remains: at low tide, next to the east end of Parker Head dam in Phippsburg, one can see many layers of slabs still lying in the mud from the four tidal saw mills that operated there from 1837 to 1867.

Curious Cape Cod Tide Mill Site - John Goff for the Tide Mill Times

Sometimes America’s oldest East Coast tide mill sites turn up in the most surprising places. Consider the case of Eastham’s Salt Pond. Eastham (generally pronounced East-ham, not East-am) settled in 1644, is a charming coastal community south of Wellfleet on windswept and sandy Cape Cod. Famed for having Cape Cod’s oldest wind mill (a tapering octagonal timber framed grist mill, situated south of the south end of Mill Road), Eastham also possesses on Salt Pond behind its Town Hall an ancient tidal grist mill site.

I first learned about Eastham’s old tide mill site on Friday August 3, 2012, when I stopped in to tour the historic windmill, and was treated to a wonderful and far-ranging discussion about wind-mills, and tide-mills with educator James E. Owens, who serves as the keeper, and “miller” at Eastham’s windmill. Owens, an accomplished teacher, calligrapher, artist, historian and author of several books on windmills and various aspects of Eastham’s history, mentioned he had copies of a rare old document referencing a tide mill once operating on Eastham’s Salt Pond.

Salt Pond is a curious dot of a pond some 600 yards northeast of Eastham’s picturesque and wood-shingled windmill. It began as a fresh water “kettle pond” due to the presence of a large chunk of glacial ice. Over time, however, waves from the nearby Atlantic broke into the pond, making it both tidal---and a salt water pond. The 850 x 1100 foot body of water lies adjacent to the National Park Service’s Salt Pond Visitor’s Center in Eastham. A 950 foot long channel through the sands links the pond with Salt Pond Bay, Nauset Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. Further information on Eastham’s old Salt Pond tide mill was provided by historian Simeon Deyo in 1890. While writing on Eastham for a history of Barnstable County, Deyo penned: “The industries of the town have been varied and scattered over the territory. The most ancient mill was a tide mill in the river that connects Salt pond with the harbor. Tradition cannot furnish the name of the builder, and the only recent evidence of its location was the mill stone in the river half a century ago.”

Google Earth image – arrow indicates “Salt Pond”

Thanks to Jim Owens, here’s the text of the old letter mentioned above. It’s from an 1888 article in the Yarmouth Register, titled “Running a Tide Mill Under Difficulties.” There appear to be at least four who owned in the mill – Higgins, Sturges, Pepper and the Kendricks. The language and spelling are as in the original document.

Sir, after my resonts to you these come to let you know how affairs stand relating to the mill I keep which you one part. We made up accounts in the year 1755 in March, and therefore was due to meet you in old tenor 10:00:00 and the next night there came a storm and brought in a mity tide and broke the dam to grate degree, and as the dam was made of sand the tide washed it into the Reaver below the mill, which was a grate damage, but we mended her, and the next winter there came another new high tide and undermined her and oversot her house and a stones and she lay a grate while and did nothing but at last Capt. Pepper got her agoing again,
but this sand washed in by the dams breaking so much that it has filled the reaver so that she dus but vere little. We made up accounts in the year 1763 for seven years back, and her charge was since you have had any of her earnings. In old tenor until 1763, 326:04:0 and her earnings was 274:16:0/051:”08”0” and since march 23, 1767 her charge in old tenor is 135:14:2: and her earnings 135:02:0/000" 12:2.

The charge of the whole on balance, more than her earnings in old tenor is 52:00:2:
which one eighth is, 6:07:2: which is taking out the ten pounds here is due you, 3:12:9" and there wants gates, slues and a bridge over the dam, and the dam wants mending to the vally of 40 or 50 pounds. Now if the mill stands and will keep their the mill will be a grate while before she will clear herself. Capt Pepper Did write advertisements in ordere to sel her at avandue, and all sined but the Kendricks and they will not sel, and so no more at present, yours to serve, Joshua Higgins, Eastham, May the 16th, 1767 to Samuel Sturges, Esqre living in Boston.

================================WE ARE NOT ALONE! ========================= Those who like traditional mills are part of a tight international fraternity. We whose passion is tide mills are a special subset of this family. Though TIDE MILL INSTITUTE may be the only organization focusing solely on mills powered by salt water, other groups include tide mills in their wider coverage. , here’s a list with links to some of them for those wishing to learn more about mills (and tide mills) around the world. Thanks to Ted Hazen for this list; see: http://www.angelfire.com/journal/millrestoration/societies.html. Have fun browsing – and learning! Please let us know if there are other mill groups that might have information about tide mills. THANKS! =====================================================================================================The Society for Preservation of Old Mills – SPOOM - www.spoom.org

The International Molinological Society – TIMS – www.molinology.org

The Society for Industrial Archaeology - SIA - http://www.sia-web.org

The Mills Archives – www.millsachivetrust.org

The Mills Research Group - www.millsresearch.org.uk

The Society for the Preservation of Ancient and Traditional Irish Mills – www.millsofireland.org

Tide Mill Institute www.tidemillinstitute.org

The Welsh Mills Society - www.welshmills.org.uk

The Wessex Mills Grouphttp://wessexmillsgroup.org.uk

NO LINKS - but these show on Google: North East Mills Group and The Kent Mills Society


Warm greetings and TMI’s hearty congratulations to SPOOM, now celebrating its 40th anniversary. Thank you Dave Haines and Tom Glick of SPOOM for being so supportive of TMI!


We were excited the other day when checking the TIMS website to find kindred tide mill spirits in the Netherlands. The Westbrabantse Mill Society, a small mill society with 180 members in Bergen op Zoom, are having a tide mill seminar on September 1st. Their conference seems to be organized somewhat along the lines of ours, though it will be conducted in Dutch. We particularly like their last event:
10:15 – Tide Mills in Europe 11:00 Tide Mills of Breda 12:00 History of the Tide Mill in Bergen op Zoom 12:30 Lunch 13:30 Archaeological Research at the Tide Mill in Bergen 12:15 Conservation of the Tide Mill in Bergen 15:00 Walking Tour to the Tide Mill in Bergen op Zoom to visit the exhibition “Tides + Mills = Unique” [followed by] Drinks.