Tide Mill Institute
Tide Mill Times

2013 January


As the geographical center of a circle of over thirty tide mill sites, Bath, Maine turned out to be a perfect location for TMI’s  November 2012 annual conference.   Titled “Harnessing the Tides: 1194-2012,”  it drew a record crowd of eighty tide mill enthusiasts to a mix of events .   Of course, there were presentations about tide mills - the very old, the old, the new and the yet-to-be.    Highlighting the event were field trips to four local tide mill site whose working lives stretched over three centuries as well as poster-displays of a dozen or more sites of coastal mills in the region. Photos of the event follow.

On Friday afternoon, about twenty registrants enjoyed a pre-conference visit to the large 1837 dam of the Parker Head mill in Phippsburg and then drove to Arrowsic’s Spinney mill (1719-1928) for a low-tide view of mill machinery still lying visible in the mud  Two modern sawyers shared thoughts about how early millwrights produced  lumber.  The evening’s informal reception seemed particularly lively, as field-trippers shared what they’d seen earlier in the day.

Parker Head

Saturday combined presentations, lots of discussion and another field trip.  Keynote speaker, Simon Davis from the Museum of London Archaeology, shared his recent exciting work at a Thames River Anglo Saxon period tide mill in Greenwich that was discovered in 2009. His information was truly up to date as he’d been digging there just two weeks earlier.  He shared photos and data illustrating how the mill was constructed and details of medieval carpentry methods.  Of particular interest was his discussion describing the mill in context in London and in the medieval monastic industrial landscape. 
Two speakers then highlighted family relationships to tide mills in the Winnegance section of Bath, rightfully called the “Tide Mill Capital of America.”   TMI co-founder John Goff  grew up in a tide miller’s house in the area and became enamored with the history of the village and its mills, recognizing early its importance as a significant tide milling site.   His skillful melding of images, family photos, maps, reminiscences and recommendations for preservation explored the many patterns of family relationships and mill ownerships that made the area so unique.  Later in the afternoon, he led a field trip to the site.

In “My Family’s Tide Mill,” John G Morse IV,  a 7th generation millwright/sawyer, shared how an ancestor came to Winnegance from a small mill site further down the peninsula to to work in and eventually own a large tidal saw mill which remained in the family for generations    Morse produces  lumber there today with electric rather than tidal power. Photographs, technical drawings and personal recollections highlighted his presentation.

After lunch the conference explored contemporary tidal energy activities.  Todd Griset, an environmental lawyer, discussed characteristics and limitations of tidal mills, barrages and marine hydro-kinetic generation methods, showing  how factors such as cost of facilities versus the value of energy produced and environmental concerns have limited development of the industry.   He then presented three tidal energy projects from the extreme tidal area of Maine’s Washington County: the 1930’s Passamaquoddy Power Project,  a recent Cobscook Bay installation and a proposed Pennamaquan River  installation.

The Maine Tidal Initiative’s Mick Peterson rounded out the day, reinforcing Griset’s theme that tidal power generation is no longer just an idea, explaining how his  organization developed from efforts by three of the region’s colleges and universities.  Maine, he said, offers the best tidal energy sites in the lower 48 states and now boasts some of the world’s leading efforts in this emerging industry.  He explained how deploying arrays of       in-stream devices rather than creating embayments is an effective way to respond to the public’s concerns about environmental and navigational issues.

The conference finished its work with another field trip.  The Great Winnegance Dam, in John Goff’s childhood neighborhood, once had eight tide mills and sixteen saws opera ting at the same time, but today only piles of rocks and posts show at low tide.   And at John Morse’s saw mill around the corner, participants walked out along the top of the old dam to get a close-up view of the early tide mill site.

Once again, TIDE MILL INSTITUTE’s annual conference offered enthusiasts from a number of disciplines the chance to share, learn about and enjoy a wide range of tide mill topics. 

Next year the conference will be held in Massachusetts.  We are already working to make sure it will be another winner!