Tide Mill Institute

Tide Mill Times 2013 August.




TIDE MILL PEOPLE– Perveril Meigs, David Plunkett




THIS ISSUE’S TIDE MILL – Brooksville Maine







After eight years of ever-more successful conferences, Tide Mill Institute’s organizers are contemplating the future of the group. Until now, the audience of tide mill enthusiasts, both at conferences and through the website, has been a loose group of stakeholders interested in the history of tide mill sites or the use of tidal power or both. But the “Institute” has not been a membership organization. Instead, it has existed as a small core group related through the following mission statement and dependant on established institution for financial support.

MISSION - to advance appreciation of the American and international heritage of tide mill technology; - to encourage research into the location and history of tide mill sites; - to serve as a repository for tide mill data for students, scholars, engineers and the general public, and to expand and support the community of these stakeholders; - to promote appropriate re-uses of old tide mill sites and the development of the use of tides as an energy source.

Our contacts have supported this mission. But because for some time many seem to be interested in discussing a more formal organization for TMI, the following group met in March to discuss possibilities: John Goff, Bud Warren, Earl Taylor, Todd Griset, Pat Malone and Chuck Parrott. There was consensus that Tide Mill Institute should become its own non-profit corporation with tax-exempt status under IRS rules as a 501(c)3 organization. There is a strong feeling that TMI should explore ways to establish meaningful ties with other groups, such as SPOOM, TIMS, SIA and others. A structure to make all this happen will require incorporation, officers, a board of directors, definition of member categories, articles of organization and bylaws, not a small task.


 As we work toward a new structure, we hope that new people will become part of the core group and participate in long-range planning, decision-making and management. In particular, we are looking for people excited about tide mills who can share their expertise in education, database and website development. We expect to meet only a few times a year, with a great deal of interaction by email and phone. PLEASE LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK, AND CONTACT EARL TAYLOR IF YOU’D LIKE TO GET INVOLVED IN SOME WAY. Reach him at ermmwwt@aol.com. Many thanks!

Save the Date!

 SAVE THE DATE! NOVEMBER 8/9 Topsfield, Mass.




In accordance with the first of its four mission thrusts, “- to advance appreciation of the American and international heritage of tide mill technology,” Tide Mill Institute has sought to achieve a leadership role in developing awareness of tide mills among the public in general, and more specifically in the understanding of coastal communities and historical societies which have old tide mill sites in their back yards. We have done this in a number of specific ways: 1) holding annual conferences highlighting the history and technology of American and international tide mills; 2) offering presentations at local historical societies (so far only in Maine) to tell about the nature of tide mills and highlighting those that once were in the area, 3) offering a newsletter that includes information about a wide range of tide mill topics, 4) responding to requests for information about mills, 5) assisting in interpreting local mills.

Through it all, we have become amazed at the existing depth of hidden local knowledge about tide mills and the people that built and operated them. We’ve seen Tide Mill Institute’s role being like the tip of the ice berg. We’ve documented tide mills, gathered recorded information about them, and been able to set them into a region’s historical context. But to dig deeper and to tell the fuller story of these early enterprises, it’s really the local historical societies and researchers who really know their areas, the backgrounds of the milling families and individuals who participated in the industry who can tell the deeper story. Our approach has been, “We can help you pinpoint your mills, but only you can tell their real story.”

To that end and over the next few years, Tide Mill Institute will seek to continue interacting with historical societies in New England and beyond to continue preserving and interpreting the amazing heritage of the American tide mill industry. Join us in this task!


Meet two of the broad community of tide mill enthusiasts that extends around the world. You will meet others in future issues.


American tide mill history has only a few icons. Just at the time these mills were vanishing, some researchers began to recognize them as a topic worthy of study. The late historical geographer, Peveril Meigs (1903-1979) was one one of the few who studied them extensively in the United States.

He was preceded in 1935 by Alfred Elden, who reportedly was impacted earlier in his life by viewing the large tide mil at Pasin Cove in HArpswell, Maine.. His article in the bulletin of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (Vol. XXV No. 4 April 1935, pp 117-127) was probably the first significant presentation about the subject. In the early 1980’s a small monograph privately printed by George M. Carlton Sr. presented descriptions, documents and photographs of a dozen or so mills in his Tide Mills of Maine and Beyond.

In the 1950’s Meigs received a grant from the American Philosophical Society for extensive study of tide mills from Maine to Georgia, but unfortunately, published only two articles on the subject before his death giving hints at the importance of recording these mills and their sites as part of America’s industrial history: “Historical Geography of Tide Mills on the Atlantic Coast,” in the American Philosophical Society Yearbook 1970(American Philosophical Society, 1971, pp 462-464) and “Tide Mills on the Atlantic,” Old Mill News ( No. 7, 1979).

He corresponded widely and in great detail with coastal historical societies and individuals interested in tide mills, documenting about 300 of them along the Atlantic Coast.. The Mills Archive in the UK have some of his correspondence with W.E.Minhchinton, early scholar of the tide mills of Britain. Most of Meigs’s papers are now held by his son and are not yet publicly available.


If you need a tide mill guru or a fellow to repair your royal castle, David Plunkett would be the man to contact. He be came an expert in techniques of architectural preservation, stone buildings, historic houses and castles and more castles across Wales and England. His skills led him to the famous Windsor Castle, where for five years he served as Senior Clerk of the Works for the project management team charged with repairing, restoring and rebuilding damage done by the great 1992 fire.

For over thirty years his interest in tide mills has led him around the coast of the United Kingdom, mainland Europe and the United States. He continues to document watermill and tide mill sites in the UK. For years he as been closely involved with Eling Tide Mill, overseeing structural and machinery repairs, acting as miller and coordinating research, training and operations at this more than 250 year old tide mill.. A mill has been at that site for more than 900 years!

David has authored or co-authored nearly a dozen articles about tide mills. A regular speaker about them in England and abroad, he has been the UK’s coordinator of the traveling exhibition “Tide Mills of Western Europe.” A good friend of Tide Mill Institute, he is well known in the molinological fraternity for his willingness to assist others, providing help and advice on historical or technical topics about mills, both salt- and fresh-water driven.

If you contacted him, we bet you could even get a few answers to questions about your castle, too!



Our readers have long been aware of the Winnegance area of Bath and Phippsburg, Maine as being a major hub of the nineteenth-century tidal power industry. Those lucky enough to attend last November’s Tide Mill Institute conference were treated to John Goff’s masterful presentation of the history, sociology, genealogy and technology of this two-town tide mill community and its ten tidal lumber mills that made this area truly the “tide mill capital of America.”

Since November’s conference there’s been quite a buzz about the area and possibilities for the future of the area. For years, John has been trying to energize locals and the wider molinological community to create a public focus on the significance of Winnegance and its mills, perhaps even to develop a tide mill museum to center that effort, to display articles and to tell the story of that heritage. A hopeful location for it to happen has been the old Winnegance Store, one of two or three that once graced the village on the Bath side of the dam.

Though major roadblocks make it unlikely that this building may ever become a “Winnegance Tide Mill Museum,” John’s enthusiastic and upbeat approach to his dream has generated a lot of energy and support from a broad spectrum of the communities involved: historians, preservation experts at the state and local levels as well as many “just plain folks” who love the area and its history.

As a result of John’s work, the old store has been extensively reviewed by preservation experts, , and Maine Preservation has nominated it as one of Maine’s most endangered sites. Meetings have been held with municipal officials, alternate local sites have been explored, interpretive signage as well as plans for guided public tours to highlight the villages and their mills have been considered.

One of the best things that’s happened so far is the creation of a large and energized community of people who are aware of the mills’ heritage and are eager to preserve and share the story of that important tide mill complex. Let’s hope the process continues and gathers momentum over time so the wonderful story of this fascinating two-village tide mill community can be shared more publicly, Kudos to John Goff!

Save these Dates

2013 – November 2 - Ellsworth Maine - PENOBSCOT MARINE MUSEUM - “Working the Bay: Fisheries, Tides and Wind Looking at how residents of coastal Maine have reaped the sea’s bounty of fish, converted the tide’s energy into power for mills and harnessed the wind to transport goods to market. A look at current innovations in wind-powered energy tide and wind as alternative energy sources.


2013 – November 8/9 Topsfield, Mass. GOULD BARN TOPSFIELD HISTORICAL SOCIETY - TIDE MILL INSTITUTE’S 9TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE. Tide Mills of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, Nova Scotia’s Apple River Tide Mill, Calculating the Power Developed at Tide-Powered Saw Mills and other tidally molinological topics. CONFERENCE DETAILS WILL BE AVAILABLE SOON.


2014 – May 15, 16 – Portland & Bath, Maine SOCIETY FOR INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING (SIA’S Annual Conference. May 16th – SIA Splinter Meeting at MAINE MARITIME MUSEUM in Bath – Bud Warren will offer a presentation: Maine Tide Mills: A Once and Future Thing.


SPRING 2014 – Date to be Determined. Queens, New York GREATER ASTORIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY. Empowered by the success of Tide Mill Institute’s conferences, this organization is in the planning stage for their first tide mill conference. From what we understand, it will focus on both the extensive tide mill heritage that grew out of the Dutch tradition and will explore some contemporary New York tidal energy installations. STAY TUNED!


Brooklyn used to be the home of the Dodgers. It was also the site of some of the earliest tide mills in the country. Dutch settlers brought their milling expertise to the new land and took advantage of the area’s tides and topography. In the mid 1640’s three of them were built on Gowanus Creek. One of them was the focal point of an early military event during the Revolutionary War. During the Battle of Brooklyn, as British soldiers advanced, a tide mill and its bridge were burned, and patriots were forced to cross the rising waters of the creek in retreat.

By 1836 three tide mills were still in operation along Gowanus Creek, but they didn’t last long, for the Erie Canal allowed inexpensive grain to be brought from upstate New York and the Midwest. As elsewhere, these mills changed ownership through the years, ceased operation and eventually fell into disrepair, evidence of their existence fading into the mud, the mill ponds filling in, the whole area eventually covered with newer buildings, roads and parking lots, its heritage forgotten. What’s left of the canal is a quiet, sludgy body of unattractive water winding through a typical urban landscape.

Enter Angela Kramer, energetic educator at Proteus Gowanus, an interdisciplinary neighborhood gallery and reading room. Named for the Greek sea god of change and the adjacent Gowanus canal, Proteus Gowanus acts as an interpreter of culture and place, deepening the local community’s sense of context and connection. To bring attention to the tidal nature of the water in the Creek, Angela painted tidal height markers on old pilings.

She also created an exhibit highlighting the history of the Gowanus mills and hosted a “Tide Mill Extravaganza Workshop,” focusing on the old mills, milling and the current situation along the Gowanus waterfront. Families in the area worked together to build their own miniature mills, and youngsters even had the opportunity to grind grain into flour.

At our conference in November, she will share the story of those early Dutch mills, her work to find their location under urban concrete and macadam and how she’s making Brooklyn youngsters and adults aware of their tide mill heritage. It’s a great tale- don’t miss it! Well done, Angela and Proteus Gowanus!

BROOKSVILLE’S HARBORSIDE TIDE MILL & OPEN PIT MINE QUESTION: When was a tide mill pond not a tide mill pond? ANSWER: When it was an open pit mine!

Brooksville is a small, rural town near the mouth of Maine’s Penobscot River. From the water, the area looks like much of the rest of the mid-coast –a thick, dark spruce/pine forest rises from bluff granite shorelines. Here and there at low tide, deep coves reach deep into what looks like virgin territory. Early on, as early as the mid 1640’s the French and the Dutch, the English and later, American colonists struggled to hold this land. Goose Cove lies on Brooksville’s western edge, facing toward Castine, across the Bagaduce River.

In the 1770’s a man named John Bakeman was granted mill rights here at what became known as Goose Falls in the Harborside area; nature almost completed a dam, water flowing both ways over the granite. Known as “Bakeman’s privilege,” the grist and lumber mills he created were typical of others along this coast, lasting until the mill building was torn down in 1913.

About 1880 a clam digger with an awareness of geology discovered a zinc/copper sulfide lode on the banks of the pond, and ore was mined from three shafts until 1887. According to EPA documents, sporadic efforts were subsequently made to mine that ore through 1964 at which point Callahan Mining Corporation got involved.

In 1968 they received state permission to close off the water passage, temporarily drain the former mill pond and begin open pit mining operations. The pit created was eventually from 600 to 1000 feet in diameter and 320 feet deep.

By the time the mineral deposit ran out four years later, over 5 million tons of waste rock and 798,000 to 800, 000 tons of ore-bearing rock had been removed from the pit, crushed and milled on site to the consistency of fine sand. From this mixture, zinc and copper was recovered by a chemical flotation process; then it was trucked to smelters in Canada and Pennsylvania. After work stopped, the pond was then allowed to refill. The only intertidal heavy metal mine in the world at the time of its operation, it left a legacy of contamination at the site. Except for the huge mountain of tailings in the distance, the millsite looks rather as it did when the tide mill was operating. Currently the site is one of the larger (and more expensive!) of the EPA’s Superfund sites in New England.

The aerial photo above shows the extent of the mining operation in the old Goose Falls tide mill pond. The mill was in left foreground, between the opening under the road and the large rock to its right about where the arrow points. (see the top picture on the previous page).Goose Cove is at the bottom. The original mill pond extended back from the road past the location of the pit, and beyond. (Sandecki photo)

This is what things look like today.The open pit has been filled, the mountain of tailings removed from it stands in the upper right corner of the photo. The tide mill site is out of sight to the left. (EPA photo)


We recently received a nice little book of early photographs of the towns of Bath and West Bath, Maine, one of the neat “Images of America series, which features local pictures arranged by locals who love their home towns.

Above is an image of the cover of Joyce Bibber’s volume, featuring a real tide miller posing for the camera. The caption from page 52 of this volume reads as follows: “Logs on the millpond. Lumbering was one of the earliest industries to develop in Maine, and the Bath area usually had at least one mill. The availability of timbers helped contribute to the development of Bath as a shipbuilding center of shipping. The Rogers Mill was built in the nineteenth century on the site of the 1764 sawmill built by Dummer Sewall at Whiskeag Stream, in the north part of town. Mr. Rogers is shown here lining up logs.”

There are few existing photographs of tide millers at work, nor have we found many good ones of the interior of active American tide mills. If you have any to share of either type, please send them along and we will print them for others to enjoy. Send or email them to TIDE MILL TIMES: 5 Berkeley Lane- Topsham ME 04086 budw@myfairpoint.net .



Tide mills come in many different shapes and sizes. So do their dams. Here are three pages of photos of what’s left of a number of them from along the coast of Maine. One can learn a lot at low tide. We hope you will find these images interesting and instructive. Have fun studying them! We hope you’ll be stimulated to share a few low tide photos of dams in your own back yard. We’ll be happy to print what we can in future issues and give you credit. budw@myfairpoint.net









TWO IMAGES OF BELL’S MILL –EDMUNDS -In the top photo of the 1765 dam at Tide Mill Farm you’re standing on the ledge, looking down at timbers cleared of seaweed to show how it was laid out to withstand the 23-foot tide of this area of Cobscook Bay. Can you find the vertical sheathing that lined both sides of the dam to make it water tight? The photo below and to the left shows another view of this dam site. Check cliff at the left.



One of the original reasons that John Goff first began publishing TIDE MILL TIMES back in the 1990’s was to publicize the SOUTHER TIDE MILL in Quincy, Massachusets and to stimulate interest in tide mills. At that time, a saw mill was adjacent to the original grist mill, that dated from 1806. John’s dream was to restore the tired mill bildings mill to working condition and to develop the land around it into a fine park. In subsequent years the sawmill burned. vandalism took its toll and the roof experienced serious deterioration. Several special grants, some municipal involvement, yeoman’s effort by Quincy’s Carolyn Marks and others began to make things happen. Today, after structural and roof repairs, new windows and roof repair and a brand new sign (just placed in late July), the original mill building is once again a respectable feature of the waterfront. Check out the difference between the two photos above!

The following very upbeat email just received from Doug Morrill, current president of the Friends of Souther Tide Mill, brings things up to date and makes one optimistic about the mill’s future. Next project [is ] to electrify the building and alarm the building. While that is in progress I hope to get a D.O.E. in order to get a Historical Site designation, so we can receive grants. Then to restore the grist mill and to add a saw mill building attachment, to the existing building, the building that burned because of the fire. John has the blue prints so we could re-build that portion.That’s just the beginning.”

Your tide mill friends around the world wish you every success, Doug and others working to save Souther !


Our last item is about what may be the most important tide mill story of the decade, if not the century - a reconstruction of the 1749 Perkins Grist Mill in Kennebunkport, Maine. When completed and operating, it will be the first working tide mill in America since the 1940’s. Project manager, Steve Simcock, tells us that Kennebunkport Conservation Trust has received all environmental permits, and after having made a few design changes will be meeting for a final time later this month with the town’s Planning Board. Once that approval is received, on-site activity will begin, Sometime soon grain will once again be milled into flour at this historic tide mill site! We can’t wait!

TIDE MILL TIMES is the newsletter for TIDE MILL INSTITUTE. Our website is www.tidemillinstitute.org. For information about organizational issues contact Earl Taylor at ermwwt@aol.com. To respond to articles in TIDE MILL TIMES or to submit articles or photographs about tide mills, contact