Tide Mill Institute


 What’s Ahead for TIDE MILL INSTITUTE?

Looking ahead to our tenth year, it may be too easy to pat ourselves on the back, but frankly – it does feel good to know that what was a dream nearly a decade ago is still alive and kicking. We’re excited about what TIDE MILL INSTITUTE facing next year: a big tenth conference, getting REALLY organized, working to achieve a true non-profit status and perhaps even developing formal relationships with SPOOM, TIMS, and SIA. One thing’s for sure, we’re anticipating an exciting year. There are many who find learning and sharing about tide mill heritage a worthwhile activity. There are hints that the public is now waking up to possibilities offered by tidal power. And we hope YOU will stay connected to TMI. Get involved: share your research, send us your ideas and stay in touch with us at info@tidemillinstitue.org. We’ll respond to your ideas as well as your questions! [Bud Warren]

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS - TIDE MILL INSTITUTE is proud that for nine years we’ve been able to gather experts from near and far to share their excitement and knowledge about tide mills with a growing audience. This year’s event was another fascinating gathering; our thanks to all who were part of it.

The Gould Barn

Due to the great generosity and kindness of Mr.& Mrs. Norman Isler and the Topsfield Historical Society, our 2013 Tide Mill Institute annual Conference was held in the wonderful historic Gould Barn adjacent to the Parson Capen House in Topsfield, MA, a beautiful rural North Shore town perhaps best known for its annual hosting of the Topsfield Fair. The historic timber frame structure dates mostly from circa 1710. It was constructed initially about a mile from its current site for the family of Capt. Joseph Gould, a Topsfield farmer and militia man who on April 19, 1775 helped to repel the British at Lexington and Concord. After the barn fell into disrepair on its original site, it was gifted to the Topsfield Historical Society in 1982. It was then dismantled, moved and reconstructed near the Society’s Capen House for long term preservation and re- use. Advanced, largely by volunteers of the Topsfield Historical Society led by Norm Isler, the barn was stripped to its original frame with sturdy bents, and roof rafters supporting purlins. After being carefully dis-assembled and re-erected on the new site, the structure was sheathed in new boards. The Barn worked beautifully for our conference and is available for weddings, parties and meetings. It’s insulated and heated, has a capacity of 99, a small kitchen and accessible bathrooms. To make arrangements about using it for your own event, contact the Topsfield Historical Society: http://www.topsfieldhistory.org/gould_barn.shtml. [John Goff]


Kerr Canning opened the conference describing how dikes made of peat, mud and marsh grass were built to create a pond on Apple River in Nova Scotia for an old mill which became covered by sediment carried by a meandering tidal stream. Today, as that same stream continues to meander, the tide mill is being exposed for study.

He explained that the interesting system of constructing these dikes, called aboiteau were developed in Europe, applied to the marshes of that region and eventually carried to the New World.

Kerr invites you to contact him at kerrcanning@sympatico.ca, and has offered the following two links about the dyking process: http://www.versicolor.ca/kerr/OttawaHouse Presentation_Aug2011/ http://www.versicolor.ca/kerr/truro/



The conference’s keynote speaker proved to participants that tide mills are more than just a historical oddity. They are alive and well and making a splash in the 21st century. Chris Sauer explained that his company, Ocean Renewable Power Company, is doing much more than operating America's first marine hydrokinetic power system in Cobscook Bay, Maine, to feed into the New England power grid. Not only accomplished that historic event, but it has also designed the second generation of its river energy power system which will be tested in Maine later this winter, and then sent to Alaska for installation in the Kvichak River at Igiugig next summer. ORPC Solutions was also recently launched to offer a wide range of project development, regulatory and management services to the international ocean and river energy industries. The company is not doing these things on its own, but is collaborating closely with local communities, environmental agencies, local fishing groups and other stakeholders as well as federal and state agencies. TIDE MILL INSTITUTE is pleased to have had you on the program, Chris – thanks for your inspiration!


The Dutch built some of the first tide mills in America. The first of these was in Brooklyn NY. Angela Kamer, who works with Proteus Gowanus, an interdisciplinary neighborhood gallery and reading room shared some of the ways her group is making people today aware of the rural, agricultural, piscatorial and milling background of their urban landscape. One way she has done this was by focusing the neighborhood’s attention on the tides of Gowanus Creek where once there were three tide mills. Originally a pristine creek, the Gowanus is now a raw, polluted, sewer-laden body of water that has recently been awarded designation as a Superfund cleanup site. She and others drew attention to its tidal nature by painting tide level marks on a piling and held a milling event to celebrate the neighborhood’s molinological past! One of the three tide mill sites on the creek played a part during the Revolutionary War Battle of Brooklyn when a significant encounter occurred between British forces and Americans, who fought a delaying action there to cover the withdrawal of Washington’s Army. Other activities related to the tide mills even included taking low altitude aerial photos of tide mill sites using weather balloons.




This is a report on work in progress that explores tide mill operation along the York River in Maine, where tidal-powered saw and grist mills were built from 1634 onward, and continued in use through the late nineteenth century. There are no archaeological data on the 1634 mills, but deeds show they were on Old Mill Creek . Thomas Gorges, the deputy governor reported in letters to Sir Fernando Gorges in 1640 that when working (which was not as often as he wished) the sawmill cut 250 feet and the grist mill ground 20 bushels per tide. These data can be used to determine the energy requirement of the mills. The task is then to find if there was a location on Old Mill Creek that would yield the required tidal energy and operating time using a method that doesn’t depend on information about the mill structure or machinery about which we have no information. For a series of possible mill sites along the creek the potential energy of water stored behind a mill dam and the length of time the mill wheel would be free of backwater are calculated. This gives us a graph of energy available vs. operating time. For Old Mill Creek it shows that the right combination of energy and time to satisfy the known 1634 mill production requirement was available at a location about half way up the tidal estuary Similar calculations for New Mill Creek give a good match to the mapped tide-mill dam locations. They show that Barrell’s Mill Pond [C], the final tide power installation along the York River, completed in 1729, supplied mills located on its 900-foot dam with 84 HP over 5.2 hours in each tidal cycle. Evidence of historic sea level change and marsh growth show that our use of modern tidal data for these sites is appropriate.

5- 8. Our North Shore Presenters

Although Topsfield never had any tide mills--being situated inland from all known tide waters, Topsfield historically was close to a number of significant tide milling centers. This fact was hammered home at the 2013 conference by four speakers who represented the diverse communities north of Boston (and not far from Topsfield) that included Salem, Beverly, Gloucester and Newburyport. Ron Klodenski gave a presentation on Curzon’s Mill in Newburyport. The mill site is situated not far from Maudslay State Park on a north-flowing tributary to the Merrimac River. Klodenski gave a fine overview of the history of the mill, and questioned if other tide mills historically operated on other Merrimac tributaries too. Sarah Dunlap of the Gloucester Archives presented on the several tide mills that have operated over the years in different parts of Gloucester on Cape Ann. Hodgkins Tide mill, on Goose Cove, is no doubt the best known, due to Harry Gulesian’s superb HABS drawings that were so wonderfully executed. Yet Sarah showed us other tide mills too---and more Gloucester tide mill history may be dusted off and reconstructed for next year’s presentation as well. Darren Brown of the Beverly Historical Society provided a fine overview of Beverly’s historic Friend Tide Mill that once ground grain opposite the “Shoe” or Cummings Property on Route 62. The 17th century site is no longer standing as an intact building, but its archaeological ruins invite a proper scientific exploration in full detail.

I presented briefly on Salem’s North River, South River and Forest River tide mills. These were mills that ground grain, cut wood and performed other tasks. My favorite Salem tide mill site remains the recently cleaned- -Wyman-Peabody Lead Mills site on the Forest River, recentlyeveloped as a beautiful waterfront public park. I see great educational potential in this one property, and in continuing North Shore presentations exploring the industrial history of our region as a whole. [John Goff]

Curzon Mill - Newburyport

Friend Mill – Beverly

Hodgkins Mill – Gloucester

Gardner-Wyman-Peabody Lead Mills - Salem

9-10. Reports from Tide Mill Groups

Doug Butler, project manager for Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, brought participants up to date with progress at Kennebunkport’s 1749 Perkins Grist Mill. They have completed their design work, have all environmental permits and have subitted two final proposals to the town’s Planning Board. Upon approval, they anticipate beginning construction activity in the near future. When this project is completed, the reconstruction will be the first American Doug Butler working tidal grist mill in over 80 years! Kennebunkport

Doug Morrill, president of the Friends of Souther Tide Mill in Quincy, gave a good background of his group’s activities over the past few years. Much has been done to stabilize the building and gain support from the state and the city. A fine new sign added to the campus has enhanced local visibility, and interest in the project. The Souther Mill was, in fact, the stimulus for the original, Doug Morrill TIDE MILL TIMES under John Goff’s leadership.


You deserve one if you’ve attended all of our TIDE MILL INSTITUTE conferences! Just look at the wide range of tide mill topics we’ve shared together since 2005!



Searching for Tide Mill Origins

Tide Mills of the Old & New Worlds

Economics of Medieval Tide Mills

Tide Mill Legal Issues Contemporary

Tidal Energy Sustainable/Renewable Energy

TECHNICAL What is a Tide Mill?

How Tidal Sawmills Work

Helical Turbines Ocean Power ORPC’s

Turbine Boat Mills



Tide Mills of Maine & NH

A Small Grist Mill on Deer Isle

Wessaweskeag Mill, So. Thomaston

Brewer’s Sedgeunkedunk Tide Mill

Carver’s Harbor Mills, Vinalhaven

The Basin Mill, Phippsburg

Perkins Grist Mill, Kennebunkport

Winnegance - US Tide Mill Capital?

My Family’s Tide Mill, Phippsburg

Tide Mills for Washington County



The Tide Mill in My Back Yard



Dorchester’s River & Tide Mills

Boston’s “Big Dig” Tide Mill

Clap’s Tide Mill, Dorchester

A New-found Neponset Tide Mill

Slade’s Spice Mill, Chelsea/Everett

The Souther Mill Challenge, Quincy

Gloucester Tide Mills

Mystic River Tide Mills, Arlington

North Shore Mills: Beverly Gloucester Salem Newburyport



Brooklyn. NY - 3 Gowanus Tide Mills

New Jersey’s Forgotten Tide Mills

Tide Mills of the Chesapeake Region



Documenting European Tide Mills

Anglo Saxon Tide Mill on the Thames

London’s House Mill

Tide Mills of Anglesey, Wales

The World’s Oldest Tide Mill Is Irish!

Portugal’s Sado Estuary Tide Mills

Basque Country Tide Mills

Tide Mills of some Spanish Provinces

Tide Mills at the Amazon’s Mouth

An Apple River Tide Mill, Nova Scotia



To help you understand the background of our craft ...


One of the earliest documented and clear comments about English tide mills was written by Richard Carew, High Sheriff of Cornwall in his Survey of Cornwall (1602):

“Salt water mills – Amongst other commodities afforded by the sea the inhabitants make use of divers his creeks, for grist milles, by thwarting a bancke from side to side, in which a flood-gate is placed with two leaves; these the flowing tyde openeth, and after a full sea, the weight of the ebb closeth fast, which no other force can do and so the imprisoned water payeth the ransom of dryving an undershoote wheele for his enlargement."


In 1938, Rex Wailes presented a paper about English and Welsh tide mills to the Institute of Civil Engineers in London. With its publication, he hoped that the history of these mills and others would one day be more fully written. The archives of Michael Goodchild and Walter Minchinton have been donated to the Mill Archive Trust and have been organized for researchers. Minchinton’s many articles through the last few decades have set a standard for those studying the history of tide mills in the UK. Jeremy Greenwood’s current website, “ Tide Mills in England and Wales” outlines their history , describes their workings with diagrams, and provides a gazetteer of those past and present. David Plunkett, associated with the Eling Tide Mill, has documented and written extensively about tide Mills in the UK.


Contemporary European tide mill researchers abound. Claude Rivals, a prolific writer in the 60’s and 70’s authored many articles and publications about French tide mills. Loic Menanteau based in Nantes, Luis

Azurmendi Peres, and American Richard Duffy focus on Spanish mills. Claudia Silviera, associated with Seixal Economuseu and a key member of the team that developed the on-going traveling exhibit “Tide Mills of Western Europe” specializes in mills of Portugal. In another hemisphere, Keith Preston is researching tide mills of New Zealand and Tasmania.


Although much has been written about European tide mills, those in America have been almost ignored by industrial historians. In the 1950’s and 60’s Perveril Meigs, a historical geographer, gathered information on about 300 American tide mills from Maine to Georgia. Unfortunately he published only a few articles before his death in 1979. His archives are now held by his son and not yet publicly available. John Goff, an historic architect in Salem Massachusetts, has championed the study of tide mills around the world. Inspired by his interest in stabilizing and preserving the Souther Tide mill in Quincy, he wrote and published for six years the “Tide Mill Times,” gathering and distributing information about American and other tide mills. Maritime historian Earle “Bud” Warren focuses on American tide mills, specializing on those in Maine, where he has documented over 200 sites.


Three organizations are good sources of information about the background of tide mills. The mission of Tide Mill Institute, based in Dorchester Massachusetts, is to further the understanding and appreciation of tide mills and be of assistance to those interested in the history of and contemporary utilization of tidal power. Their website, www.tidemillinstitute.org has much useful information about tide mill history. Past issues of the newsletter of TIMS – The International Molinological Society, based in the Netherlands and SPOOM - the Society for Preservation of Old Mills – are good archives to search.

We hope this report will encourage further study about the fascinating topic of international tide mill heritage.



Experts in milling history indicate that vertical but . One obvious reason is they wouldn’t ice up in the winter. And as Brown University’s Pat Malone recently mentioned to me, they are “smaller, easier to build and could connect directly to a run of stones without any intermediate gearing.”

When iron turbines were developed, tide millers were quick to take advantage of their greater power than wooden wheels.

Most old tide mill buildings and their machinery are long gone, even though evidence of many dams can be traced at low tide. But still buried h and there along New England’s coast,lie remnants of old turbines yet to be discovered. Recent archaeological work done at the Perkins Tidal Grist Mill in Kennebunkport Maine exposed a most interesting 19th century iron turbine. At least four of these early tide mill devices lie hidden below New England’s low tide line, offering exciting opportunities for archaeological exploration. There may well be more of them – a buried data base of America’s tidal industrial past, just waiting for a new generation of scholars to find and study.


If readers of TIDE MILL TIMES are aware of turbines or other tide mill machinery parts in the mud near you, PLEASE let us know at info@tidemillinstitute.org. Perhaps TMI can build a data base of the types of equipment used in tide mills. THANKS! [In the NEXT ISSUE we will explore vertical sheathing at tide mills.] [Bud Warren – editor]


Do Tide Mills Make Economic Sense?

As much as we’d like to answer a resounding “YES” to this question, in all honesty, we have to answer “NOT YET!” This slide from a recent tide mill presentation I gave suggests that we aren’t there yet. Neither is wind power. There may be some existing private micro hydro power operations that are working out economically, but it’s obvious that tidal power is in its infancy, and will be until the price gap can be narrowed.

TIDE MILL INSTITUTE, however, continues to believe in the efficacy of modern tidal power, and as our mission statement pledges, we will continue to promote appropriate re-uses of old tide mill sites and the development of the use of tides as an energy source. [Bud Warren]



It takes a lot of people to make an organization work! Over the years, many people have been involved in different ways with TMI. We thank them all for their interest and support.

RICHARD DUFFY – He’s a two-continent tide mill expert! His early initial interest in the Boston area’s Mystic River mills led to republishing the 1882 ”Tinkham Brothers’ Tide-Mill.” Subsequently, he has studied and photographed many tide mills in Spain.

JOHN GOFF - Co-founder and sparkplug behind creating TIDE MILL INSTITUTE and former editor of TIDE MILL TIMES. A highly respected restoration architect, he has been studying historic tide mills since he was a youngster.

ROBERT GOODWIN – A retired information specialist, he has been associated with TIDE MILL INSTITUTE for ten years, and has done extensive field-work on historic Maine coast tide mill sites.

TODD GRISET – An environmental lawyer and very interested in old Maine tide mill sites, which he explores up close by kayak. He’s been involved in the permitting process for several tidal energy proposals for coastal Maine

PAT MALONE – He was formerly in the American Studies Department and the Urban Studies Program at Brown, president of the Society for Industrial Archaeology and prolific author of articles about industrial archaeology. With Chuck Parrott (see below) he was a key player in a major restoration project at the Slater Mill Historic site in Rhode Island and the interpretation of gearing and some stones of an 18th century site on a 17th century mill pond found during Boston’s “Big Dig.”

CHUCK PARROTT – Historical architect for the National Park Service’s Lowell National Historic Park, Chuck was instrumental in study and analysis of the tidal mill features found during Boston’s “Big Dig,” using CADCAM to reconstruct the mill’s power system, creating a visual representation of its operational characteristics.

DAVID PLUNKETT – One of the most respected tide mill experts in Europe, David has been closely associated with TIDE MILL INSTITUTE for about 8 years. His documentation of the UK’s tide mills is a model followed by many others. He is a miller at the Eling tide mill in Hampshire and a frequent lecturer at international tide mill gatherings.

CLAUDIA SILVEIRA - Tide mill historian at Portugal’s Ecomuseum Municipal do Seixal, she was a prime mover and developer of the successful traveling exhibit “Tide Mills of Western Europe,” organized in 2005 and still continuing in 2013. She’s been helpful in connecting us to other tide mill people in Europe.

EARL TAYLOR – Also a co-founder of TIDE MILL INSTITUTE, he is president of Dorchester Historical Society, whose headquarters is the home of one of New England’s earliest tide millers. He’s been studying tide mills in the Boston area for years as well as those in the Phippsburg Maine region.

DON WOODS – A professional civil engineer, he’s been involved across New England, with many historic preservation projects as a project engineer and in historic site documentation mapping. He’s also president of the New England Chapter of SPOOM, the Society for Preservation of Old Mills.

BUD WARREN – Free-lance maritime historian and lecturer, he has documented over 200 historic Maine tide mill sites. A co-founder of TMI; he is now its chair and editor of TIDE MILL TIMES.

Collectively these people probably constitute the greatest collection of historical tide mill knowledge in the world.

If you have questions about anything about tide mills, just ask us at: info@tidemillinstitute.org.

One of these experts will certainly be able guide you to an answer! We’ll do our best to head you in the right direction.


In Memoriam - Ted Hazen

The milling world has lost a giant.

Years ago, when I first grew interested in tide mills, I ran across a website run by an amazing person named Ted Hazen. As a neophyte, I hesitantly sent him an email query about something I was working on. To my amazement and pleasure, my inbox was hit a few days later with a warm, supportive and encyclopedic five-page quality response. I felt more than welcomed to the molinological fraternity and over the years treasured his messages. They were ever informative, opinionated, sometimes even short-tempered with those who were incompetent, but his missives were always the sort of thing you wanted to file because they were loaded with so much good information you didn’t want to throw them away.

He was very supportive of what we at Tide Mill Institute are trying to do. He’s someone I’d always wanted to meet. We tried for years to get him to our conference – to talk about anything he wanted to, but he kept moving further and further away, and as time went on, his health made traveling more and more difficult for him.

Ted was a miller’s miller. He seemed to know everything there is to know about mills, millstones and milling. And he loved sharing his knowledge. He ground grains from every kind of plant, producing flour for cereals, pancake mix, breads. I wouldn’t be surprised if he even ground gunpowder!

Ted’s mantra was that mills and waterpower are still a practicable and environmental alternative technology. He practiced that technology for many years at the Rock Creek Park mill in Washington DC as years as educator, historian and blacksmith as well as bookstore manager, miller, millstone dresser and hands-on equipment-fixer.

David Plunkett, of Eling Mill in England, writes that he knew Ted for over 25 years, and wrote that he was “…always very hospitable to a travelling researcher like myself between Washington DC and North Carolina. Ted had a great gift of making sense of historical mill history and explaining clearly after good research. For many years annually, Ted and I would meet up from Peirce Mill in DC and travel of in my hire car to explore the mysteries of missing tide mills within the vastness of Chesapeake Bay. I learnt a lot from Ted about America and its milling history. He even helped keep me safe when I was confronted by a property owner with a shotgun in hand, on the shores of Mobjack Bay. Many happy times to remember….

“I stayed with [him and his wife] at odd times on my travels, at their home at Roanoke and then Virginia Beach. Pond Lilly Restorations was Ted's main business link which included a wide ranging Web site [of the same name]. Over the past 18 years or so, we regularly corresponded by email on a very wide range of topics, ranging from American millstones, Oliver Evans Mills, Tide Mills in New York, to his probably last commission, which was on chocolate mills.”

Ted’s wonderful website Pond Lilly Restorations (http://www.angelfire.com/journal/pondlilymill/menu.html), offers a wealth of information about mills and milling history, offering hours of pleasure. One hopes that this resource will remain on line for the edification of generations of future devotees of this ancient craft.

Bud Warren