Tide Mill Institute

Tide Mill Times No. 14 WINTER 2016 CONFERENCE ISSUE!!

TIDE MILL INSTITUTE - Committed to Sustainable Industrial Heritage
www.tidemillinstitute.org contact: info@tidemillinstitute.org

2015 Conference report: in one word: FASCINATING!

TIDE MILL INSTITUTE’s major event each year is our conference. This year was one of the best! Tide mills in Ireland and France were highlighted, but the program focused strongly on just one tide mill. The gathering, at Cummings Center in Beverly Massachusetts and attended by more than fifty tide mill enthusiasts was held within sight of a tide mill location that had been active for almost 250 years.

It was a busy day. Five of the thirteen sessions at the two-day conference dealt with Friend’s Mill on Beverly’s Bass River: an archaeologist reported on a recently-completed survey of the site, historians set the mill in cultural, geographical, architectural, technical and maritime contexts of the region and participants enjoyed a low-tide field trip to the mill site. Collaborating with TMI to pull all this off was the Beverly Historical Society, which opened an exhibit about the mill the first day of the conference. The rest of the conference was a full plate, too. The story of documenting the world’s oldest dated tide mill (Irish) was presented by the event’s keynote speaker (also Irish), and a French researcher discussed tide mills of the Golfe du Morbihan. A Maine mill was described, another in Gloucester Massachusetts was documented, a Somerville Massachusetts tidal ropewalk, Boston’s colonial tidal mills were described and participants discussed the possibility of a tide mill on Roncocas Creek in Mt. Holly, New Jersey.

Next Conference: BOSTON -- SAVE THE DATE!

TMI’s next conference will be held on Saturday, November 12th, at the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum in Boston’s Chestnut Hill area. As a follow-up to our last event’s discussion of Boston’s
colonial tidal power, this year’s gathering will focus on the city’s mills. Tide mill relics from the 18th century were found during the famous “Big Dig.” Their fascinating details, carefully studied, measured and recorded, shed light on the mechanical wizardry of colonial industrial design. These will be explained with intricate CAD illustrations. We will also look at a Boston tidal power project from the 19th century: the famous Back Bay scheme that was designed and built to provide “perpetual power” but didn’t work out. Other speakers will describe millstone quarries, and tides and tidal power around the world. A tour of the fascinating Waterworks Museum will be included.

Stay tuned

2015 - Conference Presentations
The following descriptions and images from talks at this year’s event are arranged in the order they were presented. We hope these pages will give you a sense of the rich breadth and depth of a typical TMI conference and make you want to attend next year’s conference in Boston.. Should you wish to contact any of the speakers about their topic, email us at info@tidemillinstitute.org, and we will let you know how to get in touch with them. (Photos of people at the conference by John Goff and Kerr Canning)

Archaeological Site Examination: The John Friend Gristmill Site
John Daly: Senior Historian for PAL (The Public Archaeology Laboratory, Inc.)

Daly first traced the history of Beverly’s Bass River mill site from John Friend’s initial grist mill in 1649 through various owners, the 1851 addition of its distinctive elevator, how it switched activity by 1882 to grinding rubber, being partially burned and rebuilt in 1885/1890. The structure was finally demolished 1905-1907 when the city built a new dam and culvert to redevelop the nearby highway.

He then described the 2015 survey of the Friend gristmill site in which he participated with PAL’s Suzanne Cherau in conjunction with a current flood mitigation project for the area. Because most of the site is tidal and a full archaeological study would have required an extensive cofferdam, PAL’s study was a walkover survey that defined stone wall segments, other possible mill features, timber and sheet piling as well as a prominent turbine shaft and coupling. Diagrams of their findings defined the probable footprint of the dam and adjacent structural elements of the working tide mill. PAL concludes that this significant mill site is eligible to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Does a Tide Mill Lurk in the Creek?
John Anderson: independent scholar, kayaker and tide-mill hunter.

A newcomer to tidal molinology, John came to our conference seeking answers. For some years he has extensively explored the North Branch of New Jersey’s Rancocas Creek a tributary of the Delaware River, where he has been developing a public kayaking trail, finding in the process topography and physical features that seemed to him to be characteristic of tide mills. His lively presentation offered an historical background to this tidal marsh area, beginning in 1824 and described its activities up to about 1908, including boat traffic, a turning basin, possible industry and mid-19th century activities related to escaped slaves. His photographs suggested many details that seemed characteristic of tide mills. Group discussion after his talk led to a strong consensus that he had a tide mill of some sort in his creek and suggestions that he continue searching deeds and other historical records to pinpoint its history.

Tide Mills of the Golfe du Morbihan:
Anthony Martin: M.A Candidate in History of Technology,Paris1 Pantheon-Sorbonne Univ.

Since the 12th century, the people of Brittany have made use of the highest tides in the world.  The first tide mill in the area to utilize this wonderful energy source was built in 1186 (Pencastle, Arzon); the last closed in 1965. Approximately 100 tide mills clustering in the most  potentially useful sites have shaped the Breton coastal landscape, particularly at two major unique locations - the Rance estuary and the Gulf of Morbihan.

The region of the Morbihan Gulf, cla ssified today as a Regional Park, presents on its coast about 25 tidal mills. The gulf that was formed about 14,000 years ago, gave its name to the department: ‘mor’ meaning sea and ‘bihan’ small. This small sea had all the geomorphological characteristithics for the establishment of sea mills along its shores. By focusing on three significant examples of restoration, Anthony described architectural features of early tide mill structures of the region and explained how they are integrated in the present cultural landscape.

Using Public Records to Find a Forgotten Tide Mill: The Haskell Burnhan-Corn Mill
Jane Mead: Independent researcher, focusing on Gloucester and the Neponset River of Massachusetts

Using her expertise in archival research, Jane showed how the memory of an early human activity carries on in available public records. She traced William Haskell’s 1656 Gloucester corn mill through several families (Burnham & Currier) and changes of ownership, showing how maps and surveys continued to reference the site long after its disappearance. An 1884 map marked the site as “Old Mill.” Five years later its existence wasn’t even indicated on the map in the local atlas. But into the 20th century, deeds at the Essex County Registry of Deeds continued to reference wording found in centuries of mill documents found in Europe and America: “privileges and appurtenances to the mill site and mill pond at...” The latest was included in the current owner’s 1994 deed, apparently giving the new owner authority to recreate tidal power at the site!

The Maine Tide Mill that Spawned a Canal
Bud Warren: President, TIDE MILL INSTITUTE

Timber was running out for John Peterson’s tidal sawmill on the New Meadows River in Brunswick. In 1790 he and others built a canal to the Kennebec River only two miles away to carry logs floated from the vast forests deep in the heart of Maine. But with no locks or gates at either end of the canal, tidal differences between the two rivers meant the new canal was useless. So Peterson moved to nearby Bath, bought a tidal privilege there and continued to produce lumber from timber his canal couldn’t bring to him.

NENDRUM: The World’s Oldest Dated Tide Mill is Irish!
Thomas McErlean: Former project manager in the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at Ulster
University, Northern Ireland, expert in the Irish Medieval and Post Medieval periods.

Thomas told of the history of the monastery at Nendrum, Northern Ireland, and how milling was a part of its culture. From his experience in the project, he described the team’s archaeology at the site and the discovery that there had been two dams and mills rather than just the one they expected, and he showed details of how they and the water control systems had been constructed. Of particular interest were detailed descriptions of two different waterwheels and details of the spoon-shaped waterwheel paddles. The two mills were dated to 619 and 628 AD, making the earlier one the world’s oldest dated tide mill!

Tide Power in Colonial Boston
Duane Lucia: Curator, the West End Museum, Boston

The early Boston peninsula was shaped like a bent arm. From the wrist to the shoulder, a ridge of marsh formed a natural causeway, which in 1643 was transformed by entrepreneurs into a dam that created a giant pond for a tide mill. Today the course of that dam is called Causeway Street. Duane Lucia’s museum sits pretty much atop the west end of that famous dam, now the course of today’s “Causeway Street,” an appropriate location for an exhibit about the town’s colonial ventures into tidal power.
Lucia described the exhibit he, mounted last summer, showing how that mill and others in Boston and nearby Charlestown were part of the area’s early industrial scene and how they eventually ceased to exist. Sedimentation and the need for land doomed the 1643 mill; part of Bacon hill was excavated for fill. Beacon Street was extended, creating a large and shallow two-reservoir pond for about 80 planned tide mills, but only a few were ever built, and the Back Bay area Bostonians know today was created.

Unearthing Allen’s Ropewalk on Miller River
Richard Duffy: Historian, author, expert on tide mills of Spain and Boston’s Mystic River

Tidal-powered ropewalks are unusual. The talk focused on using a variety of documentary sources (e.g. commercial census data) to understand the volume and nature of work that took place at a now-vanished tide mill site were even the body of water was no longer visible and where there was a lack of both historical images or depictions on maps or atlases of the era of the ropewalk’s operation. Richard shared his research about such a site in Somerville, Massachusetts on Miller River, a shallow tidal branch of Boston’s Charles River. He described the nature of ropemaking and related business conditions of that industry; using census and industrial statistical reports and putting it into commercial and the local context.. Other tidal ropewalks of the Boston area were discussed to provide additional context.
In the early 1800’s Hiram Allen apprenticed as a ropemaker to his future father in law and flourished in the 1840s and 1850’s as America’s maritime efforts expanded. Sailing vessels, particularly the larger ones, needed enormous quantities of rope. After his death in 1862, his riverside property was developed as a residential subdivision, and the river became polluted. Eventually its course was diverted into pipes and drained into the Charles River.

Duffy isn’t just a book and archives researcher: he shared the current status of the site, using contemporary photos to show what it looks like today – a scene that is similar to many other tide mill sites: no trace of the ropewalk and only hints of the region’s industrial past.

Friend’s Mill: Its North Shore Context
John Goff: Expert in architectural restoration, molinologist and former editor of TIDE

John began his presentation describing his fifteen-year interest in Friend’s Mill, and then discussed its many contextual layers. He showed how native Americans utilized the Bass River before European settlement Geographically and culturally, the mill was an element of English culture flowing to the colonies, bringing architectural and technological characteristics of the mother country to settlements along the North Shore. It and its products played a part in New England’s great maritime culture, and as a grinding centre, its roots mirrored characteristics of the English watermilling tradition. He finished with recommendations for further archaeology at the site, new educational programs about Friend’s Mill and its neighborhood, a waterfront renewable energy trail, a public park with interpretative signs and markers and even a floating demonstration mill to show how the tide can be used industrially.

Friend’s Mill: Its Architecture and History
Darren Brown: Curator, Beverly Historical Society

The Friend’s Mill, adjacent to our conference site had a long and busy history, starting with corn and grain. Curator of the Beverly Historical Society, Darren skillfully used deeds, maps, the census, newspaper reports, photographs and a painting to trace the story of this busy mill with references to ownership changes from John Friend in 1653 until its burning in1885, rebuilding and a short new life grinding rubber until about 1890. Photographs showed what the mill looked like in the 19th century, and contemporary low tide images of what remains on the foreshore prepared conference participants for what they would see in their visit to the site later in the afternoon.

This year’s final conference session was a low-tide visit to the site of Friend’s Mill, just across the street from. John Goff supplied informational handouts with photos, and participants clustered here and there to discuss details of what remained. Some braved the steep incline down from street level, clambering here and there, enjoying a close-up view of the remains. Marc Belanger, one of those in attendance, kindly supplied the following hyperlink to a video of the gathering. Our thanks to him for this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHtBOC_84WE

A drawing was held for a working model of a traditional up and down sawmill displayed at this year’s conference. It had been built by Carl Bowden, who died several months before our gathering. Its size is about 18” square and about 24” tall. According to Hank Banville, who brought it to us from Connecticut, the model was based on a tide mill and was originally operated by a small Erector Set electric motor.
Rules of the drawing stated that the winner would repair and return it to working condition and present it for viewing at a TMI conference within a year or two. The drawing was done by keynote speaker Thomas McErlean, and the happy winner among five contestants was Jack Grundstrom of Rowley, who had spoken earlier about Egypt River tide mills he’d explored. Jack promised participants that he’d restore it to working order and bring it back to the next conference so it could be raffled off next year. We’re
looking forward to seeing it operate, and offer TMI’s thanks to the late Carl Bowden and to Hank Banville for bringing it to us. Late word is that Jack has gathered a group of enthusiasts around him for the task. Nat Pulsifer, Jim Kianakakis and Ron Klodenski are currently working to figure out how activate the millwheel so the up and down saw will activate. They’ve decided to power by using parts from an old foot-powered Singer Sewing Machine!

Slade Mill
The day after the conference, keynote speaker Tomas McErlean and John Goff visited the old Slade Spice Mill in Revere, Massachusetts, site of a tide mill since the 1730’s, where they found interesting artifacts shown in the following photos. McErlean points to a large millstone half imbedded now into a retaining wall , while John grins at what seems to be a segment of a French buhr stone lying in the mud.

TIDE MILL INSTITUTE often receives queries about tide mills from a wide range of interested. A recent one was from a local historian on the west coast of England, who was trying to verify the location of a mill on the River Alt, Mersyside, authorized to William Blundell in 1205 and built in 1210. Google Earth was little help, as much of the region has been highly urbanized over 1800 years, and extensive sand dunes have now developed where the river may have once emptied into the Irish Sea. Blundell’s privilege allowed him to take eels from the sluice. Shortly after he built the mill, he gave it to local monks. Over the next century disputes arose about raising floodgates, destroying sluices, a refusal to grind corn,
obstruction of the river and building a windmill to avoid having to use the tide mill. All in all, a fascinating story, but still no idea as to the mill’s original location.

We forwarded the query to UK tide mill expert David Plunkett, who confirmed much of the story agreeing with the difficulty of pinpointing a spot on the map in 2016 when the shore line is full of sand dunes and the river channels haven’t stayed in the same place over a period of centuries.

Here’s one for our tide mill friends to ponder and a chance to be a winner! We don’t know whether this is an image of a real or imagined mill. A year or so ago while browsing his way through an antique mall in Brunswick Maine, John Goff came across and took a photo of a small painting of what could well be a tidal grist mill, probably somewhere in New England. The subject didn’t look familiar to him, nor does it to ye Ed, so we’ve posted it as what may be the first of a series of challenges, perhaps to be titled:“What Mill is This?” If you know, please let us know at info@tidemillinstitute.org with whatever background you have about its location, history and operation. If you have an image of the original mill to go with
it, and if you’re the first one to identify this mill , your prize will be the CD, “What is a Tide Mill?” created by TIDE MILL INSTITUTE. Your odds of winning are better than in MEABUCKS AND POWERBALL. If you have an image of a tide mill whose identity you don’t know, send it to us, and we’ll share it with our readers, who are very astute molinologists!

AND FINALLY - For a Change of pace . . .
Rather than traveling to enjoy distant tide mills is fun and instructive to browse the internet for them. To save you time in searching for them, here are two pages of links and photos that gave us great pleasure and broadened our understanding of tide mills on the distant shores of France without having to purchase airplane tickets to get there! These electronic visits have increased our desire to see the real thing one day. We hope that the web pages, videos and photos of what’s offered here will please those who have to stay home. Compare these to tide mills that you have (or had) in your back yard! If you
enjoy these, we may “visit” another country’s tide mills in future issues. [Right click on the link, and then “Open Hyperlink,” or cut and paste the URL into your browser. Have fun!

https://www.ina.fr/video/I00013464 moulin a maree de isle de brehat
- a restored ancient moulin a maree -
http://asso-moulinduprat.fr/spip.php?article63 - le Moulin de Prat - A good site –with a “working” diagram and short video
https://www.ina.fr/video/CAC00042574 - Mouli a maree a l’isle d’Arz
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOSZ0oLJH6k Ria d’etel Morbihan (go through the gate on a paddleboard!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeNk4AdyB1g - Ploumanarche
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWlnJWtxo-E - le Moulin de Prat
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEmfGm1Klak - le Moulin de Prat
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-hG4wCGDFo - Moulin de Quinard – drone view of a big old mill
http://www.wat.tv/video/moulins-5-moulin-marees-birlot-6sg3l_2eyxv_.html - moulins a maree Birlot
https://www.ina.fr/video/CAB97114411 - le Moulin de Brehat