Montgomery County Saw & Grist Mills (1905-1910)
A key part of Montgomery County’s agricultural economy in the 18th and 19th centuries, grist mills ground wheat and corn into flour and meal for local farmers. Today, besides the more than 30 streets that are named for mills, all that is left are the remains that have been uncovered in our parks. All of the mill structures are in various stages of ruin and are barely visible today. The following photographs are a collection of fascinating historical images of Montgomery County Saw & Grist Mills taken by Lewis Reed from 1905-1910.
Black Rock Grist & Saw Mill
Black Rock Mill was built by Thomas Hillary and has stood along the banks of Great Seneca Creek as a landmark since its construction in 1815-1816. The mill was in working operation for over a hundred years until a flood in 1920 destroyed a dam on Seneca Creek and damaged the mill. Today, it is a unique survivor of the many mills in Montgomery County harnessing the water-power of the creeks to grind wheat and corn into flour. It is one of only two mills standing in Montgomery County Maryland. As far as can be determined, Lewis Reed’s collection of about 20 Black Rock Mill photographs are some of the earliest known in existence.
Muncaster Saw & Grist Mill 1760s
Joseph Elgar built saw and grist mill on Rock Creek, later known as Muncaster Mill. Muncaster Mill was built in the early 1800s and closed in 1925 due to competition from modern milling practices. It was burned to its foundation in 1935. At one time, as many as 12 other mills operated along Rock Creek but most disappeared before the Civil War. Muncaster Mill was the last mill to operate in what is now Rock Creek Park. During its lifetime, the mill served 30–50 farmers in the area. There were three millstones, each designed for a specific grinding job. One ground unshelled corn for animal feed; one coarsely ground wheat, barley, and oats; and one ground fine flour. For many years, there was also a sawmill, operated by a water turbine. The sawmill foundation was about 75 feet west of the grist mill site. The old miller’s house stood on Emory Lane near Muncaster Mill Road.
The original Veirs Mill was built by Samuel Clark Veirs sometime after 1838 on the 400 acre farm which Veirs acquired in that year about two miles south of Rockville, on Rock Creek; the farm was part of an original land grant called “Prevention”. The sixth mill to be built on Rock Creek, Veirs Mill operated for approximately 80 years. The mill is identified as “Rock Creek Mills” and was located to what is now the intersection of Aspen Hill and Veirs Mill Roads. There are no above-ground remains of the Veirs Mill.
Hickerson Brothers Grist Mill
Hickerson Brothers Grist Mill on Rock Creek south of Veirs Mill Road operated from 1838-1880. In 1925, Hickerson Brothers Lindsay and Clarence, operated a steam-powered grist mill near the B&O tracks until 1928-1929.
Clopper’s Mill was most active between 1850 and 1880, the arrival of the railroad and steam-powered mills had put an end to the water powered mills by the early 20th century. On April 15, 1865 Clopper’s Mill became part of national history when would-be assassin of the vice-president of the United States, George Atzerodt, spent the night there while fleeing from Washington D.C. after the assassination of President Lincoln. George was part of the gang assembled by John Wilkes Booth to eliminate the heads of the U.S. government. He was supposed to kill Vice-president Johnson at the Willard Hotel at the same time as Booth assassinated the President. But Atzerodt ran out of courage and instead made his way to Germantown. The mill was purchased by the state in 1955. The Clopper’s Mill ruins are significant as one of the few remaining distinguishable mills in the county. The ruins consist of stone and brick walls with no roof.
Liberty Mill. The Bowman Brothers built a steam-powered mill in 1888. When this mill burned down in 1914, an electric-powered mill was built and bought by the Liberty Milling Company in 1917. “Feed the Liberty Way” was the slogan for the mill which became the second largest mill in Maryland and supplied flour for the army during World War II. Cornmeal and animal feed were also made at the mill, and a mill store sold specialty mixes like pancake and muffin mix. After the war the mill went into decline, and was burned by arson May 30, 1972.
Source: Maryland Historical Trust