Then & Now: Liberty Milling Company, Germantown

The coming of the Industrial Age meant the end of the Romantic Era and the beginning of machine’s rule over nature. In Germantown, this was represented by the big steam-powered mill. For this post, I have used two of Lewis Reed’s original photographs for “then” and a stock image from today for “now”.

Liberty Milling Company (THEN): “Feed the Liberty Way” was the slogan of Liberty Milling Company, mainstay of the little farming community of Germantown, Maryland for many years. The original mill was steam-powered and began operation in 1888. It was founded by the Bowman brothers – Charles, Eldridge and Upton – of Cedar Grove. Lumber to build the mill was sawed at the Black Rock Mill, one of the oldest water-powered mills in Germantown. The Bowman Brothers did a brisk business milling wheat and corn and selling it in the area as well as shipping it to the Washington, D.C. markets by way of the railroad. In about 1914 fire engulfed the old wood structure and the entire mill was lost. The Bowman brothers rebuilt almost at once. The new mill was sold by the Bowman brothers to the Liberty Milling Company.

Germantown Mill

Liberty Milling Company, Main Street Germantown, ca. 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

In 1935 the company purchased an adjacent lot to the south and built a warehouse and store to sell its many products, which, according to a 1963 Damascus Courier article included Gold Leaf Flour, Silver Leaf Flour, Liberty Cake Flour, Liberty self-rising Corn Meal, Liberty Straight-Line Winter Wheat Flour, Liberty Pancake Flour, Liberty Self-rising Buckwheat Flour, Dairy Feeds, Horse Feeds, and Chicken Feeds. These products were sold all across the nation.

By the 1950s, it was the second largest mill in Maryland with eight 50-foot silos and a capacity of 24,00 pounds of flour a day and 9,000 pounds of cornmeal a week, bringing in a profit of more than $1 million a year. During World War II, it produced flour for the armed forces.

Liberty Mill Germantown 1910

Liberty Mill Germantown, ca. 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Liberty Milling Company (NOW): The Liberty Milling Company was finally put out of business by the larger commercial mills, its income dwindling in the 1960s. The mill burned in June 1972, and the still-standing cement silos were removed by the county in 1986 to make way for a train commuter parking lot. A historic marker erected by the Germantown Citizens Association stands at the edge of the parking lot.

Liberty Milling Company Germantown

Liberty Mill Historic Marker

Source: Germantown Patch

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

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