Wye Grist Mill

Wye Grist Mill, 900 Wye Mills Road, Wye Mills, Maryland

Wye Grist Mill, 900 Wye Mills Road, Wye Mills, Maryland

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

Wye Grist Mill

The Wye Grist Mill is the oldest working mill in the United States.  It is officially located in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland although the county line between Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties passes through the property.  The mill has been in operation since 1682.

The Mill and the village that grew up around it, also called Wye Mills, is located on a parcel of land  patented by Thomas Williams in 1665 and given the name Wilton.  This tract of land together with a subsequent land patent called Wilton Annex totaled 1,350 acres.  The first grist mill was built in 1668 on or near to the site of the present day mill.

By 1671, Thomas Williams had left Wilton to avoid the payment of debts.  He settled in Northumberland County, VA, where, following his death, his heirs Thomas II and Elizabeth Williams became absent landlords of his Maryland properties.  There is a certain amount of inaccuracy and inconsistency regarding the records of the property in the ensuing years due in part to the lack of contact from the absentee landlords as well as a loss of the land titles due to a fire at the courthouse.  We are able, though, to reconnect with the story with the arrival of Edward Barrocliff.

Edward Barrocliff built the present day mill.  He operated the mill from 1683 until 1693 when he sold it to Richard Sweatnam.  Sweatnam was not only a miller, he was also the carpenter who built Talbot County’s first courthouse at York in 1682.  Sweatnam operated the mill until he died in 1697.  The mill passed to his wife and eldest son, William.

Around the beginning of the 18th century, Richard Bennett III, a wealthy landowner, came to the area with the intent of acquiring as much land as possible.  Bennett researched the ownership of the area and found that Wilton, the Wilton Annex as well as the Mill were still legally owned by the heirs of Thomas Williams.  In 1703, Bennett acquires a 3-year lease from the Williams heirs and immediately threw Sweatnam off the property.

In 1706, upon the expiration of the original 3-year lease, Bennett purchased all of the Williams’ original land holdings for 350 pounds from a speculator who had acquired them from the Williams estate for 200 pounds.  Bennett offered Sweatnam a very severe lease, called by Bennett an “Indenture”.  It required an initial payment of 8,000 pounds as well as an annual rent of 500 pounds.  Although the lease was registered, Sweatnam’s signature is absent.  There is no record of him ever serving as a tenant on the property.

Wye Grist Mill, 900 Wye Mills Road, Wye Mills, Maryland

Wye Grist Mill, 900 Wye Mills Road, Wye Mills, Maryland

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

In 1706, Queen Anne’s County was formed out of Talbot and Kent Counties.  The Mill served as a primary survey point on the dividing line between Talbot and the newly formed Queen Anne’s County.  The Mill, therefore, straddles the county lines.  In the language in the 1706 Act creating the new County and, hence, this point on the county boundary, it is still referred to as “Sweatnam’s Mill”.

As you can imagine, there is a lot more history to be told about this site.  The best place to read about this is on the Wye Grist Mill’s own web-site.

The Wye Grist Mill retains nearly all of its late 18th century equipment.  It was one of the first grist mills to be automated with the Oliver Evans process, which is still in use today. The Wye Grist Mill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.  It is open to the public from mid-April to mid-November.

Summary
Wye Grist Mill
Article Name
Wye Grist Mill
Description
The Wye Grist Mill is the oldest working mill in the United States. Built in 1682, it is located in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Author
Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
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