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Preserving Industrial History: Mills in the Heart of the Civil War

May 8, 2017

Historic Preservation Food/Dining Civil War Trails

Preserving Industrial History: Mills in the Heart of the Civil War

May is Preservation Month—a great time to explore the industrial legacy left behind on the landscape of the Heart of the Civil War. An abundance of mills once dotted the Maryland countryside, and those that have stood the test of time give us a glimpse of industry in the 18th and 19th centuries. Let’s look at three of these landmarks in the Heritage Area.

Andrew Hager Mill

The Hager Mill, located in the county seat of Washington County, was built around 1790 by business partners Daniel Stull and Col. Nathaniel Rochester. The Maryland Historical Trust’s inventory describes the stone building that once milled flour as “a well-preserved example of a late 18th century mill building” and noted that the concrete block building was added in the early 20th century.

In January 1918, The American Miller chronicled its Civil War history:

“The mill was built before the Civil War and was occupied by both sides in that struggle. … At one time Confederate troops occupied the mill and confiscated the flour and meal, giving in return a paper which read: ‘After the Ratification of the Southern Confederacy we promise to pay Andrew H. Hager $ …  for mill stuff.’ Mr. Hager entered the account of his ledger as follows: ‘To the Confederate States of America, Debter, $ …  to be paid when the devil dies.’ So it is not hard to see where Mr Hager's Sympathies lay.”

Mill changed ownership many times before being used as a storage warehouse by Forsyth Furniture Company for 70 years. The mill went up for auction in October 2016, but drew no bidders according to an article in The Herald-Mail. As of April 2017, the mill sat vacant, with "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" signs dotting the structure. 

Delve deeper into the history of Hagerstown with a visit to the Jonathan Hager House and Museum, the Washington County Historical Society, or Rose Hill Cemetery. Stop by the Newcomer House, HCWHA’s Exhibit at Visitor Center at Antietam National Battlefield, to see the site of another 18th century mill operation.

Glade Valley Mill

Glade Valley Mill is a four-story red building along a major road in Woodsboro

In the Frederick County community of Woodsboro stands the Glade Valley Mill, a town fixture since the late 19th century.

The business was originally started in nearby Troutville by Daniel Saylor and was moved to Woodsboro by Anderson Etzler in the 1890s to be closer to the Western Maryland Railroad, according to the Maryland Historical Trust.

Around 1904, the business was taken over by the Glade Valley Milling Company, who expanded the 2 ½-story structure to 4 stories. According to the Trust, mill operations ceased in 1950s. In 2014, The Frederick News-Post reported that the mill was sold at auction to house a woodworker’s business.

While grain is no longer milled here, visitors can sample the current trend in agriculture with a glass of Frederick County-produced wine, beer or spirits. Pick up a Wineries, Breweries & Distilleries brochure at the Frederick Visitor Center to get started.

Union Mills Homestead

A large brick structure dotted with windows

Heading toward the Mason-Dixon Line through the Carroll County countryside on Route 97 about seven miles north of Westminster and 17 miles south of Gettysburg is Union Mills, a small community named for the homestead of the Shriver family for six generations.

In 1797, brothers Andrew and David bought this piece of land along the Big Pipe Creek and constructed a double house for their families. In time, the complex grew to include a grist mill—first made of logs, then replaced with the current brick structure—saw mill, blacksmith shop and tannery. The 279-acre property now makes up the Union Mills Homestead Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The four-story mill continues to mill grain today. Tours of the homestead are available from May through September; check the Union Mills Homestead Foundation website to learn about the homestead’s special exhibit “The Grist Mill: Early Industry in Carroll County,” on view this summer  in conjunction with the Smithsonian traveling exhibition, “The Way We Worked.”

While in Carroll County, explore the Carroll County Barn Quilt Trail. The trail features 27 eight-foot quilt squares throughout the county that pay homage to the county’s agricultural roots.

Photos, from top:

Hager Mill, built in 1790, is situated on Mill Street in Hagerstown, adjacent to Hager Park; the Glade Valley Mill in Woodsboro operated from the 1890s until the 1950s; the Shriver Grist Mill still produces stone-ground grain products. Tours of the Union Mills Homestead are available from May through September. 

Jaime Ridgley

Contributing Author: Jaime Ridgley

Jaime Ridgley is the creator of Bygone Maryland, a blog that explores the places, events and lives of the Marylanders who came before us. Read More