(Editor’s note: DeeDee Wood is the owner of Black Cat Curiosities, an online antiques research and sales venue. This is second of a three-part “Eastern Shore Antiques Road Trip” series that will run through the November issue.)
Linchester Mill is nestled in a picturesque, wooded area at the edge of Preston, Maryland.
The flouring grain mill dates back to 1823, with an encompassing history of production, the lives of the mill owners, and stories of the Underground Railroad system, that has connections to Hunting Creek, the body of water that flows through the mill campus property.
There are other buildings on the complex, as well, including an old school house moved from the Hog Island area, the Postmaster’s building and the Miller’s original house, as well as a building under renovation, known as the Greek Revival home.
Under the umbrella of the Caroline County Historical Society, the Friends of Linchester Mill endeavor to bring community events, programming and historical interpretation to a campus full of antique machinery and workings of a mill that succumbed to heavy storms and a broken dam in 1979 that flooded and filled in the original mill pond, and made the mill inoperable as a flouring grain mill.
Charles Andrew, President of the Friends of Linchester Mill, joined me for a tour on a warm afternoon to show me the inner workings of the mill, the antique machinery, and to share stories of the past. “In 1915, Frank Langrell purchased this mill and became the last miller,” Andrew explained. “Mr. Langrell paid the farmers who brought him grain in coins because that’s how he was paid, by the ladies of the area, when they would come and buy their flour on Lady’s Day. They didn’t have paper money, but paid him with coins from household savings, so he had the reputation for paying everyone with the coins he had received.”
There is a hat and chewing tobacco sitting on a shelf in the rear of the mill.
Andrew explained to me that there is a story that on Mr. Langrell’s last day at the mill, in the early 1970s, he removed the hat he was so known for wearing while working, and his tobacco and placed them on the back shelf.
They have remained there since that day, and have never been moved.
They are a lasting testament to a miller who loved his work and the community in which he served.
Everything operated in this mill from water power, a giant wheel still in the background of the complex — a reminder of the power of churning water coming into the mill from the nearby mill pond that once existed.
I was shown antique mill machinery, such as a “shoot,” “conveyor” and the “elevator,” a contraption that moved the grain into grinding areas to make flour more refined.
The memories of antique machinery are present here, and one can almost hear the grinding and pumping of the giant mill stones that once churned the grain, massive pieces imported from France and Germany, made out of fresh water quartz and lava stone.
Andrew pointed out the grooves in the stones, called dressing the stone, a preparation of upkeep on the stones that would continue to help them grind the grain over and over.
I met other passionate members of the organization, which included Linda Andrew, Vice President of the Friends of Linchester Mill, and Debbie Shalaby, Events Coordinator.
Linda told me that the mill brings back memories of her childhood, and an especially fond memory is her playing near the mill pond, and interacting with Mr. Langrell, who always had flour on his spectacles, that he would have to wipe off on occasion to see anyone through the dust of the flour.
We discussed the future of the mill as a destination for tourists and interpretation of historic education.
“We have many events and programs here,” states Shalaby, “We want to reach out to the community, and all of our information can be found on our Facebook page, Friends of Linchester Mill. You can also support the mill by signing up for a membership with our organization on that page.” Shalaby handed me some very informative flyers, indicating events, such as Harvest Hoedown, Friday, September 23rd, Happy Halloween, Friday, Oct. 28,Thanksgiving Days on Friday, Nov. 18, and Santa’s Secret Workshop on Friday, Dec. 16.
All events provide food options, local vendors and specialized activities, depending upon the month, all taking place from 5- 8 p.m.
Finally, I sat down with Mickey McCrea, a leader and champion of the mill, and volunteer extraordinaire.
We discussed the importance of the mill property and being part of the Harriet Tubman/Underground Railroad Byway.
Hunting Creek, a stream that runs through the mill property, has deep roots in the pathways freedom seekers took with Tubman on their journey North to freedom.
McCrea also owns the Jacob and Hannah Leverton House, a nearby Underground Railroad stop in the network. In the future, this house will be included in the expanding plans for educational and interpretive outreach for the mill complex.
“It is my hope that this whole complex, the history, the stories,” McCrea states, “will help heal, educated and inform. This is an extremely important site with significant historical importance on many levels,” he stated as he pointed out the rich, deep roots of Eastern Shore history in this area.
Antique lovers will appreciate the historic mill machinery, operational workings, mill stones, wheel and an interesting assortment of bottles, shoes, household goods and other intricacies found in the landfill that once was used by the town of Preston, that was located on a part of the mill property, near the creek.
An interesting collection of these unearthed objects can be found in display cases inside the mill for consideration.
Linchester Mill is located at 3390 Linchester Road in Preston, Maryland and most of their information, inquiries, membership forms and event information can be found through the Caroline County Tourism Office website, as well as The Friends of Linchester Mill Facebook page.
Hours of operation vary, so check the Facebook page for further instructions of tours, events and operational hours.
When asked what the mill meant to him, Charles Andrews pondered the question for a moment, then answered, “It is history, and people need to support the Friends of Linchester Mill and what we try to do here, because the young people in this community need to get involved and remember and honor what happened here. It’s their history.”