Saturday, February 16, 2008

Chapman's Mill

Several weeks ago, after returning from a lecture that I had given on mills in Carroll County, I posted a blog about mills in the Port Tobacco area. Where were they? Did they produce for an exclusively local market or did they send wheat and rye flour, and corn meal out to the larger world? Did they supply local bakeries that made hard tack for ship's galleys?

Yesterday, working with Pete at the Maryland State Archives, I examined several microfilm copies of the Manufacturing Schedules of the US Census for the years 1850, 1860, and 1880. The Archives didn't have one for 1870, or at least I haven't found it yet. The census marshals appear not to have submitted returns for the Port Tobacco/First Election District in 1850 and 1860. In 1880, they listed three millers, one of whom was Andrew G. Chapman.

Chapman operated a gristmill and a sawmill on Kerricks Branch of the Wicomico River. The identical descriptions for the motive power--an overshot wheel 4'9" in breadth, turning at 6RPM and generating 16 horsepower under a 23' fall of water--suggests that the two operations were part of the same complex, a not uncommon arrangement, especially where good mill seats are few.

The grist mill had two run of stones (two pairs of milling stones) and could process as much as 200 bushels of grain per day. Three men and a boy worked the mill up to 12 hours a day from May through November and 8 hours a day from November to May. From June of 1879 through May of 1880, they ground 1200 bushels of wheat worth $1500 and 8,000 bushels of grain (probably maize and rye) valued at $5,500. They produced 240 barrels of wheat flour, 448,000 pounds of corn meal, and 30,800 pounds of livestock feed, earning $7,980. The mill did custom work, 'exclusively'; which is to say they were not shipping products aboard but fulfilled only local demand.

The grist mill remained idle nine months of the year, but the sawmill operated six months out of the year, suggesting that the crews moved back and forth between the two operations. The mill used a circular saw to produce 100,000 board feet, valued at $1,000, over the previous twelve months. The crew harvested much of the timber themselves, which probably kept them employed during some of the winter months.

This is, of course, an account of only one mill in one year. We know nothing about earlier operations in the area...yet.

On a personal note, and on behalf of April and Pete, I wish Scott a speedy recovery from his shoulder operation this past week.


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