Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Richard Thomas's Grist Mill

Brookeville, Montgomery County, Maryland
Owned by Richard Thomas Jr., c. 1791-1821

Information:


Watercolor view of Thomas' Mill (date unknown). Catherine C. Lavoie, "Thomas-Bentley House (Madison House), "Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS No. MD-1375) Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 2011.
Richard Thomas Jr. constructed a grist mill adjacent to the town of Brookeville in Montgomery County, Maryland between 1791 and 1794. He established the mill on the same parcel of land on which he would eventually found the town of Brookeville.1 Thomas's "Country mill" was used "as [a place] where local farmers came to grind, store, and sell their grain." The mill conducted mainly "Merchant work," turning local families' wheat, rye, corn, and buckwheat into flour and meal for personal consumption.2

In 1813, Thomas may have tried to expand his business. He placed a newspaper advertisement for a fuller, a craftsman who cleaned and finished homespun woolen cloth to prepare it for sewing, to work in his mill in Brookeville.3 Because evidence of fulling is difficult to find, it is unknown if Thomas ever began finishing woolen cloth at his mill. He likely would not have purchased newspaper advertisements selling his products or offering fulling services because the small mill served only families in Brookeville and the immediate surrounding neighborhoods. An inventory of the mill property after Thomas's death contains no fulling machinery or equipment, suggesting that even if Thomas began fulling around 1813, he did not continue doing so.4 By 1816, the town's residents probably took their homespun cloth instead to David Newlin, who had recently started his own fulling mill just outside of Brookeville.5

Thomas's grist business was protected from local competition. In 1800, his brother-in-law, Thomas Moore, enjoined David Newlin's milling operations on the west-end of Brookeville to prevent Newlin from producing the same goods as Richard Thomas. Moore sold Newlin a parcel of land on the condition that Newlin never found a grist mill in Brookeville as long as Richard Thomas and his heirs continued to operate a mill in the town.Newlin's mill in Brookeville instead consisted of a saw mill, a plaster mill, and an oil mill which produced high-quality linseed and castor oil.

Roger Brooke Thomas, one of Richard's sons, inherited the mill after his father's death in 1821.7 Roger owned and operated the mill until 1842, when he sold the property to Thomas Moore's nephew, Thomas McCormick. McCormick was a trained carpenter, a Methodist minister, and a grocer who may have been running a store in Brookeville. He was raised in Brookeville and lived in Longwood at the time he bought the mill.8 When McCormick put the mill up for sale again in 1847, the property consisted of a "stone mill-house, with one run of French burrs and one of country stones, cast-iron gearing, in good order; miller's house and other outhouses, with about sixteen or seventeen acres of land..."9 Leonard Weer purchased the mill from McCormick that same year and his family operated it through the nineteenth century.10 In 1913, the Weers sold the property and the mill site changed many hands. In 1995 the tract containing the old mill was sold a last time to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.11 The date at which the mill ceased its operations is unknown, but the crumbled foundations of the original mill complex still rest today in Brookeville.

Kyle Bacon, DAR Research Fellow, 2012; Megan O'Hern, 2013

Notes:

  1. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 7 Nov. 1793, Deed, Heirs of Roger Brooke IV receiving inherited lands in Montgomery County, including Deborah's receipt of part of "Addition to Brooke Grove," Liber E, pp. 428-436 [MSA CE 148-5].
  2. "A Miller Wanted," Advertisement, Baltimore Federal Gazette, 17 Oct. 1811; see also Catherine C. Lavoie, "Thomas-Bentley House (Madison House)," Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS No. MD-1375) Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 2011, pp. 16-17; See also MARYLAND HISTORICAL TRUST (Inventory of Historic Sites) Brookeville Historic District, M: 23-65, Montgomery County [MSA SE5-17391].
  3. "A Fuller Wanted," Advertisement, Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette, 3 Sep. 1813.
  4. MONTGOMERY COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Estate Record) 1821-1824, Liber N, p. 187, Inventory Continued 1st Month 3rd 1822 [MSA C1138-15].
  5. "Brookeville Woolen Factory," Advertisement, The Georgetown Messenger, 15 June 1816.
  6. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) January 7, 1801, Deed, Thomas Moore to David Newlin, four acre parcel on "Addition to Brooke Grove" for use as a mill property, Liber I, pp. 336-339 [MSA CE 148-10]. This deed included a covenant which prevented Newlin from constructing a grist mill on the property as long as Richard Thomas and his heirs operated a mill in Brookeville. It also specifically outlined which types of grain Newlin could not process in his mill, revealing which types of grain Richard Thomas Jr. handled in his own mill.
  7. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 3 Nov. 1823, Liber X, p. 120, Deed of Partition [MSA CE 148-25].
  8. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 7 Feb. 1842, Liber BS 11, p. 43, Deed, Roger Brooke Thomas to Thomas McCormick [MSA CE 148-37].
  9. "Valuable Mill Property for Sale or Rent," Advertisement, Daily National Intelligencer, 27 May 1847.
  10. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 8 Feb. 1851, Liber STS 5, p. 203, Deed, Thomas M. McCormick to Leonard Weer [MSA CE 148-43].
  11. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 30 June 1995, Liber 13481, p. 94, Deed, Abrams Brainin, et. al. to Powell Farm Limited Partnership [MSA CE 63-13436].



Copyright  Maryland State Archives