Out of hundreds of mills on the East Coast in colonial times, only a few survive, and fewer still operate. As the oldest working mill in Maryland (c. 1682), this flour-producing "grist" mill has participated in three centuries of war, nation-building, industrial invention and agricultural heritage. During the American Revolution, the Wye Grist Mill and others like it on the Eastern Shore shipped barrels of flour via the Chesapeake Bay to the Continental Army, commanded by General George Washington. Historians dubbed the Eastern Shore "The Breadbasket of the American Revolution."
The Mill and the village that grew up around it were established soon after the 1665 patent of a large parcel of land, called Wilton, by Thomas Williams. Wilton, with a subsequent land patent called Wilton Annex, totaled 1,350 acres, and included most of the land around present-day Wye Mills. The first of the grist mills on this site was built around 1668. In 1682 a mill was built by Edward Barrowcliff, on the site of the present mill. Barrowcliff operated the mill from about 1683 to 1693, and then sold it to Richard Sweatnam, a carpenter and miller who built Talbot County's first courthouse at York in 1682. Sweatnam operated the mill until he died in 1697. His son William operated the mill until 1703. By 1706, the site included a saw mill, which operated until the late 1800's.
The mill passed through a succession of owners over the ensuing years, and included some prominent names from Maryland history. Richard Bennett III, who took ownership of the mill in 1706, was one of the richest men in Maryland (some said in all of North America!). Edward Lloyd III and Edward Lloyd IV, of the prestigious Lloyd family, succeeded Bennett as owners. In 1778 the mill was acquired by William Hemsley. In 1779 Hemsley contracted with Congress to provide wheat, flour and bread to the American Army under George Washington.
In 1790, Oliver Evans, a creative and prolific local inventor, used the Wye Grist Mill to formulate his revolutionary automation ideas, significantly improving the milling process.
The mill continued as a commercial endeavor until 1953, when it was purchased by the State of Maryland. The Mill is now owned and operated by the Friends of Wye Mill, a non-profit volunteer organization.
Telephone: 410-827-3850 www.oldwyemill.org