Until recently, Knotts Mill in Tuckahoe Neck rivaled Wye Mill as the oldest continually operated grist mill in Maryland. Located just a half mile from the wharf at Sloop Landing on the Tuckahoe, it was perhaps better positioned to rush flour and corn meal to feed Washington’s army during the Revolution.
In June 1781, while Washington and Cornwallis were moving their armies toward Yorktown, American Colonel Henry Hollingsworth reported to Maryland Governor Thomas Lee that 600 bushels of State wheat were stored at Seth’s Mill (earlier name of Knott’s Mill).
History and Location of Knott’s Mill
Other Names: Hill’s Mill, Morgan’s Mill, Seth’s Mill, Ireland Mill, Nichols Mill, Lucas Mill, Hicks Mill, Sparklin’s Mill, Elben’s Mill, Tuckahoe Flour Mill, Tuckahoe Roller Mills
Years: 1739 – 1919
Structure Exists? Yes
Historic Site Location Precision: Precise
John Baynard and Henry Cusson (or Casson) Gentleman, took out a writ of ad quod damnum for 20 acres on Dillaughans Branch situate between Choptank River and Tuckahoe Creek, February 9, 1739. Both tracts were part of Hackton; the south bank belonged to Elinor Anthony, wife of Mark Anthony, and to Rebecca Leonard; the north bank belonged to Margaret and Mary Knowles, Minors. Total damages were 20 Shillings plus an annual rent of 2/6 (Chancery Records, 6:13, MSA).
In 1752, John Baynard had died, and Thomas Baynard and John Casson conveyed the Water Mill to Peter Russum (Queen Anne County deeds, RT No. D:92, MSA). The mill descended to Wimlock Russum, who conveyed it to John Loockerman in 1759 (Queen Anne County deeds, RT No. F:15, MSA), with the “Liberty to a certain Henry Casson to have his wheat & corn ground Toll free at the said mill.”
The mill came to be called Hills and also Morgans, and in 1776 the stream was called Morgans or Hills Branch. The wharf was called Sloop Landing on Hills Shore when James Seth patented a 20-acre tract on the east side of Tuckahoe Creek under the name of Mill Landing, 1771.
The mill built by Baynard and Casson under the writ of condemnation was sold in 1776 by the executor of John Loockerman to James Seth to make good a sale never formalized by Loockerman during his life (Caroline County deeds, A:205). Colonel Henry Hollingsworth reported to the Governor Lee that 600 bu of State wheat was stored at Seths Mill in June 1781 (Arch. Md., 47:283). Seths Mill appeared on Dennis Griffith’s 1794-1795 map on a branch of Tuckahoe Creek, 2 miles below Hillsborough, west side of the present Deep Branch Road.
The mill passed to Thomas Hicks, who in 1802 sold “Seths Mill” and 20 acres, part of Hackton, to John Ruth (Caroline County deeds, TR No. H:251). Ruth sold to John Lucas in 1808, and John Lucas 3d sold the mill and remainder of the 80-year term of Baynard and Casson writ to Henry Nichols in 1818 (Caroline County deeds, JR No. M:325). In the 1834 division of the Nicholas property, Lot No. 3, the mill property, fell to James Nichols, and a plat of the pond, mill, and dwelling appeared in Caroline County deeds, JR No. S:156-157.
Elben’s (Knotts) Mill in the 1930s. Mill pond visible in the woods.
Photo from FrenchFamilyAssociation.com
The 1858 Dilworth map of Talbot County showed the Ireland Mill at the old Seth side, and the 1860 census of manufactures listed Isaac Ireland with $6000 capital investment in a water mill with 1 employee and annual output of 8000 bu corn and 3000 bu wheat ($1162). All business was “country work.”
The mill passed from James Nichols’s daughter to Thomas Hackett, but they sued him in 1872, and the property was offered for sale and was finally purchased by John K. Knotts, who appeared on Isler’s 1875 county map, and on the 1897 Saulsbury map.
Chancery Records JWT 7:407 contained a plat of the mill site with the county road slightly different from that of 1834. Only the mill was described as in good condition. The 1875 Isler map showed the grist and saw mills on opposite banks. An advertisement in the Denton Journal, June 3, 1876, listed J. W. Knotts as proprietor and N. P. Sewell as superintendent. A miller with a small family was wanted per another advertisement, Denton Journal, July 22, 1876.
The 1880 census of manufactures listed John W. Knotts with $3100 capital investment in a sawmill with 4 employees and 1 circular saw; a 14-foot fall on “Tuckahoe Creek” ran a 2-foot turbine at 140 rpm to develop 12 hp. Annual output was 240,000 ft ($3600). No logging was performed by the owner. The gristmill represented $6000 capital investment and did all custom work with 2 employees, 2 run of stones, and 100 bu/diem maximum capacity. A 16-foot fall ran a turbine and an overshot wheel 13 ft broad running at 20 rpm to develop 28 hp. Annual output was 1400 bbl flour, etc. ($13,230).
Elben’s (Knotts) Mill in the 1930s.
Photo from Society for Preservation of Old Mills
Flour sack from the collection of John McGrain
The American Miller, 16 (November 1, 1888): 786, contained the cryptic sentence, “John W. Knotts is building a mill at Hillsboro, Md.”
The Denton Journal, August 24, 1889, carried an advertisement by John W. Knotts, “Tuckahoe Flour Mills, Capacity 45 barrels per day. My Tuckahoe Neck mill has lately been equipped with Roller Process Machines.”
Another ad placed by Knotts of Hillsboro in the Denton Journal, July 18, 1896, offered “For Rent for 1897 . . . The roller mills in Tuckahoe Neck known as ‘Knotts Mills’ . . . Capacity 35 barrels flour per day, and runs by steam or water.”
Another ad in the Denton Journal, August 21, 1897, offered to rent the mill in 1898, “A Fine Mill for Sale or Rent. The Tuckahoe Roller Flour Mills, all in complete order, and with an excellent trade . . . for rent for 1898. All machinery is complete.”
The pond appeared on the east side of Deep Branch Road on the MGS topographic map of 1904. This was also called Sparklin’s Mill and Elben’s Mill, and it was damaged in the 1919 flood. The author’s collection contains a flour sack printed during the tenure of Fletcher C. Elben who called the place Tuckahoe Roller Mills.
The mill was acquired in the 1960s by Mr. and Mrs. Charles V. Layton and was converted into a Georgian Revival dwelling and the mill race was reworked into a landscaped pond. The new owners renamed the place Laytons Mill and erected a wooden sign marked “c 1739.” See Baltimore Sunday Sun, December 1, 1968, real estate section. See also, HCLN, pp. 166, 296, 347. The restored building was recorded in Caroline County deeds Liber 160:625.
In 1985, the author received an inquiry from a descendant of miller Isaac A. Ireland, Mr. David Ireland of Marydel, Md.
The Maryland Historic Trust (MHT) assigned Site No. CAR-192 to the Knotts Mill House, the miller’s dwelling, a mid-19th century dwelling reported on by Michael O. Bourne in 1977.
The converted mill is MHT assigned Site No. CAR-33 . Location of the mill is 10-K-10 in the ADC Street Atlas.
(HCLN is History of Caroline County, Maryland, Caroline County Schools, J. W. Stowell Printing Co., Federalsburg, 1920.)
Knotts mill house converted to private residence.
Photo Michael Bourne, MHT, 1977.
Knotts Mill converted to private residence.
Photo Michael Bourne, MHT, 1977.
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Knott’s Mill in the Historic Landscape
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Love the history of this mill, Fletcher C. Elben was my children’s great-great grandfather. My son carries the same middle name, Cooper, which is the name his great-grandfather went by.
Thanks, Jeanne, for this note. Let us know if you have family history of the mill you’d like us to publish here.