Resident Article: Where was the chocolate mill?
By Seely Foley–Like many of you, I’ve found new ways to fill my days in the time of social distancing. I love historical research, so while I’m stuck in my house I thought I’d focus on my own neighborhood. My current quest started with a question I had about Windsor Mill Road. Where was the mill called ‘Windsor?’ The area our current map calls Windsor Mill is not near any source of water, so I began to speculate that the beautiful straight road which was obviously built to bring traffic to the mill, was meant for farmers bringing their grain closer to the Gwynns Falls. The earliest mention of the road I could find was in 1808 when “sundry inhabitants of Baltimore County petitioned the House of Delegates praying that the Windsor Mill Road may be extended and kept in repair at the expense of those interested.” Obviously, the road was in use before 1808.
I use a resource for a lot of my research that allows me to scan newspapers covering a wide time frame from all over the country called GenealogyBank.com. Using ‘Windsor’ as a keyword, I turned up this advertisement that was placed in the Telegraphe and Daily Advertiser of Oct. 6, 1797. My immediate thought was Dickeyville is 4 miles from Baltimore. Of course, I don’t know the starting point or route people would travel from Baltimore in 1797, so this mill might have been farther down the falls. I searched the land records and could not find a deed describing the sale of this property by Robert Gilmor. However, I did find an ad he ran in the paper asking for saltpeter for his gunpowder mill on the Gwynns Falls in this same time period.
This ad ran in the Maryland Journal on Feb. 2, 1784, and this one really amazed me. Here was another mill within four miles of Baltimore and one with a chocolate mill! I wonder how that worked. Was this the same property as the Windsor Mill?
According to the ad, this mill was owned by a man named John Cornthwait. He was a Quaker businessman with a large number of properties in the Baltimore area. He died in 1782 and John Baxley, the man operating the mill at the time of the ad, purchased the mill. A search for Baxley’s deed, when he bought the mill, revealed the tract names for his deed. With those tract names to use as a guide, it was easier to search through the many deeds connected to Cornthwait to find the one connected to the mill in the ad. John Cornthwait bought four tracts from Jacob Myers of Baltimore on Oct. 17, 1779, all lying on Gwins Falls. John Cornthwait paid 15,000£ for these properties which was quite excessive for raw land in 1779. A careful reading of the deed reveals the land already had a mill, milldam, millrace, mill trail, watercourses and improvements.
Three years after Cornthwait bought those four properties; he also bought a tract called ‘Parker’s Palace.’ A plat I found in our archives shows ‘Parker’s Palace’ was a rectangular-shaped property along Windsor Mill Road east of Forest Park. Maybe Cornthwait built the first section of Windsor Mill Road to improve access to his mill. This same plat shows Cornthwait’s tracts about where Windsor Mill Road meets Wetheredsville Road.
Next, I wondered if I could find an ad for the mill that was already on the property in 1779. A search for the name Jacob Myers revealed an ad offering a mill for sale placed in the Maryland Journal on Dec. 1, 1778. It’s hard to tell exactly where these three mills were, or even if they were all in the exact same location. All three ads mention three burrstones used in the mill, which were heavy and difficult to move. We may not know exactly where these mills were, but I think we can conclude Wetheredsville Road is a very old road. That, at least from where it meets Windsor Mill Road, it ran along the Gwynns Falls to join Franklintown road and was in heavy use before 1778. All that beer and liquor brewed in the 1778 mill had to get to Baltimore somehow.
As you ride your bike or walk along the trail, imagine all the commercial activity that went on along the falls over 200 years ago. I believe it is much quieter now and maybe there are a lot more trees.
In 1791 the Maryland Legislature passed a law saying the road on Gwinn’s Falls to Baltimore shall be declared a public road, shall be repaired and widened not to exceed 40 feet at the expense of the owners of the mill.
I was still curious about the earliest mills on the falls, so I continued to search the newspapers for all the various spellings of Gwynns Falls. ‘Gwins Falls’ was the most popular spelling of the 1700s. The next ad I found was older than 1797, and had an odd name connected with it.
Dickeyville is located to the left of the yellow highlight & Crowley’s First Venture is just below it.
Editor Note: Many thanks to Seely Foley for compiling this information. This post appears in the May 2020 edition of the Town Crier. Please note, the visual references to newspaper clippings were too small to be visible here.