The Legacy of Linchester – A Wonderful Treasure of America
Ten years ago, Linchester Mill in Preston Maryland was buried beneath brush and bramble that had grown over the property for decades. Today, the view tells a very different story. Restored to it’s original state in 2003 by the Caroline County Historical Society, the Linchester Mill now sits proudly on a manicured campus that also includes the Miller’s House, the Assistant Miller’s House, the Hog Island School and Maryland’s first nature braille trail – a trail where the blind can enjoy nature.
Although visitors are welcome to stop and explore the grounds at any time, the mill is open with a docent on the second and fourth Fridays and Saturdays of the month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., April through October and by appointment. Docent, Charles Andrew is a Caroline County native and provides abundant information to visitors that drop by, including the evolution of milling and the site’s rich Native American and Underground Railroad history.
The Linchester site is tucked away on the upper reaches of Hunting Creek. A mill has been on the site since the early colonial era. The mill that occupies the site now was built in 1840 and ground grist until 1974, when Frank Langrell, the last miller, hung his hat on a nail and laid down his pack of smokes. Langrell had owned and operated the mill since 1914, and visitors today can see his relics right where he left them on the last day the mill operated.
In 1979, flooding from a nor’easter caused the mill’s dam to break and the pond to empty. What was once described by mill expert Ted Hazen as a “wonderful treasure of America” then sat vacant in a slow state of decline for decades until the Caroline County Historical Society and the Friends of Linchester Mill took on the restoration efforts.
In 1967, Charles Kuralt featured the mill in his iconic CBS series, “On the Road.” Visitors can start their visit with a short screening of the program, which features interviews with Frank Langrell, before walking through the structure and seeing firsthand the original equipment that reflects the evolution of American milling.
Behind the mill, a small nature trail winds alongside the shallow waters of Hunting Creek. From the trail, you can catch a glimpse of the old train tracks that once carried passengers heading towards Ocean City on the first trans-peninsula railroad.
These shallow waters also provided a centuries-old crossing point. J.O.K. Walsh, researcher and president of the Caroline County Historical Society, has described Linchester as the most historic crossing point on the Eastern Shore. Native Americans once traversed the creek while traveling the ancient Choptank Indian Trail. It later was used by freedom seekers traveling north on the Underground Railroad, as the shallow waters created by the mill dam provided a safe crossing point for the creek.
The mill’s location is steeped in Harriet Tubman and Underground Railroad history. Just up the road from the mill sits the Leverton Dwelling, a private residence that was once owned by Quaker abolitionists Jacob and Hannah Leverton. The home has been described as “the main stopping place for the Underground Railroad in the Region.”
The Linchester campus also features the recently relocated and restored Hog Island School, where European immigrant children gathered in the late 1800’s to receive an education. Look carefully when you enter the schoolhouse, and you can see the original initials of the schoolchildren carved into the front of the structure. And if you are there when the mill is open with a docent, make sure to ask them to tell you the story of Miss Ethel and the mini chalk-gun bullet.
Wooden picnic benches shaded by towering trees sit behind the mill so that visitors can pack a picnic lunch and dine al fresco on grounds that freedom seekers and Native Americans traversed centuries ago. The campus is also pet-friendly, so bring your four-legged friend along for the afternoon.
There are not many places where so much history is interpreted in such a compact and beautiful setting. Whether you have five minutes or five hours to spend, stop by and see this “treasure of America.”
For more information on the mill and other Caroline County Historical Society projects, visit www.carolinehistory.org.
3390 Linchester Road, Preston, MD 21655
Caroline County – 38.700299,-75.89757199999997
HOURS: Open with Docent April – October
2nd and 4th Fridays & Saturdays April – October 10am – 4pm and by appointment
ADMISSION: No admission – donations appreciated
100 Things to Do Between the Bridge and the Beach
Every year millions of people cross a bridge to travel to the Atlantic Beaches on Delmarva. It may be the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel or a bridge over the Delaware Canal. They may be headed to Ocean City, Chincoteague, Rehoboth, Bethany, Dewey or Assateague, but most don’t know about the fabulous sites and attractions they are passing by. This series offers 100 fun things you can do between the Bridge and the Beach encouraging visitors to pull off the highway, take a day trip, and widen your vacation scope of activities – or make the Eastern Shore a destination when you’re not headed for the beach.
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