3311 Littlestown Pike Westminster, MD 21158 410-848-2288 [email protected]
About Union Mills
Mission Statement: To operate, maintain, and preserve in a perpetual manner the historic Union Mills Homestead and its artifacts for its historic significance, and to be a museum of choice for educational programs, living history programs, lectures, symposiums, tours, and other special events and activities for the public.
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In February, 1797, two brothers, Andrew and David Shriver, Jr., took ownership of a tract of land along Big Pipe Creek in what was then Frederick (now Carroll) County, Maryland in a joint enterprise between the brothers. The brothers intended to combine their respective skills in a business enterprise centered on a set of water-powered mills to be built on the property. Business was successful, the family prospered, and they expanded their businesses and real estate holdings. Six generations of the family came to live at the site through the 1960s.
The Shrivers who settled at Union Mills were grandsons of German immigrants who had settled in the early 1730s near what is now Littlestown, Pennsylvania, between Union Mills and Gettysburg. The skills the brothers possessed were passed down by their father and grandfather. Their grandfather was a skilled shoemaker and tanner, in addition to being a farmer. Their father, David Shriver, Sr. and his wife, Rebecca Ferree Shriver, settled a tract of land on the other side of Westminster, Maryland in the 1760s, where the Shrivers farmed and operated a variety of businesses including a grist mill. David Shriver, Sr. rose to prominence as a patriot during the Revolutionary War serving as an officer in the Maryland Militia during the Revolution and also serving as a member of Maryland’s Constitutional Convention in 1776. He was a well-regarded legislator who served over 30 years in Maryland’s General Assembly.
The property purchased by Andrew and David Shriver, Jr. was about seven miles north of Westminster and along early roads leading to Littlestown and Pennsylvania's roads towards the west. Big Pipe Creek furnished a strong flow of water for a mill in the wide valley, and gentle slopes on either side provided land for grazing, farming, or settlement. Abundant groves of oak provided bark for the tanning of leather and wood for lumber.
On January 25, 1797, the two brothers completed arrangements with John Mong, a Frederick County millwright, to construct a “set of mills” – grist mill and saw mill – at the location of a pre-existing log grist mill. The log mill was thus replaced by a substantial brick one, which, now restored, is still standing and back in service. Although the saw mill originally attached to the waterpower of the mill no longer remains, the union of the milling operations on the property inspired the name “Union Mills.” In time, that name also came to be used for the surrounding community.
On January 26 of the same year, the brothers signed a contract with Henry Kohlstock of York County, Pennsylvania, for building a small four-room double house as their combined residence. Kohlstock, a joiner, agreed “to finish two small houses 14 by 17 feet each, to be connected by a porch and passage about 10 feet wide.” Each side of the house had one upper and one lower room, with a connecting center hallway and a small porch in front, twelve by eight feet.
Within just a few years, David Shriver, Jr., relinquished the business interests at Union Mills and moved to Westminster. Soon after leaving Union Mills, he accepted an appointment as Superintendent of Construction of the Reisterstown Turnpike. The construction of this road, which led directly to Union Mills, was significant in Union Mills’ commercial success. Andrew Shriver continued on without his brother and grew the enterprises at Union Mills. In addition to milling, Andrew Shriver and his descendants operated a tannery, a store to sell merchandise, and a variety of other businesses, as well as engaging in farming typical for the era.
The original four-room house, which both brothers (and Andrew’s family) shared for a few years, received additions over time as the needs of the growing household of Andrew Shriver and his descendants required. Eventually, a sprawling country mansion of 23 rooms came to occupy the site, surrounded by outbuildings, gardens, and orchards. Their home is still standing, complete with original furnishings and family possessions.
Soon after arriving at Union Mills, Andrew Shriver became active in the public affairs of the neighborhood and state. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace, a position of considerable importance, which he held for most of the remainder of his life. He was also appointed postmaster for the area. He was politically active, as schooled by his father, David Shriver, Sr. Andrew Shriver and his family identified with the Jeffersonian Republican and Democratic parties. His influence in directing popular sentiment in the area was considerable.
Descendants of Andrew Shriver continued to live in the family homestead over the next 160 years. Significant events occurring at the property included the arrival of and encampment of Confederate Cavalry forces commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart late in the night of June 29, 1863, just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. Stuart’s cavalrymen were fed flapjacks out of the kitchen at the back of the Shriver family’s home. On the morning of June 30, 1863, Stuart’s Cavalry left Union Mills after Stuart and his senior officers were entertained by the William Shriver family at breakfast. Just a few hours after the Confederates departed, Union forces from the Union Army’s Fifth Corps arrived at Union Mills. Brig. Gen. James Barnes, First Division Commander, made the Shriver family homestead his headquarters that evening.
In 1950, the house came into the hands of three brothers, Frederic Shriver Klein, Philip Shriver Klein, and Richard Henry Klein, the fifth generation of the Shriver family to live there, subject to a life estate of their aunt, Elizabeth (Bessie) Shriver Kemp, who continued to live in the Homestead until her death in 1957. Two of the three brothers were professors of American History, and they had a keen sense of the genuine historic value of the property and its artifacts. In 1954, the Klein brothers reached an agreement with the B.F. Shriver Co. by which the mill on the property was transferred to them as well; the mill had been owned by another line of Shriver descendants since 1853.
Living at Union Mills in the summers, the Kleins began operating Union Mills as a museum of American cultural life. The Kleins decided to do little to the house, generally leaving the furniture and the objects of everyday living just where the generations of Shrivers who occupied the house before them had left them. The mill housed a Mill Museum, with displays of antique farming equipment and Civil War relics.
On October 11, 1964, the Kleins established the Union Mills Homestead Foundation, Inc. to operate, preserve, and maintain the Union Mills Homestead and to secure appropriate preservation funding. In ensuing years, the Kleins and the Foundation transferred by donation and sale the structures and real property to the Carroll County Government. The County, in turn, leased the property back to the Foundation. By similar arrangements, ownership of the physical artifacts was transferred to the Foundation, as well. The Foundation’s operation of the site continues today in accordance with these agreements.
In early 1973, with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the house and mill were stabilized and restored. Ten years later, in May 1983, and with additional grants from the State of Maryland, Carroll County, and gifts from the membership, the mill was restored to working order, its machinery painstakingly recreated by British engineer-turned-millwright Derek Ogden. Restoration of the mill dramatically increased historic interest in the site.
Other structures have been restored, as well. In 1986, the Foundation re-opened the miller’s house as a visitor center and gift shop, and the tannery underwent renovation to serve as both storage space and a meeting hall. After being destroyed in an arson fire on October 25, 1990, the remaining portion of the tannery was completely re-built using traditional construction techniques, including a replica of the original sundial painted on the tannery wall in the 1860s. The bark shed near the tannery has become a demonstration site for nineteenth century crafts. The gardens and grounds have been restored to reflect the life of an earlier era.
In addition to the house and grounds, and the artifacts on display accumulated by the successive generations that lived here, there is a wealth of written documentation. Not only did they write – diaries, letters, autobiographies, histories – but they saved what they wrote. In a number of instances, there exist accumulated letters from both correspondents. Many volumes of diaries have been preserved, often enabling the same events to be viewed through multiple eyes. This accumulation of written material is preserved, some here at the Homestead, some still in the possession of family members, and much at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. According to the MHS, “overall, the Shriver Family Papers are an essential collection for the political, economic and social history of Maryland in the Middle Period. Moreover, the richness and size of the collections provide an excellent opportunity for the study of family history.” This volume of material makes the interpretation of the lives that went on here, and the buildings and artifacts on display, rich and personal.
Today, the Homestead Foundation continues to operate the property as a museum and is actively engaged in preserving the vast documentation related to the site through photography and digitization, with the goal of making the content of even greater use to historians and the general public. Already a number of histories have relied on this collection, including Just South of Gettysburg; The Shrivers: Under Two Flags; and Pastime: Life & Love on the Homefront During the Civil War, 1861-1865. The Foundation endeavors to preserve the history of the site and to ensure a secure future through a collaborative effort that has been a hallmark of the property since 1797. The Foundation offers to the public interpretive tours of the house and mill, and continues to preserve, catalogue, and publicize the Homestead’s collections. To showcase the Homestead, the Foundation holds a number of annual events to include a Flower and Plant Market in the Spring, a Civil War Encampment in July, a Corn Roast in August, and the Maryland Microbrewery Festival in September. The Foundation also publishes a periodic newsletter to its membership. By its policies and programs, the Foundation maintains the distinctive character and atmosphere of the site, thereby providing a significant view of an important portion of Maryland history.
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Last updated 04/03/2017