Union Mills Homestead’s Executive Director Retires
Jane S. Sewell, the long-time Executive Director of the Union Mills Homestead Foundation, Inc., retires effective February 1, 2021. Jane Sewell became the Executive Director of the organization in 2000, responsible for operation and interpretation of the Union Mills Homestead for over 20 years.
20-Year Tenure Marked by Numerous Successes
A retired educator, Jane took over as Executive Director after the retirement of her predecessor, Esther Shriver. Jane successfully managed the organization through a period involving many notable successes.
The successes started even before she became Executive Director. Jane volunteered as co-chair of the Union Mills Homestead’s Bicentennial Gala in 1997. The event was a resounding success, a delightful evening of fellowship and dining to mark the 200th year since Union Mills’ founding in 1797. According to Jane Sharpe, a long-time Board Member, “Jane demonstrated then her great love and interest for the site, a tireless dedication that has never wavered. Since 1997, she has shown a willingness to do what whatever was necessary to make Union Mills successful – a real Jane of all trades.”
Among the many achievements during her tenure: Including living history interpretation at the Union Mills Homestead. Living historians are now a significant part of site interpretation and a Civil War Encampment was made a regular event.
During Jane’s time as Executive Director the organization further expanded its public event schedule, adding the Maryland Microbrewery Festival to its annual lineup of events. The Maryland Microbrewery Festival is now a major regional beer festival drawing many visitors to Carroll County. A more recent addition in the week leading up to the Maryland Microbrewery Festival was Carroll County Beer Week, a collaborative effort with local brewers and other establishments to promote locally-brewed beers.
Jane’s preservation advocacy most recently resulted in grant funding from the State of Maryland for restoration of the roofs on the historic structures on the property. That work is now underway, involving installation of new cedar shingle roofing.
Jane had major accomplishments in the area of community engagement. For many years she served as a co-chair of the Celebrating America initiative in Carroll County, fostering a greater understanding of America’s history and Carroll County’s role in that history. One of the many projects she spearheaded for Celebrating America was a “History Day” event held each spring in conjunction with the Carroll County School system.
Jane also was appointed by the Carroll County Commissioners as a member of the County’s Long Term Advisory Council. And she effectively served to advance the Union Mills Homestead’s relationship with the Carroll County Government, which owns the Union Mills Homestead property.
Jane’s dedication to the site overcame all challenges, whether heat waves, floods, or pandemic. She made herself available at all hours of the day (and night), often seven days a week.
Tributes for Work on Community Partnerships
After Jane’s retirement was announced, the tributes poured in. Lynn Wheeler, former Executive Director of the Carroll County Public Library wrote: “Jane is the epitome of grace and style. It was a great honor and privilege to work with her. She leaves very big shoes to fill as she heads into a second well-deserved retirement.”
Wheeler noted Jane’s commitment to partnerships, including collaborative efforts with the Library such as author events and a grant-funded augmented reality exhibit highlighting the mill and tannery. Another notable partnership, with the Carroll County Farm Museum and Maryland Humanities, brought the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street Traveling Exhibit, The Way We Worked, to Carroll County.
The Union Mills Homestead Foundation, Inc. was founded in 1964 to operate and preserve the Union Mills Homestead. Jane provided leadership to the organization for over a third of the years the Homestead Foundation has existed. The Union Mills Homestead now sees visitation in excess of 10,000 people a year and each summer season the Union Mills Homestead is open for public tours of the historic property, tours that include the historic house and restored grist mill.
The Union Mills Homestead Foundation, Inc. extends its best wishes to Jane Sewell for a well-deserved retirement. As Jane likes to say, “It’s all good!” Thanks Jane for a job well done!