Barrell Mill Pond Dam - York, ME
Posted by: silverquill
N 43° 08.201 W 070° 38.984
19T E 365830 N 4777314
Quick Description: This marker details the history of this interesting dam built in 1726 to harness the tidal flow to power a sawmill and a gristmill at the confluence of Meeting House Creek with the import harbor near the mouth of the York River.
Location: Maine, United States
Date Posted: 4/6/2012 10:33:01 PM
Waymark Code: WME5K4
Barrell Mill Pond
Barrell Mill Pond -
This tidal pond created by a dam in 1726 and formerly known as Meeting House Creek, was the focal point of much of York's history for the first 300 years. The first English house built in York in 1630 by Edwin Godfrey, was built at the head of navigable water on the south-west shore of Meeting House Creek. The exact location is unknown but is believed to have been some 200 feet south of Lindsay Road near several springs which still exist. Looking to your left, the point of land between Meeting House Creek and the York River, then known as the Argamenticus River, was called Point Bolleyne by Godfrey. It was later to become known as Harmon Point after another family that located on Godfrey's original grant. By 1636 there were six homesteads on Meeting House Creek and Point Bolleyne. In 1667 The First Parish Meeting House was built by Henry Sayward on the south west side of Lindsay Road overlooking the creek. The meeting house as also used as the court house and the town hall. The path which was to later become Lindsay Road became a busy road with shops, a garrison house and tavern. Later the town would spread along Scituate Men's Row (York Street) and the east shore of Barrell Mill Pond.
The New Mills Company -
In 1725 a company of 19 prominent citizens was formed to build a dam where the creek met the river and to build and operated a sawmill and a gristmill. All of the other natural tidal mill locations along the river and its tributaries had been built by this date and more mills were needed to satisfy York's growing population. The dam and the mills were built and ready to operate by April 1727. The mill was equipped with an "Undershot Water Wheel System" which permitted the use of the tidal water on both the incoming and outgoing tides to turn the wheels that powered the mill stone and the reciprocating saw. By the middle of the 1730's, Joseph Sayward had bought out most of the other partners in the mill company and his son, Jonathan, acquired most of the remaining shares. Jonathan Sayward Barrell inherited the mill pond in 1784 from his grandfather Jonathan Sayward.
Emerson's Ice Pond Folly -
During the 18th and 19th centuries there were many ownership changes in the land bordering what came to be known as Barrell Mill Pond. In 1882 Captain Frank Emerson secured the rights to make Barrell Mill Pond into a freshwater impoundment for the purpose of cutting ice for the Bendom market. Emerson intend to bring fresh water from Folly Pond 8 miles away in the hills overlooking the upper reaches of the York River. Fifteen foot long pipes were to be manufactured like barrels with wooden staves and iron hoops to hold them together, but the joints between the sections of pipe would not withstand the pressure of the water over such a long distance. Before acknowledging defeat, Emerson had built a huge ice house near where Edwin Godfrey built the first English house in York.
Mill Dam Road -
Following the construction of the dam and the tidal mills in 1727 the road we call Mill Dam Road and the road around the edge of the dam, where you are stand now, became an important "by way." Farmers and carters brought logs and grain from the western part of town across the York River on Thomas Donnell's Ferry was locate near the site where Sewell's Bridge would be constructed in 1757. In the 19th and 20th century, this byway was used as a shortcut for passengers and freight carrying vehicles between Sewell's Bridge and York Harbor. Later in the 20th century, it has been used primarily as a foot path for pedestrians. The "Wiggly Bridge: in front of you at the other end of the causeway, was built in 1936.
The 1902 picture depicts spectators and carriages lining the top of the dam attending a Water Carnival during York's 250th Anniversary Celebration. Four years later in 1906, the dam was again the scene of a fete celebrating the signing of the Russo-Japanese Peace Treaty in Portsmouth, NH. The tracks of the York Harbor & Beach Railroad can be seen in the background.
The method of moving ice from the icehouse on Barrell Mill Pond to the ships on the York River involved an intricate process to get them over the dam. It appears that the block of ice were moved from the ice house by barge or boat to a pier house on the edge of the dam. The blocks of ice ere then raised from the barge by a block and tackle system in the first pier house seen at the left. The ice was then slid down the incline pier on a doll or skid to the boat dock and loaded into the sailing Gundalows seen at the right
The picture above of the ice house was taken before 1887 as the tracks of the York Harbor & Beach Railroad are not visible in the foreground. The railroad and the railroad bridge across the York River were built after 1887.
York Historic Marker Committee 1998
This display was made possible by a grant from Fleet Bank