Cecil's Mill Historic District
"The original water-powered textile mill 'Clifton Factory', built in 1812, was rebuilt as a flour mill in 1900 by John Thomas Cecil. Historic district also includes Cecil's Country Store and Post Office built in 1906."
March 1810 - The Founding
William Hebb, Peter Gough, and William Clarke Somerville purchased a three acre tract of land called "Clifton." The partners erected a three-story building called the "Clifton Factory" where woolen cloth and cotton yarn were produced. This venture represented the premier manufacturing enterprise in St. Mary's County during the Industrial Revolution.
Circa 1812 - The War of 1812
Some members of the St. Mary's County Militia were ordered to muster at the Clifton Factory. In 1813, one hundred twenty five muskets were delivered to Clifton from Annapolis.
Circa 1828 - The Factory Village
By 1828, the Village of Clifton Factory included a Factory House (48 feet by 30 feet), a Wheel House, Spring House, Sulphur House, Weaving House, Double House and Stable, Meat and Poultry House, Necessary, Second Double House, Kitchen, Smoke House, Dairy and Stable, Tavern (eleven rooms), Double Houses above the Tavern, Dyeing Establishment, Wood House, Shoe Makers Shop, Store House, Saw Mill, Tan House, Bark Mill House, and Farm House.
Circa 1860's - The Civil War Period
Times were difficult and the Clifton Factory had ceased the manufacturing of cloth and yarn. Traditional tales speak of the removal of the manufacturing equipment from Clifton to Savage Mills in Howard County, Maryland. The mills at Savage were said to have then produced what was termed "Clifton" cloth. However, at the Clifton Factory, the grist mill was to continue in operation.
Circa 1871 - Clifton on the Mend
An 1871 article published by the St. Mary's Beacon reports: "The Village of Clifton Factory is on the mend. Captain Spencer has established a first class store, improved shops and dwellings and renovated the valuable mill property...The hotel kept by Greenwell sets a most excellent dinner."
William Washington Cecil probably purchased the Clifton property from Thomas O. Spencer by 1879, even though a deed was not recorded until 1882.
1890's - W.W. Cecil Sells to Sons
In 1890, William Washington Cecil sold properties to his sons, John T. Cecil and George B. Cecil. Shortly thereafter, John T. Cecil secured the Clifton portion. He proceeded to tear down the upper levels of the old Clifton Factory while retaining the original 1810 levels of the old Clifton Factory foundation. He erected a new three-story mill which still stands today. He replaced the old millstones which had ground the wheat with the progressive technologyof roller mill equipment. Cecil's ill was, in fact, the first "roller mill" in the county. His power source, however, beckoned back to the old overshot waterwheel.
1905 - 1906 - Man on the Move
In 1905, John T. Cecil was elected County Commissioner. In 1906, he razed the old three-room store house (dating back to at least 1834) and erected at the same location the present Cecil's Country Store. By 1906, at ten years of age, J. Allen Cecil, son of John T. Cecil, began to clerk at the new store.
1907 - Post Office
The Great Mills Post Office apparently dates back to the early 1800's. From early on, the location interchanged between a site off present date Flat Iron Road in Old Great Mills and the Clifton Factory. In 1907, Clifton became the official site of the Post Office and remained so until 1974. In 1907, the first member of the Cecil family was appointed Post Mistress. Hellen Robb Greenwell Cecil served until 1914 whereupon her husband, John T. Cecil, was appointed Post Master. The family tradition continued with the appointments of son, H. Robb Cecil in 1934, and daughter-in-law, Rose Boothe Cecil (wife of J. Allan Cecil) in 1944.
1927 - Diesel Power Arrives
The mill operated by water power until 1927 when a diesel engine was installed. This engine had formally been used by William F. Cecil (son of John T. Cecil & Hellen Robb Greenwell) to provide electricity to Leonardtown.
Circa 1945 - Cecil's Grist Mill Closes
The grist mill operated until about 1945. America had discovered store bough white bread! The building continued in use as a feed mill and saw mill.
April 1959 - Cecil's Sawmill Closes
The sawmill closed following the tragic death of H. Robb Cecil (son of John T. Cecil).
January 1976 - Cecil's Store Closes
Cecil's General Store was closed by J. Allan Cecil (who started clerking in 1906) and his wife, Rose. 1978 - National Register of Historic PlacesCecil's Mill Historic District was entered on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Historic District includes "Cecil's Old Mill" and "Cecil's Country Store."
1977 - A New Era Begins
In 1977, Cecil's Old Mill and Cecil's Country Store were leased the St. Mary's Craft Guild. They began selling locally produced arts and crafts. At that time the store was renamed the Country Christmas Store. The Guild left in 1995.
1983 - 1987 - Diesel Engine & Sawmill Reconstruction
William J. Clements restored the 50 H.P. Fairbanks Morse diesel engine and reconstructed the "Number 2 American Sawmill" of the 1920's. The sawmill was operational for the first time since 1959.
1996 - Cecil's Country Store Reopens
In 1996, the store was renamed Cecil's Country Store when it was leased to St. Mary's Antiques. Cecil's Country Store is now home to an eclectic mix of antiques, home decor, Mary Lou Troutman original art and prints, designer jewelry, Yankee Candles, beautiful handmade pottery, and much more. The historic Old Mill became home to St. Mary's Country Art Association selling locally produced arts, crafts, baked goods, honey and homemade jellies.
2002 - Waterwheel Restored
The steel double overshot waterwheel is probably the last existing waterwheel of its kind still operational in the State of Maryland. The effort to restore the waterwheel was initiated by John Thomas Cecil, Sr. (son of J. Allen Cecil) and completed under the leadership of J. Allan Cecil, II (son of John Thomas Cecil, Sr.) and Allan's sons, Allan II and Matt.
2010 - Bicentennial Celebration
Celebrate two hundred years of history in Great Mills, St. Mary's County, Maryland.