Flash flooding results in damage to Wye Grist Mill
WYE MILLS — Heavy rains in the area, which prompted flash flood advisories, on Thursday, Oct. 11, flooded the basement of the historic Wye Grist Mill, causing thousands of dollars in damages.
John Nizer, president of Friends of Wye Mill, the owners and operators of the historic site, was notified about 11:30 p.m. of the mill’s activated alarm. About 20 minutes later, employee Rhonda Corder noticed the basement was flooding as a result of the overflowing mill pond adjacent to property.
By the time Nizer arrived on the scene, 6 inches of water had permeated the room and caused extensive warping to the wood floor and the wooden door. The placement of a sump pump did little to combat the incoming rush of water, which effectively had flooded the outdoor picnic area and had nearly put the iconic, 8-foot mill wheel under water.
“By the time we left at about a quarter after 1 a.m., the water had risen about 2 more inches,” Nizer said. “This was very similar to the flood last year, but we had less water in the mill. Back then, we had about 18 inches of water in the mill. The water receded, and there were dehumidifiers for a week to have the room dry out. We also had to replace some equipment in the fire suppression system.”
The total bill for repairs following the Aug. 7, 2017, flood was $4,400, which the organization barely could afford, Nizer said. He said he expects repair costs to equal a similar amount this time.
While the building has a sprinkler system and insurance on the property, it doesn’t have flood insurance. Purchasing a specific flood policy was cost prohibitive, Nizer said.
To date, the mill still raises funds by grinding grain the first and third Saturday of each month from May 1 to mid-November.
It also has the distinctions of being the oldest water-powered mill in continuous use in the nation and one of the oldest commercial buildings still in use in the state.
During the American Revolution, the Wye Grist Mill and other mills on the Eastern Shore shipped thousands of barrels of flour to the Continental Army, commanded by Gen. George Washington. Historians dubbed the Eastern Shore “The Breadbasket of the American Revolution.”
Prominent past owners of the mill include Richard Bennett III, Edward Lloyd III and IV, and Col. William Hemsley, commander of the Queen Anne’s County Militia and provisioner to the Continental Army from 1779 to 1783.
Oliver Evans, “father of the modern factory” and the first great American inventor, used the Wye Grist Mill in the 1790s to formulate automation ideas that revolutionized American factories.
In 1996, Preservation Maryland transferred the ownership of the Wye Grist Mill to the Friends of Wye Mill Inc., which is dedicated to ensuring the Wye Grist Mill is preser ved.
The Friends of Wye Mill hope the public may want to help repair the mill.
“We appreciate any donation regardless if its just five or 10 dollars. Whatever you can give is greatly appreciated,” Nizer said.
Donations to help with the repairs of the 335-year-old Wye Grist Mill can be sent to the Friends of Wye Mill Inc. at P.O. Box 277, Wye Mills, MD 21679.
More than 6 inches of water has flooded the basement of the grist mill by 12:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12.
Damage to the wooden floor after water had receded shows warped floor boards and electrical chords from water pumps.
John Nizer, president of Friends of Wye Mill, shows how high the water rose on the historic building.