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Covered Bridge at Patapsco Mill

Baltimore & Howard MD-03-11x & MD-13-03x Patapsco River Unk Unk Unk 1829/30 Unk
Ellicott's Mills was a thriving mill industry town in the mid-1800s. Until 1851 the area was a part of Anne Arundel County and was known as the Howard District. Patapsco River divided Baltimore and Howard counties in Ellicott's Mills. Located on the Baltimore County side of the river was the Patapsco Flour Mill, originally built in 1772, destroyed by a fire in 1809 and quickly rebuilt. The Ellicott brothers, Andrew and John, owned the mill. The area of the mill and the community around it became known as Lower Mills.
In 1828, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad decided on a route west that included the valley of the Patapsco determined by the industrial facilities already in place on its banks. The Ellicott brothers traded land with the B&O in exchange for a bridge that would provide a direct rail connection to their merchant mill in Baltimore County from across the Patapsco River on the Howard County side where the tracks were laid.¹
The B&O Railroad built the bridge that crossed to the mill in 1829 or 1830 and along with it the first functional switching apparatus in the nation. During the flood of July 24, 1868, the Patapsco Mill was the site of many heroic efforts to save people caught in the overflowing Patapsco. Various accounts include citizens standing at the Patapsco Mill bridge, dropping ropes down to those in the river. At least three men were rescued until no more attempts could be made when it was obvious the bridge piers became too unstable. The Patapsco Mill, although largely damaged, survived the flood of 1868. Unfortunately, the flood cost the lives of almost 40 people in the Ellicott City area.²
The Ellicott family owned the flouring mill until 1844 when they sold it to Charles Carroll and Charles A. Gambrill. After the 1868 flood, the mill was bought by Richard G. and Patrick H. Magill, nephew of Charles A. Gambrill.
The old mill has been rebuilt many times over the years. The extensive damage to the mill caused by the 1868 flood was repaired, it was rebuilt again after the fires of 1916 and 1941 and after the flood caused by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. Currently, the building houses Wilkins-Rogers Inc and still produces flour and other grain mill products. An old, unused, four-span iron railroad bridge crosses from the mill to Howard County. The railroad bridge probably replaced the covered bridge, date unknown. It appears the railroad bridge crosses the Patapsco at a different angle than the original covered bridge.
Ellicott City never fully recoved from the flood of 1868. Today, it a favorite place for antique shoppers and history buffs. The B&O Railroad Station is now a museum.

¹ Henry K. Sharp, The Patapsco River Valley, Cradle of the Industrial Revolution in Maryland (Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore: 2001), p. 67.

² Ibid; p. 91.

Patapsco Mill Covered Bridge C1860 Patapsco Mill Bridge 2008
Patapsco Mills Bridge as shown in Henry K. Sharp's book, The Patapsco River Vally. The caption to the picture: "Mill house on bridge, c1860." This photograph taken from the lawn of the Angelo cottage captures the mill town in the pre-Civil War years. The stone building with the arched windows is the opera house. Above it, in the middle distance, is the Ellicott Brothers' Patapsco Mill built in 1809. This angle allows a perfect view of the bridge they constructed from the mill building across the Patapsco to the B&O Railroad in 1829 or 1830. (Maryland Historical Society.) Iron railroad bridge crossing the Patapsco River from Wilkins-Rogers flour mill in 2008.

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