The Gristmill on the Mill Pond
1705: A mill for the Bankside Farmers
The Bankside Farmers who settled in the area called Machamux, now Green’s Farms, used the gristmills on Mill River, Southport — but as the community expanded, there was a need for a mill closer by.
When a 1705 agreement was made with a Mr. Oakley for a gristmill on Compo Creek, the agreement read in part:
[Oakley shall …] “secure all such grain as shall be brought to said mill or mills by any inhabitant or inhabitants of the said town of Fairfield at all times, and grind the same seasonably before he or they shall grind for a stranger, into good, sufficient, meal, taking only a sixteenth part for toll …” Oakley sold his mill rights to John Cable, who built a mill within a few years.
1790: The Sherwoods take over
In 1790, the Sherwood family acquired and rebuilt the Mill Pond gristmill to service local farmers. The Sherwoods were millers from way back. Patriarch Thomas Sherwood, who arrived in Fairfield in 1648, was a carpenter and miller, and his son Thomas was the first miller at the gristmill on Mill River, Southport.
According to Jennings, the mill thrived a long time, specializing in kiln-dried corn meal shipped to the West Indies. The business declined by the 1860s along with a decline in grain farming. The mill stood idle for awhile and then ground mineral barytes for a few years before it burned down in 1895.
How it worked
According to Jennings:
“The tide mill had an undershot horizontal waterwheel — that is, the outflow of water turned the wheel by the force of the water against the under part of the wheel. The water-wheel was some 18 feet long and about 14 feet in diameter, located outside the mill, and when the gates were lifted the water flowed out with tremendous force, and power was transmitted into the mill. If milling was good, two shifts, night and day, were needed according to the tide. The tide must be ebbing before the mill would run, and continue till the incoming tide equaled the outflow from the pond.”