Monday, November 28, 2016

Dismal Mill then George Ellicott Jr.'s Ilchester Mill

Down stream on the Patapsco River from Ellicotts mill was a corn mill (which occasionally could grind flour) eerily called Dismal Mill, built in 1761.  By 1831 George Ellicott Jr. (1798-1869) had erected the 3 story stone 'Dismal Mill Factory' or Ilchester Mill at that site and constructed a 3 story home.  Ellicott sold his home in 1866 to the Redemptorists who started St. Mary's College. click to enlarge.

Dismal Mill was built in 1761.  It was mentioned with one of the founders of Ellicott City (a decade later)  "Joseph Ellicott and Hugh Burgess, of Pennsylvania, built a mill within our present city limits, [on Jones' Falls -the river flowing through Baltimore] opposite to the site of the old Baltimore Jail; and, during the same year, the Dismal Mill or Vortex on the Patapsco, was also built. It was within a mile of Elkridge Landing, and ground corn almost exclusively; occasionally those farmers who did not use hand mills brought their very small crops of wheat to be manufactured into flour. Hood’s Mill, some miles above the Vortex, was also built in 1761, but its machinery ground corn only." [Tyson]

The Ellicott home was on the hill directly above the Patterson Viaduct (stone railroad bridge), so railroad passengers could clearly see the imposing stone home, 3 stories high with dormers in the attic and chimneys at either end.  George Ellicott Jr built his home “In an arrangement similar to one operating in 1812 at the house of George Ellicott Sr. in Ellicotts Mills, fresh water supplied from a spring on the top of the hill ran through pipes installed to Ellicott’s dwelling, the Ilchester Mill, and other structures (AA WSG2/119, and Howard 25/404)” [HO-737]  There appears to be a fountain in the garden area to the right of the house.
 "After passing the Patterson viaduct, the new mill on your right, and rising on the very edge of the road, is the Dismal Mill Factory, [Ilchester Mill] the property of George Ellicott." [Latrobe, 1832]
The Ilchester mill stood between the railroad and the river.  The mill race ran through the arch and rejoined the river at the left side of the image.

The stone mill was 3 stories with numerous dormers at attic level and it appears to have had a cupola (with bell) on the left end; as did his family mill in Ellicott Mills (below).  

Among the other buildings is one behind the viaduct by the river and underpass. He had several mills on the Patapsco and Bonnie Branch.  
May 17, 1839 ad in the Baltimore Sun (Ilchester spelled with 2 Ls)  described it as 12 miles from Baltimore and 2 miles below Ellicotts' Mills, at the Patterson Bridge.  "Also, a good COOPER SHOP, for the making of flour bar rels [sic] for the Mills.  All will be rented low to a good tenant, and possession will be given immediately.  Apply at Ellicotts' Mills, to George Ellicott."

He leased some of his operations to a Tyson nephew, ran a tavern in his house or perhaps the front wing to the left (kitchen may have been in the back wing), but he was hindered by the new railroad line not putting a station at his site.  He was finally able to sell his large home and tavern in 1866 to the Redemptorists who started St. Mary's College; and died in 1869.

The main college building was built in 1867 on the hill and was 5 stories, 18 bays (windows), followed a few years later by a chapel. It was to support the young men studying for the priesthood.   “In 1872… a frame addition to George Ellicott’s stone tavern… was used as a juvenate or minor seminary, followed by other uses until it was destroyed by fire in 1968." [HO-737, HO-392] The Redemptorist sold the property in 1972 and it burnt down on Halloween night, 1997 leaving some wall remnants.

More images of Patterson Viaduct HERE

Current view of the stairs and house ruins.
The walking bridge built on the original abutments.  The stairs are in the woods at the far end of the bridge just over the road.  Bonnie Branch (stream/river) now goes through the pipes.

HO-737: Ilchester Mill/Dismal Mill Sites. HERE
Latrobe, John Hazlehurst Boneval. Picture of Baltimore: Containing a Description of All Objects of Interest ... Baltimore: 1832
Tyson, Martha Ellicott.  A Brief Account of the Settlement of Ellicott's Mills
HO-392 St. Mary’s College HERE
HO-738 Bonnie Branch Mill Site and dam (George Ellicott) HERE
©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber
Forgotten history of Ellicott City & Howard County MD


  1. I am delighted to encounter your blog and to find information about mysteries and answers to many questions that have dogged me through life! The Patapsco River Valley and Elk Ridge, Belmont and Ilchester, Fairy Knowe and The Thomas Viaduct - your blog's subject categories read like pages from my mind. The area of Howard County is deeply steeped in the history of our nation. Being raised up in the middle of it (before Internet) can result in an overload of disjointed settings, like a patchwork quilt that has yet to be sewn together. Your "Forgotten history" blog seems destined to become a comforter for my morning brew. Thank you for offering your expertise online!

    1. Thank you! That is so lyrical. I've added more about George Jr and his house since you commented (just noticed)