Susquehanna State Park, MD

September 7, 2019

Susquehanna River

We often take things for granted that are near where we live or that we see on a regular basis. Having lived in the DC area for over 36 years, there are a LOT of things that we took for granted and never entered into our blog. We will try to rectify that when we travel back to that area. One trip back was for John’s 49 ½ year high school reunion (two classes joined forces to put on the reunion so it was midway for both of them.) We camped at Susquehanna State Park and had a little time to tour their historic sites. We really enjoyed both the park and the tours so we thought there should be a blog post on them. They have an old toll house, working mill, mill pond, millstream, and historic mansion all looking out on a beautiful view of the Susquehanna River.

Rock Run Grist Mill

Grist Mill

We got to tour the old mill and see it in action. It was really cool watching the water pour over the waterwheel until the wheel groaned and grated and finally started to turn. Then we went inside to watch as corn was ground into flour. It was pretty neat.

BONUS – the paw paws along the river were ripe so we were able to enjoy them as we hiked!

Being an enginerd (retired) I (John) was very interested in seeing how the mill actually worked. So I traced all the moving parts, making sure I kept from being snagged and ground up into nerd meal.

You have to open a valve so water can flow from the mill pond into the millrace. Water flows down the millrace and into the waterwheel. The waterwheel has 84 buckets and weighs 12 tons. So it takes a while for the waterwheel to really get moving.

Views of Mill’s Waterwheel

The waterwheel acts as a large toothed gear. It’s hard to spot but it’s connected to a much smaller gear that turns a shaft.

Gear connected to waterwheel

That shaft is connected to several other wheels that are connected by belts to other wheels and shafts. And so on and so on.

Wheels and belts connected to main waterwheel shaft

One wheel vibrates a feeder that dribbles corn into a hole in the middle of the capstone, which is turned by yet another wheel and belt. The bedstone is stationary. Both stones have grooves running from the centers to the edges. As the corn is crushed and ground it moves toward the outside edge of the grindstones.

Corn being fed into grinder

As the corn is ground it is fed into a chute and down into a sifter that is jiggled by still another wheel and belt. The finer cornmeal falls into a trough.

Sifting corn meal

The mill also ground and processed flour, although none of those machines were operational.

We were able to wander throughout the mill’s three floors. But you had to watch your step and your head as nothing in the mill adhered to any building codes. Wheels and belts, flour processing machinery, automatic bagging machines, grain fans, weight scales and more.



The Toll House was built in 1817. A window in the wall of the porch was used to spot boats coming down the canal.

The Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal ran for 45 miles from Havre de Grace, MD to Wrightsville, PA. Twenty-nine locks were used to lower canal boats from an elevation of 1,000 feet at Wrightsville to 20 feet at Havre de Grace. The canal opened in 1840 carrying coal, iron ore, lumber, and grain downriver and dry goods and agricultural supplies upriver.

Canal boats, carrying up to 160 tons, were pulled by a pair of mules at up to 4 miles per hour.

Carter-Archer House

Carter-Archer House

John Carter, part owner of the Rock Run Grist Mill, completed this mansion in 1804. The home has thirteen rooms and four chimneys. In addition to the home, the springhouse and carriage barn are still standing. All of these buildings are closed to the public.

The Carter-Archer House has a connection to the Civil War (as do many early-to-mid 1800s homes). James J. Archer was born here on December 19, 1817. He joined the U.S. Army in 1847 and fought in the Mexican-American War. He returned to civilian life only to rejoin the Army in 1855. When the Civil War broke out, he joined the Confederate Army, rising to the rank of Brigadier General. He participated in many of the campaigns and battles in the Eastern Theater. However he was captured on the first day of Battle of Gettysburg. He was eventually exchanged but his health had deteriorated and he died on October 24, 1864.

H & J

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