The Old East Mill, originally located in Orleans, has been a centerpiece at Heritage for over fifty years. Here is the story of its building and operation, as well as how it came to the grounds of the museum in 1967.
History of the Mill
Over its two hundred plus years, the Old East Mill has survived storm damage, insect infestations, and the wear and tear of time. Lucky, the exterior was lovingly restored in 2019 to be enjoyed for generations to come.
1888 photo by H.K. Cummings
The Old East Mill was built in 1800 with leftover building materials from a renovation of the Congregational Meeting House in Orleans. The mill was located on a high point of what is now Great Oak Road. Five men shared ownership of the mill, and one of them, Isaac Snow, acted as the miller. 1888 photo by H.K. Cummings (courtesy of the Orleans Historical Society)
1828 - Isaac Sparrow
By 1828, the mill had been sold twice and moved once, and now belonged to Isaac Sparrow, who was also the miller. During Sparrow’s tenure, the mill initially ground wheat, corn, rye, and barley grown by local farmers. In 1834, Sparrow added a salt grinder to the mill, so the product of the nearby saltworks owned by Lewis Doane could also be processed at the mill. This deedfrom September 1, 1834 passes 1/8 shares of the mill to members of the Doane family and others.
Sparrow continued to operate the mill through the Civil War. During the war, the mill ground corn meal which was shipped to the front lines to feed Union soldiers.
Capt. Joseph Taylor
Captain Joseph Taylor
Following the Civil War, the mill was purchased by retired mariner Capt. Joseph Taylor, shown standing near the doorway of the mill in this image from about 1886. Earlier in his career, Capt. Taylor had been a partner in a Boston business that built and owned clipper ships. Their ship Red Jacket set a record crossing from New York to Liverpool in 1854, with fellow Cape Codder Captain Asa Eldredge at the helm, of 13 days, 1 hour, and 25 minutes.
Capt. Taylor employed E.C. Hampten to operate the mill, but with increasing competition from cheaper flour from the Midwest, the mill ground its last product in 1893.
In 1904, Cleveland banker John Murton Gundry purchased the property as a summer residence. The family cherished the mill and undertook to preserve it as much as possible. The five Gundry children (pictured) often camped overnight in the mill.
In in the early 1900s traditional Cape Cod industries of fishing, farming, and saltmaking, were in decline. Taking their place was the growing tourist trade. The mill was a tourist attraction in Orleans, and was pictured on souvenirs.
In 1957 the mill was purchased by Charles M. Campbell and moved to its third location in a small park nearby. Campbell restored the mill with the assistance of Lester Bassett and opened it for visitors.
Pleasant Bay in 1957
When Mr. Campbell was ready to sell the mill, he hoped that the town of Orleans would buy it, but the voters defeated this article at town meeting. Instead, in 1967 he reached an agreement with Josiah K. Lilly III to move the mill to the grounds of his planned museum in Sandwich.
September of 1967
1967 - Moving to Sandwich
In preparation to move the mill, it was disassembled into four pieces by the Robert Hayden firm of Cotuit in September of 1967, with the move taking place in October. Here, the cap of the mill rests on cribbing waiting to be moved.
Although Lilly initially considered transporting the windmill by helicopter, it was eventually transported by truck to Sandwich down Route 6A.
Home at Heritage
The trip took ten days as each power line needed to be lifted by hand for the body of the mill to pass underneath.
Assembly of the mill at Heritage was assisted by a crane. The crane first placed the millstones in the building, then replaced the cap of the mill. Last, the vanes were added.
Home at Heritage
The windmill has now been on the grounds of Heritage for over 50 years. In our role as caretaker of the mill, the museum hired Andrew Shrake, a local millwright, to construct and install new vanes for the mill in 2019. Using no nails or screws, he built them utilizing the same techniques that would have been employed in the mill’s original construction over 220 years ago.
Our beautiful elderberry in the herb garden. Sambucus canadensis or American Elderberry is a shrub that can grow to 12 feet, flowering in the summer and producing an abundance of fruits in early fall. [...]