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Carroll County Public Library
Infinite Possibilities

Union Mills: Early Industry Comes Alive

The Union Mills: Early Industry Comes Alive exhibit is a partnership between the Carroll County Public Library, The Union Mills Homestead, and Balti Virtual to engage the community in local history.  This project combines a traveling exhibit of artifacts with augmented reality animations to offer an interactive experience. This project was funded by a Library Services and Technology Act Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Maryland State Library.

View the augmented reality animations for the grist mill and tannery using the free HoloTats app available at the App Store or Google Play. Open the HoloTats app and scan the grist mill and tannery images noted below to bring each to life. Don’t forget to turn on your sound.

The Union Mills Homestead

Union Mills Homestead as it stands today

The Homestead began in 1797 when two Shriver brothers, Andrew and David, purchased land along Big Pipe Creek. Big Pipe Creek supplied an excellent source of water for a mill and the surrounding rolling hills provided fertile farmland and groves of black oak trees, offering tanbark for a tannery. The brothers contracted the construction of a grist mill and saw mill, built the main part of the house, and later added a tannery, cooper shop, and blacksmith’s shop to complete their early industrial complex.

Today, the Union Mills Homestead, located in Carroll County, Maryland, is a museum depicting American rural life from the 1700s to the 1900s.

The Grist Mill

Water Wheel at Unions Mills

Scan this image with the HoloTats app or print a copy to scan.

The Shriver Grist Mill was built in 1797 using the modern design of America’s foremost millwright, Oliver Evans. Evans built the first fully automated industrial process, for milling flour, which allowed one man to do the work that previously required five men.

The reliable water source of Big Pipe Creek powered the mill, turning a 16-foot wooden waterwheel that operated the mechanical workings of the mill. Located on what soon became a major road, the merchant mill packed the flour in barrels for export out of the Port of Baltimore.

The mill operated continuously until 1942. After a major restoration project, it reopened as a working mill in 1983.

The Tannery

Union Mills tannery drawing

Scan this image with the HoloTats app or print a copy to scan.

The tannery began shortly after the Shriver brothers built Union Mills along Big Pipe Creek in 1797. The manufacturing of leather, essential for products such as harnesses, shoes, and machinery belts, was a complicated and malodorous early industrial process.

This soon became a very large enterprise with outside vats to soak the hides and buildings for grinding black oak bark, preparing and drying the hides, and cutting the cured leather. Daily wagon loads of incoming hides and tanbark yielded outgoing high quality leather that gained the Shrivers award-winning recognition at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.

Operation of the tannery continued until about 1904 when a windstorm destroyed the large brick smokestack for the steam boilers.

Visit to learn more about The Union Mills Homestead.

Explore these Early Industry resources for more information.

We hope you enjoyed the online portion of the Union Mills: Early Industry Comes Alive exhibit! Please take our short survey to help us tailor future offerings.