Homestead to celebrate bicentennial Park's foundation to announce '97 events at news conference

'Showcase year' for site

Property's connection to Civil War attracts thousands to Carroll

December 09, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

It will be 200 years next month since brothers Andrew and William Shriver began building a house and grist mill along Big Pipe Creek on Littlestown Pike.

Their sixth- and seventh-generation descendants plan to mark the bicentennial of Union Mills Homestead with a yearlong celebration.

The Union Mills Homestead Foundation will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday to announce its bicentennial plans. The Carroll Commissioners and tennis champion Pam Shriver, the honorary chairwoman of the Union Mills bicentennial celebration, will attend.

"[Pam Shriver's] great-great-grandfather -- or maybe add another 'great' in there -- was one of 11 children born at the homestead that Andrew and David built and settled," said Esther Shriver, the athlete's cousin who is executive director of the nonprofit foundation.

"It's going to be our showcase year," Esther Shriver said. "We hope it's going to put us on the map -- and Carroll County, too. I know our members are excited: They've been calling from California and Texas, Chicago and New York City -- and overseas, too."

The bicentennial will be covered by the Old Mill News, the publication for people who run mills, she said. Union Mills has been on the cover, and "they're going to do an article for our 200th anniversary," Shriver said.

The first big bicentennial event will be the spring flower market and antique show, with a hot-air balloon and a competition for artwork of the homestead.

A reception for the foundation's 350-plus members is planned for June.

Except for a few events, such as a poinsettia and greens sale Saturday and Sunday, and weekly tours by Carroll County students, the buildings are closed for the winter.

The house, mill and other buildings have been restored, thanks to a recent state grant, Shriver said. The foundation maintains the collection, and the county maintains the 14-acre property.

The improvements included landscaping, a new shake-shingle roof on the farmhouse, interior painting, ultraviolet-light windows, and new straw matting. Window frames and sills in the farmhouse and mill were redone, along with the chimneys on both buildings -- and even the three-seat privy.

"The projects are mostly completed, and we're ready," Shriver said.

But one essential job remains -- revising and reprinting 'u out-of-print books and brochures.

"They've all been sold. We have to get them out for 1997," she said, referring to both a book on Union Mills and a brochure on the park's role in the Civil War -- when Shriver ancestors fought for the Union and the Confederacy.

Civil War link

Members of both armies camped on the property, and the Battle of Gettysburg could easily have been fought nearby: According

TC to local history, Union Gen. George G. Meade planned to fight along Big Pipe Creek, while Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee hoped to engage at Harrisburg -- but fate split the distance.

The Civil War connection attracts many of the homestead's 6,000-plus paid visitors each year, Shriver noted.

The founding Shriver brothers originally ran a sawmill, too, but it is long gone. One of the original tannery buildings also was lost more recently -- in an unsolved arson several years ago, she said. The tannery has been rebuilt.

Latest discoveries

During the renovation, workers found several pieces of firebacks lying across the tops of the chimneys, dated 1763 with German writing that Shriver was unable to decipher. After a story about the discovery in The Sun, she said a Hampstead family called and translated the German as: "God is a just judge."

Firebacks were intended for use across the back of fireplaces to protect the brick and to throw heat into the room, and Shriver said they don't know whether these came from the house or were simply found and used to keep out the rain after the chimneys fell into disuse.

But however old the firebacks are, she said, the beginning of construction of the house and the mill has been fixed as January 1797.

Future plans

Foundation members hope to have a full-time curator, she said, because "anything in museum work is constant upkeep. There are not too many places that are 200 years old and still have their artifacts."

She and husband James M. Shriver Jr. -- a sixth-generation member of the German-immigrant family -- live across from the house. Son James M. Shriver III, who gave guided tours as a boy, is president of the foundation.

Esther Shriver has been its executive director for 15 years and a charter member since 1964. A previous owner operated the house as a private museum from 1958 to 1964.

The homestead is becoming increasingly popular for weddings, family reunions and other private gatherings, she said. The mill still grinds whole wheat, cornmeal, buckwheat and rye under the supervision of the miller, Grayson Bowers.

Pub Date: 12/09/96

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