Union Mills is small, beautiful, beckoning

Neighborhood profile

Friendly charmer close to Westminster

March 03, 2002|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Located just north of Westminster in Carroll County is Union Mills, a rural village that has changed little over the years.

And that's just how residents like it, says Coral Collins, who moved there in 1975 from the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore.

She discovered the area on trips with her church group when she was young. The group used to go up in the summer to a swimming spot. Later, she would drive through Union Mills on her way to places to the north, such as Gettysburg, Pa.

When it was time for her and her husband, Buzz, to look for a house, Union Mills seemed the natural choice.

"We always liked it here, so we looked here first and found something," she said. "Nothing has changed. It's just quiet and peaceful, and the people here are very friendly. The surroundings are beautiful. It's still a small town, not a big city."

She said she and her husband do not miss city life. "I like the peace and quiet. We don't have any developments or shopping centers, it's just a peaceful, rural community," she said.

That vision of tranquillity is what attracts most people to Union Mills, said Carol Muller, an agent with the Westminster office of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc.

"It's convenient to the city of Westminster and to Pennsylvania," she said. "It's a nice little area, and it's a community where neighbors still know their neighbors' names."

Most of the houses in the village of Union Mills, along Littlestown Pike, are older Colonials and Victorians, with duplexes mixed in. On the outskirts is a mix of ranchers, split-levels, Colonials, log homes and farmhouses,. Most are on lots of 1 to 6 acres.

"Housing is very affordable in that area," said Muller.

Judy Tyree, manager of the Westminster office of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA, agreed that Union Mills offers a good mix of housing.

"That's not an area that turns around quickly," she said. "You can't say that area has anything that is just for that area; it's a whole variety of housing. There are a lot of older homes built in the 1930s and before found there. Some of the older homes have been rehabbed and have been done beautifully. And there are people who like to live in that area because of its uniqueness."

The community was founded in 1797 when David and Andrew Shriver purchased land along Big Pipe Creek. They soon established a store, a post office, a tannery and a gristmill at the location. Their descendants ran a cannery.

Their house was lived in by generations of Andrew Shriver's descendants until the 1960s. Today, the gristmill and home are open to the public for guided tours, operated by a nonprofit foundation.

Most tourists go to learn about the Homestead's link to the Civil War. The site was occupied by Union and Confederate soldiers, one day apart. On June 29, 1863. Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry spent the night at the Shriver Homestead. On June 30, the site was occupied by Union soldiers. Soon thereafter, the two armies clashed about 17 miles north at Gettysburg, the turning point of the war.

The Homestead also offers a glance at 18th-century rural life, said James Shriver, a sixth-generation descendant of the founding family and a Union Mills resident.

"We have all the letters, diaries and documentation to really give a good understanding of what rural life was like then," said Shriver, president of the Union Mills Homestead Foundation. "That's what makes it so unique, it's a museum of generations."

Shriver said his connection to the Homestead has made him appreciate the quiet, rural life in Union Mills.

"I have such an attachment to the area. I like the rural aspects, the open space, farmland, rolling hills, woods and streams," he said.

The name Union Mills came about through the union, or partnership, of the Shriver brothers' many businesses.

At the time, the area was a busy crossroads community. "The Homestead grew up as an early American industrial park. The house served as a general store, post office and stagecoach inn for travelers from Baltimore heading west," Shriver said.

Anthony and Malynda Beacham moved to Union Mills three years ago after Malynda's stepfather, William Connor, opened Academy Antiques in the heart of the old village. The store is the former Carroll Academy and served as a hospital during the Civil War.

The Beachams live with their three children in an apartment connected to the antiques shop but are hoping to buy a house in Union Mills.

"We want to stay in this area. Everybody here is very friendly, and we know all of neighbors," said Malynda Beacham. "The schools here are good, and there are lots of children. I don't really see the place changing. A lot of people are buying old homes and working on them to get them back to the way they were, in their original light."

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