June 29, 2010 - Arrowsic tide mills; federal climate bill

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

First, a photo I took last night looking upstream of the dam into Winnegance:


Continuing my exploration of historic tidal power resources in my neck of the woods: today, the Crosby tide mill in Arrowsic, Maine.

The Crosby mill, which operated in the early 1900s, was a tidal water-powered sawmill. The mill was located on Mill Island (off the Old Stage Road) between the millpond and the Back River. The Town of Arrowsic's newsletter has an interesting account of life at the mill, including felling trees, scooting them to the river by oxen, rafting the logs up, and towing them to the mill. The mill's gates were built into an earthen dam. The gates opened on a rising tide, and automatically closed when the mill pond was full.

When the millpond was higher than the river, the sawyer could opened a small gate into the box of the waterwheel. As the water poured from the mill pond through the box into the Back River, it turned the 6'-8' wheel and shaft, powering the machinery. Because the saw took so much power to run, it could only be used effectively when Mill Pond was at least 4' higher than the Back River. On an average 8' tide, the Crosby mill could run for 4-5 hours. Recall too that the time of high tide changes every day. As the Arrowsic newsletter recounts, "It was convenient when an overnight high tide was timed so that the pond was full when the men arrived for work in the morning. They started the day at full power when this happened."

So what happened to the Crosby mill? It closed in the late 1930s, a time of great change for the area. At about the same time, the Spinney Mill on the west side of the island closed too. At least one of the Crosby workers ended up working at the Winnegance Mill in Phippsburg, which remained in operation after converting to electricity for power.

Speaking of Winnegance: here's a picture I took last evening of the remains of some cribworks at the mouth of Winnegance Creek.  Those piles of rock exposed on the mud flats once supported the tide mills themselves.  You can see the location of this now-vanished dam on the 1894 map of Bath.

Winnegance tide mill cribbing

In energy policy news: the Senate is drafting a climate bill that will only place restrictions on emissions from electricity generators, but would not cap greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors like manufacturing and transportation.

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