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Lehmans Mill now is a country store

August 18, 2003|by JESSICA DAVIS

Editor's note: Washington County was the first and is the oldest of 31 counties in the United States to be named after the country's first president, George Washington. This weekly series on Mondays sought out other places and items in the county that hold the title of "the oldest." This is the final story in the series.




jessicad@herald-mail.com

In 1760, flour was the biggest export for Lehmans Mill. In 2003, visitors would be more likely to buy flowers at the mill, now home to a country store owned by Ron and Cindy Brezler.

Built 243 years ago by Thomas Spriggs, a general in the Revolutionary War, Lehmans Mill is the county's oldest continually operating mill, Ron Brezler said. Originally a two-story stone structure, the mill was built on 1,500 acres known as Spriggs Paradise in what then was the town of Reid, Md. When the postal service began using area codes in the 1960s, the mill was given a Hagerstown address, Ron Brezler said. Lehmans Mill is on Lehmans Mill Road off Leitersburg Pike.

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The mill was known as Marsh Mill when it was under the ownership of Spriggs. According to an article in the Maryland Cracker Barrel, an 1850 manufacturing census noted that the mill produced 4,444 barrels of flour, 2,000 bushels of rye and corn chop and 11,110 bushels of "stuff" annually.

David Brumbaugh, the first president of the Washington County Agricultural Society, took over ownership of the mill from Spriggs for a price of $11,500, according to the Cracker Barrel. The first generation of the Lehman family purchased the mill from Brumbaugh in 1854.

Jacob Lehman owned the mill until his son, Henry F. Lehman, purchased it in 1858. In 1869, Henry F. Lehman tore down the existing structure to the first stone layer and rebuilt the mill as a four-story building using bricks.

A frame addition was added in 1878 and steam power was introduced in 1887, at which time the capacity of the mill was 50 barrels of flour per day.

Even then, the flour that the Lehmans produced did not have "Lehmans Mill" stamped on the bag; the name remained Marsh Mill.

For more than 100 years and four generations, the mill was owned and operated by a member of the Lehman family and gradually became known as Lehmans Mill, Ron Brezler said. In 1964, the tradition was broken when the family sold the mill to John Eshelman of Greencastle, Pa., and it became part of Better Foods Milling Inc. Specialized equipment was shipped from Italy and the flour was sold mainly to health-food stores.

Under Eshelman's ownership, electricity and air power were introduced to operate the mill. This technology rendered useless the massive waterwheel used to power the mill with water from the half-mile-long dam across the road, Ron Brezler said. Visitors still can see the wheel in the basement of the building.

Also found in the basement of the mill are "bargain-basement" seasonal items that the Brezlers sell at their country store.

The Brezlers purchased the mill in November 1996, with the intent of moving Cindy Brezlers' store, Country Memories, from their home next door into the mill, Ron Brezler said.

Following major renovations and a search to find buyers for the bulky, several-ton equipment that was housed in the mill, the Brezlers finally witnessed their dream of expanding the store two years later in September 1998.

"If these walls could talk," Ron Brezler laughed.

According to the Web site www.lehmansmill.com, the store specializes in "candles, folk art, interior and exterior lighting, and wooden and upholstered furniture," among other country and antique items.

Ron Brezler said he enjoys "meeting all of the different people (that visit the mill and store). The best thing is when people come to the mill and recount memories of coming here as children."

The Brezlers found a few surprises when they began to clean out the mill and surrounding areas.

A 1948 Dodge truck was uncovered in a shed across the street. The vehicle was used as a flour delivery truck, Ron Brezler said. Painted on the side are the words "W.B. Lehman, Reid, Md., Hagerstown, R.F.D. 6."

The Brezlers donated a "huge grain cleaner" that was built in the 1880s to the Ag Expo Museum, Ron Brezler said. The Brezlers did keep a few of the older pieces of equipment; the oldest piece dates back to 1898, Ron Brezler said.

In the future, the Brezlers hope to expand the gift store to the second floor of the mill.

Lehmans Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, according to the NRHP Web site.




Pumpkinfest set for September


Lehmans Mill will be the site of the fifth annual Pumpkin Festival Sept. 20, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with door prizes, food, antique dealers and music by Rudy and the Bluefish. For more information, contact Ron or Cindy Brezler at 301-739-9119 or go to www.lehmansmill.com on the Web.

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