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HTG Mill among Beaver Creek's historic buildings

September 22, 2005|by ADAM BEHSUDI

At first glance, Doub's Mill looks like many other stone structures in Washington County. A closer look reveals that the mill's pieces fit together like a masterful piece of prose.

The building poetically culminates with a rushing stream of water, hissing powerfully as it flows from an archway in the building's bowels.

The mill is the most prominent of the 12 early American stone buildings in the small community of Beaver Creek, which is three miles from the center of Hagerstown. As a cornerstone of the community, the mill served the surrounding farms.

"You needed to have the mill," said Melinda Marsden, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. "We grew huge amounts of grain."

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She said Washington County was at one time the breadbasket of the mid-Atlantic, and mill communities such as Beaver Creek were vital to the local economy.

John Frye, a local historian, said Beaver Creek probably wasn't formally named until the post office, which no longer exists, was established in 1836. He said the area was known for its beaver population from the time the first settlers came to the area in 1738.

Recent housing developments can be seen up and down Beaver Creek Road. The area defined as the Beaver Creek district had a population of 3,300, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

The original settlement is as old as Hagerstown, and because of the mill, existed as an important site of commerce in Washington County. The mill and the village surrounding it were designated as the Doub's Mill Historic District in 1979, according to the National Register of Historic Places.

Luigi and Mary Perini bought the mill in 1979 and turned it into their home, using many of the original mill pieces during the reconstruction.

"Although it's a home, you still get a feeling of its industrial purpose," Luigi Perini said.

Luigi Perini said the mill was built between 1811 and 1821 by the Funk family.

The Newcomers, a family of Swiss-German origin, according to Perini's history, built many of the 12 stone structures near the creek, including six dwellings.

David Merchant lives in Bishop Christian Newcomer's original house, built in 1795. When Merchant bought the house, it had been gutted by fire. Merchant lived in the tenant house for 10 years until he finished restoring the main house.

"I was born and raised in a stone house," Merchant said. "That's why I wanted it."

In a Beaver Creek cemetery, Newcomer's grave rests beneath a graceful maple tree. A memorial marks the spot where the United Brethren Church bishop is buried.

Rachel Black, pastor at Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren (not associated with United Brethren), said busloads of people associated with the United Brethren and Mennonite churches come to the cemetery to see Newcomer's grave.

Although the Beaver Creek area is experiencing growth, with new houses among farm fields and an expanding country club, the original stone village is a scene from another era.

The Perinis live in an idyllic setting. Fat trout jumped from the creek behind the mill as Luigi Perini fed them from a foot bridge spanning the water. The beavers have even returned. Mary Perini said a small family of beavers is living upstream from the mill.

History is a significant reason why the Perinis enjoy living at the mill and in the area. Mary Perini said she likes to stand in the backyard and look at the mill, rewinding history in her mind, imagining what it looked like in the past centuries.

"The feeling you get is that you weren't the first one here and you're not the last one," she said.

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