Colonial graining farming. Source: howellfarm.org

This Week’s Kent County History Quiz Question: Why has Kent County been known as the “Bread Basket”?

A. Kent County is the home of the largest independently owned feed mill on the Eastern Shore.

B. Kent County grain makes the best bread.

C. Successful grain production and concentration of millers during the Revolution.

D. Vita Foods was a major regional baker in the 1960s.

This Week’ Answer: Successful grain production and concentration of millers during the Revolution.

The Revolutionary War was a long hard-fought siege–April 19, 1775-September 3, 1783.  Sufficient food to feed the valiant troops was essential and  in constant demand.

By 1775, Kent County had moved from growing tobacco to a thriving agricultural economy–primarily corn and other grains.

Kent County’s proximity to major waterways combined with its internal network of both navigable rivers and creeks provided the perfect set-up for transporting the grains and flour.   The smaller tributaries of continuously flowing water, when dammed, formed excellent mill ponds.  Kent County had it all.

A citation was found that stated that “approximately 125 working mills have been documented in Kent County since its settlement in 1642.”  That statement included all kinds of mills, but certainly most of them were grist mills.  A mill can be constructed to grind a variety of goods including grains–a grist mill is set up to grind grains, much of which becomes flour.  Most mills in Kent County were powered by water, but there have been indications that there was one wind mill.

While many plantations were self-sufficient and had the ability to contribute to the war effort–they had their own transportation and ground their own flour. There were also mills near town.

Chestertown’s Radcliffe mill has a 300-year-old history complete with millpond (now filled in).  And not far south on what is now Route 20 was Brice Mill Farm.  That was owned during the Revolution by Daniel Perkins, III.  His grandfather had started Perkins Mill at Urie Lake.  Both of those mills had concentrated on wheat flour.

A critical element in the story of Kent County’s fame as the “Breadbasket of the Revolution” may be seen today at the harbor of Turner’s Creek off the Sassafras River.  Historians believe the Granary at Turner’s Landing (in an earlier form) was where much of the grain or flour was brought to be stored before shipping to the troops.  The ships could moor alongside the Granary for loading.

The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Kent County historian and author Joan Horsey and columnist Kate Meehan contribute to the quiz’s development. Our goal is to create an opportunity for local learning and discussion. If you have a quiz idea, send it to steve@kentpilot.org.