About the District

The Cecil’s Mill Historic District includes the original water-powered textile mill “Clifton Factory.” (built in 1812) and Cecil’s Country Store and Post Office (built in 1906). Today the Country Store and Post Office is home to Cecil’s Country Store. Below is a timeline of the over 200 years of history that resides here where California and Great Mills meet.

  • March 1810 – THE FOUNDING. William Hebb, Peter Gough, and William Clarke Somerville purchased a three acre tract of land called “Clifton”. The partners erected a three-story building called the “Clifton Factory” where woolen cloth and cotton yarn were produced. This venture represented the premier manufacturing enterprise in St. Mary’s County during the Industrial Revolution.
  • Ca. 1812 – THE WAR OF 1812. Some members of the St. Mary’s Militia were ordered to muster at the Clifton Factory. In 1813, one hundred twenty five muskets were delivered to Clifton from Annapolis.
  • Ca. 1813 – THE GRIST MILL. A license was obtained from Oliver Evans to manufacture flour or meal. The grist mill was located in the basement of the Clifton Factory building.
  • Ca. 1828 – THE FACTORY VILLAGE. By 1828 an entire village had grown up around the mill. Many new structures were added including an 11-room Tavern, Stables, a Wheel House, Spring House, Weaving House, Meat and Poultry House, Dyeing Establishment, Wood House, Shoe Makers Shop, Saw Mill, Tan House, Bark Mill House, several Double Houses, and a Farm House.
  • Ca. 1860’s – THE CIVIL WAR PERIOD. During the difficult period of the Civil War the manufacturing equipment was moved to Howard County and the factory ceased production of cloth and yarn, although use of the grist mill continued.
  • Ca. 1971 – CLIFTON ON THE MEND. An 1871 article published by the St. Mary’s Beacon reports: “The Village of Clifton Factory is on the mend. Captain Spencer has established a first class store, improved shops and dwellings and renovated the valuable mill property. The Hotel kept by Greenwell sets a most excellent dinner.”
  • Ca. 1879 – W.W. CECIL. William Washington Cecil probably purchased the Clifton property from Thomas O. Spencer by 1879 although a deed was not recorded until 1892.
  • 1890’s – W.W. CECIL SELLS TO SONS. W.W. Cecil sold the property to his sons John T. Cecil and George B. Cecil. Shortly thereafter, John T. Cecil secured the Clifton portion. He made many improvements to the property including renovating the old mill. He tore down the upper levels of the old Clifton Factory and erected a new three-story mill on the original 1810 foundation. He also replaced the old millstones with the newer technology of roller mill equipment, the first in the county. His power source however remained the overshot waterwheel.
  • 1905-1906 – MAN ON THE MOVE. In 1905 John T. Cecil was elected County Commissioner. In 1906, he razed the old three-room store house (dating back to at least 1834) and erected on the same location the present Cecil’s Country Store. By 1906, his son J. Allan Cecil, at the age of 10, began to clerk at the new store.
  • 1907 – POST OFFICE. The Great Mills Post Office apparently dates back to the early 1800’s. From early on, the location interchanged between a site off present day Flat Iron Road in Old Great Mills and the Clifton Factory. In 1907, Clifton became the official site of the Post Office and remained so until 1974. In 1907 the first member of the Cecil family was named Post Mistress. Hellen Robb Greenwell Cecil served until 1914 whereupon her husband, John T. Cecil, was appointed Post Master. The family tradition continued with the appointments of son H. Robb Cecil in 1934 and Rose Boothe Cecil (wife of J. Allan Cecil) in 1944.
  • 1927 – DIESEL POWER ARRIVES. The mill operated by water power until 1927 when a diesel engine was installed. The engine had formerly been used by William F. Cecil (son of John T. Cecil & Hellen Robb Greenwell) to provide electricity to Leonardtown.
  • 1945-1976 – GRIST MILL, SAWMILL, AND STORE CLOSE. The grist mill closed around 1945 as Americans discovered store bought white bread. The building continued in use as a feed mill and saw mill. The sawmill closed in 1959 following the tragic death of H. Robb Cecil (son of John T. Cecil). In 1976, Cecil’s Country Store was closed by J. Allan Cecil (who started clerking in 1906) and his wife, Rose.
  • 1976 – NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES. Cecil’s Historic District was registered on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of Interior. The Historic District includes Cecil’s Old Mill and Cecil’s Country Store.
  • 1983-1987 DIESEL ENGINE/SAWMILL RECONSTRUCTION. William J. Clements restored the 50 H.P. Fairbanks Morse diesel engine and reconstructed the “Number 2 American Sawmill” of the 1920’s. The sawmill was operational for the first time since 1959.
  • 2002 WATERWHEEL RESTORED. The steel double overshot waterwheel is probably the last existing operational waterwheel of its kind in the state of Maryland. The effort to restore the waterwheel was led by John Thomas Cecil Sr. and completed under the leadership of J. Allan Cecil and his sons, Allan III and Matt.