Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day-They Were Millers

In honor of Labor Day I decided to look at the unusual career of my great great Grandfather (Gilbert Terry) who was a Miller and found out about other Millers in the family. It’s amazing sometime what you can learn from a newspaper article and how it can enhance your family tree. 

I knew that my great-great Grandfather Gilbert Terry had run the Old Mill in Peconic, NY for many years.  When I found this newspaper article about The Old Mill I learned more about Gilbert but also about several other Terry men in the family and their connections to Mill work.

I found this article in the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Free Library.  There is a Research Room that has local genealogy information that my parents took me to one time when I was visiting back East.  In this room was a treasure trove of binders.  There was a woman (wish I had written down her name)  from the area who over the years, long before computers, would cut out articles from the local newspaper and glue them on pieces of paper by family names.  Yes, now days I can search many of the newspapers on line from my home in California because they are digitized.  The search engines are pretty good, not perfect, and you can search by date but sometimes you have no idea what is out there to search for.  I have found numerous articles that I never would have known about if not for the wonderful gift this woman left for us.

Old Mill

The Old Tide Mill

Peconic, NY

Gilbert Terry was born in 25 June 1833 to Walter Franklin Terry and Eliza Ann Tooker Terry.  Gilbert had 5 brothers and 4 sisters.
From an article entitled “He Knew Peconic Mill” published in the Long Island Forum in September 1954 I learned more specifics about my great-great-grandfather’s career.  The following excepts help tell the story;
“…in 1872 the Coxes sold their holdings there to Capt. Joshua U. Terry who, after retiring from his seafaring life in 1847, conducted the Marttituck Mill for over twenty years.”
  • I am not sure who Joshua U. Terry is and how he is related.

“The next miller at the Peconic mill after Cox and his son was Edward H. Terry who conducted it until the growing infirmities of age compelled his retirement.  He was succeeded by his brother Gilbert Terry who as the last miller there ran the Peconic mill for thirty-four years.  He gave up milling in 1902, and thereafter lived in Orient with his niece Mrs. Wilson L. Petty.” 
  • Not mentioned-that he lived with his wife Almeda Robinson Terry.  Mrs. Wilson Petty would be referring to Gilbert’s niece Annie Robinson Petty, daughter of his wife Almeada’s brother Barnabas.  I find Annie Petty and her husband Wilson living in Peconic, NY in the 1900 and 1910 census, not Orient, NY.
Gilbert Terry married Almeda V. Robinson.  They had a daughter Ella who as Mrs. George Billard lived or lives at Cutchogue.  Joshua U. Terry who ran the Mattituck mill for over twenty years, dying about 1900, was a brother of Gilbert Terry.
  • I find it interesting that they mention their daughter Ella but not Carrie Terry Warner or sons Forrest Terry and Millard Terry.  Ella was the only one alive at the time of the article though.
“In these tide-water-mills the rising tide swept into the rock-walled channel through the open gates.  As the tidewater retreated the gates would close, storing the water in the creek for use when it flowed out, turning the big water wheel.”

“During his ownership of the Peconic mill, Gilbert Terry enlarged and improved it in the early 1870’s by adding an extension on the north side and putting a windmill wheel atop a tower.  The windmill much increased the efficiency of the plant as the tide-wheel would only operate during part of the fall of the tide, or some ten hours at most.”

“With the second set of stones installed, Terry ground over 200 bushels per day on numerous occasions.  His largest grind was 300 bushels, when he worked a greater part of twenty-four hours.”
  • I can imagine how dedicated he was if he worked the greater part of 24 hours at times. 
In the 1880s they ground “wheat, corn and oats into flour, light and dark canaille, and meal for the kitchen and bran for the barn.”
  • In the 1880s ‘canaille’ meant a low grade of flour.
“ During the 1880s Gilbert was reported as saying, “We are grinding a bushel a minute, using both tide and windmill.””

“…The Inlet windmill was destroyed during a great storm on November 26 and 27, 1898.  The wheel of the mill was blown to pieces and the wreckage left hanging.  One by one the few remaining sticks dropped before the wind until the standard stood alone.”
  • According to the LI Traveler newspaper there was a blizzard with hurricane force winds known as the ‘Thanksgiving storm’.
“By this time farmers had found it more profitable to grow potatoes and cauliflower than grain.  Consequently the amount of work brought to the mill rapidly decreased until finally the water-wheel was stopped to turn no more.”
  • I also learned from this article that Walter Franklin Terry, Gilbert’s father was a miller.  That Gilbert was a miller (ran the Old Mill in Peconic, NY)  as was his brother Edward H. (who ran the Mill in Mattituck and later one in Patchogue, NY) and that Joshua Terry was also a miller.  A family of Millers-what interesting work and different from the common practice of farming.
For those of you regularly following my blog you may be interested in knowing that Gilbert Terry was the father of Carrie Terry Warner-Carrie's Letters.  See additional blog posts- Carrie's Letters.
If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,


  1. Interesting Debby. There are quite a few Millers in my family too. All in the southeastern Ohio area.

  2. It is fun to look behind the scenes of what is reported in the newspaper. is a newspaper site I have used which has an amazing amount of information. It wouldn't surprise me if some of your ancestors were mentioned on the website. I am constantly amazed at the information on there and, I believe, it was put together by one person. I believe most of the people I have found on the website lived in New York and Pennsylvania. Right now I'm not sure what areas it covers.

  3. Good reminder, Grant, to check out the Fulton History site. I don't use it as much as I should.