Westside Historical Society
Copyright 2016 Westside Historical Society Inc.
P.O. Box 194
Mardela Springs MD 21837
Saving & Celebrating the history and traditions of western Wicomico County since 1985
Historical Features Around Barren Creek Country
formerly known as Barren Creek Springs
Double Mills Grist Mill, owned by Double Mills, Inc., a group of local
residents intent on restoring this last surviving water-powered, turbine driven mill. The
first mill on the site, on the North bank of Barren Creek, was built in the 1700's.
Through various stages of restoration, improvement, and additions it operated
continuously until a major storm in 1979 tore out the dam and much of the race way.
Today, efforts are underway to restore it to an educational heritage site, recalling the
importance of milling - the first industry in the area - and the social hub of a rural
community. The mill and general store, a part of the site from the late 1800's, are open
to visitors by contacting Double Mills, Inc., or visit their website new.doublemills.org
for more information.
Adkins Historical Complex & Museum, also in Mardela Springs, is a
collection of nine buildings owned and operated by the non-profit corporation, of the same
name. Several buildings have been moved on to the site, including an early 19th century farm
house, a one-room school, and a general store, which originally was in the town. Also on the site
is the town's early 20th century Lodge Hall, a livery stable, two sheds now converted to exhibit
space, and a building which served as a cannery at one time and now housses exhibits about the
town's early commercial life. An early 1900's Victorian style home has recently been renovated
and also is open to visitors. The complex is open by appointment. For more information
regarding tours visit www.adkinsmuseum.com/tours
Barren Creek Springs Presbyterian Church
Built in 1842 and now maintained as an historic site by Westside Historical Society. In 1834 Joshua Brattan, prominent farmer and landowner of
Barren Creek Springs gave an acre of land, for "the love of literature and religion," to a board of ten Presbyterian trustees to establish a school,
cemetery, and church "on the county road between Barren Creek Mills and the Springs." In 1842 the congregation built a church building which
also housed the town's only school.
Barren Creek Spring House
Near the entrance to the restored Barren Creek Springs Presbyterian Church is the
historic Spring House, donated to Westside Historical Society, in 2002.
The spring house was on the property of the original Barren Creek Springs Hotel, a haven
for travelers from the 1770's until it burned in 1913. From the 1830's through the early
1900's the spring was an especially popular feature among hotel patrons who came from
the upper Eastern Shore, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and Norfolk to take the
health-giving waters. About 1860 a wooden octagonal structure, twelve feet across,
ornamented with Victorian gingerbread at the eaves and around the base was built. It
had a brick floor and benches around the inside low walls. An artesian well was dug in the
center of the spring house to tap into the spring, and a runoff pipe fed a small cistern.
Visitors could sit in the Victorian structure and soak their feet and drink from the
constantly running spring.
Edward Austin, an enterprising citizen, in the 1890's built a small structure beside the spring house,
in which they bottled the water and then shipped cases of it, by rail throughout the Mid-Atlantic
region. After the old hotel burned in 1913, Austin's son built a new building on the site, operated it
as a bed and breakfast, and continued to ship the water. But, the Great Depression hit hard and
tourism, as well as the bottled water business, soon came to an end. In 1946 the entire property was
sold and the new owner made extensive repairs to the house and spring house. Most visible was the
application of a brick veneer to both buildings, so that today the spring house has no vestige of its
original Victorian appearance. He also created a separate deed for the spring house and property on
which it sat, and tore down the remains of the bottling plant. Later, the properties passed to his
relative who wished that the spring house be preserved as an important piece of history of this area.
Accordingly, they made the donation to Westside Historical Society in Spring of 2002, and it was
dedicated on July 15, 2002. Today, the spring still runs, but the water is not potable. A brief rest in
the coolness of the spring house harkens back to a quieter, less hectic lifestyle.
By ca.1860 Presbyterian membership in Barren Creek Springs Church had dropped to ten and in 1887 the congregation dissolved. Although,
built by Presbyterians in 1842, since then it has been used also by Episcopalians, Methodists, and Baptists. Over the next six decades various
groups and congregations - even the boy scouts - used the building. The Presbytery sold the building to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Gunby, who in 1988
donated the church building to the Westside Historical Society. The next year the task of restoration was begun. Through the hard work of its
members and the generosity of friends and supporters the work largely was completed in 1997.
Today, most of the windows and all of the pews are original, as is the plain wood flooring, hanging oil lamp chandeliers and tall pulpit lamps. A
pump organ, antique chairs, tables, and liturgical accessories also have been donated to take their place along side the original furnishings. In
1985 the American Presbyterian Church named the building,"Site #248" on the American Presbyterian Reformed Historic Sites Registry. It
continues to remind all who visit, of the history of this special place. In 2005 a local preservationist donated an original "Mason-Dixon" marker
stone to be placed on the grounds of the church. The stone is marked with an M on one side and a P on the other, for Maryland and
Pennsylvania, which in 1765 included the three lower counties of Delaware.