An Old Gent and the Wheels of Progress
John E. Goslee
Sharptown, Maryland 21861
It will soon be fall of the year and already, due to the dry
summer, the corn looks like it is ready to harvest. That is this
new fancy-dangled kind they call Hybrid corn.
No, you don't see any other kind but this Hybrid yellow
corn, that is, unless you come and visit with a friend of mine who
has just turned eighty years old this past May 31st. This old
Christian gent is no other than Mr. Sherman Cooper who is well
known on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware.
The reason you can see something other than yellow corn is
because Mr. Cooper is running one of the very few water-powered
Grist Mills in the country today. He raises his own white corn and
makes the best corn meal and hominy there is to be found.
Now this old gent is a hard worker who puts in eight to ten
hours every day. His only help is an old colored man who is past
seventy and has been a deaf mute all his life. Mr. Cooper took him
in to raise before he was eighteen years old. He has been a
blessing to Mr. Cooper more than once in his help on the farm and
Mr. Cooper and his father were steam sawmill men for many years.
There is hardly a make of steam engine ever made from Stationary to
Traction engine that he hasn't run at sometime. He claims to be
the world's best fireman. (Of course he can spin a fast yarn
when he has competition.)
On the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware we did not have
what fields like the West, but we out numbered them in sawmills
that at one time were all run by steam traction engines.
Mr. Cooper sells his meal and hominy to the local chain stores
A&P, Acme, Safeway, as well as the wholesale houses. It is the
only water ground meal available. He has to do his own maintenance,
such as repair of belts and bearings. About once a year he has to
replace fifty cogs made of oak in the crown gear that drives the
mill. I have made these several times. It is just as hard to
replace them as it is to make them. This is a job! It takes about
two days of hard fitting with saw and wood rasp. Then there is the
job of picking the mill stones. This requires sharp pick hammers, a
good back, and strong arms, of which he claims to have. He says he
can still hog-tie all of these young boys just feeling their
manhood. (Could be all talk. Ha!)