Crews had to clear detritus of all types from storm drains and stream banks after Sunday's flooding in historic downtown Ellicott City.
But they also managed to recover some debris worth saving — massive stones once used to grind grain in the old mill town.
“They’re historic artifacts really important to the town, so we saved those,” said Jim Irvin, Howard County’s director of public works.
He estimated the stones were 5 or 6 feet across, weighing tons. They had to be pulled with a crane from the bottom of a collapsed segment of roadway.
Ellicott City was established as a milling community in the late 1700s. Brothers Joseph, Andrew and John Ellicott founded Ellicott's Mills in 1772.
As Quakers, they persuaded local farmers to plant wheat and other grains instead of tobacco. They used the power of the fast-moving Tiber and Hudson rivers — the same ones that have now twice caused devastating flooding in modern Ellicott City — to turn the stones and grind the grain.
The stones were on the property of two historic structures at the corner of Ellicott Mills Drive and Main Street, county spokesman Mark Miller said. They were found a short distance away, washed by floodwaters into a collapsed section of Ellicott Mills Drive.
The rest of the debris included plenty of trash, rocks and tree stumps, but also other items of sentimental value — like playground equipment and toys, Irvin said.
“There’s a lot of personal things that have gotten washed in there,” he said. “Clothing, shoes — you name it, it’s down there.”