Camborne Ontario Ghost Mills

Camborne Ontario Ghost Mills Updates Dec 28 2015

Who would have thought, just a few months after issuing the Camborne, Ontario Ghost Mills blog, October 12, 2015, a correction of the Saw Mill and Pail factory location has become necessary.  AND amazingly, evidence has recently surfaced of the existence of a first Saw Mill (erected circa 1832) by William Hore on the same property as his Sawmill and Pail factory (circa 1845) and his Grist Mill (circa 1866)!

Correction:  the Sawmill and Pail Factory location originally listed as on the north/east corner of the Mill Pond appears to be incorrect, it now seems evident it was actually on the south/east corner of the pond.  As previously mentioned in the Camborne Ontario Bridge update, the Ranger had hoped to gleam evidence of stones or other relics in the construction of the new ‘turn around’.  The new ‘turn around’ was constructed on the north side of Alberts Alley near where the mill was thought to be.

Up Date # 1:  Stroke of luck!  In a recent conversation with the property owner leading to a tour of the valley south of the ‘turn around’ there it was… concrete evidence (pardon the pun)!   A row of stones approximately 45 feet long and two feet high line the stream and a few red bricks likely from a chimney, can be observed just above the ground!

This new evidence only came to light after Camborne Creek was re-routed some distance east of it’s original flow many years ago to accommodate a longer ski run on the junior hill and to install the new chair-lift at the Ski Hill.  As the years went by, creek flooding washed away soil to expose the ruins of the mill unseen for nearly 150 years!  The Historical Atlas of 1878 shows no sign of this mill or the original saw mill, only the Grist Mill and the drained, present mill pond site.

Two tragedies, associated with the Saw Mill & Pail factory were the death of John Nill “falling across the  rotary saw blade when it was in motion”!   Later on, the drowning of John Henderson in the mill pond “while washing sheep”!


Up Date # 2:  The original 1832 Saw Mill was said to located on the east side of Lean’s Hill, Jus’s Hill to us as kids (named after Justin McCarthy) and now known as the Ski Hill to the locals.  This would have been at the north/west side of what is now the sight of the present dam and mill pond (not yet built).

The first mill pond dam appears to be a few feet north of the current pedestrian bridge and remnants of it suggest that it was stone in construction.

Note:  observe picture of the stream and note the row of stones at water level across it.  With a bit of imagination, picture the stone dam that was surely there!



This original dam would need to have been no more than four high to provide plenty of water power to drive the upright or the “up and down” saw blade or bank of blades.  The primitive turbine water wheel was capable of generating an amazing 14 horse power.

This Spring, the Ranger hopes to explore the remains of the Saw and Pail factory and the original 1832 Saw Mill dam to try and determine a more accurate record of dimensions and size of both.  This should be possible with a metal probe driven into the soil and hitting solid stone surfaces just below ground level at both locations.

Regards,  Ranger.


The history of these two old mills is a new twist on Ranger’s “Grist Mills of Ontario” then and now series of blogs.  These are ‘ghost mills’ in all respects and have interesting pasts with few signs that they ever existed and no one left to tell their history.  This story is gleaned from information from the late Doris Emond’s book “I Wonder What Happened to Philip”, from local residents and from copies of legal papers on the Mill properties from Barbara Ford.


In the 1830’s, thirty-two year old William Hore, his wife Elizabeth and son William Jr. left Camborne, Cornwall, England and arrived in Cobourg where they lived for a few years before moving to Spring Mills (Camborne) Ontario.

In an 1852 census record, there were eight children in the family aged four to twenty-two.  By this time the Hore family had built a one and a half story frame home, a saw mill employing three and a pail and tub factory employing two and producing an amazing  6,ooo pails a year!  The first mill was located on the north-east side of the bridge/dam on the site of the present day turn-around.

This Mill was powered by water from a huge pond, the dam berm is still visible leading up to the present day bridge over the stream on Albert’s Alley.   Note:  this bridge, recently considered unsafe for traffic has been replaced (Thank You Hamilton Township) by a new pedestrian-only bridge.

Old Camborne Bridge

This original bridge has already been removed and a replacement pedestrian bridge is coming.

Mill Street (Albert’s Alley) where the Mills were located, is known as a ‘forced road’ which is a road that could be built through a farmer’s property whether he wanted it or not!   This road however, was built willingly by the Hore and Lacey families from County Road 18, west on Mill Street past the Mill property, north up ‘Toenail Hill’ and on to the Lacey Homestead (the stone house) on what is now Jibb Road.

In 1855, Wm. Hore became the official owner of the land he had been developing, the Crown granted him 106 acres in the north part of lot 20, concession 4.    Hore divided and sold several lots of this grant.   Benjamin Parsons (wheelwright) and George Stewart (first Postmaster) now called the Village home.  In 1865, The Sons of Temperance, Cambourne Division bought a lot from Mr. Hore and erected a new Temperance Hall which was sold to school trustees in 1869.  This hall was replaced in 1895 by the one- room school still on that lot.   (Ranger’s alma matter for eight years!)


On his lot, Wm. Cook built a blacksmith shop that was soon turned into a grist mill, the grinder power coming from a windmill atop a 60 foot high pine mast!  “If the wind blew a half gale, the mill worked perfectly fine but in a gentle breeze it would scarcely work.  If the wind was from the east, the windmill would scarcely turn itself let alone the grinder!”  As this method was too slow, the mill soon closed.

Life Lease dated Sept. 26, 1866:

“William Hore, Camborne, Miller, to his sons Samuel and Joseph Hore.  One hundred and six acres being composed of the north half of lot 20 in the 4th Concession of Hamilton Township, Northumberland County.  William was to retain his home and a half acre of land on the corner of what is now County Road 18 and Albert’s Alley (Camborne Store).  Leaving out some boring legal jargon, it goes on… “And that the said Lessees will during the said term cultivate, till, manure and employ such part of the said demised premises as is now or shall hereafter be brought under cultivation in a good husband-like manner.  And will crop the same during the said term by regular rotation of crops in a proper farmer-like manner so as not to impoverish, depreciate or injure the soil of said land.  And will preserve all orchard and fruit trees (if any) on the said premises from waste, damage or destruction.  And will spread, use and employ in a husband-like manner, all the dung which shall grow, arise, renew or to be made thereupon”.

“The Lessor (William Hore) doth further agree to and with the Lessees to find and provide for the said Lessees the sum of Two Hundred Pounds for the purpose of erecting a new Grist Mill on said premises” To his sons Mr. Hore transferred “all his livestock, farming implements and utensils except one cutter, one single buggy and a set of harness which he reserves for his own use and convenience.”

“The Hore sons agree that they will use and expend the said sum of Two Hundred Pounds in erecting a good and substantial Grist Mill and the mill to have a good stone foundation and wooden framework and to be from thirty-five to forty feet in length and to be put up and completed within one year of the date of the present.  The Lessess also agree to provide Lessor with good and sufficient firewood for his own use during the said term and to place the same at the house of Mr. Hore where he may require the same”.

Samuel was “to receive the Grist and Saw Mill to be erected on the premises and all the land and water privileges that go with it and one-half an acre for the purpose of building a dwelling house across the road from the mill.  Joseph will have all the rest, residue and remainder of the same demised premises”.

William reserved the right to have “one cow and one horse pastured on said premises during the grazing season every year of the said term and to have one cow kept and fed by the said Lessees on the property the remainder of the year”.  William “may also have what apples he may require for his own use and to select such kinds and qualities of apples as he may see fit and prefer during said term of the agreement”.

In 1869, for unknown reasons, this Life Lease, by mutual agreement was terminated.  Mr. Hore sold the sixty-five acre farm on the 4th Concession of Hamilton Township to James Ford, retaining seven acres for himself.   An Indenture in 1870 shows that James Ford then sold to Thomas William Ford (son) the above noted farm and to Richard John Ford (son) one hundred acres on the 6th Concession of Hamilton Township. (Morton Rd.).

The Grist Mill picture from the “Illustrated Historical Atlas 1878” (above) shows the Mill pond to be empty, likely because the Mill became steam powered.  The saw mill, pail and tub factory’s fate are unknown.

The eleven acre Mill property then went from Thomas Barker, to his son Thomas R. Barker, to James Clarke and then to Isaac Moynes.  On non-payment by Moynes, the mortgage holder (James Clarke) sold the property to R. Witherington.  Witherington was obviously having financial problems as well and the Union Loan and Savings Co., Truman McEvers and S.M. Hicks were all involved in mortgage deals concerning the mill property.

Sadly, around 1881, the grist mill was destroyed by fire!

In 1883 Thomas Ford bought the Mill property from Mr. Hicks.  In 1901, this property (and the 65 acre farm) were purchased from Thomas by Frederick William Ford (son) and in 1947 by George Francis Ford (grandson).

Note:  the original Mill House, east of the Grist Mill (*see “Illustrated Historical Atls 1878” above) at some time was moved across the street by the Ford family and is still there today!


William Hore, the founder of Camborne Village died on March 15, 1881 at the age of 81 and is buried in the Camborne Cemetery near where he helped build the first (Christian Bible) Church.

While one village industry would pass into time, in the next century a new one would be born on this same property in the form of the Camborne Ski Club *see link Specific posting on the Camborne Ski Club pending.

Regards, Ranger.


  1. As a resident of Camborne this was very interesting, it’s nice to know some history behind the village. Just wondering where you found the illustrated 1878 picture? Thanks


  2. Kory, nice to hear from a resident of my home town of Spring Mills (Camborne). The 1878 picture is from my Illustrated Historical Atlas of The Counties of Northumberland & Durham. H. Beldon & Co. 1878. This Atlas can be found in local libraries.


  3. Anonymous · · Reply

    I used to live on Alberts alley and while gardening we would sometimes find old horse shoes and nails…


    1. Anonymous, thanks for your comment. William Cook once owned a blacksmith shop near the old one room school which might explain your found relics. There was once another blacksmith shop, but no records of it, only childhood stories. It was located on the very steep hillside on the south side of Albert’s Alley towards the bridge.



  4. I well remember the Black smith shop on the side of Alberts Alley that the court is now on.


    1. Sarah, thanks for the comment and the blacksmith shop comment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: