Garden Hill, Ontario. Ghost Mill

Garden Hill was first established around 1830 with the name Adam’s Corners.  A later name soon appeared as Waterford.

The first mill to be constructed here was built in 1861 by Frank Beamish and was leased to an American firm to manufacture hats.  At some time this mill was destroyed by fire.  Beamish had it rebuilt to manufacture lumber and wooden shingles.

Garden Hill Ghost Mill

In 1869, James Dyer of Orono purchased the building and turned it into a Woolen Mill.  Mr. Dyer soon after opened a general store and Post Office and became the first Post Master.

At the time of opening a Post Office, the Village was once again re-named as Garden Hill.  This change was to avoid confusion with other places that had ‘water’ in their names.

An 1886 fire destroyed the Woolen Mill, General Store, a stable, the telephone exchange and several homes!   It appears that Mr. Dyer, likely discouraged left town.  Four years later he returned to Garden Hill and built a new mill which was guess what… burned to the ground from a lightning strike in 1911.  Three fires in five decades!

The 1878 Northumberland & Durham Historical Atlas shows a map of Waterford-Garden Hill with a second mill with it’s own rather large mill pond and Flouring Mill.  This mill was located a short distance south-east of the Dyer Woolen Mill and may have been owned by a Mr. McElroy or R. & T. Leith.

Garden Hill is still served by a General Store, Fire Station, Library and a Public School.  For many years the Mill pond was a very popular swimming and camping area operated by the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority.  In the 1980s, camping and swimming were banned due to water quality, and the park is open only for walking some short trails and enjoying the pond and nature.

Image (14)

Composite of mill from 1870s and Today

Some near-by attractions are the Port Hope Historical Society’s, Dorothy’s House Museum which “gives a glimpse of the lifestyle of everyday folks in the 1860’s”.  A short walk north up Mill St. (on the east side of the pond) will take you to the Ganaraska  and the Oak Ridges Trail Association’s shared trail.  Westward will take you through the Ganaraska Forest. Alternatively, this trail eastward will lead to a junction were ORTA continues east, and the GHT trail turns south to Port Hope.

Regards, Ranger.


  1. EWART TIMLIN · · Reply



  2. Moving to Garden Hill. Thanks for the history…too bad you can’t swim anymore.


  3. ET, Welcome to Garden Hill (and our Blog site). Great place to live.


  4. Apocalypse Bear · · Reply

    I was born and raised in Garden Hill, such a beautiful little farming and forest area and I miss it. I am always interested to know more about its history. It seems like a ghost town compared to the past. Keep it quaint! Don’t let developers buy out all the land for subdivisions!


    1. Apocalypse Bear, thanks for the comment. There has in the last two decades been a couple of small subdivisions built in the north and south of the village but they have not really detracted from the beautiful Garden Hill main street. The biggest loss to the village has been the closure of the popular old mill pond to swimming.


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