Canton, Ontario, Grist Mill


For such an active and attractive building today (no longer as a grist mill), Ranger is having trouble finding a lot of history to go with this mill.  But as with the other mills in this series, the main focus will not be on the mechanical operations of the mills.  The lives of the local residents are much more interesting.

A short drive north on County Road #10 from Welcome will soon take you to the pleasant little Village of Canton, Ontario.  Note:  around 1875 you would have had to stop at the toll gate across from the mill!

This Hamlet started its life as Hopeville and was re-named as Canton Village by the Post Office around 1856.   At this time the thriving village had the Canton Hotel owned by Thomas Martin, a Post Office, a Justice of the Peace, a dressmaker, general merchant, lumber dealer, a miller and Hope Chapel (1832).  A ‘new’ Church (1876) was erected next to the Chapel.

Hopeville’s first residents were the Hawkins family from Smith’s Creek (Port Hope).  Another of its many notable residents around 1890, was Fred Currelley who served as Secretary of the nearby Perrytown Cheese Factory.  (Who knew…a cheese factory in Perrytown!)

Another, Sgt. Edwin Dodds (1845-1901) was born nearby.  In 1863, Dodds joined the U.S. Army from Rochester N.Y.   During the American Civil War (1861-1865) he served as a volunteer.  While engaged with U.S. Confederate forces at Ashby’s Gap, Virginia, on July 19, 1864, the Captain of the 21st New York Calvary fell wounded to the ground on the battlefield “and lay at the mercy of the enemy”.  Without regard for his own safety, Sgt. Dodds braved the fusillade “to go to his Captain’s side and carry him to a place of safety”.  He was discharged with a disability in July, 1865 and earned the highest U.S. award for bravery… the Medal of Honor!

There is a plaque in his honor at the Canton Cemetery, located east of County Rd. 10 on the 4th Concession. This plaque was erected by the Southern Ontario Civil War Roundtable and the East Durham Historical Society on June 3, 1987.


Ranger still remembers this dedication and the impressive re-enactment of Civil War soldiers in period costume at the cemetery.

This first mill to be built on the Ganaraska River goes as far back as 1825!  By 1842 there were two other mills along the river owned by Samuel Powers.

In 1844 Peter Salter made great improvements to the Canton Mill and it was re-named as Durham Mills.   Some time later, as the majority of these old wooden mills had a tendency to do…it burned to the ground and was rebuilt as a flour mill.  As a plaque on the current red brick building declares, W.H. Kinsman owned the business in 1886.

Vincent Massey (1867-1967) purchased an old farm house in Canton (Durham House circa 1820) and its surrounding property in 1918 and it was converted to Batterwood House around 1927.

In 1919, Massey, a lawyer, diplomat and Governor General of Canada and Professor George Wrong, neighbor and friend bought the mill and it was rented out to E. Muir and Sons.  In 1930 Massey became sole owner of the mill and by 1952 the mill ceased flour production and continued its life as a seed mill for many years.


By 1967 the mill closed and was to remain vacant for some time.  The current owners of the Batterwood Estate bought the mill from David Hadden in 1988.  It now serves as attractive office space, has its own hydro electricity generator from the mill pond, and at Batterwood, a private seasonal airstrip.

Regards, Ranger.


  1. EWART TIMLIN · · Reply

    I always enjoy reading your historical comments,


  2. Ewart, great to hear a reader enjoy our stories as much as we enjoy writing them!


  3. Andrew Ignatieff · · Reply

    I am Vincent Massey’s great nephew. I spent many weekends at Batterwood House with my parents. I even lived with my cousins Hart and Melodie for some time while housesitting Durham House while they were away.Thanks to your lovely storyline, I found out so much about the hisory except the history of Durham House. Is there any connection between that stately country house, Durham House and Lord Durham, the Lt Governor of Upper and Lower Canada in the 1830s/40s?


    1. Andrew, interesting comment. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, there does indeed appears to be a connection between John George Lambton (Lord Durham) and Durham House.


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