In the 1870’s James Woodley dammed up a small stream near the present day town of Hayden, Ontario. This was the beginning of an early water powered sawmill and the start of a chair factory. As with most early saw and grist mills a small village was soon established nearby. This hamlet east of Haydon in northern Darlington Township, Lot 10, Concession 8 was referred to as Buffalo. Today, this is a ghost town and only a few remnants remain such as stone foundations and traces of the original mill operations.
Sometime later a new sawmill was constructed a short distance south of Buffalo. In the early days the Woodley’s would hire a local crew to go out by sleigh and using crosscut saws, fell their own timber. This mill today is still family owned and in operation as a commercial sawmill and is remarkably still water powered from the old mill pond. The mill now buys timber from local suppliers and offers custom sawing.
According to Clarington Heritage:
James Woodley (1804-1887) emigrated to Canada from England in 1836 and purchased property on the 8th Concession. His house was built of brick circa 1850 and was one of the earliest brick houses in the former Darlington Township. In 1860, he purchased the southern 88 acres of Lot 10. In 1874 his son Richard, took over that property and set up a saw mill. The Woodley Sawmill has been continuously run by the family since that date.
Richard Woodley’s frame house is representative of many houses built in the Township between 1850 and 1890 which incorporated a centre gable of Gothic derivation into the basic design of a small farm house. However, the majority of houses with a Gothic centre gable were built in brick or stone, and the Woodley house is unusual in that it is built of frame which remains in an excellent state of preservation. The exact construction date cannot be determined, but a date between 1875 and 1880 would seem reasonable. An earlier one and a half storey frame house stands on the property to the east and rear of the main residence. This was used as the hired man’s house, and retains a small verandah at the rear. It is quite possible that the verandah originally surrounded the house on three sides. The main residence, hired man’s house, the saw mill, the driving shed and main barn are designated as a unit for their historical significance and architectural features.
An interesting in-sight into the Woodley family was recently found in a historical article titled “Tyrone Village Re-Visited.”
“I did not see Mr. Thomas Woodley’ place, Pioneer Farm, though I well remember the dear old quaint mansion with its many eccentricities and romantic surroundings. Mr. Woodley is blessed in having all his family with him yet. There is a lot of go-ahead in him-always was. He has shown his enterprising spirit this spring by setting out in conjunction with his brother Richard two fine pear orchards. Here as elsewhere I find farmers are called upon to turn their attention in other directions than that of mere grain growing, stock raising and fruit cultivation is carried on extensively. I must congratulate Mr. Richard Woodley, the owner and operator of the saw mill north of Tyrone on the valuable addition to his family in these last years, in the person of his only child, little Clara, the light of her father’s eyes.”
Woodley’s Sawmill is powered by water from the small, year-round Lynde Creek that starts from the Oak Ridge Moraine in the north and after powering Tyrone Mill as well, it continues south through the Bowmanville/Soper Creek Watershed into Lake Ontario. Of the many mills that once flourished in the Hampton, Enfield, Burketon, Enniskillen, Haydon, Tyrone and Bowmanville area, only four remain. The Tyrone Mill and Woodley Mill are still operating today, both water powered, and Vanstone Mill and the Cream of Barley Mill have been converted to other uses. See these and other local mill histories at our site under “HISTORIC MILLS OF ONTARIO”.
In talking to a gentleman at the Antique Machinery Centre (see post: Antique Machinery Centre ) open-house in Port Hope recently, I mentioned my interest in old grist and saw mills. He asked if I was aware of the Tyrone Mill…and yes I was. He also mentioned a neighbor of his near Haydon, Jim Woodley of Woodley’s Sawmill, and no this was unknown to me. Sometimes the ‘history god’ is watching over the Ranger. On a recent ‘2oldguyswaking’ Wednesday tour we decided to investigate this unknown saw mill. It should be mentioned here, this picturesque mill is located some distance from the highway and thus is not visible to the general public. At arriving at 2662 Concession Road 8, there was no mill to be seen but there was an antique truck planted on the lawn advertising Woodley’s Sawmill. (Note the designated Woodley home behind the picture of the truck.) Well, if this is a commercial business, surly we wouldn’t be trespassing if we drove up the lane in search of the mill site. After a short drive and still not seeing the mill and getting ready to turn around to leave we were approached by an in-coming Jeep. A very congenial gentleman (without a shotgun) approached and introduced himself.
The ‘2oldguyswalking’ would like to thank Jim Woodley for allowing us to roam, un-escorted around his very unique mill and property. We are very much looking forward to Spring to return to the mill and investigate the Buffalo ghost town remains, another of my favorite topics. We would also like to document some of the future up-dating of the mill and its hydro- electric generation project. As the mill was not operational at the time of our visit, watch for some future updates where we can share more information and pictures of this hidden gem.