Elizabethville Ontario Ghost Mills

Elizabethville is a small village that is usually thought of in terms that if you blink while driving through the area on County Road #9 you could easily miss it, that is because most of the village is south on County Road #65. Located on the Little Ganaraska River in the northwest corner of Hope Township (Port Hope, Ontario) in Northumberland County, formerly Durham County. The village was established between 1830 -1840 by pioneer Francis Tamblyn who arrived from Cornwall, England in 1830. Soon after three families of relatives arrived, they were Thomas Oak, John Barkwell and a family by the name of Hall. A later newcomer, John McMurtry and his wife Elizabeth arrived from Ireland. A post office was established in 1853 and the village was named Elizabethville in honour of the first post master John McMurtry’s wife Elizabeth.

By this time, McMurtry built and operated a grist and saw mill, he owned a distillery and one of the village’s three hotels. The grist mill was a large frame structure which operated with an open flume, a 16 foot high water wheel with open buckets and reportedly operated for over one hundred years. It is said that in a field near the mill is an old cellar that was used to make whiskey. The mill was purchased by a Mr. Young and operated as a flour mill for some time. Later owners were Clarke, Steinburg and later by Arthur Farrow who ran if for 12 years. Farrow installed a turbine and replaced the old grindstone for grinding wheat to a plate grinder for chop and used the building as a machine shop.

In November 1916 this mill ownership changed hands for the last time. It was purchased by Cecil Mercer and was operated with the help of his two sons until his death in 1952. In 1962, Roly Scott bought the old mill and dismantled the building for its timber and lumber which he used to build a house near the village of Bethany. The old mill site and mill pond dam can be seen from Elizabeth Street in the village.

John McMurtry owned a saw mill built by Arthur Parsons a short distance down the creek to the south of the grist mill as well as a brickyard and a distillery. (No pictures available, private property). Thomas Tamblyn operated a carriage and wagon shop and Elias Palmer ran a blacksmith shop. In the late 1850’s Elizabethville had three taverns, owned respectively by John McMurtry, John Barkwell and John Marshall. John Barkwell is also listed in Lovell’s Directory of 1856 as a shoemaker and grocer. For some time Elias Palmer’s younger brother Julius ran a foundry and blacksmith shop from the former McMurtry distillery.

In 1850, John Barkwell petitioned the township council to build the first schoolhouse. This log school was destroyed by fire in the winter of 1866 and was soon replaced by a stone structure. Of the one hundred and eight schools in Durham County (now Northumberland County) in 1876, this was the only one built of stone. This school was in use until May, 1958 when it was destroyed by fire. The pupils of the school from Oak Hill and Elizabethville were now bused to Osaca and Beech Hill until the North Hope School in Garden Hill was built in 1961.

The Elizabethville Loyal Orange Lodge was established around 1900. First located at Oak Hill, it was moved west of the village by the creek. By 1927 it was moved north of the village where it was used for Lodge meetings, elections and dances until 1959 when it was sold and later demolished.

The first frame church in Elizabethville was a Wesleyan Methodist. The second and present church was built in 1856. It seems the trustees, Francis Tamblyn, John Barkwell Sr. and Thomas McBirney would not allow strong drink to be used for raising the building so it was not until the third day after they were told men could be brought up from Hope Chapel in Canton that the church was raised. Both church yards were cemeteries but as there were no stones it is unknown how many were buried there.

In 1900 the Good Templers installed a basement under the church and a furnace was installed. A Women’s Institute was started in 1911. A melodian organ was acquired for the church in 1912 and the building was wired for hydro in 1939. An electronic organ was dedicated in 1953 and a memorial window was installed to commemorate the 100th anniversary in June 1956. The last regular service in the church was held June 29, 1969. The building today is a private residence.

A search of an 1857 Directory showed the following names in Elizabethville: Rev. W.O. Clarke, (Church of England), John Goheen, a carpenter, Thomas Tamblyn a wagon maker, J. R. Whiting, (Wesleyan Rev.), John Barkwell a shoemaker and grocer, B. Palmer a blacksmith and John McMurtry a postmaster, councillor, J.P. and mill owner. By 1913, the post office as closed and rural mail delivery began. The first driver was William Horner who was killed at a railway crossing east of Port Hope in 1959. Some of the local store owners over the years were William Cross, Charles Allin, Richard McMurray, F. G. Blanchard and H. C. McCloud who added cold storage lockers at the store.

Some well- known names associated with Elizabethville include Cecil Mercer, Liberal, M.P.P.(Durham), Dr. W. E. Smith a medical missionary to China, Wellington Pickup a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada and Dr. Alexander Carruthers Beatty the founder of the Beatty Telephone System.

Elizabethville was originally established as a small stop-over village at the intersection of the Kendall Road with Decker Hollow Road, now closed and the Decker Hollow village has vanished. Very little of the original Elizabethville is left and very little of its history was recorded.

Regards, Ranger


  1. Ian van de Wall · · Reply

    Thank you for this Ranger. It is fascinating to find out more about this lovely little hamlet that I have practically grown up in. My family purchased a property in 1972 and built a house in 1977. It was used by my family as a country house for 12 years before my parents retired their in 1989. I have some many of my weekend and childhood memories there camping in the forest and fishing in the little Ganaraska. When we worked up the courage, visiting the old cemeteries and playing in the ruined mill.
    Out property extends from country road 65 right over to the other side of the Little Ganaraska and we are adjacent to the ruins of the old mill on the next property. If you are interested, I could definitely arrange to take you on a tour of all of the terrain through the forest, along the river and the old mill’s ruins and some old artifacts around the area too.
    Your posting and history of Elizabethville history is greatly appreciated. I knew the descends of the Barkwells’ who lived up the street from us and were close friends of my parents for many years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ian, I can’t thank you enough for your great comments. I would like to see the old mill ruins, as a child I played around mill ruins in Camborne and I am drawn to old cemeteries and the history they reveal. It would be appreciated if I could take a ‘rain check’ at this time as the old Ranger currently has a medical issue that prevents me from standing or walking any time or distance. Hopefully this issue will be resolved soon and I will be back to normal.

      Thanks again for the invite, hope you don’t mind if I keep your e-mail on file and we can talk again soon.


  2. Donna Schurman · · Reply

    My sister owns this church! I am researching the Barkwells. As we have just discovered. William Barkwell, Son of John. Bought the property in Port Hope on College st in 1875. It is our house that we just bought and I’m doing research. Huge coincidence! What are the chances of my sister’s church and our Port Hope home being completely connected by a father and son Barkwell!!!
    So the original owner and builder of our home is buried beside my sisters church! Crazy!


    1. Donna, thanks for the great comment. That is some great information, I think I would like to do some research on the Barkwell family. Welcome to Port Hope. Good luck on your research.


  3. Doris Goheen · · Reply

    Many thanks for this most interesting and informative article on Elizabethville. I grew up in Hope Township on the fifth line and knew the Barkwell family and others you mentioned as well. The John Goheen you referred to was a cousin. Do keep up this valuable trip down memory lane and know how much it is appreciated.


    1. Doris, Thank you for your comments, it’s good to be appreciated. We do plan to keep on down our trips of memory lanes.


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