King’s Mill, Wellman’s Corners, Ontario

From Parker-Marmora History: “Located a mile south of Wellman’s Corners is King’s Mill, a historical site developed by the Lower Trent Conservation Authority. Belief is that the mill was built in 1821, but circumstantial evidence suggests it was built in the 1850’s by the Parkers. In 1851, Robert Parker bought the lot. In 1856, his widow deeded the land to Joseph Hogle, seven years hence, Hogle sold the part of the lot with the mill pond, dam and Saw Mill to Charles Haig. Other owners were Sarah & Francis Parker, Joseph Pennick, Lewis Yeoman’s, William Gullet (who operated it for many years), Pervis Allen, Frederick King and Lloyd King who operated it until the spring of 1963. It was sold to the Lower Trent River Conservation Authority in 1971.”

Wellman’s Corners today has very few buildings remaining of the original village except for the mill and its original church. The Wesleyan Church was constructed in 1869 on land donated by David Mack. The lumber was acquired from Elias McKim and the brick, the first brick building in the Rawdon District, was likely from the kiln of William Kyle. In 1925, the church became the Wellman’s Corners United Church and celebrated its Diamond Jubilee in 1944. During the seventy-five years there had never been a wedding celebrated here, the first in 1949. By 1968 many rural churches closed including Wellman’s, the building was purchased by the Women’s Institute and restored for community events. 1898 records show Wellman’s Corners with a Methodist Church and a public school and local residents W. Anderson, Postmaster & general store; William Gullet, saw mill and William Mack, blacksmith.

According to “Pioneer Life on Quinte Bay 1904” Robert Parker Jr. came to Canada as a bookkeeper and paymaster at the ironworks in Marmora. In this position he was compelled to make frequent trips to Kingston, eighty miles, on horseback, through uncharted woods on the company mining business. Years later when the Marmora mines closed, Parker obtained a position as a teller in the Bank of British North America at Kingston, Ontario. It was here that he met and married, in 1828, his wife Elizabeth Huffman.

Having been attracted to the abundant timber in the area, shortly after his marriage, he made financial arrangements in Scotland to enable him to enter that as a business. With Elizabeth and daughter, Agnes, he located to Marmora. Here through his wife, he drew a large tract of United Empire Loyalist land and began to cut timber. This timber was rafted down the Deer and Trent Rivers to the Bay of Quinte and then via the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and Quebec. This business was very successful until the Rebellion in 1837 occurred and he took up arms in defence of his country.

Edward Fidlar was a prosperous mill owner in the area and the small hamlet that built up around his mills was known as Fidlars Mills. Several other names by which the village was known were Seldon Mills, Rawdon Mills and Rawdon Village, finally officially as Stirling. A note of interest, Stirling is one of only three communities in Canada designated a National Historic Site. After the Rebellion, at Fidlers invitation to move to Stirling in late 1839 resulted in Parker becoming the proprietor of the local hotel known as Parkers’ tavern. It was at this time he purchased several hundred acres of land at Wellman’s Corners, about eight miles northwest of the village of Sterling and here he erected Parker’s Sawmill operating it and the hotel until his death in 1852.

Robert Parker, a man with great character and education made him a natural leader in the community. He was elected as the first councillor in Rawdon and was appointed the first postmaster in what is now Stirling. Parker was instrumental in establishing the Presbyterian Church, was a Conservative and a magistrate. It is said that he named Stirling after the historic Scottish Stirling. The Parkers raised eight children: Agnes, William, Francis, Dr. Robert, Mary, Catherine, Edward and James.

The original mill was completely water powered by the pond behind the massive dam remnants still very visible today. At first visit, the Ranger was surprised by the size of the former dam until further research indicated that logs were sawn mostly in the spring high water season. Again, the reference to a saw mill arose, so many questions…was the original saw mill or dam destroyed by fire or flood?   Could that explain why a gasoline motor was installed in 1939 for motive power, was it all that was needed to power a grist mill? Was the current Grist Mill located in the former Saw Mill building? Even the massive dam and pond likely would not have supported two separate mills.

The Lower Trent Conservation Authority purchased the King’s Mill property in 1970 to develop as a conservation area. This peaceful property is located on Squire Creek which runs between two drumlins on its way to the Trent River just a few kilometres downstream. With a large wetland, the conservation area features mixed forest woodlots, some of which were reforested farm fields, planted by the Lower Trent Conservation Authority and voluntary inmates from the Warkworth Penitentiary. Plans to restore the mill to demonstrate early milling methods and attract tourism unfortunately never materialized, instead the mill building was for a time used as a workshop for Conservation Lands operations which are today located in Trenton. Research indicates that at one time the LTC staff reared ducks, geese and swans on the property. Mute swans that spent the spring and summer at the millpond in Warkworth over-wintered in pens at King’ Mill.

The Lower Trent Conservation Authority was instrumental in aiding in the control of purple loosestrife in the province, in 1994 with the Biological Control Laboratory of University of Guelph they released 300 pairs of Galerucella Pusilla at King’s Mill. Through a partnership with the Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters the LTC has hosted an Invading Species ‘Hit Squad’ team working in various locations in the province to provide educational programs to the public and monitor local areas for invasive species in our waterways.

Today the forlorn old mill sits empty, but still serves a purpose by providing lodging to colonies of bats which feed on the plentiful supply of mosquitoes and it provides a great backdrop for photographers and budding artists.

Regards, Ranger

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