The Mills on Cold Creek, Frankford

 

The village of Stockdale Ontario with a saw mill located on the left and a grist mill on the right side of Cold Creek appear to have shared the same mill pond and dam for the most of their years of operation. A carding mill was also located down a short lane east of the above mentioned mills with an adjoining mill pond. All three of the mills and their village have been almost impossible to research as records are so scant and hard to find! According to the 1878 Belden Historical Atlas of Northumberland & Durham Counties, the saw & grist mills were constructed on a large acreage owned by Asabel Vermilyea, an early farmer, miller and councilman and the carding mill appears to have been located on the property of M. Ruttan. A carding mill prepares wool for spinning by brushing the fibres to evenly align them. Farm families sheared, sorted, picked and scoured wool before bringing it to the mill.

The earliest family names of the village, mostly farmers were: David Bull, William Bates, Thomas Cordinelle, Adam and David Creller, Willmot Hendrick, Hiram Johnson, Thomas Kilbank, James Loveless, Nathaniel McDonald, John Phillips, Walter Gibson, S.D. Griffis and James Minns an early miller.

The saw mill’s history involved the Vermilyea family. Solomon Vermilyea emigrated with his parents from the Catskill Mountains in New York about 1800 and settled in Beach Ridge near Montreal. Later on moving to Thurlow, he met and married his future wife Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Jones and they settled on Lot 1, 4th Concession of Thurlow. Solomon it is said was a very religious man, erected a church near his farm. Solomon’s son Ashael Walter Vermilyea resided for many years at Stockdale where he owned and operated the saw mill here. Ashael married Elizabeth Denyes and later Sarah Miller. Elizabeth was born in Thurlow Township, Hastings County where her father was a farmer who made a living from potash.

Ashael & Elizabeth raised seven children: Vermillyn, Frances, William, Sydney Walton, Clement and Albert. During this time Ashael sat for several terms as a member of the county council. In later years he lived in Belleville, carrying on a large retail boot and shoe business on Front Street. Ashael was a zealous worker for the Methodist Church and devoted a part of every year to evangelistic work and was recognized and favorably known as a powerful preacher from Ottawa to Toronto, it was said that he was also a gifted singer. Sidney, Ashael’s son was associated with his father in the boot and shoe business in Belleville and his brother Clement was the proprietor of Oak Hill, one of the largest clothing stores between Toronto & Montreal. Nathaniel, another son of Solomon was a leading citizen of Thurlow Township and for many years he presided as Reeve and lived at the old homestead most of his life.

Once known as Powell’s Mills, this small village in the former Township of Murray in Northumberland County was later amalgamated into the current City of Quinte West. The 1898-99 Eastern Gazetter and Directory listed George Kilbank, Post Master; James Foster, blacksmith; A. Johnson, agricultural implements; G. Kilbank, grocer; B.W. Powell, blacksmith; Lancastor & Elliott, Saw Mill, and George Rogers, Flour Mill. It also had a Methodist Church and a public school and was fortunate enough to have a stage coach three times a week to nearby Frankford and Belleville. The above information was the earliest mention of the mills and their owners.

The Stockdale Saw Mill is one of the oldest saw mills in Ontario. It is thought to have been built around 1870. The mill was built on Cold Creek, on a large tributary of the Trent River where water rushes over a mill pond dam and down a fourteen foot falls. From around 1890 until 1919 John & Cordelia Williamson operated the saw mill. Walter E. Twiddy purchased the mill in 1919. According to Walter Twiddy, the most recent owner of the saw mill, in its heyday this was sufficient water power to drive two seventy-five horse power turbines allowing the mill to produce an amazing half a million board feet of lumber yearly or approximately four to five thousand feet a day. The mill building would shake from the vibration of the saw blades as they cut into the logs. The mill had to be operated by invention and necessity as it is impossible to go into the local hardware to purchase parts that are no longer made, such as the ‘log turner’ that was handmade by Walter himself. Today, this rustic, old abandoned mill appears on the verge of collapse and is likely too far gone for a restoration project, but it still attracts many tourists who can only imagine what it would be like operating in its heyday.  The Stockdale Saw Mill known by the locals as the Twiddy Saw Mill was operated for three generations of the Twiddy family, Walter E. purchased the mill in 1919, Richard W. and Walter B. Twiddy who operated the mill until its closing after more than a century of activity.

The Stockdale Grist Mill was built around 1867 with a cider mill added in 1923 has very little recorded history despite being operational until the mid-1970’s. Was it originally owned by the Vermilyea family? Few names have surfaced in research of this mill, one was James Minns and another was George Rogers both listed as millers in Stockdale. In recent years the Old Stockdale Restaurant was located in the mill buildings. Today the Historical Stockdale Mill Home Away has been completely renovated and updated to an attractive B&B establishment.

The fourth mill on Cold Creek was located in Frankford and like the carding mill mentioned earlier in this post has completely disappeared. The Abel Scott grist mill (1837) was located near the Nine Mile Rapids of the Trent River where Cold Creek ends. Abel was the original settler and the founder of a village once named Scott’s Mill, Cold Creek and Manchester. An interesting note here regarding Camden East, Ontario. One of the first settlers here in 1800 was Albert Williams. The first saw mill was built here in 1818 by an Abel Scott, was this the Frankford Abel Scott? Scott sold the rights to this mill to Samuel Clarke who then added a wool mill and a grist mill. At this time the town was called Clark’s Mills and later Camden East.

Most of the settlers were Empire Loyalists around 1780 who found this place suitable because they could easily ford the Trent River below the rapids. Later the village name was changed to Frankford after a visit in 1837 by Sir Bond Head, the Governor of Upper Canada. The name represented a combination of the Governor’s name and the ford in the Trent which ran through the town, thus Frankford.

In its early days, the town of Frankford had several hotels: Sweetman’s, McCambridge’s, the Clarke House, Brennan’s, the McDonald House and later the North American Hotel. It also had flouring and saw mills, cording & fulling mills, a tannery, carpenter, cooper and blacksmith shops, pump factory and several stores and taverns. A public school and three churches, the Canada Methodist, the Episcopal Methodist and Roman Catholics were all well attended.

Regards, Ranger

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