The Sackville Sawmill, Bewdley Ontario

As the Wisconsin Glacier retreated from the Kawartha Lake Region in Ontario, lakes and shallow ponds were left in the depressions on dry land.  Vegetation appeared which attracted caribou, elk and deer which were soon followed by humans. Evidence of ancient hunters dating back to the Paleo – Indian period eleven thousand years ago, has been found on the lands south of Rice Lake on the Rice Lake Plains, and along Cold Creek that rises near Plainville village wandering through the plains and drains the shallow marshes east of Bewdley into Rice Lake.  In 1608 the French explorer Samuel De Champlain, was one of the first white men to enter this area.  Champlain may have taken the native trail from what was known as ‘Sackville Creek’ now  known as Cold Creek at Rice Lake to the mouth of the Ganaraska River, now Port Hope.

The founder of Bewdley, William Bancks and family from Bewdley, Worchestershire England arrived here with plans to establish a colony for gentlemen farmers.  On securing a loan from the Bank of Upper Canada, he purchased lots 31, 32 and 34.  On lot 31, he built a water powered sawmill and a log house on Cold Creek.  On lot 34 Bancks proceeded to lay out plans for residential plots for a village named Bewdley after his home in England.  Bancks also founded the Newcastle Banking Company and gave his address as Bewdley Mills.  In 1842, the Newcastle Banking Company failed and Bancks was forced to default on his mortgages.  His properties reverted to the Honorable George Boulton, a Cobourg lawyer and land speculator from whom he purchased the lots.  Catherine Parr Traill in her book “Canadian Crusoes, A Tale of the Rice Lake Plains” (1852) described William Bancks abandoned home, Sackville Mill-dike-the place was originally owned by a man of taste, who resided for some time upon the spot till finding it convenient to return to his native country, the sawmill passed into other hands.  The old log house on the green bank above the millstream is still standing, though deserted, the garden fence broken and dilapidated, no longer protects the enclosure, where the wild rose mingles with that of Provence – the Canadian Creeper with the hop.)

Bancks house overlooking the millpond, was purchased by James Sackville Jr. (1843-1917) and named Sawlog Hill.  It appears that James either demolished  the original log house and rebuilt or covered it with boards.  The old house with several additions can still be seen today above the the bridge at Cold Creek and shows several eight by eight windows and narrow siding on one section reflecting it’s 19th century origin.  When William went into bankruptcy in 1842, his sawmill and property at Cold Creek were taken over by James Sackville Sr. who had been employed by Bancks sawyer.  While James Sackville’s sawmill was cutting large quantities of white pine from the surrounding hill near the millpond on Cold Creek, there was also a steam powered shingle mill operated by George Willcox and Robert Wright operated a steam powered mill sawmill on Bewdley’s main street.  It is said that the last sawmill in the area burned down in 1917.

James with two brothers, George and John, had come from Dumfries, Scotland in 1831.  The Sackville brothers bought property on lot 34, concession 7 (a land grant of Nellie and Elizabeth Grant) where they farmed for a living.  James built a small frame church in Sackville where he was well known as a very religious man, a devout member of the Plymouth Brethren Sect and he led weekly services for the locals.  In later years James converted the church into his dwelling, leading a bachelors life for sometime.  The former church is now a private dwelling on the north corner of Oak Ridges Drive and Cavan Road.  James was very well known for his apiary of fifty colonies of bees that provided him a very good living.  In 1876 he married a Mrs. Porter from Port Hope and they resided in the current millhouse.

Around this time, John Sidey (1819-1892) a pioneer storekeeper  and his brother James arrived in Bewdley, emigrating from Scotland to Thorold Ontario where they were employed as Stonemason on the famous Welland Canal.  John Sidey married Agnes, a daughter of George Sackville and they raised a large family in the village.  For over a hundred years the descendants of John Sidey operated a store near the present day government dock in Bewdley Ontario.

James Sackville built SS #15, a frame school on his land on Cavan Road near Cold Creek in the 1870’s.  It was replaced by another frame school near County Road 9 at Benson’s Corners and it tot is now gone.  An interesting note, Benson’s Corners was named after John Benson. Benson’s second wife was Agnes Sackville, a daughter of James Sackville Sr. and it is said that Cavan Road was named by the Benson Family.  Later a two room cement block school south of the old school was built and is now a private dwelling.  The Sackville’s were the first pioneer family to settle in the area outside the Bewdley village.

A notable resident, Joseph Scriven spent a lot of time living with the Sackville’s and was like a member of the family.  (What A Friend We Have-Joseph Scriven)  This is is where it is said that Scriven penned his world famous hymn “What A Friend we have in Jesus”.  It was in the Sackville saw mill sluice-way where Scriven drowned in 1886.  Scriven, in 1850 had served as a tutor for some years to Theodore Robert Pengelley, the young son of Lydia Eliza Roche and Captain Robert Pengelley.  In 1875 Pengelley moved to the north shore of Rice Lake.  After being wounded at the Battle Lissa, Robert Pengelley was rewarded by being appointed agent for the Brock family estate in South Monaghan.  Because he was a Royal Naval Officer and his wife was a niece of Sir Isaac Brock, he obtained a 200 acre  grant of land in South Monaghan Township where they built their home ‘Brockland’.  In the diary he kept during his first few years at Rice Lake, Pengelley mentioned coming by steamboat to Black’s Landing (Bewdley) and spending the night with William Bancks, from whom he bought a large quantity of lumber to build his house.

The picture here is Barbara at the chapel at the Pengelley Family Cemetery  visiting the Scriven monument.

The location of the dry millpond  which once covered the current Oak Ridges Drive (Northumberland County Road 9) can still be seen east of Sackville Bridge Road.  The highway was built over the former millpond when County Road 9 was extended from the Cavan Road intersection to the old highway 28 some years ago.  James Sackville died in 1879 and was buried in the family cemetery of his friend Robert Pengelley on his farm in South Monaghan Township, south/east of Bailieboro.

Regards,   Ranger.


  1. PamelaPerraultPhotography · · Reply

    I think you’ll enjoy reading this one! xx

    Sent from my iPad



    1. Pamela, great to hear from you again.


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