Ganaraska River Ghost Mills of Hope Township

At the height of the milling industry from 1850 to 1870 there were 38 sawmills, 18 gristmills and 5 woolen mills located on the Ganaraska River.  This post covers just a few that were once located in Hope Township which in 2001 was merged with the largest town on the Ganaraska watershed, Port Hope.  The Ganaraska watershed covers over one hundred square miles of area with water power in use since 1795.  Most of the water for the river originates on the Oak Ridge Moraine.  Today most all of these mills have been destroyed by fire or have had their had their dams washed out by the numerous floods over the years.

The Ganaraska River flows south easterly through Hope Township and through Concessions 8, 7 and 6,  it deepens  through Concessions 6, 5 and 4 of the Municipality of Port Hope.  In Canton the North Ganaraska river flows into the Mainstem (the main course) through Concessions 3, 2 and 1 to Port Hope and into Lake Ontario.  The river has several branches with many tributaries coming together to form the Ganaraska River.  The Mainstem Branch is approximately 45 kilometres in length and has some 10 structures (dams and mills).  The North Ganaraska branch, about 45 kms long with 2 structures;  the Little Ganaraska Branch, 15 kms in length;  the Duck Pond Branch, 14 kms with 2 structures;  the Quay’s Branch, 13 kms  and 2 structures;  Soper Creek Branch, 8 kms;  the Cold Springs Creek Branch, 12 kms long and the Burnham Branch, 8 kms with 2 structures.

Port Hope Town:   The river was the water source of the earliest mills such as the R.N. Waddell Flouring and Grist Mill located on Mill Street South near the harbor, the Allen’s Wool and Carding Mill, the Beamish Flouring Mill and the William Barrett Flour and saw mill.  The most enduring and famous mill  still standing today is the Molson Mill once known as Choate’s and later the Crawford’s flouring, grist and sawmill.  Picture shows the Molson Mill today

Dale:  (3rd Concession).  In 1818 the Ganaraska River once named Sawmill Creek was located west of the hamlet here on County Road #106  had a dam and sawmill powering the sawmill of Johaida Boyce.  The mill and pond were located on the north side of the McCallum’s (Dale Road) bridge just west of County Road #28.  A Cider and a Woolen Mill were also located in this area.  Today there is no indication of the above mentioned structures.

Canton:  (4th Concession)  This village was once called Hopeville and is located on County Road #10 at the main branch of the North Ganaraska River.  A Mr. Potter established a gristmill here which some time later became the Durham Flour Mill.  Samuel Powers once operated two mills on this river as well.  The historic grist mill was closed in 1967 and the building, now renovated is utilized as the owner’s office space and features an electric power source powered by the mill dam water.

Quay’s:  (5th Concession) Thomas Quay was one of the earliest settlers at Quay’s Crossing.  This hamlet was located at the Knoxville Road and the 6th Line.  The river once boasted 2 sawmills and mill ponds.  The first sawmill was erected by Charles Henwood and when destroyed by fire a smaller Henwood sawmill replaced it further down stream.  This hamlet failed to prosper after the loss of it’s mill.

Campbellcroft:  (8th Concession)  Located on the north Ganaraska river at County Road #9, south on Grist Mill Road.  The mill was built in the 1850’s as a planing mill by Thomas Campbell in the hamlet once known as Campbell.  Subsequent millers were Bannister, Desalvo and Fudge’s Mill.  This grist mill, pond and dam still exists today and until recently continued to operate by Dominic Glisinskid with seed cleaning equipment still in use when needed.  The mill has recently been sold again.

Garden Hill:  (8 concession)  This village was first established as Adam’s Corners.  Only the gristmill pond and a dam still exist today but the original bridge (dam) on County Road #9, west of Mill Street has been replaced.  The original grist mill was built circa 1861 by Frank Beamish and later leased by an American hat manufacturer.  The mill was destroyed by fire and Beamish rebuilt it as a sawmill, it was later purchased by James Dyer for his woolen mill, again this mill was destroyed by fire.

Waterford:  This once thriving mill, dam and pond south of County Road #9 on Mill Street South at some time later merged to become part of Garden Hill.  There are few signs today of this former hamlet.

Ardfree Pond:  (9th Concession) This small Ganaraska River tributary was originally known as the ‘Old Wilson’ Pond and can still be found north of Garden Hill.  Located on the original V.B. Blake family property, this small pond is entirely spring fed and runs south easterly into the Garden Hill pond.  Ardfree still has 2 dams, one powered a sawmill.

Elizabethville:  (8th Concession)  This village is located south of County Road #9 and County Road #65.  On the Little Ganaraska River Branch, John McMurtry established a grist mill here which was later purchased by a Mr. Young who operated a flour mill.  Later owners were Clarke, Steinburg and even later by Arthur Farrow.  In 1918 the mill was purchased by Cecil Mercer and sons who operated the mill until his death in 1952.  Nathan Powers operated a saw mill down the stream from the flour mill.  The mills have disappeared, but the beautiful mill pond and a dam shown in picture still exist today.

Knoxville:  (Concession 6)  The small hamlet is located at Hope 6th Line and Knoxville Road.  In the early 1860’s there was a saw mill located on Knox Creek, west of the hamlet.  Very little information has been found, but the mill, dam and pond were flooded out after a few years of operation leaving no traces.  The near-ghost town today consists of an active cemetery and a dozen homes.

Osaca:  (5th Concession)  This village is located on County Road #65 where James Elliott built his Flouring Mill north of the village on Bell Hill Road.  Samuel Parsons established a sawmill on the same Ganaraska River tributary on the west side of the first bridge north of the village on County Road #65.

Decker Hollow:  This thriving ghost town was once located between Elizabethville and Osaca.  Established in 1834 by Robert Decker and his 4 sons where they erected a gristmill and a sawmill on the river.  The mill and dam were flooded out in a 1870’s flood.  Later floods completely washed the village away.

Kendal:  This thriving village is located at the north Head Waters of the Ganaraska River and is located 7 miles north of Newtonville (Clarke Township) was established in the early 1800’s (once known as Watertown Mills).  In the 1840’s Theron Dickey operated a grist mill here.  Later 2 more sawmills were constructed here.  The Jackson Dam is still in use today.

Information thanks to the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority and the late A.H. Richardson’s notes.

Regards   Ranger.


  1. What a fascinating post. Thanks so much. Is there a particular paper map you can recommend for an overview of the area?


    1. Stephanie, thanks for your comment, we appreciate our readers comments. Not sure about a good paper map or where to get one. I have a Beldon 1878 Atlas for a lot of information. Most public Libraries have old atlas’s and most of them can print off a copy of a specific area for a small cost. Worth a try. The CAA might be a possibility as well.


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