Country Mills, Part 2

This post is Part 2 of Country Mills.  See Part 1 from March 20/022.  With several more historical local grist and saw mills with their locations and a short history of their past and current use.

Historic Hope Sawmill, this awesome old sawmill is located at 3414, Hope Mill Road in the village of Keene, not to be confused with the nearby Lang Century Grist Mill at the Pioneer Village.  In 1835 William and Jane (Stewart) Lang built an ‘under-shot’ water wheel powered carding and fulling mill on the Indian River.  A gristmill and a sawmill were later added to the location.  In 1873 the sawmill at Lang was destroyed by fire, William Lang and son-in-law Richard Hope added a sawmill to the carding mill.  With the wool and carding business in decline, they switched to full time lumber milling.  The third generation, Jack Hope operated the mill until 1966 when he sold the property to the Otonabee Region Conservation Authority (ORCA) and the mill was converted into a demonstration sawmill for educational purposes.  In the 1960’s the Peterborough Canoe Company used Hope Mill lumber to build their canoes, skis and toboggans.  See:  hopemill.ca  for up to date information and pictures.

By 1993 the government funding was cut, and ORCA could no longer afford to restore and operate the old mill.  In 1999, the Otonabee Conservation Foundation (OCF) raised funds and with volunteers restored the by now abandoned mill.  Note:  The Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre in Cobourg had white ash sawn here for their Trent River Mining Ore Car restoration, from the old Cobourg, Peterborough & Marmora Rail Road and Mining Co.  The Friends of Hope Mill now lease the Hope Mill from the the Conservation Authority.  For live summer mill demonstrations see:  The Friends of Hope Mill at hopemill.ca for their latest summer schedule.

Needler’s Mill is located on Baxter Creek in the town of Millbrook, King Street East, south on Needler’s Lane.  An early enterprising farmer John Thorn actually had two small millstones properly shaped to grind flour by hand, by the 1890’s there were some thirty mills in the Township of Cavan.  John and James Deyell were credited with building the first mill in the community of Millbrook on the site of today’s Needler’s Mill.  An 1857 fire destroyed the Deyell Mill and Walker Needler purchased the site and built a three story mill managed by his son George, on his death Charles came into the business.  In 1909, a fire struck again!  The Needler family also owned a mill in nearby Cedar Valley where the dam had washed out in a flood, so they moved the northern half of this building (built by Adam Scott) to the Millbrook site.  The present mill was purchase by by Henry Attwool in 1917.  In 1922 Henry’s nephew Doug Shepard added a grist and sawmill.

A Spring flood in 1938 washed out the original wooden dam.  A new cement dam was constructed by Thomas Campbell and the mill was operating again by July 1948.  On Attwool’s death in 1959, the sawmill closed but the gristmill continued and was operated by Doug Shepard until the early 1960’s.  In 1967 the property was purchased by the Otonabee Region Conservation Authority to control the water levels in Baxter Creek.  The mill seemed destined for the wrecking ball, but in 1984 the “Save the Mill Committee” and the Millbrook & Cavan Historical Society were formed and with many volunteers the historic old mill was fortunately saved. 

Woodley’s Heritage Saw Mill is located near the village of Hayden at 2662 Cons. Road 8, Bowmanville, Ontario.  In the late 1870’s James Woodley dammed up the small Lynde Creek to operate a small sawmill and chair factory in the former Darlington Township on Lot 10, Concession 8 in a place named Buffalo, now a ghost village.  In 1874, his son Richard took over the property and set up the sawmill which has been continuously operated by the Woodley family since.  The current saw mill was built south of here by James Woodley who arrived here from England in 1836 and built one of the earliest brick houses in the township.  Today,the Woodley’s Gothic frame derivative home built sometime between 1875-1880, and as well as the hired man’s house, the saw mill, the drive shed and the main house are all designated as a unit for their historical significance and architectural features by the Newcastle Advisory Committee.

Historic Lonesdale Mills are located at 1062, Marysville Road south to the two rustic bridges spanning the Salmon River.  Here you will find the restored former Lazier’s Grist Mill.  This attractive circa 1840 limestone grist and flour mill building has been converted to The Island Mill Getaway, an attractive B&B establishment.  Across the river can be found the remains of the former J. Lazier’s woolen mill, flour and lumber mill.  The village started its life as Lazier Mills in Tyendinaga Township.  In 1853, the Public Lands Act encouraged settlers to establish a ‘wheat and mixed farming culture’ here.

The Lazier family came to Canada in 1791 after the American Revolution.  James was born in New York at Schraalenbury, Bergan County and established a gristmill on the Salmon River in what is now Hastings County in the early 1830’s.  By the mid 19th century the family owned several mills on the shallow river.  Grandson’s James and John built their woolen mill opposite their gristmill at Lazier Mills (Lonesdale).  The woolen mill was destroyed by fire in 1904 and the grist mill is now a private residence.  Early records indicate “downstream on the Salmon River at Mill Town, a mill was owned by Lazier (R.L.) and Lazier (S.A.) millers.  The Grist Mill was run by Messier’s Lazier and had three runs of stone grinding and cracking of all kinds with a sawmill connected to the building.”  Another Lazier family member operated a large mill in nearby Belleville.  The Lazier family was instrumental is shaping the township and surrounding areas.

The Historic Grist Mill at Westwood is located on the Ouse River between Norwood and Keene in Central Asphodel Township in Peterborough County at 266 Centre Line.  This old mill has been lovingly restored by the owners and is now a private residence.  The Ranger almost missed this interesting bit of history.  I mentioned in a post that Westwood was a former name of the town of Keene and I didn’t know it still existed today.  Thanks to an observant reader, I was corrected, “Westwood does indeed exist and is a small and very active village today”.  On a recent tour of Fowld’s Mill in Hastings, the owner Reg informed me of the connection between his mill and the Westwood Mill.  Henry Fowlds Senior had for many years owned and operated the Westwood Mill before moving to Hastings.  Although short on historical information, records have been found that indicate a few early millers.  John Brekenridge, saw and gristmill;  Thomas Reid, sawmill and John Powell at some time owned two gristmills and a sawmill in the near the village.

Purdy’s Grist Mill in the village of Castleton is located at the corner of Percy and Mill Streets in the village once known as Piper’s Creek.  Th original Keeler’s Mill was thought to have been a lumber mill in the early days (1795) and was likely destroyed by fire.  The mill today was built around 1820 and was powered by the mill pond water from Piper’s Creek.  In 1870 Samuel Purdy purchased the mill and started the Purdy Milling Company.  A severe drought in the 1830’s caused low waters in the pond.  Purdy wisely installed a 38 HP Diesel engine imported from England to replace water power until mid 1950.  The flour mill operated until 1910 and then switched to a feed mill operated by the Purdy family until 1948, with several owners since over the years.

Again in 1986, a massive flood from the creek burst the mill pond dam taking out the back of the mill and the drive wheel, still on the property today.  In 2011 the twenty acre site was purchased by new owners Mitchell and Candance Cox and the mill house and barn were completely restored.  The 6,000 sq.ft. 190 year old ‘diamond-in-the-rough’ mill has undergone many updates, the foundation has been shored up, the roof rafters have been reinforced and the roof repaired with solar panels installed.  The solar panels are a perfect marriage of the past and present.  Interesting note:  William Purdy a relative of the Castleton Purdy’s, his son’s Jesse and Hazard are considered the founders of Lindsay.  William had a very storied and unusual tale from the Lindsay Mill history.

The O’Hara Historical Saw Mill is located at the junction of Highway #62 and Highway #7 in Madoc where the MacKenzie brothers established their sawmill in the early 1800’s on Deer Creek.  The settlement was originally known as MacKenzie Mills, Hastings and later Madoc (after Prince Madoc of Whales).  The  patriarch of the family, Patrick came to the area in 1789 from Londonderry Ireland and raised nine children in a log cabin here.  James O’Hara and Mary (Healy) raised a family of eleven children.  In a partnership in 1850, James Sr. agreed to erect a sawmill and James Jr. agreed to supply the mill with water privileges and timber.  This mill was unique as it employed an “English Gate” or Frame Saw technology.  The restored mill on the site today still uses this technology and it is said to be the only water powered frame saw left in Ontario and likely the only such water powered one still operational in Canada.

The O’Hara partnership lapsed after twenty years, but the mill continued to cut and sell lumber until 1908.  By 1953 the abandoned mill and 34 hectares of land was purchased by the Moira River Conservation Authority and soon after the mill foundation and dam were rebuilt and the mills water wheel restored.  With the wooden covered bridge rebuilt this completed the sawmill to an area of recreation and a priority Educational Centre.

Regards,   Ranger.

8 comments

  1. Janet Sidey · · Reply

    Interesting as always. Thx.

    Have you ever posted about an octagonal house near Millbrook built by Charlotte and Robert Sanderson in the late 1860s?

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    1. Janet, thanks for the great comment. I have heard of an octagon mill near Millbrook, but I certainly will now research the octagon house there, and the mill. Thanks again for interesting information.
      Regards, Ranger.

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      1. I believe the octagon house is crumbling because of the original building material used. It’s currently owned by a former classmate of mine from 50 years ago (!) and I recently heard that it will be demolished this year.

        If you have the book called “This Green and Pleasant Land, Chronicles of Cavan Township” by the Millbrook and Cavan Historical Society, there’s a picture and short description of this house on page 255.

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        1. Janet, thanks again for the great information. Yes, I do have that book and have read it many times. Your information will spur me on to do more research on it. Millbrook is one of my favorite (and our readers) towns, maybe it is time to do an update on the village. We also have a historical octagon home in Port Hope The theory behind this type of home is interesting reading!
          Thanks again, Ranger.

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  2. Eric May · · Reply

    My father took us fishing here around 1970. A snapping turtle ate our catch. Back then the mill was wide open and you could wander through to see the equipment. a few years later the we saw the mill operating. Wood scraps and sawdust were sent out the chute above the trailer in the photo.

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    1. Hell-o Eric, thanks for the great memories. I really found the mill to be very interesting, and often watch the video of it on on the internet.
      Regards, Ranger.

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      1. Eric May · · Reply

        I should have mentioned that it was the Hope mill I was referring to.

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        1. Eric. Noted,thanks.
          Ranger.

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