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Grand River - Grinding Along the Grand

Stone mills lined the riverbanks

More on the Grand River:
Grand River:
Ontario’s historic heartland

Bloom Town:
The flowering of an old-style Ontario town

The Grand’s Canyon:
Tourism powers an old mill town

Grinding Along the Grand:
Stone mills lined the riverbanks

High-Rise Herons:
Big swamp birds thrive in a wetland haven

Home and Native Land:
Homestead of the Six Nations

Old Order:
Mennonites set their own pace of change

Plaster of Paris:
A town arises from gypsum and cobblestones

Raising Rainbows:
Rehabilitating a tired industrial river

Sausages to Software:
The Industrial Evolution

Grand Stand:
Survival of a river valley forest

Almost every town along the banks of the Grand River has a visible industrial heritage. The communities along the banks of the Grand River and its tributaries grew up around mills powered by the flow of a river or stream. The houses of the mill owners and workers were the first to be built. Soon, whole towns grew up to service the commercial needs of mill, workers, and customers.

Usually, the first mills built were the sawmills. The vast surrounding forest stands offered a source of lumber with which to transform settlers’ log cabins into substantial frame homes, many of which continue to provide shelter and comfort today.

As the timber lands were cleared, mill sites were converted to the grinding of grain grown on the new farmlands. Dickson Flour Mill in Cambridge is one example. Later, as industry developed, many of the better mill sites were exploited for the production of woollen goods. Pattinson Woollen Mills, also in Cambridge, is evidence of this evolution. Some water-powered mills provided mechanical energy for factories. Grand River factories produced everything from safes to furniture.

Finally, hydroelectric plants were constructed to convert water power into energy that could be transported by wire to homes and businesses. One original site, the Elora Mill in Elora, has been fitted with a modern, compact hydroelectric turbine and generator to provide power for the inn that now occupies the old stone mill.

Just south of Paris, on Whiteman’s Creek, is App’s Mill. Built about 1840, the mill was bought by a family named Apps in 1856. The family ran it for 100 years, grinding grain for local farmers. The original mill was powered by an "undershot" water wheel. The wheel was replaced by turbines in the early 1920s.



The opening of prairie grasslands to grain farms whose crops could be carried to Ontario by the new Canadian Pacific Railway reduced wheat growing in the East. The mill’s source of power was hurt by the diversion of water upstream for agriculture. The final blow came in 1954 when a hurricane washed out the riverbank at one end of the mill dam.

In 1970, Apps’ Mill was purchased by the Grand River Conservation Authority. The basic structural components are still intact and the miller’s house and adjacent piece of land that includes a woodlot, meadow and stream habitats have been preserved and restored. Today, Apps’ Mill is still vibrant, with a nature centre that opened in 1981. The sights, sounds and smells of an authentic working mill are still alive in this relic of the Industrial Age in southern Ontario.



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