Grand River - Grinding Along the Grand
Stone mills lined the riverbanks
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,
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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