Saturday, September 12, 2020
Tyrone mill is the last surviving, commercially operated, water powered mill in the GTA, and one of very few in all of Ontario. The village was founded around 1828 although records of it’s beginning are unclear. At one time the settlement was split with the English living on the eastern end in a community named Mount Hope while Irish settled on the western end in Tyrone. In 1840 the two ends decided to have a cricket match to see what the town would be called. The western side won and the town became known as Tyrone. The county atlas below shows the narrow town stretched out along the side road with no side streets. The road no longer goes around the mill pond and continues north and although it has been closed for decades it can still be traced on Google Earth.
The mill dates back to 1846 when James McFeeters and John Gray built a dam on Bowmanville Creek and erected a grist mill. The mill operated under different owners until 1908 when milling grain became unprofitable and the mill was converted to preparing feed stock. Even this operation didn’t last and by the late 1970’s the mill was once again in danger of closing permanently. It was purchased by Bob Shafer who decided to operate it as a water powered saw and grist mill and cater to those with a sense of the historic. It has now become a popular destination in the GTA where a short drive that can take you back into the pioneer lifestyle of the past.
Today the mill operates on the power supplied by a water wheel but in the past it has been supplied by a turbine. Parts of that turbine are now on display outside the mill.
The entrance to the mill still has an old bell which was once operated by a string that runs into the building to alert the owners that someone was entering. They could have been anywhere around the mill but would come to take care of their customers.
It also has its own small blacksmith shop and in the early days Abraham Younie operated a barrel shop that served the export trade of the grist mill. Younie owned property on the east end of town and later opened a stave factory to make the wooden parts for his cooper shop to turn into flour barrels.
Inside the mill there is a store tucked around all of the original mill structure. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions I was unable to see the full extent of the mill and its workings. The side of the store with the baker in it was closed off but baked goods could still be purchased, including fresh baked bread. One of the specialties of the mill bakery is home-made doughnuts and I was able to get some that were still slightly warm. Rolled in cinnamon and sugar these were the closest thing to the ones my great-grandmother used to make for us when we visited as children.
The blacksmith shop in Tryone was erected by a local mason named Richard Treneuth who is credited with several other stone buildings in the area. The blacksmith shop was built in 1860 for George Emmerson. The shop then passed to his apprentice Robert McCullough who operated it from 1895 to 1950.
Byam’s General Store stands across the street from the blacksmith shop. It occupies the site of a former hotel. The previous hotel was complete with a number of horse sheds in the back that have been replaced with lawn and trees.
Prior to 1860 the children in town had to walk two miles to get to their classes in either school section 10 or 13. Then a school was erected in town that took in parts of each of these school sections and created a new one. Then in 1892 the town built a beautiful brick school house, complete with a bell tower, on the site of the earlier school.
Across the street from the Methodist Church stands Tyrone Community Hall which was erected in 1925.
Methodist preachers traveled throughout the communities in Upper Canada and founded churches in almost every one of them. A small church had been built in the 1830’s but within a decade it was too small and was replaced with a new building in 1844. By 1868 this was also too small and was replaced with the present building which now houses the United Church.
John Gray owned the only stone house in the early town. He was one of the original settlers in the area, having arrived in 1810.
This house is a surviving example of the Georgian Style which was popular for many of the earliest homes in Upper Canada. This house was built by Samuel Bingham but was occupied by Samuel Younie for many years.
Tyrone Mill is a place that I will be visiting again to get a better look around when I can go upstairs to see the saw mill in operation and perhaps enjoy the added bonus of the excellent bakery.
Google Maps Link: Tyrone
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