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History of The Martintown Grist Mill

This four-storey stone grist mill, is located on the south side of Dundas St. and the east bank of the Aux Raisin River. It was built in 1846 by Alexander McMartin replacing a wooden grist mill built by his father, Malcolm McMartin, in the early 1800's. Malcolm McMartin was a native of Perthshire, Scotland and a New York Loyalist. The McMartin family also had a Carding Mill and a Saw Mill, thus providing the surrounding area with much needed flour, feed for their animals, textiles, and lumber.

The mills provided a great place to see your neighbours and catch up on the news of the day. I am sure if the old walls could talk many great stories would be told. With the mills other related businesses soon sprang up in McMartin's Mills, later known as Martintown. Making it the "Hub of Activity," as people travelled up and down the river. It has been recorded that in the early years McMartin's Mills was a more important town then Cornwall, with more businesses established.

The need of a good water supply to run the turbine turbine for power meant the construction of a dam across the river. The early dam was made in three sections from large timbers. These sections were raised and lowered by hand with a chain and windless to control the water levels in the headpond. In 1861 severe spring floods washed out the bridge and dam. The local people gave William Sylvester and his brother a contract to replace the bridge and dam. He built a cement dam and a covered bridge of white pine with a shingle roof. The bridge lasted until 1936. In the early years the mills were run with water power.

As fields became ditched and tiled the water soon ran off in the spring causing the water levels to drop drastically even in the headpond. Thus it was necessary to find other sources of power. Sylvester added a Steam Engine to supplement power in the dry seasons. Old photographs show a shed on the south side of the mill with a smoke stack where they had the steam engine.A miller by trade, Thomas Willing purchased the mill and the water rights - with a small portion of the water rights going to the Carding Mill on the opposite bank of the river - from the McMartin Family for $3,600 in 1870. Around 1881 he purchased a more efficient Leffel Water Wheel. In 1898, David Cresswell, purchased the grist mill for $5,540. He purchased new equipment, one being a roller to produce high quality flour, and did extensive repairs to the mill. He advertized that his mill could not be surpassed in Eastern Ontario for experienced workmen and modern equipment. After the death of his father, William Cresswell acquired the mill.

He was not active in the mill’s operations so it suffered a period of decline. Ken Barton & Ken McDermid leased the mill for a few years before buying it. They added a 40 horsepower gas engine and brought the mill back into a successful operation. Later they used tractor power when water levels were low. It was placed outside the northeast end of the mill with the belts going in through the north door. In 1947, Barton and McDermid built the building on the west side of the river and moved their milling operation over there adding a mixer and more modern grinders. The new dam built around 1987 that is there now was constructed north of the bridge which local historians greatly disapproved of.

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