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It was 1821 and 10-year-old John Gillies found himself aboard the David of London along with his parents, James and Helen. Their ship was making its way from Greenock, Scotland to Quebec, Canada. Three of the 364 Scottish passengers died during the trip, while another four were born. The passengers had paid their own way to Canada to become part of the Canadian government's immigration plan which offered immigrants 100 acres of land and free transportation to it from Quebec City.
Fourty days later, the Gillies had made it by boat, foot and cart, to New Lanark. There, John Gillies learned how to clear the land and build a home as his family began building their future in Canada.
By 1840, John Gillies had a plan. He obtained his own land plot near the Clyde River and 100 adjoining acres. It was here that he and his wife Mary built a home and sawmill. Some say that he travelled the 55 miles from Brockville to Lanark with the 90-pound saw on his back.
Gillies dammed the water to allow for enough flow to power his saw. He would sell his lumber for anywhere from $6 to $12 per 1000 feet. His site grew to include a grist and oat mills. On the other side of the river he built a carding mill to process sheeps wool.
Gillies bought a large circular saw and took contracts to cut lumber. One such contract was to supply 3" thick wood to be used in the construction of the Plank Road between Perth, Balderson and Lanark. He would later claim that he was not paid for this contract.
In 1861 he built a large home for himself and his family which by now counted nine children.
It was about this time that John Gillies had to deal with an inevitable problem. He had cut most of the pine trees from the area and required a new supply for his mill. He had to bring in lumber from other forests. Gillies decided to buy the Gilmour Mill located in Carleton Place and in 1864, Gillies Mill went up for sale.
Gillies eventually sold the mill in 1871 to brothers James and John Herron who purchased 104 acres of land and the mill. They established a company named the J & J Herron Company and the site soon became known as Herron's Mills. A stone bakehouse was added and used to bake unhulled oats or unshelled peas. From there they were bagged and then ground into grade to be used in oatmeal and pea brose (a Scottish dish).
The mill grew to include barns and stables, homes for the workers and John Munroe's tannery. For the worker's children, a school was constructed. Teachers would be given board with local families as part of their payment.
James Herron opened a post office in 1891 that was located in their home. It continued to operate until 1915.
At its peak, Herron's Mill was producing over 8000 feet of lumber per day. In 1919 the brothers passed ownership of the mill down to James' son, Alexander. When Alexander died in 1946, his sister Mary continued to run the mill for five more years. By 1951 the mill sat in silence.
One small building remains, the mill has lost the roof and one wall but still stands with some of the original machinery inside. A couple of collapsed buildings remain as well. I never did find the old home pictured on the cover of Ghost Towns of Ontario, volume 2. Perhaps the most fascinating part was the stone bridge which was built over the Clyde River. The water still continues to flow underneath it.
Location: The mill is actually ON road #8. Drive through Lanark on highway 511 and continue through Clydesville. Turn right on the paved road marked #8. You will see a sign announcing Herron's Mills and be able to see the Clyde River bridge on your right hand side. There is also an old abandoned home at the corner of the two highways (511 and 8).
Note: The property owners are requesting that people do not trespass onto their property. Many of the buildings are in dangerous condition.