The Sydenham River pours 18 metres down the Niagara Escarpment where it empties into the Owen Sound harbour. The falls provides a fascinating view and display of power. It was back in 1842 that the falls captivated Goderich millwright Mr. Elliot. Elliot began construction for a mill at the top of the falls. For one reason or another, he never finished construction and sold the rights to the land to W.C. Boyd.
Three years later a Scottish immigrant named Peter Inglis arrived and bought the 300 acres of land from Boyd. Inglis, a millwright with knowledge of Scottish stonework was able to complete construction of the gristmill. The flow of water to the mill was controlled by a water wheel and wooden dam. On the other side of the river, Inglis constructed a sawmill.
He was not the only one to have a business at the top of the falls. A few years earlier, A. Stephens had built a store, pottery and grist mill.
Inglis lived in a small house just east of the mill, along with his wife Anne and three children: Ellen, John and George.
The gristmill became quite popular and saw customers calling from as far away as Collingwood and Mount Forest. It was not uncommon for entire families to camp out during their week long trek to the mill.
So popular was the mill, that by 1862, Peter replaced the gristmill with a new four-storey mill capable of producing flour, bran and shorts. Instead of the original water wheel, the mill used a turbine for power.
In addition, Inglis built a two-storey house (complete with servant). The family grew by three more children (William, Mary Anne and Sarah). The old home was delegated to be used by the mill workers.
In the 1870's the mill was torn down and a woolen mill was added on the easern side of the river where tweeds, flannels and blankets were produced. It was rented by Heverly and Chase. Charles Woodhead took over the woolen mill in 1881 and it continued to operate for almost two more decades.
The woolen mill would burn down in 1885 and be rebuilt only to burn down once more in 1901. The family never told Peter about the fire (he retired a year after the first fire) and the mill was never rebuilt.
Peter meanwhile had bought himself another sawmill 1/4 mile downstream from the falls. It was operated by Robert Stark and came to be known as Stark's Sawmill.
Peter's son, William, took over the mill in 1886 who then handed ownership down his son Victor. By now it was 1932 and the mill had been in the Inglis family for eighty-seven years. The Inglis brothers decided it was time to close the mill which was obtained by the City of Owen Sound for water rights. And there it would sit unused for two years until puchased by Emil Henkel who operated it until 1945 when a fire destroyed it.
In the early 1960's the North Grey Region Conservation Authority took over the site and has preserved it. Today you can see the one floor family home, across from it a short stone building and the millstones. A picnic area and hiking trails are available.
Member DOOM VS entry:
I knew of the history of the mill at Inglis Falls, but had not noticed the man-made structure to the right of the crest from the base of the falls on prior visits. Fantastic hike by the way, just gorgeous. You will get wet though, and be careful hopping from boulder to boulder. A guy who was trying to get to the base when I was there fell into a plunge pool of one of the many small falls below the main one and almost lost his equipment.
I ascended on the right side and against the side of the cliff were the ruins of the foundation of part of the mill. I've included an old sketch found at the conservation area giving an idea of what it looked like.
Was very cool to peruse. Someone has actually gotten a picnic table up there (or more likely down) and put it on the flat top of the structure. I think they must have dumped it over the wall at the top of the falls, as it appeared you can maybe jump down there but not get up.
If you can make it up the falls, definitely worth a visit!