Tuesday, June 24, 2014


A part of local history is gone forever as the 19th century Scone Mill, near Chesley, Ontario

was taken down last fall. A flash flood three years ago, which bypassed the dam, undermined the timber frame mill, causing extensive damage to the foundation.  The owners, who had a bicycle and art business,  tried unsuccessfully to obtain funding from local and provincial historical and cultural sources to repair the building and now have sold the property to a local entrepreneur.
The mill was best known for being the second oldest hydro producing plant in Ontario, the first one being Niagara Falls! The original brick building housing the dynamo has been saved and electricity will continue to be produced, which is being sold to Hydro One. The dynamo and pinion gear are being repaired, which haven’t been in operation since last May. A dynamo was first installed prior to 1894 and in 1899 owner Robert Bearman built a new brick powerhouse, attached to the mill, with a 120 horsepower dynamo to power incandescent lights in Chesley. Electrical service to Chesley was available from dusk until midnight and 5:30 am until daylight.
This wasn’t the first time there has been a flash flood around the dam and mill fed by the North Saugeen River. In June of 1916, extensive rain caused the flume to break and the original bridge to be washed away, resulting in a hole 16 feet deep and 90 feet wide.  The wooden bridge had been built in 1894 by Peter Hepburn for $314. Luckily, the new concrete dam, built in early 1900 to replace the original log one, held fast. Three dams downstream, two in Chesley, were washed away from the force of the water. In 1974 there was another flash flood, the rushing water causing a huge cavity around the mill and then flowed back into the river.
The timber frame structure that was taken down, was originally built as a sawmill and grist mill. It had burned down a couple of times before, once in 1893. It was later dismantled in 1898 and the framework was sold to another sawmill operator in Mooresburg, which was also located on the North Saugeen River. The mill was an important service for pioneers and later established farmers in the area. In 1874 the price of flour from the mill, using local wheat, was $5 per barrel (200 pounds).  In 1887, the mill charged 3 cents per 100 pounds to grind feed for livestock.
Grant Turner, who used to live on a farm just north of Scone, has many memories of the mill. When Hurricane Hazel wreaked havoc in Southern Ontario in 1947 he came down with his brothers to the mill because they heard such a loud noise. The water was flowing through the flume for the mill so fast that the pinion gear and dynamo were shaking the building. “We came into the mill and it was hard to see from the dust in the air from the building shaking,” he said.  Later he helped to take out the two ton dynamo to be repaired with a chain hoist and rolled it through the mill out the front door onto a waiting truck. The dynamo was taken to the Collingwood ship yards but couldn’t be repaired there, so it was shipped by boat to Hamilton. Turner also worked there part time, cleaning farmer’s seed for planting. He would start after evening chores were finished on his farm and worked until two or three in the morning. A pink dusty fungicide used to treat the seeds was put into each bag, and many times Turner would come home with a pink nose. The seed cleaning business at the mill ended during the 1960’s.

Besides the historic power-house brick building, another small addition on the east side has been kept, which used to house, among many other enterprises, a restaurant. 

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