The River Dance of the McArthur Mill in Carleton Place



McArthur Island in Carleton Place was once connected by two short bridges. You can see the original wooden bridge in the above picture. This site was once used by the local Indians and settlers as a portage across the Mississippi River. In 1870 Archibald McArthur built his woolen mill of rubble wall constructions- one foot thick limestone blocks with another foot of gravel between—which was a customary building technique in those days. On the side stands a protected  grove of Hackberry trees. One day stop your car and notice an interesting  assembly of wheels and gears resting at the end of the weir and against the building. Steampunk in its original form.


This is a fine example of the turbine water wheel that powered the mill. By the time the mill was built millrights had learned to mount the often not quite true turbine wheels outside the main stone walls on free standing timbers. This was done so as to prevent the end of the mill from being literally shaken to pieces as happened on occasions. On the metal gears there are teak wood teeth. At one point  the McArthur mill did not have a basement floor. The river ran under the building, this enabling the raw wool to be washed directly under the swiftly moving current. The river tributary that you see flowing by the old mill was actually a man made channel. Each time I look at it it reminds me of the day my youngest son slipped and fell off the edge and landed on the rocks below. Thankfully a kind Carleton Place individual rescued him.



In 1877 the McArthur woolen mill, equipped to operate by water power of the lower falls, was leased and reopened by William H. Wylie when the country’s business depression became less severe. In 1881 John Gillies of Carleton Place bought the McArthur woollen mill at the present Bates & Innes site from its first owner Archibald McArthur. The reported price was $40,000. W. H. Wylie, lessee of the McArthur mill, also bought the Hawthorne woolen mill from its new owner James Gillies at a price reported as $19,000. The brick addition was built in 1901 and originally produced fine worsted and tweeds and eventually merged as part of Bates and Innes with the Gillies mills to produce the Ottawa Valley brand of wool products.


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I have added this picture to the Gillies Mill Blog so you can see how they redirected the riverbed to run next to the mill. There are maps of the river on that blog. Thanks to Jayne Henry of the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum for this new found picture of Gillies Mill.


MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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