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

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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