Lost Souls –Herron’s Mills

Lost Souls –Herron’s Mills



What once was at Herron’s Mills. Photo taken at Middleville & District Museum 

Herron’s Mills, originally known as Gillies Mills, is a ghost town in the municipality of Lanark Highlands, Lanark County in Eastern Ontario, Canada, near the community of Lanark.

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That same road in all its splendour in the oil painting looked like this years ago when I used to go travel there with my kids. The little yellow house fell apart and they tore it down and we used to call it the Ghost House.

This is one of the old houses that used to make up the village of Herron’s Mills. This house and out the buildings have since been torn down and it is unknown who lived there, except that possibly people who once worked in the Herron Mills Woollen Factory. across the road.

I like old buildings, and wish they would stay up forever. Each time I see an old structure get torn down, I always feel sad inside as I feel they are getting rid of the history of the area.

I don’t understand why a lot of people don’t feel the same way I do about older buildings, or why kids today buy Ikea branded items instead of antiques. There is no doubt that the older buildings and family homes have a soul. Walk inside and you can feel the change in the atmosphere, like you’re stepping back in time and leaving the modern world behind.

I believe that when people die a part of their energy is imprinted in houses or on personal belongings. John Gillies, from the House of Gillies, as I call them had to make a decision and sell his most cherished holdings which was Gillies Mills on May 18th, 1871 and henceforth after it was called Herron’s Mills. I have no idea how he did that and as I write this utter grief fills me. There is something about a place that was once busy but has since been vacant and I know much of what is weighing me down right now is not mine to carry. But as Winston Churchhill said: “We shape our buildings therefore they shape us.”

Herron’s Mills, having now almost entirely disappeared save for a couple original buildings, was once one of the more flourishing industrial centres of this area. Though some remnants of the former village can still be found, almost all traces of this once bustling location have been lost to time


Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  08 May 1943, Sat,  Page 18



Image result for herron's mills seccaspina

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.



Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  21 Aug 1980, Thu,  Final Edition,  Page 3






Photo taken at Middleville & District Museum 





J. Herron’s home at Herron’s Mills, Mrs. David Gillies in black skirt. ca. 1912. Item. 
Copied container number: PA-059347.


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John Gillies Sr. Home at Herron Mills  PA 1912-Copied container number: PA-059347



Photo taken at Middleville & District Museum 




The broken bridge and remainder of a mill at Herron’s Mills.



Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  26 Nov 1954, Fri,  Page 41




Photo taken at Middleville & District Museum 



Photo taken at Middleville & District Museum 





Burning Down the House — Literally in Lanark County

The Gillies Home in the Ghost Town of Herron’s Mills


Visiting the Neighbours — Middleville Ontario and Down the 511

The Ghost Towns of Eastern Ontario

Photographer Finds Money in a Local Abandoned Home






The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
04 Oct 1899, Wed  •  Page 1

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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