Photo from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum
In 1875, John Gillies built a machine shop for his 20-year-old son, Alexander, on Rosamond Street in Carleton Place, right on the bank of the Mississippi River. Next door was the Blacksmith shop that was used for the machine shop.
A few years later in September of 1878 a very sad case of drowning which occurred in the Mississippi Lake. Two young men, Alexander Gillies, son of David Gillies and Martha Poole, machinist and Peter Peden, miller, left home about 8:00 in the evening and went up the lake in a small canoe to shoot ducks by moonlight.Their bodies were found embedded in the mud only a few inches under the surface of the water. Read more here-The Sad Tale of Alexander Gillies and Peter Peden
Here is a look at the interior of the Gillies Blacksmith shop along the Mississippi River in Carleton Place. All photos from an MLS listing click here
Here is the old blacksmith shop that the late iconic Bill Bagg owned and is for sale and thanks to the internet we get to see the interior.
The Mississippi River flows around McArthur Island and a man made channel for the Mississippi River was built and re-directed for the McArthur mill. The shocking part was realizing that another channel once lapped the back doors of the old Gillies Mill. Yup–right by the back door and through the late Bill Bagg’s adjacent property that was once the blacksmith shop for the Gillies Mill.
When Bill Bagg bought that house he found an open cistern/well inside his home and it had to be boarded up so no one would get hurt. That made me shiver and think of the film Silence of the Lambs. This is the first time I have seen the cistern– so I wanted to document it for history.
In 1972 a brand new Digital Equipment factory opened in Kanata, but in their old plant in Carleton Place unemployment rose by one. In their old Carleton Place plant Mr. Doyle said that the biggest issue in that old mill was mice. To relieve the issue a motion was made to place mouse traps all over the plant– and when I say all over, I mean even desk drawers, the problem was that bad.
In reality it wasn’t such a good idea. One day when Mr. Doyle was having a very important meeting a mousetrap went off in the bottom of his desk drawer. Unhappy after that incident the maintenance man was hauled in and told to try and fix this issue. So the maintenance man thought about the problem for a spell and then a light bulb went off. The next day a cat was brought in to save the day, and save the day he did.
There was no doubt that the cat was efficient, but when the company moved the cat was phased out although it was said he still had run of the mill. As. Mr. Doyle said: they were probably the only company in Canada that had a cat on the payroll. No word was the cat’s severance pay was.
Norma Ford-–A pay cheque from Digital Equipment of Canada from 1970. It was the one and only pay cheque that my Mother had ever received. She was a stay at home Mom for all her married life (58 years) except for these two weeks. Dad had told her that she didn’t know what it was like to work “out” so she had to prove him wrong and got a job at Digital. There was lots of complaining about meals, washing and of course the house was not kept immaculate and it proved too much, she resigned BUT she had earned a pay cheque and HAD a job besides housewife. I think the “housewife” job was harder than the working out.
I have been writing about downtown Carleton Place Bridge Street for months and this is something I really want to do. Come join me in the Domino’s Parking lot- corner Lake Ave and Bridge, Carleton Place at 11 am Saturday September 16 (rain date September 17) for a free walkabout of Bridge Street. It’s history is way more than just stores. This walkabout is FREE BUT I will be carrying a pouch for donations to the Carleton Place Hospital as they have been so good to me. I don’t know if I will ever do another walking tour so come join me on something that has been on my bucket list since I began writing about Bridge Street. It’s always a good time–trust me.
1907 – Bates and Innes Co. Limited bought and equipped the former Gillies Woollen Mill as a knitting mill. A Quebec company, the Waterloo Knitting Co. Ltd., similarly re-opened the Hawthorne Woollen Mill. (McArthur Mill)
All the machinery, stock , freehold properties and buildings were sold. The Waterloo Knitting Mill in Waterloo, Quebec ( Eastern Townships) was also sold. The liquidators were: Mr. Benoit, Mr. A. Charlebois, George Findlay, and Colin McInotsh, Carleton Place- Sherbrooke Daily Record- Tuesday,August 10, 1909.
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.
John Gillies was born in 1811 on Scotland. In 1822 he came to Canada with his father, brother, and sister settling on a bush farm in Lanark. His mother and remaining family came a year later. It was a hard existence for them, with the lay of the land making them struggle for existence. However,the frugality of a Scotsman, and the perseverance, overcame all obstacles. In 1836 Gillies struck out for himself and created a bush farm. In 1838 Gillies engaged in a lumbering operation and also wool carding and cloth dressing machines.
In 1872 he disposed of his mill property and moved to Carleton Place. He still owned the lumbering enterprise with Peter McLaren. Gillies ended up retiring—sold his share to McLaren and established a foundry for the manufacture of mill machinery and steam engines. He erected this building in 1875 for that purpose. The building was originally 4 stories and they also used the blacksmith shop next door. He was also a senior member of Gillies Son & Co Manufacturers of woolen fabrics. At 77, he was like our local Mr. Tom Cavanagah and still running the show. Gillies made a specialty manufacture of Shipman and Acme automatic steam engines using coal for fuel. They had exclusive control of the patents on these engines in the Dominion of Canada.
The company was known for their neatness, simplicity and cleanliness. They were also beloved for their many company “pleasure parties” so they would not have the annoyance a of labour disruption. They had many catalogues and circulars — none of which have been seen by the Carleton Place and Beckwith Museum. It was also added that their firms engines and boilers were exempt from government inspection.
In 1908 the town of Carleton Place loaned Messrs Bates and Innes ten thousand dollars extending over a ten year period of time and exemption from taxation except for school purposes to start the manufacture of knitted felt goods in what was known as gillies mills. After it closed it served purpose to many companies and no word if the town got their money back. Working hours for the winter season at the woollen mill of Gillies & Son & Company were from 7 a.m. to 6.15 p.m. with closing time one hour earlier on Saturdays.
Here are the maps of the bridges and how they made a man made channel for the Mississippi River to flow next to their building. Later on in years it was filled in with limestone.
As you can see they made a man made channel for the river to follow right up against the building and by Bill Bagg’s which was the Blacksmith’s shops. There were originally three bridges. This map shows only the Gillies Mill channel.