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.
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
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.
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.
John Gillies Sr. Home at Herron Mills PA 1912-Copied container number: PA-059347
The broken bridge and remainder of a mill at Herron’s Mills.
Photo taken at Middleville & District Museum
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)
Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.
Join us and learn about the history under your feet! This year’s St. James Cemetery Walk will take place Thursday October 19th and october 21– Museum Curator Jennfer Irwin will lead you through the gravestones and introduce you to some of our most memorable lost souls!
Be ready for a few surprises along the way….
This walk takes place in the dark on uneven ground. Please wear proper footwear and bring a small flashlight if you like.
Tickets available at the Museum, 267 Edmund Street. Two dates!!!
Downtown Carleton Place Halloween Trick or Treat Day–https://www.facebook.com/events/489742168060479/
Here we go Carleton Place– Mark Your Calendars–
October 28th The Occomores Valley Grante and Tile Event–730pm-1am Carleton Place arena-Stop by and pick up your tickets for our fundraiser dance for LAWS. They also have tickets for Hometown Hearts event at the Grand Hotel fundraiser