The article following is provided by that wonderful publication, the “Puslinch Pioneer”, which for over thirty years has been dedicated to coverage of Puslinch Township news and history, and yes, most amazingly, is produced entirely by volunteers as a community service.  It is published ten times per year.  To assist with production costs, annual subscriptions of $25.00 are gratefully welcomed.  Please forward subscription requests, with remittances made payable to the “Puslinch Pioneer”, to the Puslinch Pioneer, R.R. #3, Guelph, Ontario, N1H 6H9.





History of the Aberfoyle Mill

Part I


(from the Puslinch Pioneer, v. 7, issue 9, May 1983.)



Aberfoyle Mill is surely our township’s most well known landmark.  Furthermore, it is a vital part of the area’s historical heritage.  “Annals of Puslinch 1850-1950” states that in 1829, Patrick Mahon, a native of County Mayo, Ireland, arrived in Canada.  After spending some time in Lower Canada (Quebec), he travelled via Dundas and Galt to Guelph.  A slightly different ver­sion appears in the “1906 Historical Atlas of Wellington County”.  It says that two brothers, Patrick and Dominick Mahon, journeyed to the new world in 1831, stopping a few months in Toronto, then continuing to Pus­linch.  At any rate Patrick Mahon (1791-1872), his wife Barbara A. (Burke) and his brother Dominick (born about 1795), came to Puslinch around 1830.


They were considering settling on land in the vicinity of what is now the University of Guelph when Pat­rick, previously a miller in Ire­land, learned of the possibility of developing water power at Aberfoyle.  He took possession of L. 21 and 22 C.8 (front) Puslinch and built the dam which flooded 15 acres.  He planned to construct a mill but apparently decided that the water power was insufficient.  Once the clearing and draining of swamps began, the volume of water in rivers and creeks diminished substantially and this may have caused him to abandon his project.


It appears that Patrick Mahon did not trouble to register his title to the land until he sold 27 acres to George McLean.  Crown grants were issued to George McLean on May 8, 1863 and to Patrick Mahon on May 13, 1865.


Patrick and Barbara Mahon re­mained on the land at Aberfoyle all of their lives.  Their children were John, Mary, Annie, James, Mrs. John Foster, Barbara and Peter (1840-95). Peter succeeded them on the property and also purchased another 250 acres, (L. 19 and 20, C.9).  One hundred years later, a descendant, Thomas J. Mahon, wrote the Aberfoyle section of the history book, “Annals of Puslinch 1850-1950”, published to commemorate the Puslinch Township centennial.


George McLean was born in the highlands of Scotland on May 31, 1827.  In 1831, his elder brother Donald and five other natives of Bade­noch, Invernesshire, sailed for Canada.  In 1833, his parents, Peter and Margaret (Martin) McLean and their 9 other children emigrated to Badenoch in Puslinch.  Donald McLean chose L.31 C.9 (rear) for his bro­ther George, but George never wanted to farm and eventually the property was transferred to their sister Margaret (Mrs. James Hanning).


Lumber was plentiful in this region, particularly virgin pine.  George McLean and his friend Peter Clark were sawmillers.  In 1850, they owned L.5 C.13 East Flamborough (now the Mountsberg Conservation Area).  They also held timber rights on L.1,s.e.C 12, East Flamborough.  On Nov. 10, 1855, George McLean and Peter Clark bought two and one half acres, part of L.32, C.8 (front).  This property was on the east side of the Brock Road at the southern end of Morriston.  In 1856, they erected a house, sawmill, and short­ly thereafter an oatmeal and grist mill, which they called “Puslinch Mills”.  The 1861 census shows that the mill was steam-powered.  It employed 5 men at $85/year and one woman at $4/year. Employed were: John Little, Michael Martin, George Logan and Nancy Morrison.  On the premises were 2000 pine and oak logs.  One year's production of 500,000 logs was valued at $6350. In 1861, this mill burned down and was not replaced.


George McLean then relocated at Aberfoyle, dug out the raceway and constructed that imposing two and a half storey building from brick made in the Morriston brickyard.  The date of construction is variously report­ed as 1859, early 1860’s and 1868 and the length of time for which he operated it is stated as 14 years and 16 years.  I think that it was built about 1862-3 and that George McLean was miller for 12 or 13 years.  He called this the “Puslinch Mills” also.






From the Guelph newspaper,

 “The Weekly Advertiser”,

 June 28th, 1864.






History of the Aberfoyle Mill

Part II


(from the Puslinch Pioneer, v.7, issue 10, June 1983.)



The staple of the Canadian econ­omy, when the township was a pioneer district 130 years ago, was wheat.  Farmers sold the surplus and drew some home for their own needs. Oats were quite important to those of Scottish origin.  According to Mr. Thomas Mahon, the Aberfoyle Mill once had four run of grindstones turning.  (Two stones were a run.) Two ran ground oatmeal, one ground flour and another, feed.  A LeFell vertical turbine turned the millstones from a 600-foot sluiceway.  In 1867, oatmeal from the mill was sent to the Inter­national Exhibition (the world’s fair in Paris, France) and was awarded first prize, a gold medal and diploma, in a show open to world competition.


Twelve to fifteen men were emp­loyed at a time.  Some of these men were James Little, Peter Clark (who became known as “Peter the Miller”), Donald Hanning, William Ross and Gregor McGregor.  This “Peter the Miller” was not the same Peter Clark as the person mentioned in part one of this series, who, with George McLean, had built “Puslinch Mills” in Morriston, but was, in fact, his nephew, who later lived at Moffat.  Five teams of horses were on the road picking up grain and delivering flour, oatmeal and chop.


George McLean married Ann Kennedy (born about 1836), daughter of Robert and Penelope (McPherson) Kennedy.  According to the records of Duff’s Presbyterian Church, George and Ann had a family of six children: Peter Clark (b. Oct. 3, 1857), Donald George (b. July 26, 1859), Margaret Ann (b. May 12, 1861), Alexander James (b. Sept. 26, 1864), George John (b. June 27, 1867) and Penelope Grace (b. Apr. 11, 1869).  More offspring may have been born after the family left the vicinity.


Fire destroyed the mill in 1866 but it was quickly rebuilt.  After that time, no oatmeal was ground.


Gregor and Elizabeth McGregor and their two sons, John and Andrew, emigrated from Inverness, Scotland to Aberfoyle in 1869 or 1870.  Gregor McGregor worked at the mill. When George McLean sold the Aber­foyle Mill to William McDonald on Feb. 25, 1875 and started up the “Puslinch Mills” near the junction of Water and Wellington Streets in Guelph, Gregor moved to Guelph also.  The “Guelph City Directory of 1882­-83” describes the location of the “Puslinch Mills” as on Water St. near the Dundas Road and as on Wellington St. at the Speed River.  This mill was purchased from George McLean by Henry Murton for whom McGregor worked for twenty years.  It was finally torn down.


William McDonald leased the Aberfoyle Mill to the Houston (or Howson) brothers and the Nicolls for a short period, during which time it ran continuously day and night.  Since the water supply was failing, they installed steam power.  The small building on the north side housed the steam boiler.  On March 3, 1885, R. B. Morrison bought it and placed his son, Charles, in charge of the business.  On March 18, 1889, R.B. sold to John Hammersley.      

John Hammersley (1832-1908) farmed on Lot 17, C. 8 where he was born on Christmas Day 1832.  He is said to have been the first male child born in Puslinch.  He married Emma Bullock (1842-1913) and they had two children, Herbert T. (1865-1929) and Mrs. Henry Brown.  Around 1892, Thomas Day came into partnership with John Hammersley, and about 1896 John’s son, Herbert, became involved in the business.  At this time, a roller system was adopted to replace the stone grinding wheels.


One of the most exciting inci­dents in the history of Aberfoyle occurred either during the partner­ship of Day and Hammersley or short­ly thereafter.  Mr. Thomas Mahon des­cribed it for a “Guelph Daily Mercury” article of Dec. 3, 1953: “It must have been some time during World War I.  I was with a threshing crew on the Black farm about 150 yards from the mill when there was a terrific explosion and the roof blew off part of the mill.  A great cloud of dust and steam shot up in the air and part of the roof was blown through the stable across the road.  The steam boiler had blown up; luckily, no one was hurt.  But there wasn't much work done for the rest of the day.”


Herbert T. Hammersley married Margaret McLean (1867-1944), daughter of James McLean, Aberfoyle store­keeper and, for many years, township clerk.   Their children were: Emma H. (1890-1974) of Guelph; Mary Elizabeth (called Mae, 1892-1968) of Guelph; Alfred (1892-1967) of Saskatoon; and Christina (Mrs. R. Gordon Jamieson) of Kirkwall.  Miss Mae Hammersley was an employee of the Doughty-McFarlane Co. of Guelph for 30 years.


With an agreement signed on Aug. 1, 1908, Herbert Hammersley granted fishing privileges to William A. and George W. Clark, trustees of the “Good Times Fishing Club”, a group of Guelph and Toronto businessmen.  They operated a small lodge on an island in the mill-pond until World War II.  Thomas Mahon recalled catching a dozen trout in less than an hour when he fished in the pond as a youngster.


On Nov. 14, 1912, Herbert Hammer­sley sold to Gilbert MacEachern.  Aberfoyle Realty bought it from Mr. MacEachern on Aug. 13, 1913 and sold it to James F. Murphy of Freelton on June 5, 1915.  Jim Murphy did not grind any flour but sold-flour and prepar­ed feeds and did chopping for farmers.  He installed hydro in the mill in 1925.  Wilfred Jay worked for him.  Jim Murphy would frequently give children who accompanied their father to the mill a penny to spend at the McLean store.





In front of Aberfoyle Mill,

(left to right) Tom Maltby,

Jim Murphy, Johnny Ord,

& Tom Maltby’s team.




Jim and Mary P. (Quirk) Murphy had one daughter.  Miss Lenore Mur­phy (died Jan. 7, 1983) taught piano lessons and was in charge of the Aberfoyle Post Office for some years. Following Jim Murphy’s death in 1948, Mrs. Murphy sold the mill to S. Eugene Griffin who did business at the mill until 1952.  Then, it lay idle, falling into disrepair.



History of the Aberfoyle Mill

Part III


(from the Puslinch Pioneer, v.8, issue 1, July/August 1983.)



On June 14, 1960, the Aberfoyle Mill began a new existence when it was purchased by F. Stanley and Marion L. Owens.  Through the genius and foresight of Mrs. Owens and as a result of six years of work, the Aberfoyle Mill was not only preserv­ed as a historic site but attained distinction as a fine restaurant.


Marion Owens came to Canada from England in 1947.  She had been born to an artistic family.  Her grand­father, a noted sculptor, designed the cenotaph at Whitehall.  She was one of the ten women decorated with the Order of the British Empire for bravery in the Battle of Britain.  She was the driver for the London Fire Chief during the bombing and was accorded the medal for closing a fire door during a raid on the Woolwich Arsenal, one of the largest ammunition dumps in England.


In Toronto, she owned “The Avenue Shop”, an antique store which at­tracted customers from far and wide.  When that building was demolished by developers, the Owens moved to “Sarasota Farm” on Concession 7, Puslinch, near Guelph, where they also sold antiques.


In 1960, Stanley and Marion Owens set about restoring the mill as nearly as possible to its original condition.  The turbine, the machin­ery and the sluice runway were re­paired.         

In the main dining room a large Credit Valley cut stone fire­place, which weighed nearly twenty-­seven tons, was constructed.  The decor was made up entirely of auth­entic antiques constituting the country’s largest personal collect­ion of Canadiana.  Hung from the ceiling and on the surrounding walls were more than a hundred individual household articles and agricultural implements from early Canada: a single cutter, a blacksmith’s bellows, firearms, rakes, flails, scythes, kegs, casks, buckets, spinning and flax wheels, shovels, a sausage-mak­er, old bottles and plates, harness, etc.   The second floor and the base­ment, where the turbine could be viewed, were reserved for private parties and meetings.  The upper storey was used for art shows and cultural activities.


The grounds around the mill were landscaped, thus turning a cedar swamp into a park. For a year or so this park was open for public swimming.


The Owens also started the “Aber­foyle Flea Market”, the renowned antique fair.  After some time, their sons, Howard Fryer and Peter Owens, took over the flea market and moved it across Highway 6.


On Oct. 26, 1973 Marion and Stanley Owens sold to Bil-Lyn Co. Ltd.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Owens have since died.  Howard Fryer operates a restaurant in Mexico and Peter Owens, resident in Aberfoyle, is a balloonist and runs “Aeroblimp Co.”.


Pamela and Jorn Iverson are the present proprietors and the mill is widely acclaimed for its excellent cuisine and striking decor.  Among its patrons is an international cel­ebrity, singer Tom Jones, who dines here when appearing at nearby cit­ies.


Other ventures have been made in recent years.  A unique summer fest­ival, “Art in the Park”, organized by the mill general manager, John Musicio, was held on the weekend of July 8 and 9, 1978.  On Labour Day weekend 1978, a concert was hosted by disc jockey and television per­sonality, Wolfman Jack.  Swingfest” was a rock revival show.  The acts included The Duke Ellington Band led by Mercer Ellington, The Coast­ers, The Shirelles, The Drifters, The Glenn Miller Orchestra led by Jimmy Henderson, Dave Dudley and Ferlin Husky.


The Aberfoyle Mill has far sur­passed its original purposes.  Over a century after George McLean first ground grain into flour under these giant beams, we can enjoy the finest of food among the squared pillars of yesteryear.


This three-part series was contributed by Marjorie Clark.