A History of the Aberfoyle Mill,

 by the miller’s daughter,

Lenora Murphy,

daughter of James F. Murphy,

The Miller of Aberfoyle Mill, 1913-1948.







Once Village Hub, Mill at Aberfoyle, Now Empty, Silent

by Lenora Murphy

(from the London Free Press for April 17th 1956.)


Aberfoyle Mill, for many years the hub of activity in the small village on Highway 6, a few miles southeast of Guelph, is now closed and silent.  The following is an account of its checkered history.


In 1859, Mr. George McLean bought a property on which a steam sawmill, owned by a Mr. Fraser, already stood, on the east side of the highway.  Here he built a mill of brick for the manufacture of both flour and oatmeal.  He put up a dam and dug out raceways to make use of two or three creeks that ran through his land.  A kiln for drying the oats was also built, separate from the main mill.


 Four run of stones were installed, two of these for oatmeal, one for flour, and one for chopping feed for the farmers.  The business grew to be a prosperous one, twelve to fifteen men being employed.  Five teams were on the road constantly, some drawing oatmeal to Guelph for rail shipment or for local use, and some travelling to Hamilton with flour and oatmeal.  The return loads from the latter place were usually groceries or other freight for storekeepers along the road.


From Guelph, large quantities of oats were brought.  Mr. James Little was the miller for Mr. McLean.  In 1867, oatmeal, ground by Mr. Little, was sent to the Paris Exhibition and gained a gold medal and diploma for the best in show.  This, of course, was in competition with the world and was a great compliment to Mr. Little.


Mr. Little, like all millers who used good wheat and took great pains in the making of flour, had little patience with complaints about the quality of it.  One day an irate farmer came to the mill with a bag of flour, declaring that it was utterly unfit for baking into bread and asking that it be changed for a better article.


Mr. Little indignantly refused to do any such thing.  Mr. McLean, who was standing by, said to him, “Jimmie, you had better do as he wishes.”  But Mr. Little more firmly declined, saying, “I’ll no change it for you, Mac, or any ither mon.”


McLean then told the farmer to take a walk up to the village and come back, and the matter would be attended to.  When the farmer returned, the flour had been changed, but the only change made was in moving the bag from one side of the door to the other.


In a few days, the farmer appeared at the mill again, with a happier countenance, declaring that the changed flour was most excellent, the bread superb, and that if he would only be more careful and make the flour like that always, there would never be any further trouble.


  In 1868, fire destroyed the mill.  Mr. McLean quickly rebuilt.  He did not install any oatmeal machinery, but confined the mill to making flour only.  Not enough oats could be obtained locally, and due to the extra expense of teaming oats from Guelph, Mr. McLean decided to discontinue manufacturing oatmeal.


He carried on for some three or four years and then sold out to William McDonald and Company.  Mr. McDonald had been in the sawmill business previously.


As the water supply was failing, they put in steam power to help out.  After a few years of occupancy, the firm leased the mill to Howson Bros., two young men and good millers.  They remained but a short time.  Mrs. William McDonald, in the absence of her husband, kept the plant going.


R. B. Morrison, general merchant, of Morriston, a village two miles south of Aberfoyle, was the next to own the mill, having taken it over in 1889.  His son, Charles, was put in charge.


In 1889, John Hammersley, a well known farmer of Puslinch Township, bought it, and later passed it on to his son, H. T. Hammersley, who ran it alone for a short period, subsequently taking a partner, T. D. Day, a practical miller.


    The mill, heretofore, was using stone, but to keep up with the age, the roller system was adopted.  About 1896, Mr. Thomas Day retired and Mr. Herbert Hammersley became, once more, the sole owner.  In 1912, Mr. Hammersley disposed of the property.


Some prominent fishermen of Guelph had met to organize a club which would buy a fishing reserve.  They named the organization “The Good Times Fishing Club” and bought the Aberfoyle Mill property.  In 1913, Mr. J. F. Murphy, a miller from Hespeler, ran the mill under a lease for a year, and then bought the property from the club, which retained all of the fishing rights.


Mr. James Murphy did not operate the flour making part, but confined the work to chopping feed only and retailing flour and prepared supplements for stock.  Mr. Murphy equipped the mill with hydro-electric power in 1925, and worked independently of both steam and water power.


The flour-making equipment, elevators, rolls, et cetera, still stand on the second and third floors.  The grain chopper, oat roller, mixer, and grain elevators predominate on the first floor.  In the basement, the mill-race passes through, hemmed in by cement walls.  The huge water wheel stands in the water, in readiness to yield its force when called upon.


Following Mr. Murphy’s death in 1948, his wife, Mary, sold the mill to Mr. Eugene Griffin, who is now the owner.  In August 1952, the wheels and belts turned for the last time.  The doors closed.








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