Glen Tay Oat Mill
Capt. Joshua Adams – The Glen Tay Oat and Grist Mills
Compiled by Diane Miller Duncan, 2017
The original saw and grist mills at Adamsville are believed to have been built by Abraham Parsall, an early settler, on the north side of the Tay River, Bathurst Concession 2 Lot 20 E1/2. When Parsall died in 1820, Joshua Adams was willed the property and assumed operation of the existing Glen Tay grist mill and saw mill. He did not get clear title to this property until 1834 due to a clerical error in the registry office in Toronto that had erroneously deeded it to Samuel Swan who also owned Concession 2 Lot 19 and concession 4 Lot 20. Swan did not want to relinquish this lot.
Joshua’s first home in Adamsville, probably log, was likely the former Parsall residence on the property and located nearby the mills on the north side of the river. He most likely operated the existing mills until after July 16, 1830 when he acquired an additional 100 acres south of the river from the John Johnson who received the Crown Grant for Bathurst Concession 2 Lot 20 E1/2, 14 July 1824. The stone home, located on Concession 2 Lot 21, a former Clergy Reserve, was probably built after Joshua acquired this lot in 1834 and may have been built at the same time as the oat mill.
The oat mill, the only Glen Tay mill remaining today, was probably built after the completion of the Rideau Canal, possibly between 1835-1850. Close to the oat mill, on the ‘road side’ of the building was the grist mill which had a much smaller footprint and may have been the first mill that Joshua built. Eventually the woolen mill would be built between the grist mill and the road, immediately to the west of the end of the bridge. The Perth Courier indicates that in late 1842, Joshua installed the latest smut mill for wheat in the grist mill. He may have upgraded the grist mill upon completion of the building of the oat mill. (More research is required to firmly establish these dates)
In 1851, the grist mill produced 1200 barrels of flour (from 1500 bushels of coarse grain, on two stones, with 25 hp machine); the oat mill had one run of stones, and produced 300 barrels of meal. Alva Adams, Walter Elliott, George Watt and Stephen Tanle are listed as millers.
In 1861, it appears that Thomas Willson, Robert Sutherland, Henry Moorhouse, and two Michael McCabes, father and son may have been the oat and grist millers in Glen Tay. Henry Moorhouse is listed as a miller. Moorhouse had similar businesses in several eastern Ontario locations, including Athens, and Sly’s Mill in Smiths Falls and moved to Bathurst township about 1840. Daniel Adams is now listed as ‘farmer and miller’, and it appears he has assumed responsibility for Joshua’s farm. He lived on the south side of the river, and in his father’s will in 1863 received the 80 acres of the clergy reserve, Bathurst Concession 2 Lot 21 N. Effie Adams, in her writing about Ezra, her father, stated that the mills, or perhaps shares in the mills, had been sold several years earlier to Daniel and to daughter Elizabeth and her husband Henry Moorhouse who moved to Glen Tay about 1851. By 1861 Ralph Dodds was owner of the South portion of the Clergy Reserve, Bathurst Concession 2 Lot 21.
The 1863 Wallings Map – which seems to reflect the 1857 situation – lists the mills as Adams & Moorhouse, but only shows three mills: flouring, carding and saw mill. (The walls of the oat and grist mills were only about six feet apart). Joshua’s house is noted – the Georgian stone house in Glen Tay; across the street on the west side of the Glen Tay sideroad is Alexander Dodds’ house, and north of it the Moorhouse home. Daniel Adam’s home is a short distance south of the bridge on the east side of the road on the high point of land facing the mills. Ralph Dodds’ home, my childhood home, is on the west side of the road, on Bathurst Concession 2 Lot 20, at the bend, facing the mills and overlooking the village. It has been the Dodds-Miller home at Tayside Farms and in the family for more than 150 years.
Fuller’s Counties of Leeds, Grenville, Lanark, and Renfrew Directory for 1866-67 lists John Hargraves as proprietor of flour, saw and woolen mills in Adamsville. Robert Sutherland is also a miller. Henry Mayberry is the accountant. Adamsville is described as “a post village, situated in the township of Bathurst, and the county of Lanark. It possesses a good water power, is distant from Perth, the County town, 3 miles, and contains a population of about 160. Thomas Adams is a farmer and operator of a boarding house.
Between 1868 and 1870, John Hargraves advertised the Glen Tay oat and flouring mills in the Courier, and is listed as ‘Proprietor’. In January 1869, he lists Patrick McCann as the miller and states that he has ‘placed his mills in Glen Tay in the most efficient condition’, with flouring mill and oat mill, repaired and upgraded. A December ad, running into March 1870, states Hargraves has a new oatmeal mill now ‘thoroughly fitted up”. In July and August of that year Glen Tay narrowly escaped the ‘Great Fire of 1870’ that burned from Ottawa to Leeds County, and was fought by local farmers along the 3rd line of Bathurst.
However, in December 1870, a Perth Courier article announces a major woolen mill fire in Glen Tay and that the oat and grist mill had escaped. Hargraves and the bookkeeper W.T. Holmes saved the record books and on 6 January 1871, Hargraves announces that the oatmeal mill is operating. In January 1872 Hargraves announces new oatmeal and flouring mills and in February 1872 advertises a new grist mill. The loss and reconstruction costs of the woolen mill prove too much, and by 26 Jul 1872 an Insolvency Notice was posted in the Perth Courier.
In December 1872, the flouring and oat mills are leased to Alexander Wallace. In September 1875, Wm Atkinson posted a notice as the new owner indicating that he has refitted the grist mills, the flouring mills and the oat mills. Mill stones wear down and need to be replaced frequently. As a child I remember playing on a set that was lying in the field in front of the grist mill site.
In 1897, Henry Moorhouse sold the oat mill property to the Perth Electric and Water Power Co. and the milling equipment was sold in Quebec in 1899. Moorhouse was town treasurer from 1870-1901. Perth Public Utilities produced power there with a 150 HP generator, until 1918 – one of four mills on the Tay River that produced power for Perth, transmitting along a power line easement that ran from Bolingbroke and Perth.
In 1926, the dam adjacent to the oat mill gave way, taking out the Glen Tay bridge and flooding parts of Perth.
From 1918 until 1956 the oat mill was vacant, basically becoming derelict. The Miller family were granted permission to store grain products in the building. As a child I remember visiting the mill with my father and marveling at the huge water wheel, with canvas belts still in place. The interior of the building in the early 1950s was still in good repair but the roof was beginning to deteriorate. The windows were shuttered to keep out the elements. At that time, the set of stone grinding stones were in the yard and the walls of a small stone building, which I understood was storage for the one of the mills, was still standing with a partial roof in place.
In 1958, the building was rented by Al Vasserous of the Northern Vermiculite Company for vermiculite production from a mica mine in Burgess township. The large water wheel was cut into sections and removed to sit in the yard for years and then disappeared. I believe stone from the various mill foundations and walls of the grist and woolen mills, torn down in the 1920s, gradually found their way into new home construction and building repair around the neighbourhood and in the town of Perth.
The mill was owned by Perth Public Utilities and sat boarded up with its roof gradually collapsing, purchased and resold several times in the 1980’s until it was purchased by the Drennan family from Toronto who undertook to rebuild the mill as a private home. Work was completed in 1990 and preserves this piece of local heritage for future generations to enjoy.
The Mills of the Tay Watershed and Area of Eastern Ontario. David Taylor, 15 Oct 2016 found on http://www.perthhs.org/history/tay.html
Glen Tay Then and Now. Barbara Jordan, 1997.
Diane Miller Duncan & JR Ernest Miller Papers, firstname.lastname@example.org