Lyn’s Flour Mill

from the The Athens Reporter – 1893

Flour making mill once was major industry of Lyn

In the year 1841 the late Richard Coleman of Lyn, conceived the idea of building up an industry in his native village that would give employment to a large number of mechanics, and make the village one of the manufacturing centres of Ontario. The only drawback was the lack of motive power, and as steam power in those days was too expensive, he decided to use the water trenches in the vicinity to furnish the power he required.

His knowledge of the watershed of the surrounding country enabled him to see at a glance how he could make the water supply running to Lyn almost inexhaustible. First of all he bought the Temperance Lake mill property, in order to be able to control the water flow from the lake and streams leading into it. Then he bought McIntosh Mills and erected a dam known as the “Marsh Ridge dam” at the head of Graham Lake (the natural water supply of McIntosh Mills) and thus he shut off the supply that formerly ran through the low swamp tract, between there and Temperance Lake.

By building the marsh bridge dam, all the water that formerly passed an through Graham Lake was held in a reservoir that covered several hundred acres. His next undertaking was to cut a canal from this reservoir to Lyn Pond, a distance of nearly one mile. This canal was 15 feet wide at the top and 9 feet at the bottom, with an average depth of 10 feet. It allowed the water to flow fro the reservoir referred to as the old Lyn Pond, or the Lee Pond as it was often called.

Lyn’s Mill Pond

The increased water in this pond made it necessary to build a long and massive dam at the lower end of this pond, and when all was completed he had one of the best inland water powers to e found in Ontario.

Following the curse of the old creek down from this dam to the small pond at the north western side of the village, it became necessary to enlarge and raise the old dam there, and by building a stone flume to the brow of the hill he had a clear fall of fifty feet.

While all the changes and improvements above mentioned were in progress, the master mind, who was the controlling factor in their promotion was busy in preparing plans for the erection of a flouring mill on a scale never before attempted in Eastern Ontario, and by the time the water was ready to be let out of the ponds, the mill was ready for it first grist.

The system of grinding was the old burr stone, and even that (which today would be called primitive) was such as to draw customers to the new mill from the whole country-side.

Of the factories projected and put into operation as a result of this extensive water power, obtained as above related; or of the sudden and tragic death of Richard Coleman, it is not our province to speak. Suffice it to say that the death of Richard Coleman caused the vast enterprise and properties to pass into other hands. It is truly said that Richard Coleman made Lyn a busy business centre, and his death made Lyn practically dear for many years, as far as business was concerned.

However during those years that Lyn had been lying dormant, so to speak, a young Scotch lad had been growing up in the village, who was ultimately to take front rank amongst the business men of the whole of Canada. James Cumming was, at the time of the first events of which we write, a mere lad. As a boy he was willing, careful and obliging, and as a young man he displayed a remarkable adaption for business, and the dream of his life was to see the Lyn Mills in operation again.

When things looked darkest for the village of Lyn, he never for a moment lost faith in the capabilities of the surroundings to make the Village of Lyn regain, if not surpass its former business activity.

In 1862 the owners of the mill appointed James Cumming manager, and he successfully conducted the business until 1867 when Messer’s Chassels and Rivers took the management into their own hands and sank $50,000 in the business in the next ten years. In 1878 James Cumming was again offered the job of manager and he made a proposal to purchase the whole estate, which was gladly assented to by those in charge.

After becoming the new owner, Mr. Cummings’ first move was to completely remodel the flouring mill. He commenced to make flour by what was known as the “New Process”, and still later on a new departure was made and by a combination of millstones, rolls and purifiers, the quality of flour turned out was much improved. Finally on 1890 the full roller mill was put in, which was most successful.

Five Story Mill with rail siding

At the present time, in 1893, the mill turns out flour for home and shipping trade in four brands A, B, C, and D grades, which lead all the fancy flours of the mills of the west, in Eastern markets.

The mill building is of stone five stories in height and presents a most imposing appearance from any direction. On the ground floor are situated the motors consisting of two giant 14- inch wheels, which develop 90 h.p. under a pressure of 50 feet. The water is carried from the brow of the hill to the wheels by a large wrought iron tubes.

On the second floor are the rollers, consisting of a line of six pairs of break rolls, and eight pairs of smooth reduction rolls, a four sided burr for middling, three large purifiers, one monitor feed mill for pre vender, and the heating apparatus which is a series of steam pipes.

The third floor contains the b….ing machinery, consisting of a large chest of double operating Lima separators, four hexagon scalpers, four flouring reels, two cylindrical flouring reels, two cylindrical flouring reels, two separating purifiers, one Cyclone dust collector, and required number of supply hoppers for breaks.

On the fourth floor are placed two Silver Creek Disintegrating centrifugals, one tailing reel, one place sifter, the first machine of its kind to be built in Canada. This is a recent Hungarian invention, and said to be the most important change made in the milling machinery since the adoption of the roller. It resembles a huge piano, hung up in mid air gyrating at the speed of 160 shakes a minute. It does the work of 6 reels, saves 50% in power and room, and makes a great improvement in the quality of the flour.

Inside the old mill

The fifth floor is where the wheel cleaners are run. They consisted of one Booth Separator, one Hercules Scourer, one Eureka Polisher, one Eureka Brush and one cockle machine and grader arranged and driven by a horizontal shaft from the shafting beneath. In another compartment on the fifth floor are the bran-duster, shorts – duster, official grader and air tanks.

The sixth floor lands one inside a garret, a distance of 74 feet from the ground. Here the shafting equipment and the ends are used in running the elevator and a few other pieces of machinery.

Owing to the favourable situation of the mills, and east access to the Grand Trunk, Canadian Pacific, B & W Railways, for receiving and delivering grain and flour, the tonnage enjoyed by this mill is second to none in Eastern Canada. This efficient steam plant has recently been added in an annex, to be used in case of accident to the water supply.

Mr. Cumming is assisted in this operation by his two sons, who also display marked ability for the management of extensive enterprises.

The Mills and Rills of Lyn

By Wallace Havelock Robb

(article published around 1890, publication unknown)

 If I were to go on a trip to Europe, and someone were to ask me if I had seen my own country, what answer would I give? A month ago, if I had been asked this question, my answer should have been “Why, of course, for I have been in every province of Canada, have camped and toured and worked from Victoria, B.C. to Halifax. Know my country? I should say I do!” That has been my song for many a day, that I have seen my own country. If I had gone to Europe last month, that should have been my answer. Not so now!

Listen my friends: I’ve been down to Lyn! Oh, what a bonnie place is Lyn! If I were to go to Europe, or some other country no matter what my answer and self-satisfied pride might have been, say, a month ago, I very much fear I could answer only this, that I thought I knew my Canada like a book, but I have seen Lyn, and all my confidence is shaken Lyn has awakened me to the simple fact that Canada has not yet been found by me. How many other Lyns are there, and to which I have never been? Quaint little villages, off the beaten highway, serene, pure, gentle and oh, what shall I say? Very lovely indeed.

No, if I were to venture abroad and be asked how much I know of my own land, well, my answer is going to be, henceforth. “I’m not very sure about my knowledge of Canada, not very sure, but I’ve been down to Lyn.”  And they will not know what I mean and they will ask me, and I shall answer them somewhat like this: Did you ever hear of the small river Afron, the “Sweet Afton” of the poet Robert Burns “How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills, Far marked with the courses of clear winding rills!” Or again, in another verse, “How peasant thy banks and green valleys below, Where wild in the woodlands the primroses blow.” You know these lines? Do you know, or can you picture the sweet and gentle scene of Burns’ day? Well, if Burns had passed through Lyn, Ontario, his poem, “Sweet Afton”, might have found its setting there.

Lyn is a quaint and lovely village near Brockville. But no! For shame! I am in error: Brockville is a town not far from the beautiful village of Lyn. But, perhaps, that is unfair to Brockville, for, after all, Brockville just hasn’t the natural endowment of beauty to be found at Lyn. The same thing is true, largely, of nearly all the lake or river front towns of Ontario, they haven’t the rolling countryside of the towns back a wee bit in the counties. And Lyn is a typical case, for it is set in a picturesque frame of hills and valleys and rhythmic watercourses. Lyn is an idyll ! It is a village unspoiled in an age of ruin through so-called improvement. It is a psalm in a world of noise and destruction. Its tranquil vales and placid, ambling waters are a rebuke to modern ways of men. It seems to have an atmosphere untouched by the rot and decay of modern hurry, and it knows not the panic of haste of today, that impatience with life which makes the builders poison their mortar so that disintegration starts in the foundation before the roof is finished. Lyn is a pastoral, a poem of peace and quaint beauty, a song of life, a melody in the wistful and yearning key of a shepherd piping ‘neath a tree in the meadow. Ah, yes, all this, and more: It is the soul of true life floating up from the valley on the wind, the fluting of Pan, as he muses on the rim of the river down in the glade where the stream meanders from the meadow over against the wooded hill.

Yes, we, Mrs. Robb and I, went down to Lyn. I gave a recital there. The trees are old, the houses look, each one, like home. There is a well-kept lawn, the tidy walk and friendly feeling. It is off the main route of travel.

And so, if I seem to have gone mad over Lyn, well, hold your horses a bit; don’t condemn me too hastily. Go down to Lyn yourself, and, I dare to say it, I’ll have company in my madness.

Growing up in Lyn

Remembrances of Growing up in Lyn

By Mamie (Stillwell) Robinson

I have been reliving those old days and getting a great deal of pleasure in doing so. We didn’t know it then, but those were very happy days, with loads of fun and very little responsibility. Our main worry was to make the grade and do as little work as possible.

Going to BCI in 1910. Margaret Fodey, Jack Clow, Vada Clow and Gladys Latimer

My first year at Brockville Collegiate Institute (BCI) we went in with Milton Perley. He had remained behind when his father moved and was staying with Dr. Sharpe. Jessie and Herb Kilpatrick, Gertrude, Milton and I made up that load. He drove a sorrel horse called “Katrina”. I can still hear him say “You’re not pullin’ together thar, Kit”. After Milton left Lyn, we went in with Alfred McCready. It was a three seated democrat and quite a load for one horse. The occupants were changing now and again as they graduated or were satisfied with a short term. I am a little hazy about this load, but Mabel Greer, Sam McCormick, Harford Steed, Ed, Pettem, Fred and Helen Barlow, and always Gertrude and I. It seems to me that Arthur Judson was along too. The last two years we went with Howard Everts with and old white horse that used to take blind staggers and try to climb trees. Quite frequently something would break, and no matter how near we were to Brockville we always ‘turned tail’ and walked home in order to enjoy a day’s skating, snow shoeing or tobogganing on Billings’ Hill. We thought the fresh air would do us good, and Tommy Marquis (BCI Teacher) always took our excuses. He had a soft spot for the Lyn kids.

Occasionally we used to buy bottles of soft drinks and each have a straw in the same bottle, to see who could get the most. I remember one night the girls bought a basket of peaches, and the boys took the same notion that same night. Of course we thought we ought to eat them before we got home. I am ashamed to say that Gertrude and I each ate 24, but Helen being smaller, and of smaller capacity, could only manage 20. Of course the peaches were not of the large variety. It is a wonder we didn’t burst, but nothing happened. Some contest!

(This note was dated Feb, 24, 1952, from Prescott, Route 2)