Old Stone Mill NHS - The Delta Mill Society


A Concise History of the Old Stone Mill
by Ken W. Watson

Background - Settlement and the First Mills

Abel Stevens (1753-1826), a loyalist from Vermont, explores this area in 1783 and in February 1784 returns with several families and settles on the upper reaches of Plum Hollow Creek (which feeds into Upper Beverley Lake). This area is attractive to Stevens since it has good farmland adjacent to water power, a small set of rapids coming out of the Upper Beverley lakes (originally 2 small lakes before it was dammed to raise the water). In June 1796, Stevens receives his first grants of land, including 3 lots that are today’s Delta. This is considered the founding date of Delta. A wooden sawmill is built, followed later by a grist mill. Both are located adjacent to the original path of the creek between Upper and Lower Beverley Lakes. It is to be noted that Abel Stevens is not part of the Old Stone Mill story other than he was the first person to own the land and develop the water power at Delta. But he had nothing to do with the development of the Old Stone Mill other than selling his mills (which were later quite literally buried) and land to William Jones.

See the History of Delta for more details about Stevens.

Building the Old Stone Mill

In June 1808, Stevens sells his mills and associated land to William Jones (1782-1832). Jones and his business partner, Ira Schofield (1776-1864), start to plan for an Oliver Evans’ automatic mill to be built out of stone and hire a millwright (name presently unknown) to do the design and construction. The mill is constructed in 1810-11 and starts operation in 1812. At the same time, they have a wooden sawmill built adjacent to the mill. Due to the weight of the stone structure, the original location of Stevens’ mills in the creek valley is not suitable and the New Stone Mill is positioned about 40 m away on the closest surface bedrock. An artificial channel from Upper Beverley Lake is constructed to bring water to the mill and the original creek valley near the mill is filled in, burying the original location of the Stevens’ mills. See “Building the 1810 Old Stone Mill in Delta Ontario” by Ken Watson for the full details of this – available as a PDF on our website).

Operating History

The mill operates, with limited success, under several owners, until Walter Denaut (1807-1889) buys the mill in February 1850. At that time the mill is carrying three mortgages and not making money. Denaut starts to heavily invest in the mill, turning it into a money making operation. In the 1850s he also builds a community hall adjacent to the mill, a brick hall on top of a carriage shed. In about 1861, he converts the mill from waterwheel to turbine power, placing the turbines under an addition to the mill, the turbine hall. This is the location of the old 1810 sawmill, so he also builds a new sawmill attached to the turbine hall. It is believed that when he changed from waterwheel to turbine power, he also converted the mill from direct connection wooden gearing to new belt and pulley technology.

Denaut dies in 1889 and ownership goes to his wife Carolyn who keeps it operating until sold in 1893 to George Haskin. Near that time, Haskin changes the mill from millstones to newer roller mill technology. In 1913 the mill is sold to Hastings Steele (1879-1964). Steele diversifies the mill, focussing on the production of animal feed, the sawmill and, in the 1930s, electrical equipment. In the early 1920s he makes a big change to the mill, lowering the husk (millstones foundation) to the level of the 1st floor to facilitate the production of animal feed using his 1923 Champion Grinder. The roller mill is still being used to produce flour, but production of flour stops in about 1940. In 1950, he shuts down both the sawmill and the feed grinder and now operates the mill simply as a feed and flour store, selling commercially produced feed and flour. In 1960 he closes the store and shutters the mill.

The Delta Mill Society - Restoration, Interpretation & Public Access

In 1963 Steele sells the mill for $1 to four trustees that formed the core of the Delta Mill Society so that the mill could be preserved and opened to the public as a museum. One of the society’s early milestones was the designation of the Old Stone Mill as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1970. In 1972, the Delta Mill Society (DMS) was incorporated as a non-profit corporation with charitable status and the trustees deed the mill to the newly incorporated DMS. The incorporation and subsequent transfer of ownership of the mill from the trustees to the DMS allowed the DMS to start preservation work on the mill (1972-74). It was work we characterize today as rescue preservation, to keep the building from, quite literally, falling down.

The mill partially opens to the public in 1973 with work continuing on the mill. In 1983 the Old Stone Mill is fully opened to the public. In 1999, after years of fundraising and heritage research, a large restoration program is started to fully preserve the mill for generations to come.

That work is completed in early 2004 and the mill re-opened to the public in May 2004. In the period 2004 to 2010, extensive interpretive signage is added to the mill, a water wheel installed (2007) and in 2010, on the 200th anniversary of the mill, working millstones and a bolter are installed. In October 2010, those millstones went into operation, making flour the same way it was done 200 years ago. In 2017, with an evolution in thought about the mill based on more heritage research, work is started on focussing the mill interpretation to the mill itself, particularly its design as an Oliver Evans’ “Improved Merchant Flour Mill”. From 2018 to 2021, changes are made to exhibit layout and more interpretive signage is added.

The story continues to this day with the Delta Mill Society continually working to improve our knowledge of the history of the mill, to document that history and to improve the public presentation and heritage interpretation of the mill. While our official motto is “instilling a passion for our heritage” our unofficial motto is “onward and upward” – we always strive to move forward, to continually improve as best as our volunteer base and limited financial resources allow.


The Delta Mill Society   The Delta Mill Society
Box 172, Delta, Ontario K0E 1G0
Tel: 613-928-2584 (office)
Email: info@deltamill.org
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