The Grist & Saw Mill
There is a piece of folklore which says that the French were the first to establish a mill in the Cornwall area. In a history paper written by the late Marjorie Howard, it was stated that, “The French settlers had a saw mill and a rude grist mill at the right hand side of the present Bridge, this is the cause, so it is said, of the curve in the road. The logs of the old dam may be seen there today.”1 Marjorie obtained her information by means of oral history, and it is said that her information was accurate. The 1752 census recorded a handful of French families that had established themselves along the North and West Rivers. It is probable that one of these families would have established a mill. There are some early maps which identify a mill, the location never changing over hundreds of years; it sat near the end of Hyde Creek, close to the TransCanada end of the Ferry Road.
The earliest known map with an identified mill is from 1825, but there are no records as to who was operating the mill at the time. Unfortunately, many census records for Lot 32 from the early 19th century are missing. The next mill operator on record for Cornwall comes from the 1864 Hutchinson’s Prince Edward Island Directory. John Dalziel was listed as operating a fulling mill on the North River Road in Charlottetown Royalty. John Hyde was also listed as operator of a flour mill in West River. As Hyde Creek stems from the West River it can be assumed that it was the mill in Cornwall.
The Lovell’s 1871 directory and the 1880-81 McAlpine’s Directories for Cornwall, Lot 32 list Mr. John Hyde as a grist mill operator. The former directory also lists Frederick Strong as a shingle mill owner; however, the location of this mill is unknown. By 1881 John Hyde was 75 years old and widowed and still listed as a farmer and miller.2 Several other men are listed as millers in the 1891 and 1901 censuses for Lot 32, but are not recognized as living in Cornwall.
It can be assumed that milling was passed down from generation to generation in the Hyde family. At some point, however Harry Crosby came to own the mill, although the dates of his ownership are unknown, most residents who remember the mill indicated that Harry Crobsy was the one who ran it. The last family to own the mill was that of James Beer. James’ son, Parker stated that when his father owned the mill it was not run very often, and when it was it was powered by a tractor. When they did use the mill they used it to saw their own lumber.3 The mill sat nonoperational for many years before finally being destroyed.
There was also a home which accompanied the mill. When the Beer family acquired the mill and surrounding property, they moved the house and eventually sold the surrounding land in lots.4 The area around Alcan Drive, Pond Street, Crosby Street and Byway Avenue all encompass what was once the mill property. The mill pond was a very popular place for the residents of Cornwall. It was very common for people, especially children, to skate on it in the winter time and to fish smelts and trout during the summer. When the pond froze over in the wintertime, it was not uncommon for some residents to cut out large pieces of ice for their ice boxes.