In the years 1845 to 1854 settlers were coming into Bentinck Township to settle on the 100 acre grant of land available to them, provided that within four years a suitable dwelling at least 18 x 24 was erected and at least 12 acres cleared.
One such settler, Pat Walsh (of County Armagh, Ireland) took up land in 1849 and built his log cabin near the river Styx on Lot 15. From the Walsh family history we learn that some kind of a lumber operation was in progress at that time in the fine stands of Pine, Cedar, Tamarack, Hemlock, Basswood and Elm growing on the flood plain of the river.
This early operation may have been a Pit Saw operation or other primitive mill but by 1872 a water power mill was meeting the needs of settlers for barn timbers and lumber. By this time the farmer was well established and building barns which would store his crops from the larger clearings he was making. He needed Lumber, Shingles, Moldings and Timbers for the large houses needed for larger families who stayed on the land to help with the heavy work of farming in those days and so the Saw Mill was busy and prospered.
The builder of that era required planks for joists and studding, sidings of Pine and Hemlock, Cedar Shingles sawn for roofing, lumber planed and matched for doors, flooring and window sash. Glass, nails and other items required for building were obtained from the General Store in Dornoch — 5 miles away. Mortar from the local Lime Kilns, which were numerous, and iron work from the early Blacksmith Shop at Dornoch, and later the Scheuermann Smithy and Cooper Shop a mile from the post office at Welbeck.
In 1892 a post office was established on Lot 14 on the Riddell Farm (across from the present retail store) and in that year the Postal Department in Toronto sent a request to have the settlers of the area choose a name for the post office. Apparently no local name was suggested; the name Welbeck was chosen possibly because the Bentinck family of the English Midlands were the keepers and benefactors of ancient Welbeck Abbey which stood on the land occupied to this day by the family of Count Bentinck — a relative of Queen Victoria and after whom the Township of Bentinck was named. Thus the Mill came to be known as Welbeck Sawmill.
Names associated with the sawmill before the turn of the century were: A & J Ferguson, Jake Woelfle, Tom Potter and Kinnee & Sparling. Early in the present century, Joe Truax, Ernest Lueck and Edward Cawley operated the mill. In 1920, Gordon Goldsmith and brother Eric took over and operated it until sold to Herb Miller in 1947.
Fires and hard times in the lumber industry caused ups and downs in the fortunes of this sawmill over the years. However, it has always managed to survive setbacks.
On the night of November 14, 1966 a fire completely destroyed the water powered mill. In 1967, as a Centennial project, a new mill was built using diesel and electric power to do the job which for many years had been done by water.
Forty years ago a retail hardware store was started in a lumber shed near the Mill, to meet the needs of people who wished to buy nails when they bought lumber; wood stoves when they bought firewood. From this beginning the retail store has progressed to bring you products from many lands and every continent. Our buyers shop in England, Ireland, Germany, Holland, Japan, Denmark, Sweden, and the United States for tools, plywood, lumber, stoves and items impossible to get on the North American market. A staff of very capable young people, many descendants of the old families who settled in this area, work hard and long hours to make this store a pleasant and interesting place for you to shop.
If you are looking for hard to find hardware items, special woods and fine woodworking tools – look in this well stocked store.
Thirty-five years ago a bookstore was opened to assist people who wanted books on the old crafts, no longer taught by Father to Son, Mother to daughter. This store is a great success and one of the finest collections of books for self-help to be found in any one location.
Then in 1979 the Mill and Store passed on to another generation when it was sold to Herb’s daughter Bonnie and her husband. Today a third generation is actively involved – grandson Steven Kraus – main buyer for all the stoves and fine woodworking tools and machinery.
The New Store
In 1974 the lumber shed store would no longer contain the stock needed to serve the ever increasing numbers of people who came to the store for their needs in lumber and building materials. A decision was made to build a new store using traditional building materials. In September 1975 work was commenced by J & H Fleming, Master Builders, on a building 200 ft. long x 84 ft. with a total floor area of 24,600 sq. ft. on two levels. The interior of this building was finished by Victor Hansen, Bill Jackson, Jerry Jackson and Morrow Riddell, traditional craftsmen in the old style.
REBUILDING THE SHINGLE MILL (Back to Waterpower)
In 1984 a dream was completed – to rebuild the water powered Shingle Mill lost by fire in 1966. This post and beam structure was very ably constructed by Scott Murray and his craftsmen of Thistlewood Timberframe Homes.
Today the Shingle Mill turns out Ontario White Cedar shingles and gives enjoyment to hundreds of visitors and school students each year as they come to tour the mill and reminisce of days of yore.