Bell's Gristmill

Location: Utopia

Status: Viewing only

Waypoint: Google Map

Summary: On Bear Creek in Essa Township, James Spink constructed the first gristmill and saw mill in 1864. In 1879, Richard Bell (an employee at the mill) and his two brothers, John and Manuel, took over the operation of the mill. On May 29, 1903, the gristmill, now named Bell's Mill burnt down, but the community of Utopia organised and a new mill was constructed and in operation in five months. The new mill featured 3 stories, and a solid 4 ?foot thick foundation. Materials for construction were collected in the area and were horse-drawn to the site from up to 8 kilometers away.

With competition from the larger mills, and the wide availablility of fresh bread from grocery stores, the survival of the smaller local mills were being threatened. In the late 1930s or early 1940s, the Bell Mill quit milling flour, providing only gristmill services of chopping and mixing grain. In 1965, the mill closed, having served the community for a century. Soon after that, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority obtained the mill and land for a water conservation project and recreational area. In 1969, a new dam was complete.