Discover Ontario: Harris Woolen Mill Ruins

It was a rainy day in Southern Ontario, and I had plans to visit Paris, the self-proclaimed “Cobblestone Capital of Canada”. However, as Mother Nature decided to fill our entire weekend with rain, thunderstorms, and low temperatures, our mini road trip had to be put on the back burner.

Not wanting to waste a weekend by staying indoors, I made a suggestion to my boyfriend that we go on a country drive (with an umbrella in tow, mind you, so we can actually get out of the truck at some point). I had found out about some mill ruins in the town of Rockwood, and wanted to see them in person. I have a thing for Ontario history and the remains of our province’s pioneer days, so coming across sites like this gets me excited.

Rockwood is also a particular place of interest for me, as within the next year this city girl will become a country girl, and Rockwood will be my new home. So, I’ve been doing some research to see what’s in the area. This is how I came across the Harris Woolen Mill ruins located within the Rockwood Conservation Area.



The mill in the 1920s.

wpid-wp-1433171848448.jpeg Through research I’ve found out that the mill was once owned and operated by three brothers — John Richard, Thomas and Joseph Harris. The original building was erected in 1867, but this facility was replaced by the current stone structure after a fire destroyed the first mill in the 1880s. This second mill was in use until 1925, when the business was closed and the site was transformed into a park by a son of one of the original owners. wpid-wp-1433171832269.jpeg Powered by the Eramosa River which runs alongside the mill, this facility once also worked 24 hours a day to produce woolen blankets for the Canadian Army during World War I.

In the late 1950s the current caretakers of the park, the Grand River Conservation Authority, took ownership, and in 2010 the ruins went through a restoration project to protect them from further deterioration.

Fun Fact: Rockwood was originally settled by a father-son duo, both of which went by the name of William Smith. One year after their arrival, John Harris, of the Harris mill family, joined them. These families were all Irish Quakers, and Rockwood was originally known as Brotherstown. Apparently there are still descendants of the founding families living in Rockwood to this day. I might need to do some snooping once I’m a resident, so I can introduce myself to my new neighbours and hear more about their fascinating pioneer history. rockwood In the meanwhile, I found this gem of a website that’s full of local history and interesting information on the Halton region, and from which I was able to glean research for this post (along with this Wiki page). If you’d like to learn more about Rockwood or any other town within the area, check out their “Places to Go” section.


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