The Allan Mills general store©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
The end of the Napoleonic wars left many of Scotland's craftsmen in a near state of ruin. With little work available and vastly reduced wages, many felt they could improve their lot by immigrating to Canada. The British government was only too happy to oblige. Groups known as the Lanark Societies provided administration and assistance for settlers to locate in and around the village of Perth, which at that time was a military settlement. The Scotch Line, which started just southwest of Perth and was so named for the large number of Scottish immigrants that settled in and around the area.
The Scotch Line bordered the former townships of Bathurst and North Burgess. Nearby Grant's Creek flowed directly into the Tay River, which provided more than ample water power resources. Before long the countryside was dotted with grist and sawmills that were kept busy by the burgeoning lumber and farming industries.
William Allan was the son of one the early Scottish immigrants. Born in Ontario in 1833, he purchased a large piece of land just south of the Scotch Line and built a sawmill and a stone grist mill. He then added a grocery and dry goods store, along with a blacksmith shop. Just north of the shops, he built a beautiful, stately home to raise his growing family. Allan's Mills gained official status in 1872 when he opened a post office. As busy as he was, Allan also found time to become active in local affairs and served as both a councillor and township treasurer.
A small town site popped up around William Allan's mills that included Pat Fagan, a wagon maker, Ed Murphy, a shoemaker and William Steele, a carpenter. Henry Harper and George Murphy worked as blacksmiths as did, for a time, William's son, James. Many of the surrounding mill owners, such as George Oliver, T. and J. Scott and George Ritchie, also chose to make Allan's Mills their home. The school was located on the Scotch Line and shared by all the surrounding settlements. Other prominent residents included John Armour, who owned a large plot just south of Allan's Mills. The number of villagers ranged from about 50 to 75.
George Oliver owned the first parcel of land just behind the Allan mills, where he also operated a grist mill. John Ritchie's sawmill was located north of the Scotch Line on Concession 1, Lot 12, along the Tay River in Bathurst Township. The Scott brothers' sawmill was located in North Burgess Township on lot 17, five lots west of Allan's Mills. Their grist mill could be found in Bathurst Township on Concession 1, Lot 17. At the foot of road, right at the Scotch Line leading to the mill was a tollgate, blacksmith and cheese factory. Just to the west of the Scott grist mill on Lot 15, were the Wilson saw and grist mills.
By the late 1890s things were beginning to slip. Both the wheat and timber supplies had become depleted and farmers were making a gradual transition from wheat to dairy farming. This was not good news for the mill owners and many of the mills did not survive the upheaval.
The Wilson mills and the Scott sawmill have both disappeared. The Scott grist mill was purchased by the Bowes family and renamed Bowes Mills. Later on, it was converted to an electrical power plant that provided power to the town of Perth up until the 1920s. The old mill has been well preserved but the dam has deteriorated badly. The Ritchie sawmill still exists but is derelict and in a serious state of disrepair. The McCabe mill, across the road, has been renovated and is now a private home. Oliver's mill survived the carnage and is presently being used as a barn.
By 1892, William Allan had sold the grist mill to the Burgess Milling Company, who reportedly kept it going until the 1970s. Allan continued operating the store until his death in 1908. His son James took over the post office until the arrival of rural mail delivery in 1914. Allan's stone grist mill was by far the most fortunate. The stately mill, along with the general store, the blacksmith shop and William Allan's magnificent home, have all been restored and are now privately used. The schoolhouse, located next to the Scotch Line Cemetery at the north end of Allan's Mills Road, is owned by the cemetery and remains in use. The area, which is located about 10 kilometres west of the historic town of Perth, remains busy and active and continues to support a large rural population.
Thanks to Robert Thomas for sharing the information on the schoolhouse.