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Dawn Mills

History

Town site photo

The tombstones being relocated.

©Copyright: Estate of Nancy Bass

Dawn Mills got its start in the 1830s when James Smith and William Taylor erected saw, woollen and grist mills along the banks of the Sydenham River.

The mills were badly needed. Southern Ontario has a particularly rich agricultural heritage. The growing season is long and the soil particularly lush. Farming was the principal commodity as well as the primary source of income. However with no mills in the area, farmers were forced to haul their grain by canoe down the river to the mills in Detroit, a trip which could take several days.

Needless to say the mills enjoyed instant success and shortly afterwards other businesses moved in. By 1837, Smith and Taylor saw another opportunity and opened a post office, which they continued to run for the next 30 years. The town also included a church, hotel and a couple of stores.

As long as waterways were the principal source of navigation, riverside communities such as Dawn Mills remained successful. After the railways arrived, some 35 years later, it was a very different story. Towns without railways simply could not compete. Since Dawn Mills was not among that fortunate group, its industries gradually shut down and the town withered away. The post office finally closed in 1918. The few remaining buildings in Dawn Mills continue to be used.