Mill ruins©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Milnet began in the early 20th century as a remote station and watering stop for the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR later CN). Shortly after the railway line opened, the lumbering industry moved in and there began an intense period of lumbering activity.
After a sawmill was established on the shores of the Vermillion River early in the 1900s, rafters in the logging camps cut and then floated the wood down to the mill. In 1917 the Marshay Lumber Co. bought and expanded the mill, and went on to add a planning mill. A small company town site was established and quickly grew to include about 200 residents. The town consisted of a few streets and several dozen attractive two-storey homes. Over the next 22 years, the mill was extremely successful cutting over 100 million feet of pine timber.
Milnet was originally known as Sellwood Junction. Not to be confused with the mining community of Sellwood, Milnet was located south of the mining village along the shores of the Onaping Lake. The village's name was changed to Milnet in 1916.
Up until 1909 the Canadian Northern Railway line terminated in Sellwood, just north of Milnet, making it effectively the end of the line. Around 1915, they began to push further north leading to the establishment of coal and watering facilities for the steam engines.
Although Milnet was extremely isolated it developed into an active, vibrant and self-sufficient community. There was a local band and dances took place at the dance hall every week. A doctor, Doctor Williams, and priest, Father Kather, would frequently drop in and check on things.
The good times lasted until the 1930s. Unfortunately, the mill was hit hard during the depression and production was drastically curtailed. In 1933 the mill was hit by a fire of mysterious origins. The planer followed suit the next year. Being on relief in an isolated community was not easy and many of the residents left. According to one newspaper article, the mill burned in 1939, followed by the yard two years later. By 1940 only a small cluster of residents remained.
Most of the Milnet's attractive homes were either moved or burnt to the ground. The post office closed in 1944. Today a couple of the homes still stand and continue to be used seasonally. Succession rights no longer apply and once these homes are vacated, they will be demolished. The remains of the mill lie crumbling with a young forest growing up around them.