From the time of the first settlement of this country by the U.E. Loyalists, the "Lake on the Mountain" was considered the greatest curiosity in Prince Edward county, if not in the whole Bay of Quinte country. That such a lake should be found on "a mountain", or rather, on a steep hill 180 feet high, almost directly over the Bay of Quinte, and but a few rods off, the surface of the water of one being so high above that of the other, and with no visible reason for such a supply and at such a height, was then, and still is, a very great curiosity. To this day nature has never yet given up her secret as to the source of this singular supply of water. Many conjectures have been made but none of them appears to be wholly satisfactory.
In the rear of this lake lies a quantity of land, about 800 acres, we believe - somewhat higher than the surface of the lake itself and the drainage from it flows in, but that is not near enough to account for any such a supply as constantly flows out. In early times many had a theory that the supply must come, by some underground passage, from Lake Erie. Few entertain that theory now, however. There is not room here to mention the several objections in the way of that. As to the hill itself and the cavity that forms the bed of the lake, it may as well be mentioned that Sir Charles Lyall, a noted English geologist of a former generation, was of the opinion that it was the crater of an extinct volcano.
DR. A.T. DRUMMOND'S THEORY
The Canadian Record of Science of December last contained an elaborate and ingenious paper from the pen of A.T. Drummond, L.L.D. of Kingston, giving the result of his investigations in regard to the Lake on the Mountain and its water supply. We have only space here to make mention of a few of the facts he gives. He sets out by saying. "Imagine a cliff about 180 feet in height, rising almost perpendicularly from the steamboat landing at Glenora on the Bay of Quinte, and immediately on the top, within 300 feet of the edge, but shut in by a fringe of trees on the shore, a lake of clear fresh water about one and a half miles long with a width of three-quarters of a mile. Journeying up the zig-zag roadway to the top of the cliff, as the eye wanders over the wide expanse of country to the northward, with in the foreground the lovely Bay of Quinte, and the deep and broad inlets which branch from either side, and, on this sunny cloudless day, the alternate and contrasting effects of intensely blue water, green grain fields and patches of woods, one gradually realizes that here probably is the finest scenic effect in Central Ontario. Turning around, close at hand, is found this curious lake perched on the top of the cliff. Its waters are continually flowing out to give the power which runs Glenora mills; its inflow is invisible and yet is steadily maintained from month to month and from year to year.
SOME FACTS AND THEORIES
The writer then gives some interesting facts obtained by his own investigations. Here are some of them; "Whilst the surface of the lake is nearly 180 feet above the level of the Bay of Quinte, the bottom is likewise 80 feet above that level. The source of inflow must therefore be sought for in some locality at any rate 200 feet higher than Lake Ontario. A subterranean connection with Lake Erie is a common theory in the surrounding district, but that is based on an inaccurate knowledge of the intervening geological levels and structure. One investigator again thinks he has found its source in the State of Ohio. Still others attribute it to springs nearer home."
Then he gives his own theory, in the following words: Immediately east of Napanee, the Grand Trunk railway is 127 feet above Lake Ontario, and thence north eastward there is a steady rise in the limestone area and beyond it into the Laurentian, Sharbot Lake being 389 feet above Lake Ontario and the dip in the limestone rocks is favorable." He mentions the fact that the lake does not seem affected by local droughts in Prince Edward county. Dr. Drummond mentions a number of interesting facts we have not space to even refer to here. The deepest part of the lake is said to be 96 feet, and that only continues for a short distance. Mr. Charles Wilson, proprietor of Glenora mills, who has resided in the vicinity since boyhood, is clearly of the opinion that the water is of spring origin. It is pure and clear, free from such foreign substances as are generally found in water obtained from land drainage and cool, where the water has obtained much depth.
THE MILLS ERECTED THERE
From the very outset of the white population of the country, the advantages of such a lake for motive power purposes were very evident. It is said that in the earliest times, before the water was dammed back and used for manufacturing, there was a beautiful natural perpendicular fall of nearly a hundred feet, and in spring time it was comparable to Niagara. A few rods east of the present mills can now be seen a perpendicular wall of limestone rock of many feet in height which was the natural outlet of the lake. A glance at that wall yet gives an idea of what must have been the beauty and grandeur of the waterfall when it flowed freely over that place, with such a quantity of water supply and with such a head, the manufacturing advantages were certainly always evident enough.
It is said that as early as 1796 Major Peter Vanalstine, the head of the Adolphustown U.E. Loyalist pioneers, and Isaac Secor, a carpenter and millwright, joined in partnership and built a grist mill at the foot of the hill, near the water's edge of Bay of Quinte. It is said that David McWhirter, of Adolphustown, was also in partnership with them. That was the first grist mill built in Prince Edward county and Dr. Canniff thinks it was the third one built in Upper Canada. A flouring mill has been in successful operation there ever since. The present Glenora flouring mills, now owned by Mr. Chas. Wilson & Son, have long enjoyed a first-class reputation throughout the country.
The tradition is that the early milling there was not found profitable, at least not so for Secor and McWhirter who were not such experienced business men as Vanalstine; but that they went out of that partnership with a good deal of "experience" but with very little else. Vanalstine looked after the selling of the flour and other money matters, while the others attended to the practical work. Times were hard then, money very scarce, the grists very small and few, and the expenses of running a flour mill much greater than now. It soon happened that a pretty large partnership debt had to be faced and no money to meet it with. The mill was sold under an execution, Vanalstine had money enough, from some source to buy it in and the others had nothing left of the transaction but their "experience." They blamed Vanalstine for playing sharp with them, but whether that was the case we know not. Vanalstine continued to own and run the mills until his death. McWhirter became much involved in debt and went to the States for years to avoid his creditors. He returned to this country, however, and died here. He was buried, we believe, at the Adolphustown English church burying ground. Secor resumed his trade as a carpenter.
ABOUT SECOR AND OTHERS
After the grist mill was completed Secor went to Adolphustown and built a large barn for Joseph Allison. That was in 1797, we believe, and that barn is still standing, and is undoubtedly the oldest one now in the county, if not in the whole Province. It is now owned by Henry Allison, Esq., who owns the old homestead, where five generations have lived in continuous occupation. It is said to be a marvel and a model of carpenters' skill even yet, and promised good for another century of actual service.
In the annual report of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of last year, published in Toronto, there is a sketch given of the Secor family from the time of their leaving the States with the other Loyalists down to quite a recent date. The writer - Mary M. Dunn, a descendant we believe, says that Isaac Secor did the carpenter work of the first flour mill built in Napanee "somewhere about 1791." That was about five years after the first mill was built here, by Robert Clark, of Ernesttown, whose old account book of the transactions of that time is still in existence. If Mr. Secor worked here about 1791, it was probably for the Hon. Richard Cartwright, who purchased the mill from the government. Mr. Secor finally settled in Scarboro, east of Toronto, where some of his descendants are still living. He was a relative of the husband of the historic Laura Secor, of Niagara, who, at the risk of her own life, gave such timely notice to the British soldiers at Beaver Dams, of the approach of the Americans during the war of 1813, and thus managed to bring about their total defeat. Major Vanalstine died in 1811, and was buried in the U.E.L. Burying Ground at Adolphustown. Mention was made of that in The Beaver last week. According to Dr. Canniff the lake at that time was known as "Van Alstine's Lake." It has already been mentioned in The Beaver that at the Quarter Sessions of the Midland district in 1802 a ferry license was granted from Adolphustown Point to "Van Alstine's Mills", now Glenora. Mr. John S. Barker, of Picton, who has given much study to the early history of the Bay counties, informs us, that his grandfather, Jas. Barker, was the miller at VanAlstine's for some time. Then he became miller at Hallowell Mills, west of what is now the town of Picton. The Mills, as a village, was known as St. Johns.
SOME AFTER HISTORY
The first mill stood just east of where the present large mill stands. The water from the top of the hill at the Lake was first carried down through large logs hollowed out for the purpose. There was a large overshot wheel about twenty feet in diameter. This arrangement lasted for many years. The water is now conducted down through a wrought iron tube, and the celebrated "Little Giant" turbine wheels are used, which are extensively manufactured on the premises by Mr. Wilson.
In 1811, at the time of Van Alstine's death, there were two run of stone in the mill, and it was advertised as doing a large business. The property appears to have fallen to Peter Van Alstine, a son of weak mind, and for his protection the Lieut.-Governor, Sir John Colborne, appointed legal trustees. They were Ursula McWhirter, Jonathon Allen and Matthew Ruttan, all of Adolphustown. It was once sold to Geo. W. Meyers, and later on to David M. Lake, and still later deeded to Henry Lake, Allen Clapp and William Thomas Lake. Peter Stickel was also at one time a joint owner. In 1847, it fell into the hands of the late Stewart Wilson, for years one of the wealthiest and best known business men in Prince Edward county. He conducted the business for years and then deeded it to his son, Charles Wilson, who, with his son now carries on an extensive business there as flour mill owners and manufacturers of turbine wheels, which appear to find a market all over Canada. At one time there were carding and woolen mills there, on the top of the hill; first by William Casey (grandfather of the writer), as early as 1813, if not earlier; later on by Hugh Macdonald (father of Sir John), and a man named Hudson. That was somewhere in the thirties. The carding mill by William Casey was, we believe, the first machinery of the kind introduced in the Midland district, if not in the province. The old account book is now in the writer's possession. He has also a copy of Hugh Macdonald's advertisement of his woolen business there, published in the Hallowell Free Press in May 1833. Both of these old documents will be referred to in a future issue of The Beaver. There is not space left at our disposal to do so not.
ORIGIN OF THE "STONE MILLS"
For some years the property was held and conducted by David Lake and Peter Stickel. They first conducted it jointly, and at that time there was a saw mill, the grist mill and a woolen mill. Finally they dissolved and divided the property. Stickel got the farm and mills on the hill. He had previously made a good deal of improvements. Lake got the mills below the hill. There was a woolen mill and in this he had put a run of stones and the necessary machinery for grinding gypsum, or land plaster, the raw materials being imported from the States. For years a large business was done in grinding and selling "land plaster," which farmers claimed acted as an excellent fertilizer on crops, especially on peas and clover. These were then very important crops on the farms in Prince Edward and this county. For many years the place was popularly known as "The Stone Mills," a name it retained until the more modern and poetic one of "Glenora" was adopted, a few years ago.
It may as well be remarked just here that its near neighbor, Glen Island, was then only known as "Hog Island:, a name which even now summer boarders and lodgers feel would be an un-appropriate one.
UNDER THE WILSON'S OWNERSHIP
In 1874, the late Stewart Wilson, then a very energetic and successful business man, purchased the entire property, consisting of a large farm, saw mill, two grist mills, plaster mill and woolen mill. The business has been in the hands of the Wilson family ever since. Then there were yet many logs on the farm in Adolphustown and Marysburgh, but they have long since disappeared. The plaster business also dropped off in demand, the grist mill on the hill and the woolen mill got burned. The mills under the hill, however, are among the best of their class. There are few better, or even as good, water powers in all Canada; the supply at the lake not failing and the "head" of over a hundred feet supplying an immense power.