The hamlet of Glenora and Lake-on-the-Mountain, located near the westerly limits of North Marysburgh Township bears may traces of a booming past.
It was at one time a key link on the old Danforth Road, built by Asa Danforth between 1798 and 1810 (now Highway 33), produced world renowned water wheels, was the home for a few years to the young John A. Macdonald and Bartlett visited the area and made one of this famous engravings from part way up the mountain road.
In June, 1784, Major Peter VanAlstine and a group of disbanded soldiers which included British regulars, German mercenaries and a group of colonial loyalists, arrived at Adolphustown, then known as the Fourth Town. Across the bay lay the Firth Town or Marysburgh.
In 1796, Major VanAlstine received a grant of 500 acres of land alongside the Lake-on-the-Mountain including the land beneath the cliff. He began construction of a mill beside the lake.
This was a grist mill, and was owned and operated by various members of the VanAlstine family connection which included the Meyers and Allen families until 1839.
The Mill, which had vanished by 1878, attracted a small settlement, several houses and a store in its shadows. In 1876, the Mount Carmel Church (later United Church) was built on land donated by the Wilson family who then owned the Mill property. The Stone store, built by the VanAlstines is still standing.
In 1809 and 1813, VanAlstine took out a mortgage each for 390 pounds sterling, which was a considerable amount of money for that time. It was used to finance a second mill at the bottom of the mountain.
While Mountain Mills was primarily a quiet village, Stone Mills rapidly became a bustling commercial centre, with few residents.
The second mill was larger that the first, five storeys and was built from local limestone. The building was mainly a grist mill, but later became a flour mill.
During the 1820s and 1830s, Hugh Macdonald operated the mill. This was his last major investment and although he also expanded the operation to include the carding and dyeing of wool, it was not a very successful venture. During this time, however, his son, John, was looking after his uncle’s law practice in Picton.
In 1839, David Lake bought the property, closed the mill at Mountain Mills and some years later built a plaster mill beside the grist mill.
About 10 years later, James and Stewart Wilson bought the mill properties. An advertisement in the Picton Gazette, dated January 1859, announced that Wilson plaster was “as good when used as fresh ground, if kept dry… so now is the time while ice and sledding are good. Price reduced to $5.50 per 2,000 (pounds) and no credit given.”
1n 1877, James Wilson built the little giant turbine water wheel works and Stone Mills became a full fledged industrial centre with three mills. An iron foundry was built behind the factory and living quarters were also provided for the workers. There was a post office which was housed in a separate frame building. There was also a nail factory at the eastern end of the row of buildings.
The Danforth Road entered Prince Edward County from Dorland’s Point by the ferry at Stone Mills. This was the second stop on the stage run from Kingston to Toronto.
As far as can be determined, the first known operator of a regular ferry was Joe Thurston about 1880. J.C. Wilson operated the ferry while he ran the mill. John Green, who was the foreman in the iron foundry, owned and operated the ferry, which was propelled by a two-horse treadmill during the 1890s. He also bought the stage-ferry hotel at that time but by then it was no longer in use as a hotel.
For a while when the horse propelled boat became obsolete, Glenora was without a ferry, but there was enough steam traffic on the lake that it was not missed.
In 1905, a steam powered boat was introduced and in 1928 the Nahomis, driven by a diesel engine, took over. Glenora was a port for the Kingston to Toronto steam boat run and private boats docked regularly to load and unload at the wharves.
The free ferry service is presently operated by the ministry of transportation and communications using the ferries Quinte and Quinte Loyalist. The ferry Quinte is to be replaced in the spring of 1974 by the St. Joseph’s Islander, a 15-car ferry, now in dry dock in Kingston. It is likely to be renamed. The islander was formerly in use near Sault Ste. Marie.
The stage-ferry hotel was a resting point for passengers on the stage run. The building still stands today, a white clapboard structure overlooking the ferry landing. John A. Macdonald is said to have told many tales in the small tavern at the hotel. Timbers from the original stables still exist in the barn beside the former hotel.
The little giant turbine water wheel works was active and successful until the First World War when it was converted to a munitions factory. The business was not restored after the war and the property was sold to the Ontario government in 1922 to be used as a fish hatchery.
Fish fry were planted in the lakes for the next 30 years until studies proved that the hatchery plantings were having little or no effect on overall fish population. The fish plantings made little or no difference in the number of fish in the lakes. The hatchery at its maximum output was only adding perhaps one fish per 50 that were produced naturally.
The hatchery was then converted to a fisheries research station under the control of the department of lands and forests, now the ministry of natural resources.
Most of the other buildings have vanished, leaving only the former flour mill, the little giant water wheel works building and the ferry landing to remind of the one time bustle of Glenora.
The present community of Glenora arises from two hamlets, Mountain Mills and Stone Mills. Belden’s Historical Atlas of 1878 refers to the communities by these two names. The name Glenora was already in use by the 1880s since the Glen House Hotel, a popular resort located near the ferry landing, now a one-storey dwelling, probably took its name from Glenora. The exact origin of the name is not clear, but it has been said that one of J.C. Wilson’s daughters named the village. A possible inspiration may have been nearby Glen Island.