Greene & Ellis Saw Mill

  • Saw Mill 1868 (Approx.) - 1895 (Approx.)

Contemporary accounts claim the Greene and Ellis saw mill was a mile from the village, and an 1874 map1 indicates it was on the west bank near the point where the Fenelon River widens out into Sturgeon Lake.

Greene & Ellis was created by a partnership made between Henry Wells Greene and John Ellis, probably late in 1868. In 1869 they purchased a “very uninteresting property” and began to construct their saw mill and other “necessary buildings.” The 1868/69 road to the mill was “merely a settler’s blaze commencing at the south end of the Fenelon Falls bridge.” In 1870 the old road was closed by the new owner of the land, and Greene and Ellis spent a large sum “opening up a new road, passable for teams” to the village. [CP 19 May 1876 ; 2] In the same year [1870] they also built a dock. During the spring when high water and strong currents made the town dock unusable, or when logs blocked the river, this dock was used by many of the townspeople to unload goods. Needless to say, Greene and Ellis complained that the Village had not contributed to their costs although it benefited from the construction of the mill [for example CP 31 March 1876; 3 and CP 19 May 1876; 2]. The mill was included within the boundary of the newly established village in 1874, against the wishes of the owners [CP 19 May 1876; 2].

Greene and Ellis was a seasonal operation, beginning in April or May and continuing through to late October. The mill employed about 15 workers although this number varied widely depending upon the state of the economy and the lumber market.1 By 1878, Greene and Ellis employed an agent (A.W. Parking) in Lindsay, no doubt in the hopes of expanding their markets. They owned a lumber yard there, on the east side of William Street, where lumber, scantling, lath, flooring, joists, and pickets were sold [CP 5 April 1878; 4]. They also sent out gangs of men to work in lumber camps in Sherbourne Township during the winter [CP 3 October 1879; 3]. Accidents were common at the mill; one man from Montreal, named Dennis, was killed in June of 1879 [CP 27 June 1879; 3]. Hand, the editor of the Gazette, attacked Greene for his “systematic grinding of the faces of the poor” [FFG 31 Dec 1881; 2]2, and for “blocking the river with their logs” thus hindering “fishers and sportsmen” [FFG 3 Sept 1881; 2].

Labour unrest also resulted when Italian and Greek workers arrived to work the canal and the mills, including Greene and Ellis. There was much local indignation about “foreigners” taking over job and lowering wages, and preparations were even made for form a union, but most of the “foreign” workers were gone by winter.1 The mill continued to operate throughout the 1880’s. In June 1885 Greene & Ellis set up another lumber yard in Lindsay with Samuel Parsons as their agent [CP 12 June 1885 [ad]; 1]2. Nonetheless by the end of the decade the firm was in trouble. Gradually the business disappeared from local news as its importance to the village economy declined. In March 1889 “nearly all the shipping lumber left over from last year” was sold [FFG 22 March 1889 ; 4]. An ad dated June 3, 1891, announced that Killaby and Kennedy of Lindsay had “bought the entire stock of dry lumber… and commenced shipping it to Lindsay” [FFG 12 June 1891; 1]. All the lumber was to be removed.

This removal may mark the end of the mill. In May 1894, the “old machinery” was up for sale [FFG 11 May 1894; 5]. Greene himself had been ill “for some time past” [FFG 24 August 1894; 4], and he died on September 8th, 1894 at the age of 68 [FFG 14 Sept 1894; 5]. The saw mill burned on September 27th, 1894. “No attempt was made to save it, as it is a mile from the village, and our apology for an [fire] engine is on strike. The property fell into the hands of the Ontario Bank some years ago, and since then the mill has been idle” [FFG 28 September 1894; 5]. Ellis obtained legal title to the surviving shingle mill and remaining buildings through an auction held in Lindsay in June of 1895. The Gazette announced that the shingle mill was leased “not long ago” to a W. H. Stevenson, “who put it into a thorough state of repair and is now running it” [FFG 14 June 1895; 5], but no record of this business has been found. John Ellis died at Fenelon Falls on Monday March 4th, 1907, aged 80 years and nine months [FFPL 07.3].

Contemporary accounts claim the Greene and Ellis saw mill was a mile from the village, and an 1874 map1 indicates it was on the west bank near the point where the Fenelon River widens out into Sturgeon Lake. Greene & Ellis was created by a partnership made between Henry Wells Greene and John Ellis, probably late in 1868. In 1869 they purchased a "very uninteresting property" and began to construct their saw mill and other "necessary buildings." The 1868/69 road to the mill was "merely a settler's blaze commencing at the south end of the Fenelon Falls bridge." In 1870 the old road was closed by the new owner of the land, and Greene and Ellis spent a large sum "opening up a new road, passable for teams" to the village. [CP 19 May 1876 ; 2] In the same year [1870] they also built a dock. During the spring when high water and strong currents made the town dock unusable, or when logs blocked the river, this dock was used by many of the townspeople to unload goods. Needless to say, Greene and Ellis complained that the Village had not contributed to their costs although it benefited from the construction of the mill [for example CP 31 March 1876; 3 and CP 19 May 1876; 2]. The mill was included within the boundary of the newly established village in 1874, against the wishes of the owners [CP 19 May 1876; 2]. Greene and Ellis was a seasonal operation, beginning in April or May and continuing through to late October. The mill employed about 15 workers although this number varied widely depending upon the state of the economy and the lumber market.1 By 1878, Greene and Ellis employed an agent (A.W. Parking) in Lindsay, no doubt in the hopes of expanding their markets. They owned a lumber yard there, on the east side of William Street, where lumber, scantling, lath, flooring, joists, and pickets were sold [CP 5 April 1878; 4]. They also sent out gangs of men to work in lumber camps in Sherbourne Township during the winter [CP 3 October 1879; 3]. Accidents were common at the mill; one man from Montreal, named Dennis, was killed in June of 1879 [CP 27 June 1879; 3]. Hand, the editor of the Gazette, attacked Greene for his "systematic grinding of the faces of the poor" [FFG 31 Dec 1881; 2]2, and for "blocking the river with their logs" thus hindering "fishers and sportsmen" [FFG 3 Sept 1881; 2]. Labour unrest also resulted when Italian and Greek workers arrived to work the canal and the mills, including Greene and Ellis. There was much local indignation about "foreigners" taking over job and lowering wages, and preparations were even made for form a union, but most of the "foreign" workers were gone by winter.1 The mill continued to operate throughout the 1880's. In June 1885 Greene & Ellis set up another lumber yard in Lindsay with Samuel Parsons as their agent [CP 12 June 1885 [ad]; 1]2. Nonetheless by the end of the decade the firm was in trouble. Gradually the business disappeared from local news as its importance to the village economy declined. In March 1889 "nearly all the shipping lumber left over from last year" was sold [FFG 22 March 1889 ; 4]. An ad dated June 3, 1891, announced that Killaby and Kennedy of Lindsay had "bought the entire stock of dry lumber... and commenced shipping it to Lindsay" [FFG 12 June 1891; 1]. All the lumber was to be removed. This removal may mark the end of the mill. In May 1894, the "old machinery" was up for sale [FFG 11 May 1894; 5]. Greene himself had been ill "for some time past" [FFG 24 August 1894; 4], and he died on September 8th, 1894 at the age of 68 [FFG 14 Sept 1894; 5]. The saw mill burned on September 27th, 1894. "No attempt was made to save it, as it is a mile from the village, and our apology for an [fire] engine is on strike. The property fell into the hands of the Ontario Bank some years ago, and since then the mill has been idle" [FFG 28 September 1894; 5]. Ellis obtained legal title to the surviving shingle mill and remaining buildings through an auction held in Lindsay in June of 1895. The Gazette announced that the shingle mill was leased "not long ago" to a W. H. Stevenson, "who put it into a thorough state of repair and is now running it" [FFG 14 June 1895; 5], but no record of this business has been found. John Ellis died at Fenelon Falls on Monday March 4th, 1907, aged 80 years and nine months [FFPL 07.3].

Plan of Fenelon River [map] [scale: 4 chains to an inch] [Anonymous] [circa 1874]. [Copy in the Archives of Ontario]

The 1871 Census records the business as operating 5 months a year, employing 80 men, and operating with steam power. The mill processed 32,000 saw logs, and produced 3 1/5 million feet of lumber, with an aggregate value of $32,000 (“taken from the office of the Company”).

Hand writes: We have just as good a right to get up on a public platform and abuse Mr. Greene for the manner in which he runs his saw mill as he has to abuse us for the manner in which we conduct the Gazette. … For there is nothing about sawmilling, that we know of, that entitles those who follow it to ride rough-shod over the rights and privileges of others. Besides what is there about perpendicular sawing more than horizontal sawing to entitle those who live by it to exceptional respect and consideration? … In the meantime, vive la Gazette! The pen is mightier than the saw.” Greene was the village reeve at the time of this exchange. Hand certainly made sure his editorials were lively.

For a full account of this episode see the following articles: “Unwelcome Foreigners” FFG 4 Aug 1883; 2 : “The Workingman’s Union” FFG 11 Aug 1883; 2 : and “The Foreigner” FFG 1 Sept 1883; 2

There is no record of the closing the other yard; perhaps they simply employed a new agent. The ad is dated 9 June 1885.

See Also

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