Smith & Fell Shingle Mill

The Smith & Fell Shingle Mill was created by a partnership between David Gow Smith and John Fell, senior, sometime in the mid-1870s. They first appear in the directories in 1874 under Fell & Smith, but the firm soon reverted to the above name. The shingle mill was destroyed by fire on July 17th, 1876 [CP 21 July 1876; 3], but construction was soon underway and a new mill was in operation by October [CP 20 Oct 1876; 3]. Located on Francis St. East, near the water, most press reports involved workers’ injuries with the saws, the seasonal nature of the operation, and the sound of the factory whistle that occasionally startled a horse [FFG 1 Oct 1881; 2]. The mill’s 65 foot smoke stack was blown down by wind in 1882 [FFG 4 Nov 1882; 2]; and then caught fire in 1884, creating a “grand pyrotechnical display” [FFG 23 Aug 1884; 2]. One improvement to the mill included a new engine that was installed in May 1884 to increase its power and capacity [FFG 24 May 1884; 2].

The business lasted until January 1886. “The partnership heretofore existing between David Gow Smith and John Fell [Sr.], under the name, style and firm of Smith and Fell, as shingle manufacturers at the Village of Fenelon Falls, has been dissolved by mutual consent. All debts due by the late firm will be paid by John Fell, to whom all outstanding claims due to the late firm will be paid. Dated January 27th, 1886” [FFG 30 Jan 1886; 2].

The document was witnessed by John Fell, Jr., the M.P.P., who purchased Smith’s interest and commenced sawing shingles later that spring. The mill was destroyed by fire on May 24th, 1886 [CP 28 May 1886; 1], and there was little doubt the fire was the work of an incendiary. 50,000 shingles were saved by throwing them in the river, but the insurance only covered one-third of the actual losses. Fell may have continued to sell off the undamaged stock for some years afterwards as his mill continued to be listed in the Ontario Gazetteer & Business Directory and in the 1887 D&B. He also appears to have rebuilt another mill about two and a half miles outside of the village.

The mill ruins were a popular landing place for steam-boats on holiday excursions, especially on July 12th (FFG 18 July 1890; 4]. In July 1890 the Napanee Pulp Mill purchased the machinery, etc. of Smith and Fell’s shingle mill. “This week the engine was taken away and the boiler will soon follow. The brickwork has been pulled to pieces, but the stone base of the smoke stack is to remain, as it would not pay to tear it down” [FFG 4 July 1890; 4].

703 Variant name: Fell & Smit 704 Fell, Jr., must have built another shingle mill in Fenelon Township soon afterwards. According to the 1888/1889 Ontario Directory, John Fell, Jr. had a sawmill 2 ½ miles north of the Village. 705 Smith & Fell is listed in the 1886/1887 and 1888/1889 editions. 706 The 1888/1889 Ontario Directory states the sawmill was "2.5 miles n.w."

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