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Kinmount’s Mill Reserve I

July 27, 2023

Frank Dettman Gas Station and Variety Store. Built in 1940s, today it is an empty lot.

The block of land lying between the Bobcaygeon Road (#121) and the Burnt River from the dam north to the bridge was designated Mill Reserve I in the official Kinmount town plan. John Hunter built the very first mill in Kinmount on this site in 1859. The small mill was situated at the east end of the dam (also built by Hunter). It contained a small saw mill and a grist mill was added a year later. The grist mill was very important as it was the first such mill north of Bobcaygeon. Eventually (1870s) a much larger saw mill was built on the west side of the dam to have access to the new railway line. But the grist mill operations were continued in the old mill until 1908, when it was reported the ‘old mill’ was destroyed by fire. Evidently, the era of local grist mills was over, as the mill was never replaced.

At the bridge end of the lot, later photos reveal 2 buildings. One was clearly a blacksmith shop which was operated by a variety of smiths over the years including Joseph Holbrook. The site was an obvious location for such a shop as it stood squarely at the corner of the Bobcaygeon and Monck Roads. Travellers, farmers or lumbermen were always getting their horses shod. It was not an easy procedure especially when a big draft horse objected to the procedure. One day, the resident blacksmith was busy shoeing a large horse when he noticed the animal was prancing more than expected during the shoeing. What was normally a quiet procedure was turning into a wrestling match between a 1,500 pound horse and a 200 pound man. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the horse’s owner standing behind the animal to cause it to jump around to the general annoyance of the blacksmith. To seek revenge the blacksmith changed his angle, grasped a large file and started to file the hoof, but the third mighty stroke ‘missed’ the hoof and went right up the side of the offender’s face. The rasp removed a large chunk of skin from the surprised prankster. Oops; lesson learned.

The disappearance of horse drawn conveyances in favour of motorized transport cut the need for blacksmiths drastically. The shop at the bridge may have lingered for a few years as an automobile repair shop, but it was eventually closed and torn down. In the 1940s Frank Dettman acquired the property and built a large convenience store/home on the south end of the lot. The business sold groceries, snacks, ice cream and even gasoline. The residence opened onto the river and manicured lawns along the bank gave it an idyllic scene. After Frank’s death, the operation sold to the Hamiltons, who carried on the business and even added an empty bottle return depot when the LCBO outlet was opened next door.

Next on the scene was Don Regan. The removal of the LCBO to its current location hurt the business and eventually it closed and the building was abandoned. Today the building sits forlorn and deserted. The presence of the old gas takes makes a lot an environmental hazard site. The roof of the building is collapsing and the once magnificent structure will soon collapse. It is a sad end to a local landmark.

The northern end of Mill Reserve I received a new building back in the 1940s as well. Originally designated to be a garage, the structure became the site for the first LCBO outlet in the 1960s. It was a big step forward for the village to have an LCBO outlet. In the ‘old days’ it was not self-serve: customers filled out an order slip of paper and the staff retrieved your item from the shelves at the back. Even beer cases were rolled out from the back room. In 1986, a new LCBO building was opened in the current location and the old building ran through several lives as a flea market among other uses. Today it has been rehabilitated and currently serves as a residence.

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