During the war of 1812, James Crooks, who saw the soldiers in the area were having a very difficult time, had built the Darnley Grist Mill with the hopes of producing flour for bread. James Crooks saw the Spencer creek to not only power the mill, but to provide water for the crops as well as drinking water. He obviously was a visionary. Darnley Mill was the first of several businesses that had developed. Soon a distillery, blacksmith shop and a general store opened its doors.
Ten years later, the old grist mill was made into Upper Canada's first paper mill. But Crooks sold it off because of lack of power. This is when I find the story gets a little strange. The paper mill had passed through three hands (Helliwell, Ellen Bansley, Robert Sanderson) before it was eventually sold to Mr. Stutts in 1878. James Stutts and his sons ran the business for 7 years. Until one gloomy gray day such as this one, when the boiler had blown the roof off the boiler house as well as the roof of the main building killing one of Stutts sons' John.
Although Darnley Mill continued to run for years after, it was once more brought down for good after a fire which gutted the building in 1943, never to be rebuilt again.
Where I stand in and among the ruins taking pictures, you can sense the isolation and the bleak remains of this town. Although there are beautiful homes and quaint little stores at the hairpin of Old Brock road and Crooks Hollow Road, this town was forgotten about after the railroad had bypassed it altogether. Nowadays, you can visit the ruins of Darnley Grist Mill and see the remains of a man's dream one brick at a time.
Other links: Darnley Cascade, Crooks Hollow.