Bruce’s Mill Conservation Park-Whitchurch-Stouffville

During sunny conditions and high humidity, people should check out Bruce’s Mill Conservation Park to see the remnants of the 160-year-old grist mill. The area around Whitchurch Township, which lies at the headwaters of the Rouge River, became a popular destination for German settlers. The requirement for patenting a land grant and gaining full ownership rights was that a settler meets the necessary requirements. During the three-year period, they had to build, occupy, or rent a house of 16 feet by 20 feet.

Five acres of Whitchurch-Stouffville land had to be cleared and surrounded by a fence. Stumps had to be removed from the road allowance which ran along with the property. In return for taking the oaths to the crown, a land grant of usually 100 acres would be issued to the individual. A “V” is marked at the top of the page in the 1877 historical atlas map below for the fifth concession.

Under the blue line, Stouffville Road runs across the top of the map. A pond is located on Robert Bruce’s property, below the lot owned by Thomas Lewis. On the lid, a symbol showing a waterwheel and GM for Grist Mill is etched. This is where Bruce’s Mill is located. In 1829, Casper Sherk began working on this site as a grist mill and may have been the very first settler to take possession of the land. There is a road under the mill on the map above that connects today’s Warden and Kennedy Roads.

There is no original grid system on this piece of land, so it is a “given road” built for access to the mill by customers. During the construction of the millpond, Sherk built a wooden dam and earthen berm. Although the dam was built later, the berm remains in place and was replaced with a modern concrete dam with double sluice gates after 1900. Its height is equal to the concrete structure.

Carrick Mill began as a sawmill operated by William Bruce and Robert Bruce. In 1842, the couple purchased the mill and some adjoining property, renaming it after their home in Scotland. Amazingly, the mill’s sluice gates are still in place. Several extra slats are stacked in the sluice openings, and wooden slats remain for both of the openings. As if waiting for the boards to be lowered back into place and stop the flow of water, three hoists stand on top. It used to be a swimming and fishing pond but has since filled up with wetland plants, creating a haven for birds and butterflies.

This property was acquired by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority in 1961 and was closed by the TRCA in 1962. As one of the last mills in Ontario to close, Bruce’s Mill Conservation Park was an important landmark for the state. Since 1965, the site has been operated as Bruce’s Mill Conservation Park by the TRCA. Known under many names, including crow garlic and stag garlic, walking garlic is a non-native of North America. Grazing cows on it can cause their beef and dairy products to have a garlic odour, making it a noxious weed to farmers. Unlike cultivated garlic, it has a sharp aftertaste.

Treetop Trekking has become more and more popular. Rawdon Quebec was the first park to be established in Canada in 2002. Following the expansion of its four Quebec parks, the company now has four parks in Ontario. A 700-foot zip line is part of Bruce’s Mill Conservation Park, which opened in 2013. Near the center of the picture, you can see a person in blue zipping above the butterfly gardens on the appropriately named Monarch Zipline.

Using wood construction on a stone foundation, the Bruce’s built a two-and-a-half-story mill. In the past, smaller panes of glass were typically used because large pieces were difficult to control and easily break. The window openings at this mill have two three-over-three layouts. Several boards have fallen off the sides of the mill and the windows have become broken. Water is getting into the building through a roof hole.