Crooks’ Hollow, Part 3

Entrepreneur extraordinaire

Ever the astute businessman, James Crooks must have been aware that success might provide him with the opportunity to obtain a provincial paper monopoly. He immediately began construction of a mill downstream from the Darnley Mill, employing stone mason Joseph Barber, a recent immigrant from County Antrim, Ireland.

However, one problem initially stalled Crooks’ plans. In 1826, the manufacture of such paper depended not upon wood pulp, but upon a secure and abundant supply of good quality cotton and linen rags, which were unavailable in the immediate and sparsely populated vicinity of Crooks’ Hollow. In an attempt to solve the problem, he drafted an advertisement in March of 1826 that appeared in The Gleaner, a Niagara area newspaper: “The Subscriber, having in view the erection of a Paper Mill …solicits the patronage of the public in supplying rags sufficient to keep the same in full employment. The advantages to this colony from the establishment of a Paper Mill are so obvious and so numerous that the Subscriber hopes that persons to whom the value of rags may be no object will (from patriotic motives) lend their assistance …otherwise, one great object, in establishing such a manufacture, namely that of keeping money among the colonists will be defeated.”

The strongly worded patriotic request for support was successful.

The Hon. James Crooks’ house, demolished almost a century ago.

On June 6, 1826, a group of 20 West Flamborough Township residents signed an affidavit that appeared in The Farmer’s Journal stating that “…we have this day witnessed Mr. James Crooks’ Paper Mill, in West Flamborough, in complete operation.”

The first samples of white paper were submitted in September and rejected, but on December 1, 1826, Crooks’ second submission was deemed acceptable and he claimed the prize.

During its zenith, Crooks’ manufacturing empire employed more than 100 men, but as early as 1835, its premier position began to slowly decline due to the growing industrial development of nearby Dundas and Waterdown and the declining power of Spencer Creek.

Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at

This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 11 November 2009.


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