The crossroads settlement of Millgrove was first established around a branch of the Grindstone Creek which meanders lazily through the village before exiting eastwards across the township line to East Flamborough. Today, Millgrove is a quiet community, in an area surrounded by farms, orchards, market gardens and greenhouses – a landscape very different from the one that greeted the first settlers on their arrival in the 1820s. At that time, the area was the centre of a large belt of white pine, oak and cedar that was to bring prosperity to the community and was the initial reason for its development in the early years – for even the village’s name is a reflection that mills and trees played a prominent part in its early history.
David Cummins, son of Daniel Cummins of Rock Chapel, is regarded as being the founder of Millgrove. He came north to the Fifth Concession of the township with his young bride, Margaret Rymal, after their wedding at Rock Chapel in 1826. They chose the north side of the concession road for their first settler’s cabin, close to the Grindstone Creek. A larger log house was erected in 1830, to accommodate their growing family and finally in 1848, their third home, known as the ‘Cummins Cottage’, was built. This brick house, the first in the village, although greatly altered, still stands on a hillside above the Fifth Concession Road, just west of where David and his wife first settled, “appearing to defy the ravages of time.”
Other settlers soon followed. Adam Begg came from Ayrshire, Scotland about 1830, and while erecting his cabin, the sounds of his axe attracted the attention of David Cummins who walked through the bush to meet his first neighbour and reputedly they became friends for life. John Warren Ryckman purchased property in 1833, John Keen Crooker in 1835, Albert Palmer in 1841 and Jane and William Carey in 1843. Recently married, the young couple came to Upper Canada from Ireland, hoping to begin a new life with a new name, as Jane Carey, formerly Lady Jane Usher, had forfeited her title when she eloped with William Kilcarey, the coachman’s son.
David Cummins’ brothers, Jacob and John, also moved to the area and these three young men initiated the small industrial boom that the village experienced between 1840 and 1870. Around the intersection of the present Millgrove Sideroad and the Fifth Concession or Millgrove Road, a number of mills and factories were established on the corner lots. None of the mills were large. Most were steam-powered and probably only operated for part of the year, as the water level in the Grindstone Creek was never sufficient to provide a year-round source of power.
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 9 November 2007.