Situated approximately one mile east of Carlisle on Lots 4 and 5 in Concession 8 of East Flamborough Township, Progreston today is one of the area’s disappearing settlements.
The area was first settled by George L. Beardmore, laid out as a village by Andrew Patton, James Kievel, Joseph Tansley and William Campbell and, according to the County of Wentworth and Hamilton City Directory for 1865-66, given the name Progreston or Progresstown by James Kievel “to reflect the growth or progress he hoped the community would have.”
The community developed along the banks of the Twelve-Mile Creek, which provided an abundant supply of hydro power due to a 16-foot drop in the stream. During the 1860s and 1870s, numerous small mills used the water power to propel machinery. Among the businesses listed in the Wentworth County Directories during the two decades were gristmills, sawmills, a peg factory, flour mills and a siding and turning mill.
The entry for Progreston in the 1867-68 directory noted considerable detail about the small industrial community that had developed so quickly: “Employed by Mr. Charles Lawry and under the management of Mr. W. C. Burton, the peg factory, employing twelve hands is the only factory in the Dominion that turns out the ‘Ribbon’ peg for pegging machines, as well as the ordinary split peg. In Campbell’s saw mills there are eight hands that turn out about 500,000 feet of sawn lumber per annum, Campbell’s flouring and grist mills are built of brick, 4 storeys high, have three run of stone and turn out about 100 barrels daily. At Patton’s saw mills, about 300,000 feet of lumber are turned out annually. Mr. John McIntosh’s flour and grist mills contain two run of stone and are built of wood, three storeys high.”
To complete the little industrial complex, the Progreston Woollen Mill was established by Freeman Green in 1869. This became one of the longest family owned and operated mills in the area and was renowned for the manufacture of blankets and yarn for knitted goods such as socks and mittens in a system by which women of the community received yarn from the mill and produced knitted items which were then sold through the mill. The knitters were then paid a percentage for their work.
Once one of the busiest milling sites on the Twelve Mile Creek, today little appears to remain of the once prosperous community that boasted it was a progressive town – certainly deserving of the name it was given by its founder in the early 1860s.
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at email@example.com.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 1 April 2010.