"A Mill Should Be Built Thereon": An Early History of the Todmorden Mills


115 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-920474-89-6
DDC 971.3'541




Reviewed by Chris Raible

Chris Raible is the author of Muddy York Mud: Scandal and Scurrility in
Upper Canada.


The history of Ontario’s first 150 years could well be written as a
history of the province’s mills. As saw mills turned logs into lumber
and grist mills turned grain into food, matter was turned into money.
Farming areas flourished when settlers had access to mills, and the
mills became the focal points of the first communities. Later, more
specialized mills powered machinery of manufacture and, in the process,
produced the first urban areas. Each mill had its own development, its
own unique history.

This is the story of one such mill or, more accurately, of one cluster
of mills. Established on the Don River in the earliest years of the town
of York, the Todmorden Mills evolved to become one of Toronto’s
essential industries. The chronology of its early development is also
the tale of three early families—the Skinners, Helliwells, and
Eastwoods—and their struggles, rivalries, successes, and frustrations.
They left behind an incomplete trail of family papers and business
records, but fortunately there was enough material to enable the author
of this sensitive and unpretentious volume to trace the growth of a
commercial enterprise as well as to provide a glimpse into the larger
world of provincial political turmoil and urban social change.

Today, the Todmorden Mills functions as a museum publicly operated by
the borough of East York. It is known to many Torontonians only as a
tall brick chimney that adjoins the Don Valley Parkway. Thanks to
Eleanor Darke—and to the East York Historical Society—its importance
can now be better understood and appreciated.


Darke, Eleanor., “"A Mill Should Be Built Thereon": An Early History of the Todmorden Mills,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/1845.