Friends of Morningstar Mill

20160528_131628 milling day
Milling Day – May 2016

Morningstar Mill would not be the site it is today without the Friends of Morningstar Mill.  The volunteers at the mill put in over 2,400 hours last year providing tours of the mill and house, running the mill, helping with research and collections and keeping up with general maintenance.

Wilson Morningstar operated the Mountain Mills from 1883 until 1933.  By 1930, Wilson had gradually shut down his flour mill and sawing businesses, and when he died in 1933, the remaining commercial operations of the mill came to an end.

After Wilson’ death, the mill site and its associated equipment slowly fell into a state of disrepair even though the family continued to live in the house until the 1990s.  The property was sold to the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario (HEPC) in 1941 and to the City of St. Catharines in 1989.  Wilson’s granddaughter, Lorna Robson, bequeathed the contents of the mill and house to the City of St. Catharines in 1994.

Public interest in the mill was renewed in the late 1950s, and with the support of the City of St. Catharines, HEPC and the St. Catharines Water Works Commission, the mill opened as Mountain Mills Museum in 1962. Wilson’s grandson, Donald Robson, acted as the curator and custodian of the site.

In 1967, Welland resident, Gary Konkle met Donald Robson while on a family outing to Mountain Mills Museum. Sharing a love of old machinery, Gary and Donald worked together to repair an Edison-style electrical generator that had been used to provide lighting for the mill and house from about 1905 to 1914. After Donald’s death in 1991, Lorna Robson, Donald’s sister, gave Gary the generator in remembrance of her brother.

This gift renewed Gary’s interest in the mill. In March 1992, Gary approached St. Catharines City Council with suggestions for the repair and rebuilding of the mill and gained permission to form a group to do so.  Within a week of this meeting, the long-time member of the Niagara Antique Power Association and retired Cyanamid Stationary Engineer formed the Friends of Morningstar Mill.

From 1992 – 2006, the Friends of Morningstar Mill cleaned the property, rebuilt the turbine shed which included replacing the concrete curb located close to the crest of the Falls, and restored all its equipment. They also rebuilt the dam and its gating system, the Morningstar’s garage and icehouse, and constructed a sawmill and waterwheel.  With the help of the John Howard Society, the Morningstar’s house was renovated and opened to the public in 2006.

A milestone was reached in November 1996 when stone-ground flour was produced using the water-powered turbine and Wilson Morningstar’s grinding stones. After 60 years of silence, Wilson’s mill rumbled and the smell of flour filled the air. The Friends of Morningstar Mill that achieved this success are Barry Bye, Gunther Buchler, Leo Cloutier, Rob Denhollander, Keith Dewar, Jack Foley, Roger Helstrom, Paul Hutchinson, Don McKee, Gary Konkle, Al Lobsinger, Greg Miller, Bill McClearly, Robert Peabody, Jim Phelps, Keith Pullin, Ernie Roepke, Carl Simpson, Jim Smith, Rob Tuckwell and Chris Wheeler.

Today, the continued operation of the mill and the conservation of the buildings and property, and tours of the site are made possible by the ongoing efforts and support of the Friends of Morningstar Mill and the City of St. Catharines.

If you are interested in volunteering at the mill, please contact Carla Mackie at 905-984-8880 x 5251 or cmackie@stcatharines.a

 

 

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