It’s that time of year when driving around the Durham Region is nothing but a delight to to the senses. The smells, the sounds and especially the colours are overwhelmingly gorgeous. Mother Nature was totally on board for driving and exploring this particular Thanksgiving long weekend. The temperature was warm and the skies were sunny (most of the time). It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived in the Durham Region, a leisurely drive on a beautiful fall day is sure to lead you to discover something you didn’t even know was there.
This weekend we discovered a little bit of history at Tyrone Mills, a traditional water-powered mill. Built in 1846 by James McFeeters and John Gray, it is one of Canada’s oldest water-powered grist mills.
For the past 38 years, the mill has been owned and operated by Robert (Bob) Shafer and his family. Bob is very hands-on at the mill. As he talks about it, you can hear in his voice how important it is that they preserve the traditions while maintaining a neighbourly atmosphere in an intimate setting. He explains, too, how the mill has managed to survive.
“In 1846 this was a flour mill, shipping flour as far as Great Britain and the US. As things changed in the late 1800s, the small country mill couldn’t afford new machinery to keep up with the times, so it became a feed mill. In the 1950s the saw mill was added. Since then, it has been an apple cider producer, a bakery, a historic landmark and a vital part of the community”.
Bob has tried to preserve as much as possible of the mill’s interior and as a result, when you step inside you are transported back in time. You will find the apple press, millstones and a woodworking shop. You are Immediately enveloped with the smell of apple cider and fresh home made donuts. If you’re lucky you can catch Bob baking bread in the outdoor wood-fired clay oven. The oven itself is made of clay from the property and straw from a local farm.
A scenic walk along the dam will help you burn off some of calories from those delicious donuts. The lumber yard can supply board and batten, tongue and groove flooring, V joint paneling, clap board and cedar for decks and fencing. They specialize in unique or unusual lumber—the kind of thing you won’t find at Home Depot. There is also a blacksmith shop to explore.
Bob was looking forward to a tradition he started when we spoke. On the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend they host a dinner for family, staff, and friends. They even cook some of it on the wood stove. This was their 31st celebration dinner. The Tyrone Mills is open year round, seven days a week with few exceptions. You will be sure to fall in love with this little bit of Canadian history and culture that has been so carefully preserved for you to enjoy.