If you want to take a trip back in time, you just need to visit Hope Mill in Keene, Ont. says Alex McCubbin, president of ‘Friends of Hope Mill,’ the organization that runs and maintains the site.
“In the 1830s a family came over from Scotland, the Lang family, and they built a mill on the Indian River, and it was used to process wool,” said McCubbin.
“That continued until the late 1800s when the wool mill moved to Peterborough. The sawmill at Lang burned and they added a saw floor to this mill, around the same time they brought in new technology.”
Along the way, a Lang married a Hope and the mill got its name.
The mill was operational until the 1960s, changed hands to the Otonabee Region Conservation Authority and eventually fell to a group of volunteers to restore in the late 90s and early 2000s.
“They raised enough money to start refurbishing the mill, Canadian General Electric refurbished the turbines, it was a very exciting time for the mill,” said McCubbin, noting volunteer Bob Rehder lead the charge.
They brought back to its former glory, working as it would have more than a century ago.
“Water flows down through the turbine and back out to the river at the lower level,” said McCubbin.
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“The height difference is about six feet and that will give us about 50 horsepower, between the two turbines.”
The whole operation is powered by the Indian River.
Jim Kingdon is a volunteer with ‘Friends of Hope Mill’ (one of about 20) but it’s not his first experience with the sawmill. Kingdon’s grandfather, Jack Hope, was the last person to work onsite in 1966.
“I grew up, with him being my grandfather, in the house across the river and would spend summers here as a kid,” said Kingdon.
Now living in that house across the river, Kingdon said this is a full circle moment.
“When the turbines start up and the mill starts vibrating and the noise you can just see peoples faces light up with wonder,” he said.
“Every time this thing starts up I get the feeling like that is so cool and I am happy to be a part of it.”
Read more: Family Day at Hope Mill in Keene
‘Friends of Hope Mill’ still mill lumber on site, but McCubbin said the main goal is education.
“Especially for kids it lets them see how things were done back in the day and nothing was mechanized,” said McCubbin. “I have kids remark to me, ‘Wow, they sure had to work hard’, and they sure did.”
Hope Mill is open to the public for tours on Tuesdays from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm, the site has been closed to visitors due to the pandemic. Workshops also run on site.
For more information you can visit the Hope Mill website or find Hope Mill on facebook.