Farm Collector

Bellamy’s Steam Flour Mill

Upper Canada Village R.R. 1 Morrisburg, Ontario KOC 1X0 Photos by IMA’s Judy Whiteside

Upper Canada Village, situated on the St. Lawrence River in what was once called Canada West, represents a typical rural 1860s riverfront village of approximately 500 people. The village covers 66 acres, and contains three mills, two farms, two churches, two hotels, and some 25 other agricultural, domestic and commercial buildings. Hours of operation are May 19 to October 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Special events are held throughout the season.

On July 27, 1984 the steam plant for Bellamy’s Mill was fired up for the first time and on September 2 the remainder of the milling machinery was set in motion. The reopening of the mill was an important historic occasion and one which marked the beginning of a new phase in the development of Upper Canada Village.

The mill’s first opening was in 1822 the pioneering work of Samuel, Chauncey and Hiram Bellamy, brothers and recent immigrants from Vergennes in the state of Vermont. At that time the township of Augusta was sparsely settled and backward compared to those on the St. Lawrence River. The construction of a grist mill in the township would have been seen as an event of considerable importance for the neighboring settlers the possible difference between success and failure.

Pictured in the engine room of Bellamy’s Steam Flour Mill, Alden Place maintains the 125 year old steam engine used to power the mill. The mill operates on water and steam power provided by a reciprocating steam engine from the Henry Ford Museum collection. Upper Canada Village photo.

In the 1820s wheat was the staple crop of farmers in Upper Canada. Generally there was a good export market as well as a strong domestic demand, but a flour or grist mill was necessary to convert the wheat into a marketable commodity. Before the mill was built wheat was drawn twenty miles or more to mills near Brockville or Prescott across indifferent and often impassable roads. The construction of Bellamy’s Mill would have had other benefits. Building provided work for tradesmen and laborers. The ensuing business conducted at the mill offered the enterprising a means to make a living storekeepers, hotelkeepers, and tradesmen were quick to set up shop. The farmers had the most to gain: their township became more desirable to settlers, their land more valuable and their farms more profitable. Rapidly a new community developed around the mill taking the name of the township, Augusta. Such a pattern was repeated across the province of Upper Canada.

Bellamy’s Mill in 1822 consisted of the main structure now located at Upper Canada Village. It measured 40 by 50 feet and provided inside two pair of stones with which to mill flour and meal. In 1825 business justified the addition of a second pair and allowed the separate grinding of flour on finer textured stones.

In January 1863 disaster struck. A fire destroyed the interior of the mill. Nothing was saved. During the dismantling of the mill in 1981 a thin layer of ash interspaced with nails was all that remained of the mill’s timberwork and wooden machinery. Yet three months after the fire the mill was back in business with new and updated machinery.

During the rebuilding important changes had been made. A third pair of stones had been added and more importantly steam power to supplement the now inadequate water power. To house the boiler and 30 HP engine a wing to the south of the main structure was added. The addition of steam power was a significant step in providing the mill with an economic future. Hitherto the nine feet of water on the south branch of the Rideau River was available for only about four months a year. Insufficient water supply in summer and cold in winter brought the mill’s machinery to a standstill. The steam engine and boiler provided power and heat and could be called on twelve months a year regardless of the weather.

What has been reconstructed at Upper Canada Village is Samuel Bellamy’s rebuilt mill of March 1863. It contains three pair of stones, the water turbine, the steam engine and boiler, and all the other necessary equipment to manufacture flour and feed.

The search for a mill suitable for Upper Canada Village commenced in 1979. The hydraulic and topographical characteristics of the original site would have to be duplicated. The character and scale had to be complementary and the mill would have to be architecturally intact and available to Upper Canada for the restoration project to be successful.

Every mill is designed around a particular millseat. The head of water and the volume available are important factors in the mind of the millwright. The mill structure must accommodate the mechanical needs of the desired type of business. Custom mills, designed to meet the needs of the local farming community, require quite different machinery from merchant mills, whose business lies in the milling of flour for export. The mechanical requirements are so different as to affect the scale and character of the mills. For Upper Canada Village a small custom mill would best complement the site and the programming.

Even if a particular mill might be suitable for relocation it may not necessarily be available, and because mills were frequently instrumental in the development of a particular community, they arouse sentimental j responses in people long after their commercial significance has faded away. Their removal is often challenged regardless of legal title or condition, and with good reason. Historic buildings are important in the community.

It was apparent from the survey conducted in 1980 that only two mills in eastern Ontario had potential for relocation at Upper Canada Village; Bellamy’s Mill at North Augusta, and the McMartin Mill at Martintown, The latter was not considered seriously because no comparable site could be found at Upper Canada Village and its availability was questionable. Considering its prominent location in the Village, Bellamy’s Mill met most of the requirements needed for a successful restoration and reconstruction. It was a small custom mill, on a site which could be duplicated at Upper Canada Village; its exterior had survived largely intact and its exterior details could be documented by old photographs or archaeological diggings. It was available-the owner, the late Dr. Charles Danby, offered the mill to Upper Canada for tax considerations. Furthermore it was in such an advanced state of disrepair that it could not be restored on its existing foundations. It was in a state of imminent collapse. This being so it was evident to all that its relocation to Upper Canada Village was preferable to its complete loss to posterity. It was, however, almost devoid of machinery.

By 1981 the funding for the project and the transfer of the property to the Crown had been successfully secured so that the project could proceed in earnest.’ ‘As-found’ drawings were made of the mills at North Augusta and the location of every significant timber and stone in the building was recorded and tagged. A set of plans were then made for rebuilding the mill at Upper Canada Village by P. J. Stokes, Restoration Architect. The job of dismantling and reassembling the three dimensional jigsaw puzzle was entrusted to CDS of Whitby, Ontario. Work commenced in July of 1982 and was completed by April 1984.

Work on the installation of the mill’s machinery was suspended during 1983 due to the prevailing economic conditions. Progress could be made only in preparing the necessary plans and locating the necessary equipment. The unfortunate lack of original machinery made this more difficult. Only the turbine and the shafting could be re-used. The assembling of the machinery therefore presented a formidable task.

The essential steam engine was acquired from the Henry Ford Museum. It was a horizontal single cylinder mill engine of 30 HP manufactured in the early 1860s. It was the same configuration and horsepower of that acquired by Samuel Bellamy in 1863. Representing no technological innovations it was superfluous to the needs of the Henry Ford Museum, but ideal for this new application. The horizontal return tube boiler was constructed by Bell Industries of Seaforth, Ontario, the only company manufacturing these old fashioned but practical boilers in the province. The brickwork for the boiler was laid by Roger Salmon and his crew from Chesterville, the plans and supervision of the work by Earl McWilliams of Reed Industrial Heating of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Earl McWilliams is an engineer in his seventies who has been installing such boilers principally for saw milling companies in northern Ontario all his long and active engineering life. The steam whistle was donated by Mr. E. Connell, of Spencerville, the steam gauge by the Prescott Utilities Commission. The cast iron boiler front was purchased from the Heckston Cheese Factory through the estate of Fred Singleton. Toshack Brothers Ltd. of Prescott manufactured the smoke stack.

Sources of milling equipment were just as far flung. Two pairs of millstones came from the Eastern Townships of Quebec, one pair from our own collection and another stone from Carleton Place. Patterns for the millstones feed system were loaned by Miss McMartin, owner of the Mc-Martin Mill, and reproductions were made by Mr. William Hooper of Spencerville. Additional shafting and gearing were purchased from Gerald Petzold, proprietor of the Petzold Mill at Denbigh. Plans for the bolter were prepared from an example in the Ball Fall’s Mill near St. Catharines. All the timber and carpentry work for the machinery was laid out by carpenters on staff directed by Richard Casselman. The turbine was rebuilt by staff, the shaftings and couplings machined and repaired by Bingley Steel and Prescott Machine and Welding Companies. The belting was manufactured in England for York Belt of Toronto.

Steam Versus Water Power in the 1860s

In Upper Canada steam engines had already made their appearance in mills by 1823. In that year a 6 HP engine was set up in a Chippawa mill to drive one pair of stones. The earliest recorded engine installed in a mill in eastern Ontario belonged to George Langley. It was set up at the Maitland Windmill, first to grind flour, and then grain for use in his distillery. The wind power had proved inadequate, and as the site was unequipped with water power, steam was his only option. It was installed in 1834.

Despite these early beginnings and considerable public emotional enthusiasm, the use of steam engines in mills remained limited until the early 1860s. For example, in 1834 only one steam engine was recorded in use by provincial enumerators; in 1838 one in the Eastern district, two in the Johnstown district, two in the Midland district and fourteen in the Western district. By 1851-52, of the 612 flour mills, only 37 were steam powered, and of the 1,567 mills, 154 used steam engines. Their use was at this time still for transportation. Conservatism of Canada’s millers may not have been the principal reason for their slow adoption.

Even though the public equated steam power with progress and the new industrial age, mill owners had to take a more practical and pragmatic approach to its use, carefully weighing the advantages and disadvantages of both steam and water power.

For the Bellamys at North Augusta, the flour mill was doing good business but the river was unable to produce sufficient power in summer and winter. The flat topography of the land and the presence of the village and farms adjacent to the site precluded the enlargement of the mill pond. Thus, in sequence, they replaced their water wheel, probably an undershot wheel mounted inside the mill, with a turbine and then added a steam engine of 30 HP. The former used the available water more efficiently and the latter could be relied upon when the river was low.

As long as Upper Canada remained agricultural and undercapitalized, water power remained the primary source of power, and what industry there was located around the available hydraulic sites. However, as the process of urbanization and industrial concentration accelerated in the second half of the nineteenth century, the attractiveness of basing new industries close to transportation systems and market centers became paramount. This movement favored and was dependent on the adoption of steam power. During the transition years 1860 to 1875 the combination of water and steam powered industries in rural settings was a common phenomenon in Upper Canada.

The Steam Plant

The 1871 provincial census reveals that Bellamy’s Mill was by that date provided with both a steam engine and a turbine, both of which were of 30 HP and could be used to drive the machinery. Another document shows that S. Bellamy had installed the steam plant prior to the sale of his mill in 1867. The obvious implication is that part of the large mortgage given by the Bank of Montreal in 1863 to S. Bellamy to rebuild the interior of the mill had been used by him to purchase the necessary steam machinery.

The only clues to the layout of the steam plant were obtained from an archaeological dig of the site in 1982 and photographs of the exterior of the building between 1895 and 1910. These revealed that the engine had been located on the east side of the structure with the engine’s flywheel between it and the wall. A belt from the flywheel had driven through a slot in the mill’s south wall to the milling machinery beyond. The boiler had been located against the west wall parallel to the steam engine. The photographs located the stack at the south end of the building. This and the position of the brick work strongly suggest that the boiler had been of a horizontal return tube style. It was on these significant clues that the present steam system was based.

Horizontal Return Tube Boilers – H.R.T.’s

H.R.T. boilers were very common in the nineteenth century and the most suitable for installation in mills or factories where the boiler was stationary and a permanent fixture. They were also the most efficient boiler then available. The water in the boiler was first heated by the direction action of the combustion in the fire box beneath the boiler and the passage of the burning gases along its underside, and then by the passage of the flue gases through the tubes arranged inside the boiler. The smoke stack was therefore located at the same end of the boiler as the fire box. H.R.T.’s are also called fire tube boilers, as the flue gases pass through the tubes.

The contemporary nineteenth century illustrations and the present boiler setting show that H.R.T. boilers are suspended in a brick setting. The interior of the setting is lined with two ply of fire brick to withstand the high combustion temperatures. Outside the fire brick are two ply of common brick. This is to add stability to the structure and also mass to contain the heat around the boiler. A traditional 30 HP boiler would have been made up of plates riveted together and would measure 42 to 44 inches in diameter by 120 inches in length. It probably would have contained 39 three inch tubes.

The present boiler was constructed in 1982 by Bell Industries of Seaforth, Ontario. In detail and in the interest of conserving space, the boiler is marginally smaller than the standard nineteenth century one. It contains 53 2 inch tubes which allowed the exterior dimension to be reduced to 36 inches in diameter and 100 inches in length. Furthermore, the boiler shell is welded rather than riveted. Riveted boilers can no longer be used at the pressure at which we have to operate. In all other respects it is very similar in operation and performance. The boiler was installed under the supervision of Earl Mc-Williams from Reed Industrial Heating of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The brick work was erected by Roger Salmon of Chesterville, Ontario.

The price of a boiler of these dimensions in the 1860s would have been about $900, not including the cost of installation and piping. This would amount to about $72,000 in modern currency, and therefore a sizeable investment.

Boiler Front: The cast iron front was obtained from the Heckston Cheese Factory. It was manufactured by Campbell Iron and Steel Works of Ottawa. Its date of manufacture is unknown. Often the boiler front was included in the price of the boiler.

Steam Gauge: The steam pressure gauge was donated by the Prescott Utilities Commission. It has a brass case of eight inches across the face. Its manufacturer and date of manufacture are unknown. It reads zero to 200 pounds per square inch. It contains a Bourdon pressure tube. The recommended safety valve setting for this boiler is 150 P.S.I, and the valve is set at 125 P.S.I. The entire steam plant, however, has been tested to 222 P.S.I.

Steam and Water Piping

The piping for the boiler is similar to contemporary nineteenth century practice. There has been little change except in the method of manufacturing the materials. The steam lines were generally made up of cast iron pipes with flanges. The flanges facilitate the removal of sections of piping without the need to dismantle the entire steam line. The steam lines are also flanged and bolted together, but are cast steel.

The water lines were assembled by using threaded couplings, unions and elbows, and the same method has been used. Current practices are no different.


Newman Hattersley valves have been used on the water and steam lines. They are primarily globe valves. These have round bodies and are designed to allow adjustment to the passage of steam or water through them. This manufacturer’s valves were chosen as being the closest in style to contemporary patterns. Mid-nineteenth century valves were somewhat more globelike than can now be obtained. Gate valves have been used on the incoming water supply and on the water column. Here no regulating of supply is required and the valve is either in the open or closed position.

Water Column

Packaged water columns, containing the cast iron body, water glass, tricocks and drain were just becoming available in the early 1860s. They allowed closer scrutiny of the boiler’s condition. The water glass allows visual reading of the water level in the boiler and the tricocks a mechanical reading. By opening of the tricocks water or steam will be emitted and the level of the water judged accordingly. The level at the bottom of the glass indicated three inches of water over the top of the tubes, so that the level is usually maintained between the lowest two tricocks or between six inches and eight inches of water over the tubes. Prior to this time, the tricocks were usually mounted directly into the boiler shell, as was the water column. Contemporary illustrations and maintenance records would suggest that the water glass was sometimes omitted and only tricocks were used. Insurance records also would suggest that engineers frequently had little idea what was happening within the boiler and so operated them in a dangerous condition, as they had either insufficient instrumentation to detect the state of the boiler, or weren’t trained to recognize their potentially dangerous state and take action to render it safe.

The Steam Engine

The steam engine was constructed in about 1865, probably in Illinois. Its history before its purchase by the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan in the 1930s is unknown. It was completely restored by that institution and operated on compressed air until its sale to Upper Canada Village in 1982.

Its dimensions and performance are as follows:


30 HP at

100 r.p.m.

Cylinder (diameter)








Total weight of

engine and flywheel

6,200 lbs.

Operating speed 85-100 r.p.m.

Flywheel width of face


Flywheel diameter


Flywheel weight

3,000 lbs.

When new, the engine would have cost about $900, which in terms of modern currency might correspond to about $72,000. Thus it was a considerable investment for a mill owner such as S. Bellamy.

Steam Governor

The governor was an important regulating device designed to maintain the engine at a steady speed. The engine is fitted with a Gardner patent governor. Originally patented in 1860, it was improved in 1873. The unimproved model has been in-stalled. It can be set at a variety of speeds between 98-150 r.p.m.. It is set to maintain a speed of 98 r.p.m. How the Gardner governor works is basically thus: the belt from the flywheel shaft to the governor transmits the speed from the former to the latter. The faster the governor is turned, the higher the balls on the governor rise. A shaft activated by the balls opens or closes the valve controlling the steam supply. If a heavy load is applied to the engine, the flywheel shaft and governor belt slow, the balls fly lower and the steam valve is opened until equilibrium is reached. If the heavy load is suddenly removed, the reverse takes place. In either case the speed is restored to the pre-determined setting.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1992
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