Print this Post

The mills of Sixteen Mile Creek – An important part of Trafalgar Township’s history

April 2023

Like many rivers in Ontario, Sixteen Mile Creek, in Oakville, Ontario, had its fair share of mills in the days before electrically-powered modern machinery. Flowing from the Niagara Escarpment, south through the towns of Milton and Oakville and emptying into Lake Ontario, Sixteen Mile Creek was used to power the mill wheels, thus powering the machinery in the saw mills and grist mills.

A small parkette, on Cornwall Road in Oakville, pays tribute to five mills once located along Sixteen Mile Creek, in what was then known as Trafalgar Township. Old Mill Parkette is located on the former site of William Chisholm’s grist mill, part of the 960-acres of land that Chisholm purchased at the mouth of Sixteen Mile Creek in 1827, with the plan to create ship building yards there.

Chisholm damned the river a short distance to the north-west of his grist mill to create a mill pond, but as Sixteen Mile Creek makes a dramatic S-curve, known as a “Hog’s Back,” prior to flowing past the mill, a tunnel was dug to bring the water directly to power the mill wheels.

Chisholm’s grist mill is long gone, as are all the other mills that once lined Sixteen Mile Creek, and Oakville’s agricultural and milling industries are a thing of the past. In fact, Oakville is now a bustling town with population of 213,759, making it Ontario’s largest town.

One relic of Chisholm’s mill that remains today is a shale stone arch. This was a part of the mill flume intake tunnel, which was filled-in long ago.

Oakville Basket Company Flywheel in Old Mill Parkette

The centrepiece of Old Mill Parkette is the 15 foot-flywheel, a steam engine remnant, the only remaining elements of the Oakville Basket Company factory. Established in 1871, the Oakville Basket Company manufactured baskets for then-rural Oakville’s fruit farming industry. Strawberry farmers John Cross and John Chisholm had been making baskets on their respective farms for around five years, before establishing a factory in the former Victoria Brewery, along what is now Trafalgar Road.

The flywheel had originally been manufactured around 1896 for other uses and was re-conditioned for
installation in the Oakville Basket Company factory in 1932. It weighs over 20 tons and produced 75 horse power, enough energy to run the entire plant’s operation.

After the Oakville Basket Company factory closed 1984, the flywheel was salvaged from the factory, along with the attached crank and cylinder, along with a piston within the cylinder. It was installed in the parkette in 2002, which has walkways in the centre of the park that are designed in the shape of a wheel, and mounted on three custom made reinforced concrete pedestals.

The flywheel is attached to a frame that is itself attached to the crank and cylinder. A piston within the cylinder is attached by a cross head to a connecting rod and bearing to the frame. This industrial artifact represents a period of industrial and agricultural productivity in Trafalgar Township and the legacy of modern-day Oakville. It also pays tribute to the Oakville Basket Company, once one of the biggest factories in town and the town’s the largest employer at one time.

The Mills of Trafalgar Township

Phillip Triller’s mill north of Upper Millde Road (1810)

George Chalmer’s mill at Dundas Street (1827)

William Chisholm’s mill at Speers Road (1830)

Hiram McCraney’s mill north of the Queen Elizabeth Way (1835)

Thompson Smith’s mill, south of Upper Middle Road (1838)


Sources: Sixteen Mile Creek | Hiking the GTA, Sixteen Mile Creek (Halton Region) – Wikipedia, filestream.ashx (escribemeetings.com), The Oakville Basket Factory – A Major Piece of Oakville’s History (looklocal.ca), Oakville, Ontario – Wikipedia.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/the-mills-of-sixteen-mile-creek-an-important-part-of-trafalgar-townships-history/

2 pings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>