Joe Lunn Remembers Working at Needler's Mill
As Joe Lunn recalls the time when the dam at Needler’s Mill went out, he realizes he’s the last of the line that worked at the mill in downtown Millbrook.
Joe’s father, Dave, worked at Needler’s Mill for 27 years. It was handy: the family lived on Distillery Street, just above the mill and dam, second house from the end. Joe figures that, in that time, his Dad took maybe three weeks’ holiday. There was no holiday pay.
The mill was a busy place. On top of milling the local grain, wheat came in from out west to the station in Millbrook. White Rose Flour was the premium product, but bran and wheat shorts were also milled. There was a roller for rolled oats and a grinder for chop. This was all morning work. In the afternoons, the saw mill went into action. There wasn’t enough power to run both; the dam, he says, only generated about 60 horsepower. “Sometimes,” Joe says, “there wasn’t enough water.” Then Joe would truck grain to the elevators at Fraserville. For the sawmill, logs that had been unloaded into the pond by area farmers were corralled by a log boom. Joe remembers working at the end of the saw, grabbing the planks and launching them straight out the upper window onto the truck bed below. It was he who figured out that steps that could be saved by parking the truck right next to the mill.
Quote from This Green & Pleasant Land:
It has always been considered that the first mill in Cavan Township was built by John Deyell who with his wife and three year old son became one of Cavan Township's first settlers. Many years later, in her History of Cavan and Millbrook, his great-granddaughter Mary Sloan Eakins wrote, "For many years John Deyell carried his grain on his back through the woods to Port Hope for grinding. Later he took a boulder from the fields, and secured a stone cutter to dress it as a millstone. He erected the first grist mill in the township at what is now Millbrook on the site where later stood Needler's Flour Mill."
The property was owned by James Deyell, a relative of John's, either a brother or a cousin. An agreement entered into in 1824 between John and James sets forth the contribution and responsibility of each. Clearly the major investment of construction of the mill and dam was made by John, while the site was James' contribution and James was to undertake the operation as miller and to accept half of the cost of upkeep.
Deyell's Mill prospered with James operating it. It processed flour and cattle feed until 1857 when it burned to the ground. This unfortunately was the fate of many early mills. At that time the property was sold to the Needler family who owned and operated a grist mill and a sawmill a few miles farther east on Baxter Creek in Cedar Valley.
We want to hear why the Mill is Important to you!
While working on this project, many local residents have told us why the Mill is so important to them, many with stories or photos of visiting Needler's Mill back when it was in operation. We would love to collect those thoughts, photos and stories and post them here.
Please send your stories and photos to and we would be glad to post it to this page.
John Deyell - First Settler in Cavan Township
Steve Tinney reflected back on how he and most of the kids in this area spent evenings, weekends and long summer days exploring and playing around the mill and the pond in the 1960's. He talked about how the mill and the pond still serve as an important sanctuary space in the middle of a busy, chaotic, wider society.
For years, Needler's Mill has stood as a backdrop for many wedding photos.