New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The City Mills

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From the blog at

The following description of mills in the early days at Saint John was written by W.O. Raymond, and appeared in The New Brunswick Magazine, Volume 2, Number 5, Saint John, N.B., 1899.

Jewett Bros Mill

Jewett Bros. West Head Saw Mill, Saint John

ca. 1865, New Brunswick Museum


The “City Mills”

The first aboideau and dyke at the Marsh Bridge were constructed in 1788, by James Simonds, who soon afterwards built two tide saw mills there, with perhaps a grist mill in connection. The first grist mill in the vicinity, however, was situated at the outlet of Lily Lake, and was built about 1770. [Aboideau: A tidal gate to protect marshland, allowing water out at low tide but preventing its return. J.W.]

There was a saw mill at the outlet of the old mill pond, near the St. John Railway depot, as early as the year 1767. It was, of course, a tide mill and was built by Simonds and White. Later on, and prior to the arrival of the Loyalists, there was also a primitive grist mill here. “The Hazen grist mill” was, however, of later date. The story of its erection in the year 1787 is contained in the letter book of the elder Ward Chipman, found by the writer in an old dust pile not long ago. Writing to Messrs. Ludlow and Goold of New York under date, June 4, 1787, Chipman says:—

“I have a share in a set of mills erecting here, for the completion of which several materials will be wanted, which I believe can be procured much cheaper and better with you than elsewhere, a list of them is enclosed together with a letter from Mr. [Stephen] Bedell our mill-wright to his father who lives upon Staten Island, who is a good judge of the quality of the articles we want, and will attend at any time convenient to make choice of them under your direction. He is an old mill-wright, and all his life time used to the business, and his son assures us he will very readily undertake the selection. We wish the things to be shipped on board the schooner St. John, Benjamin Andrews, master. A Mr. Crookshank on board will lake charge of them. It will be best to have the mill stones and iron work put on board as ballast for fear of any difficulty in landing them here, which I imagine may in that case be avoided. The bolting cloths Mr. Crookshank can put in his chest. The amount of these articles will, I suppose, be between £20 and £30.”

The next reference to the mills in Ward Chipman’s letter book is found in a letter to his brother-in-law, Wm. Gray, dated Dec. 12, 1787, in which the following passage occurs:—

“I am concerned pretty largely in a set of Tide mills erected in the City during the last summer, which are so far completed that we have one pair of stones grinding very handsomely; and if Indian Corn is at a low price with you it will answer very well to import a quantity here. I have therefore desired Lovitt not to engage any freight after his arrival at Boston till he hears from you. Part of his freight is already engaged, but he says he shall have room for 300 or 400 bushels of Corn. If then good Indian Corn is as low with you as ½ a dollar a bushel and can be conveniently procured shall be obliged if you will ship to me by him 400 bushels. Perhaps by taking so large a quantity it may be had cheaper. Some time ago, Lovitt tells me your market was glutted with that article. It will be necessary to see that the quality is good as it will be ground intirely for family use, Indian meal being much used here by the poor.”

A more detailed account of the mills is to be found in the letter written by Ward Chipman June 8, 1788, to his old friend of Revolutionary times, Thomas Aston Coffin, then holding a prominent official position at Quebec:

“Respecting the mills which are building here in which I have an interest, the whole expense of them when completed will be about, and not more than, £2,000. At present I hold 8 sixteenths, Bliss (our Attorney General) 2 sixteenths, Mr. Hazen (my father-in-law) and a Mr. White 6 sixteenths. Of this last share 2 sixteenths, Mr. White’s proportion, will be to be disposed of and George Leonard, who is expected out from England every day, has the promise of it if he inclines to take it, but I doubt much if he will have the money to spare. If it is too small I would get you 4 sixteenths if you wish by transferring to you 2 sixteenths of my own. I can only say on the subject, that if I had it in my power I should be glad to take it myself as I think there cannot be a doubt that in the worst of times the mills will yield at least 20 per cent, and if the Province grows, as I think must be the case, a much larger profit will be realized. Mr. Hazen has the principal management of the business so that you will be sure of punctual remittal of your share of the profits. I need not add how much my own inclination and wishes are interested to have you a Partner in the concern if compatible with your other views. If this proposal meets with your approbation let me know in your next in what manner your proportion of the purchase will be advanced; let me know also what is the present price of wheat in your market. I should not have written you anything on this subject, intending to propose it upon your coming this way this summer, which from your last letter I now despair of. You would then have seen the mills and their situation, which is the only one for mills below the Falls, and being Tide mills and in an harbor which never freezes, can never have an impediment to their going. There is also a saw mill upon the same dam.”

“When I speak of the above profits, I mean only what will in all human probability arise from the Toll—but the moment we can employ any capital in the purchase of Grain for manufacturing, the profits will be more than double.”

“We hold the grounds, mill privileges, etc., for twenty-one years commencing last January at the rent of £25 currency annually. At the end of the term the Lessors are to pay us the full value of all our improvements or to extend the lease a further term at the same rent, and so “toties quoties.” * * Our contracts are made for completing the whole this summer; let me know by the first opportunity your determination.”

The “City Mills,” as they were called, were successfully operated by William Hazen for many years. Farmers on the St. John river sent their grain by water and sometimes from considerable distances as will be seen by the letter that follows:—

“Bellmonte, 8th Sept., 1791”

“Dear Sir:—By White I send two bags of wheat, not in good order, to be ground and boiled at your mill. I send likewise four empty bags to be filled with Indian meal, all of which you will please to order put on board White’s vessel on his return and send the price of the meal. You will perhaps think it extraordinary proceedings to send grist from this to your mill, but I really think it the cheapest method I can take to get grinding at this time. I am Dear Sir”

“Your most obed’t Serv’t, Dan’l Bliss”


“Bellmont,” it may be observed, is the property about eight miles below Fredericton formerly the residence of the late Lieut. Governor Hon. R.D. Wilmot and now in possession of his sons.


Written by johnwood1946

November 15, 2014 at 9:43 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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