Crooks Hollow & Darnley Mill:

We looked under ghost towns of Ontario and we dicovered Darnley Mill. So we hopped in the car and went to check it out on Monday, May 20, 2002. When we arrived the mill was a sight to see, with so little of the building left, yet a lot of history. I took a picture of the plaque located in front of the mill which serves as an introduction to the site.

To see the full size image, click on the picture above.

After repeated visits and extensive research, we are pleased and proud to present to you.......
The History Of Crooks Hollow

Roughly 6,000 years ago humans began living at the "Head of the Lake" which is the region we now call the western end of Lake Ontario. For thousands of years you could find Native people using the lakes and streams for fishing, the surrounding forests for hunting game, and the open flatlands for cultivating corn and squash. These Natives were called the Neutrals by the French because they steadfastly refused to get involved in the battles between two neighboring groups, The Hurons (who primarily lived along Georgian Bay), and the Iroquois (who lived to the south of Lake Ontario).

Not a lot is known about the Neutrals, but their numbers are estimated to have been about 40,000 before the Europeans arrived. There were a few recorded visits by French traders and missionaries during the early 17th century, when it was noted that the Neutrals had a similar culture to other groups found elsewhere, but the language was "somewhat different".

The Neutrals built their villages near streams and lakes, then fortified them to protect themselves from other groups. The women were primarily in charge of the planting and tending the crops while the men took care of the hunting and fishing duties. It has been noted that the Neutrals were in control of the mining of slate and flint near present day Fort Erie, and there is evidence of extensive trading of these materials (as well as some other items) throughout eastern North America.

Unfortunately a great many of the Neutrals were lost to a smallpox epidemic that was introduced by the Europeans in 1638-40. When a great war broke out among the Natives in the area and the Neutrals could not keep themselves free of the conflict, they lost a great deal more. In 1650 the Iroquois attacked the Hurons, killing or scattering the members of this powerful nation, then turned on the Neutrals.

There is very little known about this war among the Natives, but it is believed that the last stand of the Neutrals took place in what we now call Dundurn Park. The one thing that is known for certain is the Neutral Nation has vanished. By the year 1700 the whole area was firmly established as a French territory.

What is now known as Crooks Hollow can be found in the Flamborough Township, in the Hamilton Wentworth region. In the early 1800's it was the center of upper Canada's industrial growth. Crooks Hollow was named for it's most prominent founder James Crooks, who was an ambitious industrialist that saw the potential of Spencer's Creek.

James Crooks
Jane (Cummings) Crooks

The war of 1812 proved to be particularly difficult for the soldiers in the area, so Crooks constructed a grist mill to supply flour for making bread. (It was named Darnley Mill in honor of his Scottish hero Lord Darnley.)

Besides using the creek to power the grist mill, he envisioned it for use in irrigating crops, developing electrical power, recreation, transportation and drinking water.

The grist mill was the first of many businesses built in the surrounding area that provided the starting point for the growth of Crooks Hollow. These included a saw mill, a cooperage, a general store, a blacksmith shop, a linseed oil mill, a carding mill and distillery situated along the creek or near it.

Darnley Homestead circa 1880

An artist's depiction of life at the Crook's homestead circa 1880

In 1826 the grist mill was converted and became Upper Canada's first paper mill. Crooks eventually sold his paper mill due to decreasing water power. The mill was originally sold to Thomas Helliwell, who later sold it to Ellan Bansley. When Ellen died, her family sold the mill to James Stutt and Robert Sanderson.

James Stutt

In 1878 Sanderson retired and Stutt took over the entire business, and with the aid of his sons, continued to run it for many years. In an unfortunate turn of events, Stutt's son John A. Stutt, and Ed Maloney (the fireman) were killed in a boiler explosion on July 9, 1885. The boiler explosion took off the roof of the boiler house as well as the roof of the main building. But this was not the end of the line for the mill. It continued to operate for many years after this deadly mishap.

The final blow came when a fire gutted the building in 1943. It was never rebuilt after the fire. The only thing that remains, are the stone walls that stand in testament to the foresight of an ambitious man. The eventual downfall of Crooks Hollow came when the railways bypassed this once thriving business center. People began moving away to neighboring towns in search of work and Crooks Hollow slowly died away.

To see the full size image, click on the picture above.

In the above photo of a map dated 1860 it gives one a good idea of all the local places in and around the Darnley Mill that existed in that time... This gives one an idea of what was around Crooks Hollow in that time period and makes exploring the area fun. We have checked out the site of the old Morden Mill and Barn and got some activity around the area...

Darnley History
May 20, 2002
June & July, 2002-3 (1)
June & July, 2002-3 (2)
June & July, 2002-3 (3)
August, 2003 (1)
August, 2003 (2)
August, 2003 (3)
September, 2003 (1)
September, 2003 (2)
October 12-13, 2003 (1)
October 12-13, 2003 (2)
October 19, 2003 (1)
October 19, 2003 (2)
October 30-31, 2003 (1)
October 30-31, 2003 (2)
November 2, 2003 (1)
November 2, 2003 (2)
November 9, 2003 (1)
November 9, 2003 (2)
November 15, 2003 (1)
November 15, 2003 (2)
December 19, 2003 (1)
December 19, 2003 (2)
March 27, 2004
April 17, 2004 (1)
April 17, 2004 (2)
May 21, 2004 (1)
May 21, 2004 (2)
May 28, 2004 (1)
May 28, 2004 (2)
May 29, 2004 (1)
May 29, 2004 (2)
May 29, 2004 (3)
May 29, 2004 (4)
June 5, 2004 (1)
June 5, 2004 (2)
July 9, 2004
July 30, 2004
August 7, 2004
August 5, 2005
August 12, 2005
September 3, 2005 (1)
September 3, 2005 (2)
September 3, 2005 (3)
September 9, 2005
October 7, 2005

Copyright 1998-2005 by George & Cathy Brady, Hamilton Paranormal