Friday, 5 December 2014

Milton and the legacy of the Martin family

Martin's Mill, built in 1856

Milton may have been so named in honour of the poet John Milton, but also as a "mill town" that owes it's very existence to one courageous and industrious family, the Martins.

Jasper Martin and his wife Sarah left Newcastle, England on May 17th, 1818. They were both just 21 years of age, and with them were their 3 year old son John and his 4 month old brother Joseph. They arrived at York (now Toronto) in August of 1818 where they lived for three years.  In 1820 a third child - a girl - was born but died in infancy.  While they lived in York, Jasper received from the Crown 100 acres of land described as Lot 14, Concession 2,Township of Trafalgar, Halton County in the district of Gore.

On October 15th, 1821, Jasper, Sarah and their sons settled on the property allotted to them, and in addition purchased another 100 acres of land from one Joseph Whitefield who subsequently returned back to the Old Country.  Young Jasper was clever, industrious and far-sighted, and he realized almost immediately the need for a grist mill to serve the pioneer settlers in the district.  He was soon hard at work erecting a simple frame building, and by 1822 had a grist mill in operation.  In 1825, he followed this with both a sawmill and an ashery.

Early settlers to this area endured many hardships, and the Martins saw more than their fare share.  Only the bare details exist, but the sad facts were that Jasper and Sarah had tragically short lives. Sarah passed away at 33, and Jasper at 36. During the short span of their lives, to them 5 children were born.  The aforementioned John and Joseph,  the infant Hanah who passed away, and two more boys - Edward and William, both born here in Milton.

During his lifetime, Jasper was responsible for damming the creek and creating an artificial mill pond.  The work for this was done entirely by hand, but as the need for depth increased ox drawn barges were employed to remove the mud and silt.  According to one local story, during a flood one season the bank of the pond gave away.  Living close by was an old woman who kept pigs, and as the waters swirled and rose, the old woman,pigs and buildings apparently went floating on the pond together.

When Jasper Martin died, the grist and sawmills were carried on by his sons.  The mill building pictured in my sketch was built in 1856, the year before Milton was incorporated as a town.  This mill operated under power derived from the mill pond and Sixteen Mile Creek which fed it.  For all the prosperity that the pond and the creek brought the Martin family, it also brought them tragedy.  In 1846, youngest son William was drowned in the pond, and eldest son John drowned in the Martin Street creek in 1871.  At some point in time, Joseph Martin went to Australia and the mill was operated by local man John White and John Martin.  The mill was in operation from 1856 until 1963 when it was destroyed by fire.  Occasionally during this time others may have operated or rented the mill, but it was always owned by the Martin family.  

The Martin family are rightly regarded as the founders of this town, for if it were not for Jasper's ingenuity, the mill pond and mill town - "Milton" - would never have saw existence.  Although the mill itself is now gone, you need not look too far to see reminders of the Martin Family.  The mill pond and it's grounds sit in the centre of the old town, a beautiful area now called Centennial Park and frequented by many.  Adjacent to the park is Martin Street, named for the family. And sitting proudly on Martin Street facing both the pond and the park is the stately Martin family home, built in 1860 by son Joseph.  If you walk a short distance down to Main Street and head east, you can also see our magnificent original town hall, also built by Joseph in 1865 for the princely sum of $5,000.

While the mill that created it is now but a distant memory, the rich legacy of an intrepid pioneer family, the Martins, will live on forever in this wonderful town which we now call home, Milton.

The Martin family home, 57 Martin Street - built in 1860

Milton Town Hall & Market Building, built in 1865 by Joseph Martin

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