Conn Mills

Conn Mills was once a flourishing community

CONN MILLS – Conn Mills, a small community situated at the head of the tides of Pugwash River was known as the “Head of the Tides” when John Fillmore, one of the River Philip Fillmore’s, settled there. 

It was good timberland at that time, and he bought land on each side of the river and built a dam and saw mill there. It was reported that he prospered well. As more settlers came and started to clear land and farm, there was need of a grist mill to grind their grain into flour. As there was none handy, he built one, which was a great convenience to the pioneers. For several years it was the only one between Wallace River and River Phillip. Then a big freshet came and destroyed the dam and mills and as Mr. Fillmore was becoming aged, he decided to sell his property to some one who was in a better position to rebuild the dam and mills. 

A few years later the “Conn” family purchased the Fillmore properties, mill sites, etc. and rebuilt the dam (and saw) and grist mills. They operated the mills for several years. When the parents died some of the family went elsewhere; with the exception of Andrew. Andrew was more interested in farming than milling and the mills and pond privileges were sold to a company composed of MacPhersons. They built saw mills and did well in the lumbering business. The lumber was rafted down the river to Pugwash where it was loaded on ships. Gradually one after another sold his share until only Angus MacPherson was left. His heirs roped it for some time and operated it in the spring when there were logs to saw.

The grist mill was operated by Hugh MacPherson, who after having gotten his fathers homestead, took up farming and sold the mill to Jesse Demings. 

In a few years it was sold to another company but it seems everyone was busy at some other business and the work of operating, the grist mill was neglected. This was a great inconvenience to the farmers who had to now travel elsewhere to have their grain ground. 

Because the “Conn” family who settled here and contributed so much to the area, the place became know as Conn Mills. The father William Conn, who came from Scotland, died in 1863 at the age of 74 years. He and his wife and two sons, Andrew and Robert and daughter Margaret are buried in the Conn Mills Cemetery. 

We are not sure when the first settlers came or if John Fillmore was the first. The first burials recorded in the Conn Mills Cemetery are of two of his grandchildren in the years 1847 and 1849. 

Other early settlers, whose names are on the tombstones were: MacDougall, Cameron, Thompson, Ross, Finley, DeMings, MacLellans, Wakeham and Ives. 

Conn’s Mills was once a flourishing community, consisting of a store, school, post office, blacksmith shop and railway station. Of these, only the school is left and is now the “The Little Red School” Community Hall. 

The railroad, which was completed in 1888, added to the business of the community. From this station many box cars loads of lumber, pulpwood and pit wood were shipped over the years, from the surrounding areas. 

Prior to the railroad, the river was used as the main source of transportation. In addition to lumber which was sent down the river, supplies were brought up and carried or hauled to the surrounding communities. It has been told that some persons were known to have carried a barrel of flour on their backs. This was about two hundred pounds and it was carried for a distance of three or four miles, much of it up hill. The bank east of the Ryan home is where the supplies were unloaded and the lumber sent on its way. The supplies and pulpwood, etc. were moved on rafts. Because of the significance of mills in the history of Conn Mills, stones which still remained from the grist mill were salvaged by Layton Ryan. A few years ago, Layton, who has lived most of his life there, had a mill stone reconstructed on the corner of his lawn as a tribute to the early settlers who had the mills there and to those for whom the settlement was named. 

The Ryans live on the same spot as Andrew Conn. The original home, which was there, was owned by a grandson of Andrew, Conn Forrester, when it fell down circa 1936. Some of the information in this article was taken from a newspaper clipping written by Mr. A.S. Ross of Thomson Sta. many years ago and lend to us by Grace Newson of Pugwash.

[Picture – Conn Mills, a small community at the head of the Pugwash River, has had a rich history. As more settlers moved into the region a grist mill was constructed to allow them to grind their grain into flour. The community grew to include a school, blacksmith shop, stores, post office and railway station. Little remains of this once bustling community, but resident Layton Ryan has kept one of the stones from the old mill on display as a tribute to the community’s first residents. Mr. Ryan and his wife Dorothy are shown above looking over that stone.]

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, July 23, 1994, Page 25 – Conn Mills was once a flourishing community)

Obituary – ANDREW CONN

The death occurred at Conns Mills last Sunday, at the age of 87 years, of Andrew Conn, the pioneer citizen of that place. Mr. Conn established mills at that place a great number of years ago, and around them developed what is now known as Conns Mills. His immediate family is small but a great many friends will long remember him with feelings of kindness and respect. The funeral took place on Tuesday.

(Source: News & Sentinel, Amherst, NS, Friday, May 6, 1913 page 5)