Around the turn of the century, cheese making played an important role in the rural economy of Eastern Ontario. Farmers turned much of their milk into cheese, as milk lasts less than 12 hours at room temperature, cheese kept fresh much longer; money made from selling milk for cheese was a significant source of income on many farms. There was a time when hundreds of small cheese factories dotted the Eastern Ontario countryside most of which made Cheddar, a hard cheese. The operation of these cheese factories also led to a new interest in breeding dairy cows, as farmers could make a profit from the extra milk they produced.
All of the cheese factories have closed in the area, except for Forfar.
Saw Mills & Grist Mills
The local saw mill usually provided for all the wood needs of the community and was often the first public building built in a community. Early settlers had a constant need for lumber, not just planks and beams for houses and farm buildings, but also for furniture, barrels and farm implements. Often in lieu of payment the mill owner kept half the lumber and sold it to other businesses. The availability of sawn wood enabled the community to grow quickly and encouraged trade.
Grist mills were used to grind wheat or other grains into flour and animal feed. The farmer would bring in bags of grain to be ground and he would take home some of the flour for his wife to bake with, the feed for his animals and some form of payment for the flour that he sold to the mill often which was 1/12th of the wheat ground. This toll was established by law , so the miller could make a living, but not charge exorbitant prices. The flour would be bagged or put in barrels to be shipped to large towns for consumption. Prior to the grist mills farmers had to grind by hand quite often with a mortar and pestle so the construction of a mill represented prosperity, security and even wealth for the community, it was also a meeting place for area residents. Many of the mills were converted from flour production to the production of animal feed when more modern larger flour mills were built in the larger towns.
Metal Shops - Blacksmiths & Tinsmiths
A blacksmiths most important function was to make tools – for himself and other craftsmen. In an age of horse drawn vehicles he also shod horses and made, fitted and repaired farm transportation and farm implements. From the beginning of the 19th century blacksmiths were also involved with the making and repair of mill machinery. The forge where the metal was heated red hot and the anvil where he shaped the metal with a hammer were, his two most important tools.
In Eastern Ontario many villages and towns of the mid to late 1800’s had its resident tinsmith who manufactured such items as pails, basins, scoops, stove pipes and oil lamps, his bright, light and relatively inexpensive tin ware replaced pewter, wood and earthenware. Tinsmiths occasionally made some objects of copper or brass where frequent contact with water was made. Most tinsmiths sealed their joints and seams with a solder that was half tin and half lead.
In the earliest days of the providence almost every settler took in travelers overnight, but as immigration increased, many took out inn licenses so as to be able to charge their guests. As well as serving an increasing number of travelers, the better inns of a district became the focal point for local community activity. They were places to talk about news, play cards, and conduct business. Their ballrooms were used primarily for political gatherings, lodge meetings, lectures, concerts and courts of law.
In the inn yard the drive sheds offered shelter for the horses and vehicles of patrons; it was customary for a traveler to buy feed and at least one drink from the innkeeper in turn for the shelter of his horse. The retiring room provided a quiet place to sit and relax, many people however chose to sit in the bar room, where they could drink, gossip and gamble. With the coming of the railway, traffic decreased and those affected inns and taverns were often reverted back to farmhouses, but others remained open serving the locals.
Historic commercial buildings (29 sites) are comprised of banks, general stores, bakery, law office, etc.