Bishop’s Mills is situated in the southwest corner of the former Township of Oxford on Rideau, in Lots 2 and 3, Concession 9. It was settled in 1840 by Chauncey (1797-1876) and Ira (1803-1883) Bishop, who built a sawmill, shingle mill and a grist mill, that gave the hamlet its name, on the part of the South Branch of the Rideau River known as Middle Creek. The Bishops opened a post office there in c. 1853 and operated it for over 25 years. The first store opened there in the early 19th century. In the mid 1860’s it was owned by Moses Waldron. Other early businesses in the hamlet included a cheese factory, general store, blacksmith shops, doctors office as well as churches and a school. The village plan was officially registered in 1885 at Prescott by dominion and provincial land surveyor Francis Jones.
Moses Waldron opened the first store in Bishop’s Mills. He was instrumental in bringing telegraph services to the hamlet. Upon his death in 1860 his widow married George Ferguson and continued to run the business with his nephew Jack. The extensive mercantile business stocked nails, glass, tools, dry goods, boots, shoes, hats and gloves as well as staples such as coffee, tea, sugar, salt and tabacco. Local produce such as cheese, butter, and eggs would be shipped by wagon to Oxford Station and then by rail on to Bedell and then Montreal. The building was used as a store until 2002. It has most recently served as the home of the Bishops Mills Natural History Centre.
Local lore has it that this was a school, and is unusual in that the only window is in the rear wall of the building. Rough timber remains on many surfaces.
St. Andrews was built as a Presbyterian Church in 1906 by Billy Johnson who also constructed St. Matthews in East Oxford. The stone was brought from Deeks Quarry in the northern part of the Township. The church is unusual in that the chancel is bracketed by the entrances. The bell in the bell tower is much larger than most in the area. The congregation voted in favor of church union and it became a United Church in 1925.
Dr. Armstrong lived in this home for many years. The family residence was in the larger section and the medical office was in the smaller section. The building housed the telegraph office operated by Molly Mac. It has been clad in clapboard. “insul brick” and now siding. While the location of the doors and windows may have changed over the years, the home retains many of its essential characteristics.
The Temperance Hall was built in 1878 by the Independent Order of Good Templars and served as its meeting hall until the turn of the century. In 1926 owenship was conveyed for use as a Community Hall and has hosted dances, meetings, concerts, and card parties ever since. The building is a temple-fronted institutional structure with segmental-arch headed windows and door. It is built of common red brick with contrasting marl-brick detailing. In 2007, the building was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Built as a Presbyterian Manse c. 1880 it served as such until Church Union in 1925. The minister was responsible for both the Bishop’s Mills Church and St. Matthews in Patterson’s Corners/East Oxford. Built of triple brick walls of common-bonded brick with contrasting marl-brick detailing over the windows with imbedded quoins, on a stone foundation. The house has been clad in siding, but is in the process of being lovingly restored by its present owners.
The deed for the cemetery was given by Thomas and Jane Alexander on August 11, 1856 as a “free” burying ground. It was referred to locally as Alexander Cemetery for many years. Originally one acre, additional land was purchased in 1937 and 1955. Mr. Fancet, who visited Bishop’s Mills in the 1930’s from Alberta, was instrumental in rehabilitating the cemetery, which had become neglected. Chauncey and Ira Bishop are buried here and markers for other early families include- Buker, Dool, Connell, Earl, Ferguson, Greer, Keegan, McLellan, Robinson, Waldron and Weir.
This house sits on land granted from the Crown in 1803 to Thomas Doyle. The house was built c. 1890 by William Connell, a store keeper and magistrate. It served as an inn and mail stage coach stopover for those travelling from Prescott.
The peaked roof portion of this structure, which faces Main Street, was built as the Methodist Church and was located north of the school house that sites at 8 Mill Street. In 1925, upon church union, the congregation chose to use the Presbyterian Church and sold the Methodist building, to be used as a barn. The ‘Bishops’ style” window frames from the old church were installed in the addition that now stretches to St. Lawrence Street. The church building is now a private residence.
Now the site of the United Pentecostal Church, this building was once the last Bishop’s Mills grade school, constructed c. 1950. Two prior schools once sat at the same site, but fell victim to the two major fires that struck the hamlet.
Built c. 1890, this house was built in phases. The forward section, with the unique moulding around the main entrance was built first. Later the recessed section with the unusual triangular topped window in the peak was built. Sisters Lucy and Annie McLellan lived here for many years with their sister Minnie, a teacher. One night a neighbor girl reported to her mother that the drapes were all drawn on the main floor and the table was set with the family finery. As it turned out, the occasion was Minnie’s secret wedding to Mr. Throop. The revelation resulted in a hamlet wide shivaree for the young couple. The bells of the school house and churches rang out and the children banged metal pots in the streets.
The school house was built c. 1869 and served this growing community for many years. It was sold to the Loyal Orange Lodge and then in 1974 to a private owner. For many years the Methodist church held its socials on the lawn between this building and the road. It is constructed of local field stone covered in stucco and is unique with the elliptical ornamentation above what was once a single central door. The frame exterior entranceway and original arch stones over the door have been removed.
Chauncey and Ira Bishop operated a saw mill and grist mill on this site. It was powered by a breast wheel to make maximum use of the power available and was sufficiently large to mill planks 18 feet long that moved past a cross-cut saw blade on a carriage. Shingles were cut during low flow periods. The mills fell into disuse and eventually fell victim to fire. The foundation stones were pulverized in 1913 to make gravel for use in road construction. The Bishops also eventually operated a separate shingle mill in the hamlet.
Chauncey Bishop constructed this stone house. It is the only Bishop home still surviving. Its location on the property may look unusual today, but Water Street originally ran in front of the house. The post office was located at the rear of the house from c. 1853 until 1878, when ownership of the property passed out of the Bishop Family. There is a hearth in the basement, perhaps a baker’s oven, with a fireplace directly above on the first floor.
The cheese factory was located on the east side of the road, near the mill. Tragically, in 1924, the boiler was allowed to boil dry. The resulting explosion was heard for miles around and killed the cheese maker, the cheese inspector and a young boy from Kenora, who was visiting relatives in the hamlet.
This house was built in c. 1878 by Taylor Buker, a local lumberman and farmer, on land formerly owned by Elias Bishop. It was modeled after the home of Hiram Buker, which was featured in the 1879 History of Leeds and Grenville. The roofline was once highlighted by a single central cupola over the central section. The original chimneys have been removed. The building is constructed of common bond brick and is highlighted with contrasting marl-brick detailing around the doors, windows and the engaged quoins; and paired Italianate brackets on the eaves.