Morningstar Mill is a picturesque heritage site located at Decew Falls. The site backs onto the Bruce Trail, and is a popular picnic and photo location for residents and visitors.
Planning a get-together or searching for a location for wedding photos? Rental permits are available for this park for those purposes.
Victoria Day until mid-October
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Weekends: 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., by chance or appointment
Free admission, but donations are welcome
Wilson Morningstar operated a flour mill called Mountain Mills from 1883 to 1933. The site features a working grist mill built in 1872, a turbine shed, a saw mill, a blacksmith and carpentry shop, and the home of the Morningstar family. In its ultimate development, the site was powered by three turbines. One turbine ran the grist mill, another ran the saw mill, and the third ran a generator which powered a private electrical lighting system on the property. The turbine which powered the grist mill also ran an apple cider mill and a lathe.
Wilson's granddaughter, Lorna, recounts...'On the 3.6 acres of the property, there was more activity than just that at the saw mill and grist mill... across the stream where the saw mill stood was an orchard of apples, cherries, pears and peaches, and a large vegetable garden. [There was] a barn, where a team of horses, a cow, chickens and pigs were kept ... [and] a workshop and blacksmith shop stood where the parking lot now is. Grandfather shod his own and the neighbours' horses, set wagon and buggy tires and performed many other tasks.'
Stories of Wilson Morningstar and the sights and sounds of mill life have been preserved through early photographs, handwritten logbooks and letters, and the fond recollections of two of Wilson's grandchildren, Lorna and Donald Robson.
The mill is constructed from locally quarried stone; it features a gabled roof with wood shingles and double-hung windows with six panes in each sash. Inside the mill, the wooden floors, beams, grain and flour elevators, and the roller milling equipment date from 1893. In November 1892, a fire destroyed the interior of the mill and turbine shed. This gave Wilson Morningstar the opportunity to update his milling operation with the latest equipment. The mill features a two break three reduction Greey Roller Mill system for making white flour, a grain cleaner, a corn cob sheller, an oat roller, an attrition mill for chopping grain for animal feed, and a traditional millstone which was installed around 1911.
Today, the Friends of Morningstar Mill operate the millstones several times through-out the season to demonstrate how moving water was used to mechanically grind grain into flour.
Wilson Morningstar had the white two-storey house built by a master carpenter and his assistant from Thorold in about 1895. The simple late-Victorian era house features three gables, scalloped clapboard siding, large bay windows and interior window benches, three porches with decorative wood columns and wooden brackets, ball and spindle gingerbread, double hung windows and a large pocket (sliding) door in the parlour's entrance. The house originally had 11 rooms, including 5 bedrooms.
By 1930, Wilson had gradually shut down his flour milling business. After Wilson died in 1933, Wilson's son-in-law, David Robson, continued to produce animal feed for local farmers on the occasional weekend for a few years until the turbine seized.
Wilson Morningstar and his wife, Emma, occupied the house throughout their lifetimes. When Wilson died, Wilson's oldest daughter and her family moved back into the house, and her children (Wilson's grandchildren) lived in the house until 1991. Wilson's granddaughter, Lorna Robson, bequeathed the contents of the mill and house to the City of St. Catharines in 1994.
Today, the operation of the mill and the conservation of the buildings and property are made possible by the ongoing efforts and support of the Friends of Morningstar Mill, the community and the City of St. Catharines.