Brenda Krantz, Harrington & Area Community Association,
with excerpts from “Historically Bound, Embro & West Zorra, 1820-2007”
In a quiet valley in northwest Oxford County lies a tiny village whose origin tells the story of early settlement and industry in southwestern Ontario.
Harrington came into being in the 1840’s, when David Lazier Demorest, born in Prince Edward County to United Empire Loyalists, made his way to Zorra Township. Demorest purchased 200 acres of land from the Canada Company. He immediately saw an opportunity to dam Harrington Creek , a tributary of Trout Creek, and create a pond that would provide waterpower to the Grist Mill he would build. Demorest’s Grist Mill and Mill Pond became the cornerstone around which the village of Harrington was built.
Although originally referred to as Demorestville, then Springfield, the official name decided on in April of 1854, was Harrington West, when the first Post Office was opened. The addition of ‘West’ was because a town in Quebec was already named Harrington. Demorest served as Post Master from then until June 17, 1866. The name Harrington, was chosen to honour a local politician, John Harrington, by Sir Francis Hincks, who was appointed in 1841 as Oxford County’s representative in the 1stParliament of United Canada. Oddly, Squire Harrington never lived here. He became the Reeve of East Zorra, and in 1860 the warden of Oxford County, and lived near where Willow Lake Park is situated today.
The original plan of Harrington included 20 blocks, however, only a few were ever developed. Demorest and his wife, and their 6 children, all of whom were born in Harrington, moved to Illinois by the late 1860’s.
Harrington West flourished, and by 1875, had a population of 200. Its business and industrial sector included 2 hotels, 2 tailors, a sawmill, Grist Mill, a general store, a cabinetmaker and upholsterer, 2 wagon-makers, a tin shop, a cheese factory, a mason, a post office, an oatmeal mill, and harness-makers, boot-makers and shoemakers. There was also a community hall, 2 churches and a school.
Demorest’s Grist Mill was in continuous operation, except for a brief time in 1923, when it was destroyed by fire, until 1962. The Grist Mill and Mill Pond are part of the property known as Harrington Conservation Area, and owned by Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. (UTRCA)
In 1997, the Harrington & Area Community Association entered into a custodial agreement with UTRCA with respect to the maintenance of the Harrington Grist Mill and the Harrington Conservation Area. At that time, the Grist Mill was derelict, and in need of extensive clean-up and repairs.
Volunteers have spent countless hours working on the restoration. A Trillium Grant allowed extensive work to be done on the foundation. Later the roof was replaced, and the exterior reclad. Whitelaw Machinery of Woodstock, at no cost, have removed, refurbished and reinstalled much of the Mill’s machinery. Many other area businesses and individuals have donated time and materials.
It is the goal of the Harrington & Area Community Association, along with other partners in the community, to make the Grist Mill fully operational. We believe that witnessing the Mill operate with water power can teach present and future generations rare and valuable lessons about natural science, history, and culture.
The Mill Pond is a beautiful oasis that has existed for over 170 years. It is home to many species of birds, waterfowl, fish, animals, turtles and other amphibians.
It is a recreational space that has been enjoyed by generations!
Please check our Facebook page – Harrington Community Association, our website www.exploreharrington.ca or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Tim 519-475-4376 or Philip 519-475-0484.