The History of the Sovereen/Quance Sawmill
The Sovereen family built the first lumber mill in the late 1830’s on the bank of Big Creek in the area of what is now Delhi. Then in the early 1840’s, a water-powered grist mill was added. The Sovereen Mills prospered and provided the stimulus for initial growth of the village.
By the 1870s, however, the lumbering industry was beginning to decline as most of the area’s timber had been harvested. In 1874 all the mills were sold by the Sovereen family to Richard Quance of Binbrook.
Within a short time of the Quance family acquiring the property, the sawmill was modernized with a turbine water wheel being installed. This allowed for less water to be used and increased to power supply to the mill.
The son, Peter Quance, took over from his father in 1888 and was joined by his brother Robert in 1892 when Robert moved his operation from Croton, southwest of Delhi.
At the hey-day of the Quance enterprises, there was a planning mill, saw mill, carding mill, chop mill, buckwheat mill, and gristmill in the immediate area of the dam.
in the waters of Big Creek, a steam plant was installed so that the mills could operate on a year-round basis. Waste wood including slabs and shavings was used to fire these boilers. This system was ultimately replaced with a diesel engine and later
Electric power, in the early days, came from the dam at Croton, part of a private enterprise including the Quance brothers but after the Croton dam washed out in 1937, some of the electrical equipment was move to the Quance Dam site where it was used until the mill’s closure in 1973.
In 1916, Robert Quance Co Ltd was formed to carry on the lumbering operations while Quance Bros Ltd under Peter was formed to carry on flour milling. Various members of the Quance family continued to own and manage the mills over the years.
The saw mill, under study, was built at the time of the reorganization in 1916 following a fire. This mill served all of Norfolk County with multiple contracts from companies in each township at all ends of the county. They made boards, beams, door frames, window sashes and fine woodwork until operations ceased in 1970 upon the death of the owner, Robert Francis Quance.
This saw mill is all that remains of the extensive complex of buildings that filled this area of Big Creek valley for so many years.
The Township of Delhi purchased the old sawmill and property in 1975. It has been cared for by the municipality since that time.
A log ramp way, which extended several meters from the 2nd Floor East barn door was removed for safety concerns. The ramp way served the purpose of allowing for logs to be transported into the building by way of the log trolley.