Eight years after Yorkton moved several miles south from its original location to be alongside the railway in 1891, a brick flour mill was built to support the new settlement's agricultural base.
Over the next 80 years, the Old Mill was reinvented a number of times by changing ownership and needs until falling into disuse in the late 1980s. (See the detailed Timeline of the mill below.) It is now one of the last remaining symbols of our local heritage.
It stands there on a knoll looking alone but yet imposing.
It has stories to tell, of people who dropped in to get their grains milled and to visit a bit. One thing that has not changed — it is still by the railroad tracks that were laid down by the Manitoba & North Western Railway in 1891.
How many freight trains went by there over the 120 years of the mill’s life? It withstood the rumble and the roar, the “shake, rattle and roll” and the humming of the steel rails as those long trains, one day burdened with heavy cargo, or the next day rattling with the empty cars as the train disappeared in the sunrise or the sunset.
This mill should be totally “shook up” by now but it isn’t, it is strong yet and standing tall.
It makes a statement: “I am here to stay!”
--Therese LeFebvre Prince, Heritage Researcher
City of Yorkton Archives, 2017
Mills in Saskatchewan
Frank Korvemaker, M.S.M., S.A.A. (Hon.),
Retired Archivist and Construction Historian and Honorary Corporate Archivist for the Saskatchewan Association of Architects is a consultant to the Yorkton Brick Mill Heritage Society.
His Illustrated Inventory of Flour and Grist Mills in Saskatchewan is a comprehensive listing, by location, of mills in operation over the years.
This is an ongoing project. The file (in PDF format which can be downloaded below) is the most-recent update.
If you have information about these or other provincial sites that does not appear in the inventory, or if you have questions, complete our contact form and we will make sure it is received by Mr. Korvemaker.
1882 York Colony established by the York Farmer's Colonization Company of Ontario.
1883 A stone grist mill is constructed by the York Colonization Company on original site.
1891 The town moves south to the railroad with the old mill being used until 1900.
1896 John J. Smith established Yorkton's first brick plan.
1898 - 1900 A new industrial steel rollerr flour mill built on Front Street (now Livingstone) by John J. Smith with bricks from Smith's own brick plant. Machinery was supplied by the Goldie & McCulloch Co. Wood crib elevator added by Smith. Flour produced in the mill was sold throughout eastern Saskatchewan under the names of North Star, Silver King and Universal.
1902 The mill was sold to Levi Beck who marketed the flour under the name Northern Star Flour, and later, White Rose Flour. The mill underwent a major overhaul in 1912. Elevators in Yorkton and Otthon stored high grade wheat purchases for local flour production, while lesser grades were shipped away.
Circa 1906 John J. Smith leaves town for British Columbia.
1912 Levi Beck spends $5,000 to upgrade and repair the machinery inside the flour mill increasing its capacity to 175 barrels of flour per day.
1936 Levi Beck does at age 75, and ownership of the mill passes to a group of shareholders under the name of the York Milling Company (Clara Bell Gibson, Percy Tinker, Charles Peaker, Tom Jepson and Joe Jura).
1944 Keith Hallett, Charles Peaker and Tom Jepson bought out the other partners of the mill.
Late 40s Keith Hallett became the sole shareholder; he and his son Gordon operated the mill until it was sold in 1982.
1947 Elevator replaced by the Halletts. Worthy of note is that in 1947, to celebrate the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Phillip Mountbatten, the City of Yorkton shipped a railcar of flour milled from locally grown wheat to Great Britain to help alleviate post-war food shortages.
1957 The annex and office building attached to the mill are built
1960 Norman Roebuck, President of the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce reports that the Yorkton Flour Mill is doing the largest volume of business of its kind in the province.
1965 Keith Hallett dies at the age of 66.
1971 Mill owner Gordon Hallett is elected chairman of the Yorkton Industrial and Community Development Committee.
1975 Milling flour ceased due to lack of customers, Wheat Board regulations and the retirement of the miller.
1981 Bill Kent of Virden, Manitoba purchases the flour mill.
1988 The flour mill receives a $50,000 grant from the federal government to make upgrades to be able to send grain abroad as part of the Canada Food Aid Program.
1996 Hubert Lacoste purchased the mill to begin organic milling. Due to Wheat Board regulations, the milling business never came to fruition.
1997 Designated as a Municipal Heritage Property by the City of Yorkton on May 12.
2003 Save the Mill group made a presentation to the Western Development Museum's Thresherman's event. The committee was unable to do anything because the mill was still privately owned. In December of 2003 the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee started to discuss how to preserve the property.
Unknown date Mill was sold again to an out-of-town investor.
2009 The City of Yorkton takes ownership for unpaid taxes.
2010 On October 29 the adjacent attached buildings, including the elevator, annex and office building, were demolished (photo at top).
2011 In spring the brick structure received basic outside maintenance, and a small park was erected on the site.
In November, City Council, as the landowner, issued a letter of support to the J.J. Smith Mill Committee to conduct research and organize fundraising.
In December the Historic Resources Division of PCR Services was requested to review a previous engineering report about the mill and make recommendations for re-development of mill.
2012 In January PCR met with Yorkton Brick Mill Heritage Society to review the scope of their study.
January and February, PCR and held discussion with CAP Masony (Saskatchewan's only heritage stonemasonry company) and Graom Masonry, an industry-leading provider. Consulting report cost $20,591.
In April J.C. Kenyon Engineering, a structural engineer for conservation of historic buildings, was invited to do a review, and did a site inspection on April 23.
In June the Mill Committee received a matching grant of $20,000.00 from the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation. The committee then contracted the services of Murray Miller, a heritage architect and historic preservation planner with PCR Services Corporation who worked on various projects for the Province’s Heritage Resources Branch and for the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation. After assessing viable options for the building's preservation and possible future uses, a comprehensive report of a three-phase restoration plan was presented.
In September City Council agreed to preserve the mill for at least one more year.
2013 Yorkton Brick Mill raised $9,647. The Mill Committee paid $2,929 for the engineering of a roof design
2014 Mill Committee raised $47,498 through grants (Sask Heritage $15,000; Painted Hand Casino $18,773; Monsanto $2,500), individual donations of $11,225.00 and memberships.
In Spring, Logan Stevens Construction of Yorkton completed the installation of a new roof on the mill which, along with new windows, protected the interior of the structure from the elements.
2015 Mill Committee raised $15,710 from donations
2016 In April the committee reported to City Council.
In May the committee presented a plan of action to Council.
2017 In July a fundraising BBQ was hosted with Yorkton Co-op.
In September the Canada 150 Heritage Fundraising Dinner was held.
In October donation signage was placed on site, the west door was covered and graffiti removed from east wall.
In October Christmas lights were installed around the top of the mill by the Yorkton Fire Department.
In November RH Electric installed the electrical panel.
2018 On April 26 a new Brick Mill sponsorship sign produced by Ward Brown was built and installed by City Public Works.
2019 The 2019 highlights were detailed in a December newsletter.
2020 On April 20, a grant of $20,000 was awarded by the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation for structural work, doors, windows and exterior trim and fascia painting.
2021 On December 6, the mill kicks off its Capital Campaign with intentions of raising 2.2 million dollars for the construction of a new Interpretive Centre attached to the mill.
2022 The first public tours of the mill take place with many special guests in attendance.
2023 On January 25, the Yorkton Trial Council donates $100,000 for the construction of the new Interpretive Centre.