History of Way’s Mills
Situated on the south side of Route 141 between Ayer’s Cliff and Coaticook, the small village of Way’s Mills, one of the two hamlets in the Municipality of Barnston West, owes its name to Daniel Way. Although, in fact, Daniel Way was not the first settler on the banks of the Niger River, he was nevertheless a pioneer in starting up the first grist mill, and his son, Lorenzo S. Way later opened the first woollen mill in 1841.
That 19th century village was presaged to have a brilliant future. In 1874, B.F. Hubbard, in his book, “Forests and Clearings” spoke of Wayville, as it was then called :
This settlement or small neighborhood of substantial farmers, derives its importance from its manufactories. The Way and Hollister families were among its early settlers. The buildings are a store, a grist mill, a saw mill, and a carding, spinning and weaving factory. From its local advantages, it is probably destined to become a business place of some importance. A post office has lately been established, E.S. Southmayd, postmaster.
(B. F. Hubbard, FORESTS AND CLEARINGS, The History of Stanstead County, province of Quebec, with Sketches of more than Five Hundred Families, revised edition by John Lawrence, The Lovell Printing and Publishing Company, Montreal, 1874.)
However, the present village of Way’s Mills has returned to the sleepiness of when it was first settled, an agricultural community called The Hollow. Its industries have gone, and it is now considered a heritage site, recognised as such under the Ministry of Culture of Québec. The protected area is recorded in the urban planning of the Municipality of Barnston West, and the general schema of the MRC of Coaticook. Municipal regulation determines the size and number of buildings, as well as window openings and materials both for renovation and for new construction, and certain types of exterior finishes are entirely forbidden. Similar regulations also apply to the cutting down of trees and to the exterior colour of buildings.
The Niger River runs through Way’s Mills, winding from Lake Lyster, on the border of Vermont, U.S.A., towards the Tomifobia River and then into Lake Massawippi. The village houses cluster around the little roads called Way’s Mills, Hunter, Madore, and Standish. The numerous bridges which cross the river, the old original house of the Way family, (1830), the Union Church, (1881), the Church of the Epiphany, (1888), the round barn of the Holmes family, (1907), the community centre, built as The Union Progressive Hall, (1910), and the small fire hall with its hose tower, (1952), all are the constant reminders of the heritage of the development of this small community.