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Signposts – The Glen Miller Story

Photography by Lindi Pierce

On December 15, 1944 Glenn Miller, legendary big-band leader, disappeared over the English Channel, on a flight to entertain U.S. troops in France during the Second World War.

Despite clarity on that point, there is no connection with a unique community along the Trent River just north of Trenton. Glen Miller (first Gordon Mills, then Glen Millar) is named for the river valley it occupies and for one of its founding families.

Despite the map dot on the east side of the Trent just above Highway 401, the community, like the original ink dot, has spread – along both sides of the river. A few older homes provide hints of the early settlement, but most dwellings are modern suburban designs living harmoniously with a sprinkling of businesses.

Glen Miller proves illusive. It does not possess a village centre like other early communities. Glen Miller ‘Welcome’ signs border the western edge of the river, yet Glen Miller Road follows the east bank. Johnstown Road and its bridge seem to offer the closest thing to a centre. Christ Church Anglican (established 1843) still provides a community hub.

For a small community Glen Miller offers a respectable number of superlatives. The Bleasdale Boulder, one of North America’s largest glacial erratics, stands over two storeys tall. The Glen Miller rock was later named for the circa 19th century clergyman who introduced the boulder to the scientific world; it awes visitors in a forested conservation area.

A paper mill has operated in Glen Miller since 1880. One source relates that Peter Millar arrived from Montreal in the late 1870s, joining forces with the Gordon family, operators of an even earlier (Ford & Gordon 1850) paper mill, which later moved to the present location. The Trent Valley Paper mill, a division of international packaging giant Sonoco still operates at the old Miller Brothers Paper Mill site.

Glen Miller’s $21 million eight-megawatt renewable energy facility began commercial operation in 2005 and was expected to generate enough energy to heat 4,000 homes.

Lock 3 along the Trent Severn waterway operates just north of Johnstown Road at Glen Miller. The Glen Miller lock has a significant lift of 8.2 metres, outdone only by three others, including the behemoths at Peterborough and Kirkfield.

Two Miller homes relate the social history of Glen Miller. A 1990 ACO architectural tour notes the impressive polychromatic brick house, now in use as mill offices, was built in 1878/9 by the Miller family. That source dates the construction of Valley View, a delightfully over-decorated Queen Anne style frame house across the river, to 1880. The brightly painted house with its onion dome, mansard roofed tower, a wealth of verandas and window styles, and exuberant trims sits beside the Glen Miller Conservation Area. A 1984 newspaper reported the 90th birthday of Caroline Louisa Miller, daughter of mill founder Peter Miller, who had lived her entire life in that house by the river.

Not a bad place to spend a life, Glen Miller.

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