by Edith Cody-Rice, Publisher
When my husband Val Sears and I built our home in Almonte in 2007-8, Val, a retired Toronto Star journalist, decided to establish a press club here.
In 2010 he put a little ad in the EMC. A small group of ex-journalists, aspiring journalists, artists and photographers showed up at the Iron Works (now the Barley Mow) for a get-together. Our meetings had no particular focus, but in time we decided we should start an online newspaper. It would be a public service to the residents of Mississippi Mills, who we felt were underserved by media — especially as the Almonte Gazette had shut down a couple of years earlier.
After some name-tossing, we came up with The Millstone, a tribute to the many mills in Almonte. The original founders included Val Sears, Noreen Young, Bruce Kingsley, Trish Dyer, John Fowler, Sam Cooley and myself.
In June of 2011, I sat down at my computer and typed out the first edition of The Millstone as a blog on a simple website that I had used to record the building of our Almonte house. CBC journalist Don Newman (a personal friend) welcomed us to the world of newspapers and Val wrote the first editorial.
We didn’t advertise; we depended entirely on word of mouth. Our mission was to publish articles of interest to the citizens of Mississippi Mills, although not necessarily written by townsfolk. We did not charge for subscriptions and advertising was, and still is, free of charge–a core principle of our public service model.
Gradually volunteer writers came forward: Trish Dyer, an experienced investigative reporter with her series on Enerdu, Bill Chapman with his By The Way column of musings, Neil Carleton with his superb contributions about local trees called Shady Characters, Theresa Peluso with her deeply researched environmental articles and later her reporting on Council, professional chef Gay Cook on food, and former CBC executive Diana Filer with Diana’s weekly quiz. And photographer John Fowler contributed photos of events.
In July of 2012, Erica Eades, an Almonte native and recent journalism graduate of Dalhousie University, came on board to write a series on local bed and breakfasts. Shortly after, her father Brent Eades, an accomplished web designer, invited me to coffee at Palms (now North Market) and offered to help. And KABOOM! Within days the Millstone was moved to WordPress, the web hosting site used by established newspapers. The Millstone now looked completely professional and readership exploded.
Over the years we attracted many accomplished columnists: former Mississippi Mills Chief Librarian Peter Nelson on his fascinating international travels; Pat Browne on astronomy; Barbara van Haute on international politics (one of her columns on the former Greek Ambassador caused a stir in Europe); Arnie Francis on local profiles; David Hinks on gardening; sommeliers Mark Cochrane and Don Cook on wine; Susan Hanna on recipes with an emphasis on cooking for those with allergies; Cheryl Baxter on birds; Bruce and Carolyn Waddell on nature — and most recently the wonderful and wry storyteller Richard van Duyvendyk.
Brent has always handled the web part and in 2015 he took over posting from me and became the editor in chief. I retained the title of publisher and contributing editor.
Since then our readership has continued to grow. Here are our numbers as of this month:
- average number of monthly visits to The Millstone website: 14,000
- our Facebook followers: 2,773
- subscribers to our daily email digest: 1,855
All of our writers, photographers and contributors, including the publisher and editor in chief, are volunteers. This is a citizen-reporting newspaper and we depend on local residents for the latest events in town, and for donations to keep our website running.
And here we are 10 years later, still publishing daily and grateful for the opportunity to deliver news to the citizens of this wonderful town. Thank you to the residents of Mississippi Mills and all of the other people including ex-residents around the world for your support. We wouldn’t be here without it.