James Cleak and his wife, Jemima (Barker) and Children James, Mina, Adela and Florence arrived in 1859 to take over some of Alfred Barker's holdings.
Cleak built a log house on the east shore of Quarry Lake and opened a little store for the settlers. He hauled in supplies from Madoc and with the two day trip one-way, it took him five days to bring back a single load.
Unsatisfied with being a merchant and began to look for a way to invest the money he had brought from England. He saw potential for water-powered mills on the falls of the York River and in 1860 he built a house on Lot 1, with an adjoining store. The grist mill stood south of the existing mill (now apartments) and the sawmill faced it, on the opposite side of the river. James Cleak's house was on the side of the York, part of it is now the Baragar Funeral Home. In 1861, the town was renamed York River and the York Mills post office opened at the Cleak property, with J.C. Cleak as the Postmaster.
By 1863, four acres on the mill reserve, exempted from the area timber license of Harris and Bronson was cleared and Cleak began to build a mill. It was completed and in operation by 1865 when Harris and Bronson had an unfortunate boom burst that brought down the bridge and wiped out the dam, severely damaging Cleak's mill. Cleak was forced to sue Harris and Bronson, but the courts wanted proof that Cleak owned the mill reserve and mill and he was unable to find the documents.