G. Ross Lord Park runs from Steeles Ave south to Finch Ave. on the east side of Dufferin Street. The park was created in 1972, mostly for flood control purposes. It was based on plans developed after Hurricane Hazel hit the Toronto area on Oct. 15, 1954 killing 81 people and causing $137 million worth of damage.
Two mills are marked on the 1887 map of the park area, along with their mill ponds. A grist mill located on the second property south of Steeles Ave. is the site of Jacob Fisher’s original mill. I have been unable to find any trace of the saw mill on the second property north of Finch.
Fisherville was named after the Fisher family. Jacob Fisher emigrated from Pennsylvania with 22 members of his family in 1797. They were granted a tract of land which was on both sides of Steeles, east of Dufferin street. They ran a saw mill on the West Don River and later a grist mill which operated with different owners until about 1912.
The Presbyterian church that used to stand near the north east corner was built in 1856 on land donated by Jacob Fisher. It was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1960 and I got married there in 2007. It’s site is marked by a cemetery where this stone from 1840 marks an early settler in the area.
The park can be entered by a trail the follows the West Don River south from Steeles Ave. in the hollow east of here. The trail follows the river winding its way through grand old trees like the one in the cover photo that dwarfs the park bench beside it. When you are abreast of the old smoke stack on the left, you will be standing in the middle of the old Fisherville mill pond.
In the 1947 aerial photo below the dam still crosses the river in the lower right corner. The three light patches that straddle the river just above it are the clear space at the bottom of the former mill pond. The trail passes through the middle one of these.
A little further along there is still some concrete from the old dam on the north side of the river.
A curved wall of earth about 10 feet high marks the retaining wall of the old mill pond. There is a line of older trees behind it that can be seen from the trail and marks the spot. Staying on the foot path leads to a little bridge that will take you across the river. From here it is possible to go back along the fence line to the old mill site. The curve of the earthen wall is visible in this picture.
The bottom of the mill pond is now growing over with small trees and brush.
Across from Supertest Road there is an entrance to the park off of Dufferin Street. Two parallel rows of evergreen trees mark the laneway of a home that stood here until the city bought the land and tore the home down in the early 70’s. These trees were planted around 1950 and now are part of the off-leash area where dogs still run up and down the lane.
The cluster of evergreen trees just to the south of the first parking lot was planted at the same time. They were planted on the north side of the house to provide some shelter from the cold northern winter winds. This was a common practice for country homes across Ontario. This is the view from where the house once stood. The house looked out over Westminster Creek down in the hollow.
Close by in the woods is an old garbage dump, likely from this house. The bottles here have all been smashed but date from the late 1800’s into the 1940’s.
Following the trail will bring you to the parking lot off of Martin Ross Ave. The lower mill pond and saw mill site is most likely somewhere below the new flood control pond built in 1973. This picture looks at the possible site of the mill, now mud flats when the water level is low.
Google Maps Link: G. Ross Lord Park
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