Monthly Archives: October 2014

Georgian Bay Milling and Power Company

Sunday Oct. 26, 2014

One of my brothers celebrated a birthday this week and so I had the opportunity to visit him in Meaford on the weekend.  This week’s hiking the GTA will have to refer to hiking the “Georgian Triangle Area”.  We parked just outside of town on 13th sideroad just east of the 7th line.  The sideroad ends here as it is no longer maintained down the side of the hill.  It was one of those cloudy fall days where the sky looks like it is threatening to snow and the wind makes it feel much colder than the 9 degrees on the thermometer.

As we walked along the road allowance we started to find the remains of old cars.  It’s hard to say how many cars are here because the parts are all mixed up.  There could possibly be five of them, all from the late 1940’s or early 1950’s.  The first pile we found contained the hood of an old Ford truck, a panel with the three trademark vents of a Buick and the side panel of a Cadillac among various other parts.  The Cadillac can be dated to 1947-1952 based on the shape of the logo.


Cadillac has changed it’s logo many times over the history of the iconic vehicle.  The logo from this era is the one on the right hand at the top.

cadillac-logos-through-the-years--image-automotive-news_100434414_l (1)

Two or three cars had been pushed down the side of the hill before the trees had grown on the embankment.  This one was about 30 feet down and getting there on the slippery leaves was not an option.


As we walked a little further along we found a side trail along a high berm of earth.  From up there we could see a straight line running through the trees like an old roadway.  It can be seen as the light coloured line running across the middle of the picture below.


This line turned out to be a forty foot wall of rocks running toward the berm of earth we were standing on.  Near the point where the two met we found the remains of two concrete sluice gates.  The earthen berm we were standing on was part of an old dam.  The rock wall was actually an aquaduct that carried an open wooden channel on top.  The channel originated in a cut-out on the side of the old earthen dam.  Along the top of the aquaduct there are still a few wooden rails that once formed the channel that carried water from the pond to the powerhouse.  As seen in the picture below, the mill pond behind the sluice gates has become overgrown with trees.


Returning to the stone aquaduct we followed it back through the woods.  It brought us to the site of the 1902 power generating station for the town of Meaford.

At the turn of the last century electrical power was slowly coming to communities all across Ontario.  The Georgian Bay Milling and Power Company built a generating station in an area known as Trout Hollow.  Trout Hollow was an industrial complex in the 1800’s with several mills and a cabin already in existence.  The power company built the aquaduct to carry water to the power generating station.  Just before the powerhouse a five foot diameter steel down elbow remains on the side of the hill.  From it the water was dropped onto the turbine that generated the electricity.


Georgian Bay Milling and Power Company was granted a contract to provide street lighting in Meaford between 1905 and 1913 but no agreement was made for private homes.  An analysis was also made as to the amount of coal each of Meaford’s industries was burning per month in their steam generators.  The power company planned to supply electricity to each of them as well.  In the early 1920’s government grants were made to Ontario Hydro to develop electrification of rural areas.  Unable to compete with the artificially lower rates, most private electricity producers went out of business before the end of the decade.  This facility was closed in 1923.  Today, most of the walls have fallen over with just one remaining upright.  It is leaning a few degrees to the outside and may not stand too much longer itself.  In the picture below the steel elbow can be seen in the background.  At the bottom of the picture, in front of the remaining wall is a settling basin.


Brantford Plow Works was founded in 1877 by James G. Cockshutt.  In 1882 it became known as the Cockshutt Plow Company and it went on to become one of the largest farm implement manufacturers in Ontario.  After being bought out in 1962 by White Farm Equipment the name Cockshutt was retired.  An old harvester “Cockshutt 3” has been pushed down the hill not too far from the old powerhouse.  It has been here long enough that a tree has grown around some of the metal frame.


By the early 1900’s the manufacturing plant for Cockshutt had turned into a major industrial complex offering a full line of farm equipment.  In 1941 they invented a lighter version of the swather that allowed the farmer to cut hay on wet fields that heavier equipment would get stuck on.  This gave them a command of the market that led to a further expansion.  A 1910 diagram of the plant illustrates the size of the complex.  Note the smoke stack in the middle which shows that they had their own coal fired steam generator to produce electricity.

1910 Cockshutt Plant

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Erindale Hydro Electric Dam

Sunday Oct. 19, 2014

Sunday morning was cold at only 2 degrees.  To access the parking lot at Erindale park you have to drive through a break in the wall of the old Erindale Dam.

In 1902 Erindale Light and Power Company was formed to construct an hydro electric generating plant on the Credit River at Erindale.  This large scale engineering project ran into several delays during construction and didn’t begin producing power until 1910.  A dam was constructed across the valley flooding it and creating the 125 acre Lake Erindale.  A power generating plant was built on the south end of town at the bottom of Proudfoot Street.  A tunnel was constructed to connect the two.  The power plant operated from 1910 until 1923 supplying power to Erindale and New Toronto. It was closed when Ontario Hydro began to supply the area with power from Niagara Falls.  In 1941 the lake was drained and the dam was blown up.  Between 1961 and 1965 the former lake bottom was used as a sanitary landfill.  It has since been covered over with clean soil and Erindale Park has been created.

From the top of the old dam the view across the old lake bed gives you a good impression of the size of dam and the lake it created.


Walking north along the east side of the river we came to this shopping cart which has obviously been standing in the river when the water was much higher.  The shiny coffee mug on top belongs to a clever angler who is fishing near by.


As you head upstream from the old dam there is a foot bridge that will allow you to cross over the river to explore the ruins of the dam on the other side.  This photo shows one of three old water control structures that are in the river above the dam.  There are six fishermen in this picture (how many can you see?) and the shopping cart.


When settlers first arrived the rivers around Toronto were filled with Atlantic Salmon.  Pollution, deforestation and the construction of dams resulted in their extermination within only a few decades.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s large numbers of Chinook salmon were stocked in the rivers. The eggs hatch in May from the gravel beds where they winter and and the fingerlings make their way out into lake Ontario.  They will die if they stay in the river until the water warms up. They spend four to eight years in the lake attaining a size of up to 40 pounds before they make their only spawning run.  Then they will migrate from the lake into the same river in which they were born.  It is estimated that 20,000 Chinook make the trip up the Credit River each fall.  After spawning they die and their carcasses litter the river providing easy pickings for the local birds. The fish in the picture below was a recent catch from one of the people fishing in the river.  It looked to be about 25 to 30 pounds.


The expression “busy as a bee” applies to this little creature.  Although the weather was too cold for most bees a few industrious ones were busy collecting pollen from late blooming Canada Thistles. This purple flower is coated with white pollen.  The bee is collecting it and storing it in the hair all over it’s body.  Bumble bees can’t fly unless their wing muscles are at least 30 degrees C.  On cold days such as this they beat their wings at the rate of 130 times a minute to raise their body temperature enough to take off.


The Bulrush or Cat-o-Nine tails grows in wetland areas.  There is a stand of them growing close to the base of the old dam.  Various parts of the plant can be eaten and were part of the native people’s diet.  This makes them valuable as an emergency source of food in a survival situation. Peeled stems or leaf bases can be eaten raw.  The roots need to be cooked and peeled but they also are edible.  The roots can also be used as a poultice for burns and wounds.  Care must be taken not to eat bulrushes that grow in polluted water as they are a bio-mediator which absorbs pollution.  Signs of contamination include a bitter or spicy taste.


At the foot of the dam on the west side of the river is a small mill race where the water is standing still.  The leaves floating on the water lend a sense of calm to the scene.  In the middle of the picture is a tire that appears to be standing on top of the water.  A close look at an enlarged photo shows the green neck of a male mallard duck which is having a bath just to the right of the tire.


St. Peter’s Anglican church stands on the hill top on the corner of Mississauga Road and Dundas Street.  The first building was opened in 1825.  It was replaced with this stone building in 1887. Roy Ivor, who ran the Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary across the street, is buried here.


The north entrance to the water tunnel is located in the woods at the end of the last parking lot. This stood at the edge of Lake Erindale and a pair of sluice gates was used to control the water flow into the tunnel at the bottom.  This structure is decayed badlly and has a small forest growing in the open area inside the mouth.


This photo was taken by holding the camera inside of the tunnel as it heads under Dundas street.  This is in effect the head race for the power mill.


The tunnel passes under Dundas Street just east of Proudfoot Street.  It then emerges just past the end of Proudfoot Street where the river doubles back on the edge of town.  The power generating plant stood here until it was removed in 1977.  The picture below shows the power station and the tail race where the water was returned to the river.




York Mills – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday, Oct 18, 2014

When Yonge Street was cut through the forest by The Queen’s Rangers in 1796 it opened up the area for settlement.  Small towns formed at almost every intersection.  An intersection such as Yonge Street and York Mills Road where a river passed through with good mill sites was assured of attracting industry.  This area is known as York Mills after it’s post office but is also well known as Hoggs Hollow.

I parked on Mill St. in the parking lot on the east side of the West Don River.   It was overcast and 7 degrees.  The first mill was opened as early as 1804 by Samuel Heron.  Millford Mills was opened in 1817 and supplied the first name to the town.  This mill was bought by James Hogg in 1824.  In 1856 a subdivision plan was developed for Hoggs property by his sons which was to be called Hoggs Hollow.  Only a few houses were built at this time and the lots were not all built upon for over 100 years.  James Hogg built the York Mills Hotel in 1857 and it is one of only half a dozen remaining original buildings in the community.  Having changed hands many times, today it serves as the Miller Tavern.  Hogg added a general store beside it on the south.  He also had a tannery and a distillery.  The general store served for awhile as a change room for skaters using the York Mills Skating Rink which was formed each winter on the site of today’s parking lot.  The cover photo shows the tavern and the general store, turned change room, as it appeared in the 1950’s.  Today the tavern has been restored to it’s original brickwork and the old store is gone, having been destroyed by fire.


The York Mills Presbyterian church was built on the east side of Yonge Street on land provided by James Hogg.  When the family developed the subdivision plan the church was moved across the street on the hill side, directly opposite of the tavern.   The church was closed and demolished in 1889 and the cemetery was eventually forgotten.  It was rediscovered in 1955 when the area was being developed for residential use.  Twenty five graves were uncovered with two of them belonging to members of the Hogg family.  A historical plaque marks the spot today.  In the 1877 Historical Atlas the church is marked by “Pres” right below the name York Mills.  Their cemetery is marked with an asterisk just above it.  Too bad no one checked the old map before they dug.

York mills

The Yonge Street bridge in Hoggs Hollow was destroyed in 1954 during Hurricane Hazel and was replaced with a wider one a year later.  The archive photo below shows the bridge following the hurricane.

Hoggs Hollw Bridge Hazel Damage

North of York Mills Road are two of only three mill worker cabins that were built in the Hoggs Hollow subdivision.  They have been preserved and moved to their current location on Yonge Street where they guard the entrance to a fancy restaurant.  Ironically, it is a place the original inhabitants of these homes likely couldn’t have afforded to eat at.


On the east side of Yonge just north of York Mills Road is the old walkway up the side of the hill to St. John’s Anglican Church.  The church was started in 1816 and the present building was erected in 1843.  The church has the only active cemetery in York Mills and there are many prominent early settlers buried there.  I saw one grave marker dated 1820.  This church is marked as EC in the historical atlas for England Church and an asterisk marks the grave yard.


Walking through the cemetery brings you to the Lychgate.  A lychgate is a roofed gate found on traditional English churchyards.  The word lych come from the Saxon word for corpse.  The corpse would rest under this roof while part of the service was read before advancing into the grave yard for burial.


When Yonge street was built in 1796 it was thought that the valley was too steep and so the old road runs across the eastern rim of the valley.  When Yonge Street was straightened a few years later this became known as Old Yonge Street.  Turning to the right will bring you back to York Mills road.  Just to the east is the former site of the York Mills Baptist Church erected in 1833. The church was closed in 1945 and demolished in 1948.  The cemetery was just to the east of the church and it remains today, tucked in a small lot behind a hedge.  The church is marked as BC in the atlas and has the usual asterisk to mark the graveyard.  The gate has a unique old latch that drops over the gate post.


The church built a manse for their pastor’s family in 1840 on the lot to the east of the cemetery.


Returning to Old Yonge Street you can follow it back to Mill Street where the name changes to Donino street.  A couple of short blocks later is a memorial to the towns milling past.  The grinding wheel from the last mill to close in the valley (1926) is preserved here.


A time capsule has also been buried in the parkette.  It is set to be opened in 2040.


As you return to the car you reach the house of George Pratt.  George ran a mill in the area of York Mills park.  He built this house in 1886.


The old mill dam is almost under the Mill Street bridge.


Old photos show a large wooden dam in Hoggs Hollow.

Hoggs Hollw Dam

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Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary

Saturday Oct. 11, 2014

A chilly start to the day at only 5 degrees.  The sun was out and the sky was bright blue.  To access Sawmill Valley Creek near Dundas and Mississauga road it is easiest to park in Erindale Park and walk across the bridge over the Credit River.

Many of the trees are still green, which is nice.  When the cool evenings of the fall signal the onset of winter, deciduous trees begin the process of collecting and storing the useful resources in the leaves.   The tree stores the green chlorophyll pigment and other photosynthetic parts of the leaf in the roots, trunk and branches of the tree for use again the following spring.  The removal of the green from the leaves produces the bright colours we enjoy.


Sawmill Valley trail enters the north west corner of Mississauga Road and Collegeway.  As you follow the trail you will soon come to the start of a fence.  If you follow to the right of the fence you will find yourself on an old winding laneway.


This is the laneway of Roy Ivor, also known as the birdman of Mississauga.  In 1928 Roy, along with his assistant Bernice Inman-Emery, started the Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary.   During the 50 years he ran the bird sanctuary he cared for thousands of birds.  He was a regular contributor to National Geographic during the 1950’s as well as teaching countless school children about birds.  Ivor died in 1979 shortly before he would have turned 100.  He is buried close to home at St. Peters Anglican Church in Erindale.  Bernice ran the sanctuary from the time of his death until she moved to a retirement home in 2007.  The sanctuary has been closed since then and all of the bird cages have been removed.  Recently the property has been purchased by the city for incorporation into the adjacent parkland.

Ivor’s house is featured in the cover photo showing how it looked before it burned down on December 29th 1970.  A portion of the large central chimney remains standing.


The outline of the east wing of the house is still clearly visible.  When the house burned down a trailer home was brought in and parked over this end of the foundation.  Here life went on pretty much as it had before.


Each Burdock seed pods contain hundreds of stems that stick to clothing and fur.  Inside the pods are little tiny seeds that get transported around and then discarded to start new plants elsewhere.  In the early 1940’s Swiss inventor George de Mestral was out walking his dog when both of them got covered in burdocks.  Curious about how the burdock attached itself to his clothes he looked at one under a microscope.  He noted the little hook on the end of each one of these little spines.  De Mestral patented Velcro in 1955 based on the hook and loop system used by burdock.  The hooks can clearly be seen on the burdock in the picture below.  Inside the burdock pictured below is a lady beetle.  There are over 5,000 species of lady beetles but all are protected by noxious body fluids based on cyanide.  Their bright colours are used as a warning to birds that might consider eating them.


Geo-caching is an activity that rose to world popularity in May 2000.  When GPS restrictions were removed a high-tech game of hide and seek began.  A cache is hidden which includes a log book, pen or pencil and often trinkets.  People hunt for the caches based on a set of co-ordinates using a GPS.  When the log book is found it is signed and carefully re-hidden.  Geo-caching never achieved the prominence that is made possible in the era of cell phones with GPS.  One possible explanation for this is 9/11.  Security scares have become common with police bomb squads having been called in after suspicious activity has been reported.  Several schools and even Disneyland have been locked down.  We found a geocache with a skeleton in it.  Since we were the first to find the cache, and that quite by accident, the skeleton may be symbolic of a dead pass-time.


Other Erindale hikes featured on the historical atlas below include:

  1. Erindale Orchards, 2. Erindale Hydro Electric Dam, 3. Credit River at Erindale and 6. Mullet Creek’s Secret Waterfalls.


sawmill valley legend

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Streetsville’s Forgotten Foundations

Saturday Oct. 4, 2014

Autumn has certainly set in.  It was cool at 14 degrees and the skies were dark with clouds.  We decided that it wouldn’t dare rain on us so we set out.  Having parked on Mill street in Streetsville we were right in the area where Timothy Street had built the mill in 1819 that got the town started.

In 1818 the final parcel of land along the Credit River was ceded by the natives to the government.  Timothy Street financed the task of surveying the area while Richard Bristol conducted the work.  In exchange for his work Timothy was given 1000 acres of land which is now known as Streetsville as well as 3,500 other acres scattered throughout Halton and Peel counties.   Timothy Street is listed in the town directories as a tanner.

In 1825 he built the house in the picture below which looked out over his business empire.  This house is believed to be the oldest remaining brick house in Peel County.


Access covers are one of many items that are usually dated and can therefore tell a little of the tale of a place.  Main street crosses the Credit near Timothy’s house.  At this point the name changes to Bristol Road in honour of Richard Bristol for his work in surveying the area.  Access covers usually indicate the date on which a road or bridge was built or restored.  The cover featured in the photo below is unique in the fact that it has a fish on it.  Dated 2011 it came from St. George which is near Brantford.  It is appropriate because this bridge is a suitable place to stand and watch the fall salmon run in the river.  We didn’t see any this week because the river was too dirty and cloudy.


From the west bank of the  Credit River we had seen a set of foundations that we believed were another of the five mills that once lined the Credit River around Streetsville.  We went north in Timothy Street Park along the Culham Trail.  When we finally had a chance to check them out they appear to be a little less obviously mill foundations.  There are four thick concrete pillars which run in a slightly curved line with the first one beside the river, pictured below, having four holes formed in the side.  The fourth one abutting against an earthen mound has a mounting surface on top of it.  The mound behind it runs in a curved line off through the trees.  The cover picture shows the four pillars from the side of the mound looking out toward the river.  Large trees growing in places between them.  Having visited the site it is hard to see this as a mill.  It looks more like an unfinished roadway of some kind.  A member of the Streetsville Historical Society suggested that it may be related to Timothy Street’s mills but the use of concrete suggests a date around 1900 or later.


The picture below shows the third pillar in the foreground and the fourth behind it.  Notice the step down on the side of number three. The fourth one has a full ledge along the front as if something was mounted there. Forgotten by time and seemingly undocumented on the internet this project could be up to about 125 years old.  Older bridge supports would likely have been made of cut stone and not concrete. If anyone has any information about this artifact please feel free to leave a comment.


When we visited Riverside Park on Sept. 9th the wild cucumber were in full fruit.  A seed grows in each of four chambers inside the cucumber.  In the fall the bottom of the fruit literally pops open and the seeds are dropped out.  The plant dies off every winter and relies on these seeds to carry on the following season.


The fall is a time when many berries ripen.  Several types of berries last on the bush and provide food for birds that spend the winter here.  The red berries in this picture hang in clusters on a plant with serrated edged leaves.  After looking through countless sites dedicated to berries in Ontario, I have to conclude that this is not a native plant and that it has escaped from a garden somewhere.  One way plants can escape from gardens is when their berries are eaten and the seeds pass through the bird and remain viable.  A seed that gets dropped in a soil condition in which it can grow may be found miles from the original plant.


The male Bank Swallow chooses a colony to join.  Colonies are founded in areas of loose soils for easy digging.  The male will then select a site for his burrow which is normally about 2/3 of the way up the embankment to reduce access to ground predators.  The tunnel will extend about 2 feet into the soil where temperatures are more stable and here a larger chamber will be dug for the nest.  When the nests are complete, female Bank Swallows will hover in front of the nests to choose a mate.  The female will then collect the grasses to line the bottom of the nest where she will lay her eggs.  Several holes were seen along the river bank, one of which is shown below.


Here is another view of Hyde mills which clearly shows the 1840 part of the mill built of stone on the right (closer to the river) and the 1906 portion built of bricks on the left.  Having reached here we came to the most southern point on the Riverview Park hike a couple of weeks ago. This completes a section of the river but the mystery of the four concrete supports and the earthen wall remains, for now…


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