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  The sideroad ends here as it is no longer maintained down the side of the hill.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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 aquduct 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Hikeology: The study of our great outdoors.  Nature – Geology – History

2 thoughts on “Georgian Bay Milling and Power Company

  1. Pingback: Trout Hollow | Hiking the GTA

  2. Pingback: Old Mills of Southern Ontario | Hiking the GTA

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