The Barrie Light Company

Saturday May 30, 2015

After visiting with my parents in Barrie there was an opportunity to make a short visit to a site near town.  A street with the name Finlay Mill Road pretty much needs to be investigated and we were only a km away.  Light rain was falling with the threat of a downpour.

Willow creek crosses Finlay Mill road where a half dozen mills, a soap factory, distillery and two power generating plants once stood.  This was the industrial core of Midhurst.  Preserved here are a set of mill stones and the school bell that was used in SS No. 6.  The original building dates to 1866 but a second building containing this bell was built in 1887 where it was used until 1962.


Charles Singleton Bell operated a bellfoundry in Hillsboro Ohio starting in 1875 under the name C.S. Bell.  In 1882 he changed the name to C.S. Bell & Co. when his son joined the company, a name he operated under until 1894. Starting in 1894 he changed the name again, this time to The C.S. Bell Company when the company was incorporated.  The name stamped on the bell below dates it to 1882-1894 which is correct for the 1887 date for the second school building. The number 20 on the stem identifies it as a 20″ bell.  C.S. Bell and Co. sold school bells in diameters ranging from 20 to 28 inches.  Farm bells were smaller than 20 inches while bells over 30 inches in diameter were made for churches and fire halls.


On April 15, 1878 the town of Barrie enacted legislation creating the Barrie Water Company and the Barrie Gas company.  Town by-law 345 in 1888 gave exclusive rights to James Burton, George Ball and Samuel Lount to provide electric power to the town.  They formed the Barrie Light Company.  They built two generating plants on Willow Creek.  On June 4 1888 they successfully transmitted power to a station on the end of Bayfield Street.  In August, with great fanfare, they lit 17 street lights in downtown Barrie.  At the same time the Barrie Gas Company’s 10 year contract for street lighting expired and was never renewed.  By the mid-1890’s people began to feel that the private companies were charging too much and public ownership was proposed.  The Barrie Light Company was sold to the city for $22,501.  Barrie’s population reached 6,500 by 1910 and the electrical consumption started to exceed production capacity at the two old generating stations.  The solution was to switch to Ontario Hydro which was completed by 1912.  The old production facility was abandoned and later demolished.

The foundations from the 1888 power generating station remain on the west side of Willow Creek.


Concrete pieces are strewn across the creek where the power facility once stood.


Remains of foundations can be seen in the trees on the other side of the creek.


Just beyond the first power mill Willow Creek flows through an area where erosion of the sandy hillside makes following the trail a very risky concept.


Dragonflies and Damselflies are two separate species which are often confused. The easiest way to tell them apart is in the rest position of the wings.  Dragon flies sit with their wings spread out while damselflies sit with them folded above the back.  The female Ebony Jewelwing damselfly has a small white spot on the tips of the wings while the male is all black.  The female is pictured below.


It began to rain harder and lacking a paddle we decided not to venture farther up the creek. The foundations of a second power station remain to be located on a future visit when hopefully the surrounding area will yield more of the secrets of historic Midhurst.


3 thoughts on “The Barrie Light Company

  1. Pingback: The Spencer Gorge – Webster’s and Tews Falls | Hiking the GTA

  2. Pingback: Utopia | Hiking the GTA

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