Saturday August 22, 2015
Set in the Caledon hills the town of Belfountain has a beautiful park with a swing bridge and water falls. It was another excellent summer Saturday with an early morning temperature of just 13 degrees, a perfect day for a hike to a swing bridge.
The area was surveyed by 1820 but the rugged terrain made farming difficult and settlement was slow. There was plenty of cherry and white pine trees and William Frank built a saw mill on the West Credit river in 1825. Selling cherry wood for furniture and pine for construction he soon was able to dam the river where he built a grist mill. The grist mill was purchased by Jonathon McCurdy who built another saw mill adjacent to it giving the community the temporary name of McCurdy’s Mills. Belfountain was surveyed in 1846, registered in 1853 and by 1860 more saw mills, a tannery and another flour mill had been added.
Around 1850 Peter McNaughton set up a barrel making shop in town. He wanted his cooperage to be easily distinguished and so he built his house like a barrel. It was 12 feet wide and 12 feet tall with a pyramid for a roof. He used wooden staves and steel bands in the construction and this earned the town the nickname “Tubtown” for awhile. By the time this house was moved to Erin the town had taken on the name Belfountain. We parked on Mississauga road on the edge of town where an old barn and the foundations of a farmhouse remain.
In 1908 Charles Mack bought the property that would become Belfountain Park. It had been owned in the 1860’s by George Hughson and had been the home to four of Belfountain’s mills. Mack had made his fortune as an inventor, most notably of the cushion rubber stamp which he sold to banks and post offices. He wanted to create a park that would be memorable to those who visited and he has been successful for over a hundred years. Mack built his own little version of Niagara Falls and added a swing bridge to view it from. The current bridge replaces the 1909 bridge that I used to cross as a youngster.
Beside the waterfall is a sluice gate and the round pipe from a penstock used for water power. There was a dam here prior to Mack building his waterfall and so the new dam continued to be used by local mills. The mini Niagara Falls dam has been determined to be short of current Ontario code for dams and is under environmental assessment to see how it can be restored and the danger to downstream properties alleviated.
The gardens and falls area are lined with stone walls and stairways. A local stonemason named Sam Brock was hired to do most of the decorative work and build the cave.
Mack built what he called Yellowstone Cave, complete with concrete stalagmites and stalactites. To me the cave looks more like a shrine of some kind and, perhaps, in some way it is a shrine to one man’s eccentricity.
Mack also built a fountain out of inverted bells with an upright bell at the top as a pun on the town’s name. I’ve used the same pun in the title and cover photo. After running for more than 100 years the bells are covered in a thick layer of moss but the water still flows.
A series of beautiful planters and gardens surrounded the area of the bell fountain. Benches and lookouts were also provided for visitors.
A swimming and boating area above the water falls has been allowed to silt in so that it is no longer usable. In the 1970’s this was a great place to get cooled off on a hot summer day. Concrete steps now lead down into the water and muck. After Charles Mack passed away his widow sold the park which was used commercially until the Credit Valley Conservation authority bought it in 1959. They are currently in the works of a master plan to restore the heritage features and to make the area more enjoyable for visitors.
There are four generations of Monarch butterflies born each year in Ontario. The picture below is of a butterfly which has just emerged from it’s chrysalis and it was still in the process of drying it’s wings. The third generation of monarchs is born in July and August and will live for two to six weeks in which time it will lay the eggs for the fourth generation this year. The fourth generation will be born in September and October. This generation will not be like the three before it in that it is programmed to live for six to eight months and not just a few weeks. This fourth generation will migrate south to places like Mexico to survive the winter. When they return in the spring they will lay the eggs for next year’s first, short lived, generation of Monarch butterflies.
By 1870 Belfountain had become home to about 300 people. The two local communities of Forks of the Credit and Brimstone were home to quarry workers and essentially were company towns. The skilled tradesmen and quarry managers lived in Belfountain which, due to it’s mills, had become the economic centre of the region. Quarry workers get thirsty and need a place to spend their pay cheques. The ornate patterned brick building at the corner of Mississauga Road and Bush Street was opened as a tavern in 1888.
The Community Hall was built in 1893 of board and batten construction. The precast concrete brick foundation dates to the 20th century and indicates that the building was raised at some point. The hall was closed in 2015 due to safety concerns and it is unknown where the funding for restoration will come from.
Belfountain, with it’s bell fountain and mini Niagara Falls, makes a great place to visit and is especially nice when the fall colours are in full display.
There’s still plenty of summer weather left though so get out and enjoy it. Perhaps visit one of the more popular places as picked by readers in this top 15 list.
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