Hermit Hollow – Hillsburgh

Tuesday Sept. 15, 2015

After having visited The Ghost Town Of Sixteen Hollow and Trout Hollow I wanted to complete the trilogy and visit the collapsed house in Hermit Hollow.  I parked off of Station Road where the old Credit Valley Railway station once stood.  I walked south on the old rail line then walked the length of the main street.

After the coming of the railway potato growing became an important part of the Hillsburgh economy.  In 1881 the first carload of 210 bags of potatoes was shipped from Hillsburgh to Toronto.  Before long up to 3,000 bags a day were being shipped.  For a few years the town even celebrated Potato Fest.  The cover photo shows a plastic button from the 1973 festival. Beside the railway station stood large potato sorting and storage sheds.  An underground potato storage facility near the railway station has been converted into a house.  Note the concrete storage entrance on the side of the house and the extensive berm for storage.  All of the windows have been reduced in height and bricked in and a doorway has been closed off where the propane storage tank stands.

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In 1821 William Howe bought lots 22 and 23 in the seventh concession of Erin township.  He built a general store and trading post on the 7th line.  His second, larger store, blew up due to careless smoking and storage of gunpowder. A third store was then built which operated into the 1970’s.  All of the old tin advertising for Coke, Black Cat Cigarettes and the Orange Crush door handle are all gone from the store front and now it survives as an office building.

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Nazareth Hill arrived a couple of years later and built a hotel on lot 25.  He surveyed his property for town lots and named the community after himself.  As Hillsburgh grew it swallowed Howville.  It was incorporated as a police village in 1899 with a population of 500.

The first school house dates to 1844 and survives today as a private residence.  A one room brick school was completed in 1864 with an addition for the juniors on the front in 1878. In 1960 six acres were purchased from the Nodwell farm and Ross R. McKay school was opened with four class rooms.  The picture below shows the old school which has served local farmers as Hillsburgh Feed since 1963.  The 1864 school room is hiding in the back beside the feed silos.

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William How is buried in the pioneer cemetery near the middle of town.  After many years of neglect the stones were gathered up and placed in a central location.

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William Nodwell came to Canada from Ireland in 1838 and settled on Lot 24.  His first log home burned down within a year.  Nodwell then sold half of the lot and constructed another log house and barns.  In 1868 the brick house shown below was built.  This view shows the front of the now abandoned house with it’s second story oriel window.  In 1895 the house at the corner of the lane was added for use by family members.  In 1926 Mungo Nodwell took over running the farm which was well known for the  potatoes he grew.  Today there is an open proposal to develop this farm for a subdivision and the electric fence that used to surround the school yard has been replaced with a row of trees.

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A second town hall was built in 1887.  The date stone is interesting because it has no “h” on the end of the town’s name.  Notice the two maple leaves above the date and the beaver below. The Beaver was the name of the town newspaper in 1887 and cost 25 cents per year, paid in advance.

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Six of Hillsburgh’s seven church buildings remain.  The first, and only missing, church was the Union Church and it stood beside the pioneer cemetery.  As each of the denominations grew they left the Union Church and got their own buildings.  From the south end of town is the Baptist Church (1862), Christian Church (1906) and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian (1869) which burned in 1965 and was rebuilt in the original walls.  Beside the river stands the United Church which was reassembled here in 1926 and the Anglican Church seen below.  It was built in the early 1890’s but closed in 1918 and served as a honey extracting plant after that.

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Hillsburgh didn’t have a fire hall until the church fire of 1965.  After that it had a two door building that stood beside the river.  When the arena was replaced it was moved to Station Road.  Today there is a semi-circle of concrete on the ground behind the arena to mark the tower where the fire hoses were hung to dry.

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The Exchange Hotel was built in 1883 and was one of three hotel buildings that remain in town. Until recently It had stables in the back for the traveler’s horses and lettering on the arch which said “Good Stabling”.  It is the only three story building in Hillsburgh.

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Church Street was home to the Methodist Church.  This was also the site of the town’s third cemetery which lies below the lawn.

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The Barbour house, dated 1889, is on Orangeville Street and is one of half a dozen houses in town which are dated in the 1880’s and 90’s on a diamond shape date stone.  These were built by Alexander Hyndman whose own 1879 house stands beside the Christian Church.

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On the south east corner of the 8th line and 27th side road lies one of the headwaters of the Credit River.  In 1906 this property belonged to the Caledon Trout Club and later was a fish hatchery.  From here the water flows through Hillsburgh’s three existing ponds and into the Credit River.  A little boat dropped in this trickle of water could eventually emerge in Lake Ontario at Port Credit beside the much larger ship The Ridgetown.

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Leaving town on the 7th line there are two large hills.  In the hollow on lot 18 stood an old shack covered with asphalt siding.  During the early 1970’s a hermit lived in this house.  It was already in a state of decay at that time and collapsed by the middle of the decade.  Today one wall remains leaning against a tree and the rest is in advanced decay on the ground.  In good hermit fashion the property is strewn with old tin cans and empty bottles.

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An old car from the 1940’s or early 1950’s lies rusting in the tall grass at the back of Hermit Hollow.

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Hillsburgh retains many historical buildings and is an interesting time capsule of rural Ontario.

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2 thoughts on “Hermit Hollow – Hillsburgh

  1. Pingback: Slacking In Smokey Hollow | Hiking the GTA

  2. Pingback: Nodwell House – Homestead Farm | Hiking the GTA

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