Sherwood – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The township of York was settled in the early 1800’s and the intersection of modern Keele Street and Major Mackenzie Drive became known as Sherwood.  It prospered for a only a short time and then was overtaken by nearby Maple and faded from prominence.  Sherwood is still indicated as a neighbourhood on most maps but it is now predominantly industrial with a large area taken up by the Canadian National Railway Macmillan Yards.

The early settlers were from Somerset County in Pennsylvania and were of German heritage.  They arrived bringing their Evangelical Lutheran faith with them.  Jacob Keffer answered the need for a parish in 1806 when he volunteered to serve as a lay pastor to the emerging congregation.  When the meetings outgrew his home he donated land in 1811 for use as a cemetery and the construction of a frame church.  The Keffer family would continue to dominate the community and retained title to several land grants in the area.  In 1837 when William Lyon Mackenzie was stirring up his rebellion the family was divided in their loyalties.  Those supporting the rebellion locked the government supporters out of the church in protest.  Later everyone would make up and things went back to normal,

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Zion Evangelical Church grew and in 1859 plans were made to replace the original building with the brick structure that still serves the congregation today.  The building cost $1,485.90 which included 80,000 red bricks and 1,000 white ones.  The date stone above the entrance shows the dedication as Zion Evangelical Lutheran A.D. 1860.

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The cemetery was laid out with the older interments taking place at the back of the plot.  With the snow on the ground all these pioneer stones made of limestone make the place look ancient.  Later marble headstones can be found closer to Keele Street.

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Cemetery records show that the first burial occurred in 1817 but there is reason to believe that interments may have happened earlier.  With the fresh snow on the ground I wasn’t able to see all the stones but I did notice the memorial for Ann Keffer who was the wife of Peter Keffer.  She passed away October 12, 1830.

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On July 19, 1936 the church celebrated the 130th anniversary of its founding.  They also celebrated the efforts of Adam Keffer who had walked to Pennsylvania in both 1849 and 1850 to plead for a pastor for the parish.  After the first visit promised a Lutheran Pastor that never arrived, he returned the following year where his tenacity was rewarded with a pastor being assigned to the church.

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The church built a log house for the pastor to live in.  In January of 1887 Peter Keffer donated more land to the church for the construction of a new manse for the pastor.  The house was completed by October 29th that year and was occupied by the various clergy who served the church.  With the manse fund and donations the house was finished with only $800 still owing for materials and labour.

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In 1950 the parsonage was sold because the church had become a two-point parish sharing a pastor with Unionville.  The pastor had relocated to the manse in Unionville and the house was no longer occupied.  Today it is home to a nursery garden.

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The church and graveyard are located on Concession 3, Lot 13 West Half which was owned by George Keffer in 1877 when the county atlas was published.  County atlases had a reputation for spelling errors with people’s names.  This appears to be an omission of the church and cemetery from the atlas.  Just a little farther north on Keele Street on the map below you will notice an “*” marked WM and another marked PRES.  These indicate the locations of the Wesleyan Methodist and Presbyterian cemeteries.

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The bulk of the former Keffer property has been turned over to industrial purposes with small green belts remaining along the watercourses.  The trail through this little greenbelt is known as the Bartley Smith Greenway but it is still under construction and some sections are closed.   The trail brings you out to Planchet Road where it detours down Keele Street to Rivermede.  When completed the Bartley Smith Greenway will run 15 kilometres along the West Don River.

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The trail climbs over the small rise of one of the city of Vaughan’s storm water management ponds.  Basaltic Pond is known as a dry pond because there is normally no water present.  During a major storm event the berm and dam serve to retain water.  The pond can reach the level of the top of the dam before it spills over.  Should the water level exceed the storage capacity of the pond there is a series of concrete posts known as a dissipation weir that the water must flow through.  This allows the energy that the water gained by falling from the top of the dam to be released before it can cause significant erosion downstream.

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The water level this far up the West Don River is pretty small today and there’s lots of room for increase before the dam will even start to retain water.  When the flow exceeds the capacity of the round cut-out in the dam it will start to fill the pond.

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From a distance you can see the basic height of the berm and dam which suggests that about five feet of water can be retained in the ravine.

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As usual, I wonder what the original farmer would think if he could return today.  The farm he worked hard to clear and maintain has become a series of factories.  I think it would please him to see that the church he founded is still open and serving the faithful.

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5 thoughts on “Sherwood – Ghost Towns of the GTA

  1. Pingback: Maple – Ghost Towns of the GTA | Hiking the GTA

  2. Pingback: Pioneer Heartbreak | Hiking the GTA

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