Monthly Archives: August 2020

The Cober Dunkard Church

Friday, August 7, 2020

Jacob Engle was one of the founders of the Dunkard sect of Mennonites in Pennsylvania and in 1808 was organizing settlers in York County.  Meetings were held in homes for the first 80 years even though a large Meeting House was built at Heise Hill in 1877.  Gormley was about 10 miles away and people in the area west of Yonge Street continued to meet in homes for the next 11 years.  Sixteen families hosted the church including that of Peter Cober (green on the map below) and several different Baker, Boyer, Doner and Heise homes.  Mennonties and other Anabaptist denominations were known for their belief that anyone baptized as a child needed to be re-baptized as an adult.  The Dunkards were named because of their belief in “dunking” people through immersion.

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In 1839 Peter Cober donated a small parcel of land on his property at Lot 12, Concession 2 in Vaughan Township for a cemetery.  Today it is known as the Baker-Cober Cemetery because the land was donated by the brothers-in-law Peter Cober and Michael Baker. Although it contains the remains of some of the first settlers in the area the cemetery is still active with the most recent burial being in 2010.  One of the truly unusual aspects of this cemetery is the pioneer styling of some of the recent burials.  They seek to keep the simplicity of the earliest buries including the tradition of reporting how long a person lived.  Today we tend to record birth and death dates.

In 1888 the congregation decided that it was time to build a permanent place of worship.  By this time the property had passed into the hands of George Cober.  He donated land south of the cemetery for the construction of a church.  Nicholas Cober constructed the building of white pine with no adornment.

The floor remains the way it was built without even the adornment of a coat of paint.  The benches and the stove provided a minimum of comfort and in the winter the congregants would sometimes sit closer to the stove.  On October 21, 1888 the first service was held in the new church but records from George Cober indicate that house meetings continued into 1896.

Peter Cober attained the position of Bishop in the church and conducted services in homes for many years.  It was Bishop Cober who introduced services in English in 1860.  Even as the German services were being replaced, the custom continued until 1916 of closing the service with a hymn sung in German.

The pioneers had to travel across roads that were often muddy or snow packed by horse and carriage.  A drive shed was added to give a place to shelter the animals during the service.  The Cober Dunkard church shed is the only surviving church shed in Vaughan Township.

They don’t park horse and buggy here as much anymore and so the space is in use for washrooms which are not provided in the little structure.  The cubicle that can be seen at this end of the shed is the ladies washroom while the outhouse for the men is at the other end.

George Cober was likely born at home on this piece of property in 1826, as was the custom at that time.  He continued to farm the property when his father passed on and in 1916 he passed on.  His burial service was conducted in the church that he donated the land for and then he was buried in the graveyard that bears his name.  I imagine that George saw relatively little of the world outside his community.

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In 1935 services were switched from every two weeks to just monthly and now the church can be used by appointment only.

Google Maps Link: Cober Dunkard Church

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Maple Nature Reserve

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Maple Nature Reserve is 35 hectares of the Oak Ridges Moraine near Dufferin Street and Teston Road.  Much of the property was used as a Ministry of Natural Resources office complex including and old quonset hut that had been decommissioned and has since been removed.  Access can be had from four locations but I had decided to look at it on my lunch on Friday and so I parked at the lot beside the old ministry building on Dufferin Street.  I went for a brief walk and got my first ever picture of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo which assured that I would return on Saturday to see what other surprises the reserve held.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo are distinctive in their call and are hard to spot because they will stand still and even hunch down to try and hide heir white bellies.  They are helpful to the forest because they are one of the few birds that can eat hairy caterpillars.  They can eat as many as 100 tent caterpillars in a single meal.  You might also find them feasting in an area where there are a lot of cicadas.

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The ministry building is currently vacant with all the services, including City of Vaughan Archives, having moved to city hall.  It is just one of the buildings on the site that is awaiting decision of its future.  The trail down the hill from here leads to a larger parking lot and some washroom facilities.

For Saturday’s adventure I decided to park in the circle that can be found in the first driveway east of Dufferin Street on Teston Road.  This leads to the Arboretum Trail which loops around most of the northern section of the nature reserve.   The trails are wide but climb up and down the moraine and although sections like the Arboretum Side Trail claim to have steep sections they are quite manageable.

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At one point along the trail there is a cluster of Veitch’s Blue Globe Thistles.  These produce a flower head the size of a golf ball  and a few of them were starting to open.  Globe Thistles have lovely flowers considering the less desirable prickly leaves on them and have been imported for use as garden flowers.  This escape is attracting a hover fly that is coming in to look for pollen.

Where the East Don flows through the park there are a couple of old buildings sitting near a small pond.  These have been shuttered most likely awaiting demolition as the area is slowly re-naturalized.

It was a nice day for the Painted Turtle to crawl up on a log in the pond and start basking.  Water is a poor conductor of heat and so turtles will crawl up onto a log and soak up heat from both the log and the sunshine.  This allows them to regulate their body temperature to between 32 and 35 degrees celsius.  Basking also allows a turtle to absorb UVB which is needed for the absorption of calcium and it allows them to dry out causing leeches and parasites to fall off.

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South of the parking lot is the area that once held a quonset hut and parking lot used by the ministry.  Both have been removed and the area has been contoured to allow for pools to form when there is a lot of rain.  Known as Ephemeral Ponds the shallow spots also fill up with water in the spring when the snow melts.  They provide small habitats that are suitable for amphibians that come to eat the insects that abound when the ponds are full.  If you come at the right time you have a chance to see Spotted Salamanders in the ponds at Maple Nature Reserve.  The trails in this section of the park cross the Don River on a new foot bridge and boardwalk.

Scarlet Waxy Cap have a slimy cap with waxy gills and white spores.  They are sometimes referred to as Scarlet Fading Waxy Caps because the colour will fade to yellow as the mushroom ages.  They are considered edible but as always we leave the plants to do their natural cycle in the hopes that others will enjoy seeing them or subsequent generations.

With just over 3 kilometres of trails this is an area that can be completed in a single trip providing you do a couple of sections twice.

On your way to Maple Nature Reserve you may well pass the last church drive shed in Vaughan Township at the Cober Dunkard Church.

Google Maps Link: Maple Nature Reserve

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Goldie Mill Guelph

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Goldie’s Mill ruins in Guelph are part of a legacy that goes back to 1827 when David Gilkison built a sawmill on this site beside the Speed River.  Two doctors built a grist mill named Wellington Mills in 1845 but W. Clark and H. Orton lost their mill to a fire just five years later.  The mill was rebuilt in stone and given a new name, The People’s Mills.  After this new building burned in 1864 the land was bought by James Goldie.  He expanded the mill and completed a new stone building in 1866.  The Wellington Archives post card below shows the mill as it appeared in the early 1890’s.

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The Goldie family continued to operate and expand the mills until 1918 when they sold the operation.  It continued as a mill until the spring of 1929 when a flood washed out the dam.  The building was once again destroyed by fire in 1953 and has been left as a ruin ever since.  The picture below shows part of one wall.  The limestone that was used in the construction was all quarried and dressed on the site.  The masonry around the windows is quite impressive.

 

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Over the years the site added a cooperage to make barrels to ship the ground flour in as Goldie’s Mill became one of the primary producers in the area.  James Goldie was well respected and even served as the President of the Canadian Millers’ Association.  A foundry, tannery, piggery and distillery were all part of Goldie’s operations over the years.

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Industrial uses over the years have left the soils on the site with contamination and the work of the weather and the Speed River have created several sink holes.  For this reason the city decided to fence the site to keep the public out while they did further assessments.  It was found the most of the chemical waste on the mill site was about 0.75 metres below the surface but was somewhat less in some places.  The remediation plan includes adding a membrane where the soil is thin and then new soil and mulch.  This will fix the sink holes and eliminate any human impacts from the chemicals in the soil.  It is expected that the soil and sink hole repairs will cost $450,000.

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The building is also being stabilized and repaired so that it will be safe to use by the public.  The site has become popular for weddings which are expected to resume in the park in 2021 if the work is completed by then and there are no other delays.

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There are ruins on both sides of the Speed River and large sections of foundations are buried along the north and northwest sides of the building.

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The brick chimney sits on a foundation of cut limestone blocks.

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The 90-foot tall chimney is part of the heritage designation and has already been restored.  There is a plan to relocate a pair of Chimney Swifts to take up residence on Goldie Mill chimney.

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The remnants of the mill dam are in the river just upstream from the mill ruins.  The previous dam and mill pond were much larger than those left today.

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Across the street from the mill is the only other piece of architecture on Cardigan Street to survive from the 1850’s.  It was built in 1853 as a tavern and home for Bernard Kelly.  It was the common drinking hole for workers from the mills that operated along the river.  When Kelly died on 1882 James Goldie bought the place and rented it out as accommodations for some of his workers.  In 1911 the old inn was once again up for sale and this time it was purchased by the Stewart family who lived there until 1988.  It was eventually restored in 1996 to the original splendor.

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The picture below shows Kelly’s Tavern as it appeared in 1977, prior to restoration.  Notice that the door on the right has been closed and bricked in and all of the window shutters have been removed.  It has since been renovated and turned into four little apartment units.

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It will certainly be interesting to see how the restorations turn out and what has been done to preserve the building for future generations to enjoy.

The Rockwood Woolen Mill in Rockwood Park are also well worth a read and a visit.

Google Maps Link: Goldie Mill Georgetown

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