Monthly Archives: April 2023

Leslie Log House

Sunday, April 30, 2023

John Leslie and Esther Beaty moved from Sutherlandshire in Scotland in 1824 and leased 200 acres from Kings College. The lot near Meadowvale was formally known as Lot 12 concession 5 in the Township of North Toronto. Here they built a story-and-a-half log cabin in 1826 close to Mullet Creek, which ran through the property. They raised their 7 children in this 26 foot by 36 foot home constructed of white cedar. They bought the property in 1845 and eventually added a full basement below the home, setting it on walls made of field stone. A summer kitchen was later added but has since been removed.

In 1860 the house was upgraded and a larger front door was added to give the home a more classical look. The door has sidelights on either side which provided some natural light into the hallway. One of their sons was named Robert Leslie and he was a builder. He is known for building a home for William Barber in Streetsville and the Benares House in Clarkson. He likely did the modifications to the Leslie home as well.

In 1880 clapboard siding was installed on the house but it was removed around 1960. As a result there are many small holes in the logs from where it was fastened on. The windows were also upgraded as part of the 1860 improvements. These windows could be louvered out in order to let fresh air into the home.

The back of the Leslie home also has a door, one of three. It’s very uncommon for a log house to have more than one door and I think this is the only one that I have visited that has so many of them. Looking at the way the logs are chinked around the door it is obvious that these logs have been cut because they don’t extend the full length of the building. When you look at the image of the house as it was preparing to move you can see that there is no openings on the rear of the house. The small window has also been added.

Another of the Leslie sons was named George and he moved to a part of Toronto which would later be known as Leslieville in his honour. There he operated a successful nursery. The only bricks on the outside of the home mark the site of the fireplace.

The home is free to visit but has very limited hours so please check before you plan to go. The image below from the Streetsville Historical Society shows the fireplace.

The house was used by the Leslie family for 100 years but eventually the surrounding farmland was taken over for industrial uses. On May 24, 1994 the house was moved from its original site to the Pinchin farm where it was restored. It now serves as home for the Streetsville Historical Society and houses their archives. The historical image below shows the home as it was being prepared for the move down Mississauga Road.

The property that the log house was moved to has a long history of ownership, beginning in 1832 when 300 acres were given to Thomas Silverthorn for his service in the War of 1812. He sold portions of it off and a 66 acre parcel was bought by Henry Rundle and his father-in-law in 1871. This changed hands several times and the farm was used for dairy farming. An orchard was planted in 1931 and 1934. A strawberry farming operation was conducted while the apple trees matured and eventually a turkey farm and pick-your-own apple orchard were managed on the property. The farm was closed in 2004 but foundations for the barn and some other out buildings remain on the property

A trail leads from the Leslie Log House through the old Pinchin apple orchards where people could come in the fall to pick their own apples. This trail leads down to the Credit River and makes for a nice walk and also provides a passage for fishermen to reach the river. There were many deer tracks along the path but we weren’t fortunate enough to see one on our visit. In the fall, the deer love to visit the orchard to eat the apples that still grow on some of the trees.

The trees were starting to come into their leaves on this sunny day and the river was running clear. Beware that the grasses around the river are full of ticks and if you bring your dog for a walk you will need to carefully check both the dog and yourself to ensure that no ticks have hitched a ride on either of you.

Yellow Trout Lily plants grow in abundance in the GTA but it is much less common to see the white variety. They prefer moist soil and we found this one growing among the marsh marigolds.

At one time log houses dotted the countryside but only a few of them have survived. The Leslie Log House is a great example of one.

Related stories: J. H. Pinchin Apple And Turkey Farm, Barbertown, Benares House

Google Maps link: Leslie Log House

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Websters Falls 2023

Sunday, April 16, 2023

We went to Webster’s Falls for a visit on April 9th as it was a beautiful Spring day and this time of year is often the best for seeing the waterfalls. This is because the water levels are generally higher and there isn’t a lot of foliage to obscure the views. We previously visited Webster’s in January 2016 and wrote about the history of the falls and so we won’t cover all of that again in this post. That story can be found in our earlier blog The Spencer Gorge – Webster’s and Tews Falls. This post will focus mainly on information that wasn’t previously presented. Webster’s Falls has a nice long viewing area that provides plenty of space to see the falls and take pictures of it.

The crest of the waterfall is 24 metres wide and is the largest in the region. There are more antique postcards featuring this falls than any other in the area, which attests to the popularity of the falls a century ago when postcards were more popular than they are today. The historical image below shows Ashbourne Mills which were built in 1856 by Joseph Jr., the son of Joseph Webster. The flour mill operated until 1898 when it was destroyed in a fire.

Webster’s Falls has its own tragic legend in the style of Romeo and Juliet. The tale is told of a fair maiden who was the daughter of the local Ojibway Chief. Her name was Na-Go-She-Onong, which meant Evening Star. She was kind, gentle and fair and many of the local males dreamed of courting her. However, she fell for the charms of a white man much to the disappointment of her potential suitors. One overly jealous indigenous man decided to kill the white man to increase his chances of winning her. Instead, she was so distraught that she cradled the dead man to her chest and plunged into the waters above the falls.

After the fire in the mill, the owner who was George Harper at this time, formed a partnership and created the Dundas Electric Company to generate electricity at the base of the falls. The falls and surrounding lands were purchased in 1917 by The Public Utilities Commission of Dundas as part of the local waterworks system. When Dundas Mayor Colonel W.E.S. Knowles died in 1931, it was revealed in his will that he bequeathed Webster’s Falls and surrounding areas for a public park. Two years later the grounds were landscaped, an iron fence was installed along the viewing platform and a stone arch bridge was constructed a short distance above the falls.

This little group of cedars has a stone and concrete bench constructed around them. These trees may be well over 100 years old but there are much older ones clinging to the cliff along side of the falls. Those Eastern White Cedars are over 500 years old. They are the remnants of an ancient forest that covered the area before Europeans arrived and cut everything down to create farmland.

On a sunny day, the view of the falls from beside it will also give the opportunity to observe a rainbow in the mist below.

A second footbridge has been built across Spencer Creek just a short distance upstream from the stone one near the falls.

Growing alongside the trail is a patch of Lesser Periwinkle. This plant will grow in dense patches that choke out other types of plants that compete for sunlight.

A two-kilometre trail used to follow the Spencer Gorge from Webster’s Falls, past Tews Falls and on to Dundas Peak. Unfortunately, people wouldn’t stay on the trail and one of the land owners closed his property to hikers. You now have to park at Tews Falls to see this other waterfalls.

Parking is $16.00 at Webster’s Falls and reservations are required from May until November.

Related Stories

Google Maps Link: Spencer Gorge – Websters Falls

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Sunday, April 9, 2023

Oaklands was built in 1860 as the private home of Senator John Macdonald. John, who was born in Perth, Scotland in 1824 is not to be confused with Sir John A Macdonald. The two Macdonalds would later fight over Confederation. He came to Canada in 1837 with his family and in 1849 opened a dry goods store. He switched to wholesaling in 1853 and by 1870 his annual sales had reached $1,000,000. In 1860 he had purchased a plot of land on the top of the old Lake Iroquois shoreline where the richest men in the city were building their mansions. Many of these have been demolished but Spadina House and Casa Loma are two examples that still exist.

The property on which John built his home was originally a 200 acre grant given to Chief Justice John Elmsley in 1798. The family gave the property to St. James Anglican Church in 1836 and they sold 35 acres to John Macdonald in 1858. Macdonald named his property Oaklands because he admired the large oak trees that grew on the property. The image below shows the home and Avenue Road in 1860 and was taken from the De La Salle College website.

John Macdonald opposed the confederation of the British colonies and went against John A Macdonald in doing so. After Confederation in 1867 he served in the House of Commons as an Independent Liberal. Prime Minister John A Macdonald appointed him to the Senate in 1887 and he served there until his death in 1890.

The building is now in use as a school with its own history which dates back to 1651, the year in which St. John Baptiste De La Salle was born in Reims, France. He had an opportunity to enter the priesthood but in 1678 he elected to form a Christian education group called Les Freres des Ecoles Cheretiennes. In the image below the front door can be seen with its side lights and glass transom window. The entrance is protected from the elements by the porte cochere. John Macdonald would have arrived home in the porte cochere in his horse drawn carriage and later there would have been early automobiles such as the Model T passing through here.

The Brothers De La Salle arrived in North America in 1837 and set up a school in Montreal. Fourteen years later they came to Toronto and had their first Christian School at Lombard and Jarvis Streets.

In 1871 they moved to the old Bank of Upper Canada building at George and Adelaide Streets and also occupied the building that had served as Toronto’s first post office. After completing a building in between the two they stayed there until 1914 when they moved to 67 Bond Street.

In 1931 De La Salle College made the move to Avenue Road and occupied the Oaklands estate. Since then they have added other buildings including the main school building in 1949. They also have a sports field on their property below the escarpment. As I was photographing the building I noticed the artwork below. There’s a ship with wings but above that is a hand with a knife that is held in a stabbing motion. This is an unusual emblem to put on the side of your estate.

Oaklands is considered to be the best example of Gothic Architecture in a residence, as apposed to a church building, in the city.

Related articles: Spadina House, Casa Loma, Inside Casa Loma, Toronto’s First Post Office, Toronto’s Model T Factory

Google Maps Link: Oaklands (De La Salle College)

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Cashel – Ghost Towns of the GTA

April 2, 2023

The township of Markham was once dotted with small communities at many of the crossroads. One of these was the hamlet of Cashel which was a little north of the town of Markham. Originally called Crosby’s Corners and then later Fenwick Corners, it took on the name Cashel in 1851 when it got its first post office. In 1866 it was a thriving community of about 100 people that included a sawmill, tavern, shoemaker, tailer, blacksmith, broom maker, 2 inns and a Masonic Temple. One of these inns still stands at the intersection of modern Kennedy Road and Elgin Mills Road but most of the other businesses have disappeared. There are still a number of houses that survive from this era but most are empty, waiting while the farm land around them is developed for housing. One of the most prominent sites in the former community is now home to the Markham Fairgrounds, across the street from the Peach United Church featured below.

The 1877 County Atlas shows the location of some of the remaining buildings, including the ones featured in the story below. Just north of the intersection is a green star which marks the location of the Presbyterian cemetery. By the time of the atlas below, the church was no longer there.

St. Helen’s Presbyterian Church developed a graveyard in 1827 behind the building. The church operated until about 1865 and then was left without a congregation. The cemetery is now known as Cashel Cemetery and since the church has been demolished the cemetery is maintained by the City of Markham. Many of the township’s earliest settlers were buried in this cemetery.

The original school house was built in 1837 and by 1850 there were about 40 students in attendance in the one room building. School Section 11 of Markham was replaced in 1862 with a new brick building with two front doors. One for the boys and one for the girls. At some point a veranda was added to the front and one of the doors was sealed off. The building was restored when the surrounding land was developed for a plaza and the veranda was removed.

The school still has the bell that once called students into classes but it appears to be stuck in an unusual position. It looks as if it is in permanent action, calling students who never actually show up anymore.

One of the two inns in town is still standing but is now a private residence. The inn was constructed in 1835 and was initially named Llandon Plains Hotel. For awhile it served as the Cashel store and post office and in recent years was Bates Roadhouse Antiques.

The original settlers named Pingle sold their farm in 1881 to Samuel and Mary Wilson. Their son Homer took over running the farm in 1890 and became the owner in 1894. Around 1900 he had a new brick farmhouse built on the property where he lived until he sold to John Preston “JP” Carr in 1926. The Carrs had a son Albert who took over the farm in 1950.

When JP Carr retired from farming in 1950 he had a small cottage built in the front yard of the earlier farm house. He lived here with his wife Florence.

Located near the end of the driveway is a single stone marker which indicates the grave site of Joachim and Anna Marie Pingle and their daughter. They were original members of the Berczy Settlers who came to Markham in 1794. None of the Pingle family buildings remain on the lot but the cemetery is a reminder of the family. It’s likely that the current marker replaced three individual ones from earlier.

This regency style house was built in 1856 by George Henry Summerfeldt Sr., the son of John Henry Summerfeldt, one of the Berczy settlers. The house remained in the family for three generations and is now listed as part of Markham’s heritage inventory. Like the other houses shown in this post, it sits on farm land which is being developed for housing. The homes appear to be in the process of being salvaged and hopefully restored.

The Wegg farm was originally patented to Jacob Pingle but was sold to John Wegg in 1874. When Arthur Wegg, son of John, passed the farm on to his son in 1922 he had a four-square Edwardian home built for his retirement. The house was later owned by a restauranteur and then operated as a country market. Since 2013 it has been waiting for the development of the property into residential uses.

William Bergen lived in Cashel at the time of the 1861 census. He was employed as a general labourer but also had his own broom and basket making business. The simple house he built for his family was originally a single story in 1863 when it was built. Some time later in the 19th century it had a second story added to it.

Peach’s United Church started as a Methodist Church and was constructed in 1890 on land donated by Thomas Peach. The brick building currently on the site replaced a wooden structure which was erected in 1847. The Methodists formed the United Church in 1925 along with some of the Presbyterian churches and some Congregationalists. Peach’s United Church stopped holding services about 50 years ago but the cemetery is still active. The Peach house was built in 1845 and is circled on the map just south of the church and it is still occupied. Unfortunately, there are a lot of trees in front of the house and I couldn’t get a decent picture of it.

The George Haacke house was built in 1955 and was used by three generations of the family until it was sold to John Wilmot Warriner in 1902. The property was farmed until 2014 although it has been owned by a developer since 2011. The two story, five bay house was quite large compared to contemporary cottages of the same era. A nail board along the front wall indicates that the house used to have a much larger front veranda which was replaced with the smaller one at some point in time.

Markham seems to have done a very good job of designating, and then protecting, their historic buildings. One of the most unique things is the creation of Markham Heritage Estates where historic buildings can be relocated and lived in. At least one home from Cashel has been moved to this site near the Markham Museum.

Related stories: Markham Heritage Estates, Markham Museum

Google Maps Link: Cashel

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