Author Archives: hikingthegta

Bovaird House

May 28, 2023

Bovaird House is the only historic residence in Brampton which is open to the public. The property was originally granted to John Silverthorne Jr. in 1819 under the condition that he clear, fence and cultivate 5 acres. He was also required to build a log home and open up the public roadways along the edges of his property. This was to be done within 18 months of the grant so that he could receive the title to the property. In 1821 he sold the 100 acre property to Peter Chisholm for 16 pounds. Seven years later Peter moved his wife, mother-in-law and a small nephew and niece into the log cabin on the property. To accommodate them, he expanded the cabin to 4 rooms and added a sleeping loft above. This log cabin has since been demolished but as we will see later in this post a different historical log cabin has been moved onto the property.

The 1878 map below shows the property under the ownership of Peter Renwick Chisholm. It is located at the intersection of the modern roads of Bovaird Drive and Kennedy Road and is formally known as the west half of lot 10 in the second concession east of Chinguacousy township.

In 1845 Peter began work on the brick house which still stands on the property. The bricks were made on the farm and it took until 1852 to complete the building. It is a five-bay Georgian style home with an impressive front door flanked by side lights and a glass transom over the door. Peter died in 1872 and the home was inherited by Peter Renwick Chisholm who lived there with his wife, Margaret and their three children. They sold the house to James Bovaird for $8,250 in 1929.

The back portion of the house was likely added in the 1860s to give the home an expanded kitchen with living quarters for the hired hands above. The carriage shed and buttery (cold storage room) are located in the single story addition behind the home.

James and Fanny Bovaird had 11 children but never lived in the house. They used the farm to raise thoroughbred horses and when James died in 1938 the house was inherited by their second youngest son William. In 1941 William and his wife Mossie moved into the house where they lived until William died in 1983. Mossie and William had determined that they would donate the home to the City of Brampton as a museum and this was done in 1985. The “Friends of Bovaird House” was formed in 1992 and consisted of volunteers who raised money to restore the house and furnish it to represent life in the period of 1850-1900.

Behind the Bovaird house is an historic piece of farm equipment. It is known as a “brush breaker” and was one of the early implements built by Harvester International. It was used in the preliminary ploughing of fields to break up brush and shrubbery. They are built extra strong and designed for the hardest type of ploughing including cutting through hazel brush and blackberry bushes. A similar item appears in their 1927 catalogue. This implement was found on the Lundy Farm when it was being cleared for development and has been moved to Bovaird house to be part of the exhibit of early farming.

The Pendergast farm was located near the modern intersection of McVean Drive and Countryside Drive. Like many of the early farmers in the area they first built a log house using materials gained when the land was cleared. This home was built around 1845.

When the local farmlands were being developed the house became in danger of being demolished. The Friends of Bovaird House expressed interest in moving the log house to their property. The original home on the site of Bovaird house had been a log home and so having this asset would allow visitors to experience the two homes together.

The Pendergast Log house was clad in bricks during the 1920s and this has helped to preserve the logs. When it was moved to the Bovaird house site in 2015 the bricks were removed. The home has been lovingly restored to its original state and now is one of the last remaining log homes in the city of Brampton.

Both Bovaird House and the Pendergast log house are open to the public and are worth exploring for a glimpse into the lifestyle of a previous century.

Google Maps Link: Bovaird House

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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.

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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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North Toronto Station

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Railways began to arrive in Toronto in 1853 and by 1858 it was necessary to have a central station where passengers and freight could switch between different lines. This led to the construction of a Union Station that was shared between the different railways. The original wooden structure was replaced in 1873 with a much larger station. In 1905 it was decided to replace this station with a new Union Station, which is the structure we now have on Front Street. Although it was proposed in 1905 construction didn’t begin until 1914 and the shortage of construction materials during World War 1 meant that it wasn’t until 1920 that the structure was largely completed. This station wouldn’t open to the public until August 10, 1927.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Pacific Railway had a line that ran through North Toronto and was serviced by a modest station on the west side of Yonge Street. The delays in completion of the Union Station led them to decide to replace their existing station with a much grander one on the east side of the road. Toronto mayor Tommy Church laid the cornerstone on September 9, 1915 and the station opened for service on June 14, 1916. The archive photo below shows the station shortly after completion.

The station served passenger traffic until September 27, 1930 when the CPR decided to route through the recently opened Union Station downtown and North Toronto Station closed. It reopened for a day on May 22,1939 for the royal visit when King George VI and his consort Queen Elizabeth passed through during their visit to Toronto. Canadian soldiers returning from World War 2 also passed through the station even though the Brewers Retail had moved into the north side of the building in 1931 and the LCBO had moved into the south side in 1940. One of the dominant features of the new station was its 43-metre (141 feet) clock tower as seen in relation to the active rail line that still runs behind the building.

The new station replaced an older one which stood on the west side of Yonge Street. The Toronto Archives picture below shows both the old and new stations.

The three story building was the first in the city to be built out of Tyndall Limestone imported from Manitoba and is designed in the Beaux Arts style. This limestone is known for it’s durability as well as the fossils that are embedded in it. The theme of three floors is repeated in the three large windows on the second floor as well as the three distinct sections of the clock tower.

During the years that the station was in use the clocks were always illuminated at night.

The Canadian Pacific Railway was incorporated in 1881 as noted in the emblem near the main doors on the south side of the building. The line was built between eastern Canada and British Columbia between 1881 and 1885 as part of a commitment to build Canada’s first transcontinental railway. This promise had been part of the agreement with British Columbia when it joined confederation in 1871.

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was completed on November 7, 1885 with the last spike being driven in by Donald Smith. British Columbia now had a land link to the eastern provinces and the 4-month sea voyage was now reduced to 7 days by rail between Port Moody and Montreal.

Sometime between 1948 and 1950 the clocks were removed from the tower leaving openings behind that became the entryway for generations of pigeons to take up residence. By 2004 when restoration was undertaken there were over 4,000 kilograms of pigeon feces lying in the base of the tower. This had to be removed and disposed of as part of the restoration. The original clocks were recovered and restored and now have resumed their duty of keeping time for those who pass by on Yonge Street. Inside the old station the bottom of the tower has been turned into a tasting room where people can try some of the various alcohol available at the store.

The inside of the clock tower reveals the use of marble and the ornate doors that led into the building.

The main terminal gallery, or waiting area, had 38-foot (11.6 metres) high ceilings complete with brass lights designed to look like train wheels. Drop ceilings and walls had hidden many of the architectural features inside the building since it had been in use for retail purposes.

Restoration of the inside was undertaken in 2004 and all of the original interior was exposed again for the first time in over 60 years. A time capsule was uncovered in the cornerstone of the tower and was opened on the 100th anniversary of the laying of the stone. It contained newspapers from September 9, 1915, various coins, and a city map among other things. A new time capsule was put there to replace it. This one contains newspapers from September 9, 2015, the September issue of Toronto Life, some bottles of liquor from the store as well as an iPhone and a Blackberry. The picture below shows one of the original ticket windows that had been hidden for decades.

Other features of the old waiting area include a wooden bench that passengers sat on 100 years ago while they waited for their train to arrive or for passengers to show up.

The rails ran over Yonge Street on a trestle bridge that remains in place today. The station windows can be seen in the picture below, which was taken from across Yonge Street.

With the tracks passing through the centre of the building there had been stairs that led from the inside up to the track level. The picture below shows the north part of the building that served as a beer store starting in 1931. The entire building is currently home to the LCBO and is the largest liquor store in Canada.

At one time there were hundreds of railway stations across Ontario but many of them were demolished to lower property taxes and prevent the possibility of injury and lawsuits from trespassers. Fortunately, a few still survive and we will be looking at some of them over the coming months and years. You can see a few of them in the links below.

Related Stories: Roundhouse Park, Richmond Hill Station

Google Maps Link: North Toronto Station

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Milliken – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The community of Milliken was located at the intersection of Steeles Avenue and Kennedy Road. Part of it was in Scarborough and part in Markham as Steeles Avenue is the dividing line between the two townships. The area was first settled by Europeans in 1798 and Norman Milliken arrived around 1807 and set up a saw mill and lumber business. It was known as Milliken Corners and got a post office in 1858 when it became a postal village. The post office was located just west of the present United Church.

The map below was taken from the 1878 county atlas and shows the Scarborough portion of Milliken. The homes of William Hood, Marshal Macklin and George Stonehouse are circled in green as is the original location for the Methodist Church. These will be covered in more detail below as they are the remnants of the original community.

The Stonehouse-Lawrence house was built in 1871 and formerly fronted onto McCowan road although this is now the back yard of the home. When the farm was developed for housing access was cut off from McCowan which became a four-lane road. Delburn Drive was cut through the back yard and now this is the main entrance and driveway for the home.

The most visible reminder of Milliken is Ebenezer United Church at the corner of Brimley Road. The 1878 county atlas for Scarborough Township shows a Methodist Church on the south side of Steeles while the one for Markham Township places it on the north side of the road as it is today. This happened because 1878 was the year the congregation decided to replace their original building with with this brick one constructed in the gothic revival style. They worshiped in the first church while they erected the new one across the road.

Marshall and Mary Macklin purchased their lot facing Brimley Road in 1830. The stone house was completed in 1851 and was used to raise their family which included 17 children. A small creek used to run between the house and Brimley but it was replaced with a drainage ditch many years ago. The house remained in the Macklin family for over a century.

William Hood emigrated from Scotland in 1831 with his wife, mother and two young sons. In 1839 they purchased a farm lot in Scarborough and in 1850 they built a one-story brick farm house in the Georgian style. The original five-bay house was very symmetrical with a plain central doorway and transom window above it to let in some light to the main hallway. As the family grew a second story was added to the home along with a Second Empire style of roof.

William’s youngest son, Thomas inherited the property in 1892 and remained there for the next ten years with his family. William Francis Gough bought the estate in 1920 and he and his wife renamed it Devonsleigh after their homestead in England. They farmed the land until 1954 and lived in the house until 1966. In 1982 the home was renovated and enlarged again and preserved as Devonsleigh Place. For awhile it was used as a steakhouse. Today the 170 year old home is used as Casa Imperial, an upscale Chinese Restaurant.

The map below was taken from the Markham County Atlas of 1878 and shows that portion of Milliken. Circled in green are the homes of Benjamin Milliken II which was owned by William Milliken at the time, William Macklin house and the site of Ebenezer Primitive Methodist Church.

Benjamin Milliken II was the son of the founder of Milliken and he built this home in 1855. It now stands behind the Dairy Queen near Hagerman’s Corners and is used as Milliken Pub.

The first school to serve the community of Milliken Corners was established in 1838 not far from the school pictured below. Initially the school had 26 students under the teaching of William Galloway. When newer schools were opened a little north in Haggerman’s Corners and south at L’Amoreaux students were transferred to these schools. In 1929 two acres of land were sold for $600 by L. E. Morgan to the school board for the construction of a public school. The cost of the school, including the land and all of the furnishings was $28,000. Milliken Public School was known as a union school because it served students from both Scarborough and Markham townships. The school operated until 1968 when newer schools were built and it was closed. The building was then used by the Richmond College of Liberal Arts and then Scarborough Christian High School. The picture below shows how the school looked in 1977.

In 2010 the building was demolished except for the front facade which was incorporated in the Milliken Centre development.

The William Macklin house was built in 1840 at 2501 McCowan Road and has since been expanded and now houses a daycare. Recently it has been designated as 2501 Dennison Road as the laneway is now accessed from this street rather than McCowan.

Milliken Corners and Milliken Mills were rural communities but in the 1970s and 1980s were swallowed up by development, leaving only these few traces of the former farming communities.

Related stories: Milliken Park, Haggerman Corners

Google Maps Link: Milliken

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Conboy Carriage Company

Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Conboy Carriage Company Limited started in Vallentyne Ontario in 1860 before moving to Uxbridge. In 1884 it moved again, this time to Toronto to take advantage of the local market and the easy access to all the rail lines on the waterfront that allowed export of its products to other markets. The town of York had started as just ten blocks in 1793 but by 1797 it had started to expand beyond that to the north and west of the original site. When the town was founded, it was guarded by Fort York which was established along with the Garrison Common, a large military reserve land between it and the town. By 1833 the War of 1812 was a fading memory and plans were put into place to develop part of the Garrison Common for additional housing plus some estates for the wealthy along the lakeshore. When the railways arrived in the period between 1850 and 1880 much of this area was redeveloped for industrial purposes. In 1884 Daniel Conboy purchased Lot 3 and built an industrial building for his company the Conboy Carriage Company. The map below shows the area as it appeared on the 1884 Goads Fire Map. Also shown here is the Military Burying Grounds featured in a separate blog post. The map was taken from the submission to the city for historical designation of the Conboy building. The blue arrows shows the location of the building.

Conboy bought the one-story rough cast house at 413 King Street West and had the three story carriage factory built on the vacant lot at 407 King Street West. The business did very well and in 1897 Daniel commissioned a new home at 493 King Street West which was designed by the architect James Augustus Ellis. By this time the street had been renumbered and the factory was known as 485 King Street West.

In 1900 he had the original factory extended and added a new building at the rear of his house running perpendicular to the original building. The new structure is formally known as 495 King Street West and is currently being retained as part of a development being completed on the front of the property.

It wasn’t long before the business outgrew the original building and Conboy built a new factory on the east side of the Don River near Queen Street. The building suffered a fire in the 1920s and was restored a few years later. Unfortunately, it has been demolished and replaced with a condo development. When automobiles became more popular the company changed its production to manufacture auto bodies for Buick, Hudson and Rolls Royce. It was the first company outside of Britain to build the body of cars for Rolls Royce. In 1914 the company produced the most expensive car built in North America up to that time. It was called The Swan and sold to a Toronto client for $13,000. The image below is from their 1915 catalogue and was taken from the submission to the city for historical designation of the Conboy building.

It was constructed on the east side of the property to leave room for an alley along the west side of the building. Two delivery doors faced the alley and broke up the the sets of windows which lined all three floors. Originally the interior was lit by gaslight and so windows were provided to increase the amount of natural light available. The joists stretched across the building leaving no interior support and allowing a large amount of open space inside for moving materials around. When Conboy moved out of the building it was occupied in 1907 by the Imperial Paper Box Company.

Daniel Conboy died in 1917 from the Influenza epidemic and his company was taken over by his three sons. It was unable to survive the market turbulence of World War 1 and closed in 1918. Meanwhile, the same year saw the building on King Street taken over by The National Cabinet Company. They would change their name to The National Radio Cabinet Company before vacating the building in 1957. In 1958 the building was under the ownership of Pauline Pattenick who renovated the front face and interior of the structure. Between 1960 and 2014 it was occupied by the Du-Sel Importing Company under the ownership of the Pattenick family. The original windows were two over two sash windows with arched heads. The only adornment was a brick pediment on the top of the King Street face of the factory. In 2013 the front windows were boarded over and the side windows had previously been filled in with concrete blocks. White paint had been added to the front and part way down the west side.

The building has had an historic designation and has now been restored. Although the building is almost 140 years old and the Imperial Paper Box Company only occupied it for 11 years they are commemorated on the side rather than the Conboy Carriage Company.

Fortunately the King-Spadina Heritage Conservation Area has protected the row of historical factory buildings along this section of King Street.

Associated stories: Military Burying Grounds,

Google Maps Link: Conboy Carriage Company Building

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Royal Ontario Museum – Dinosaurs

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Royal Ontario Museum is one of the largest museums in North America and is the largest in Canada. It was established on April 16, 1912 and opened on March 19, 1914 and was initially governed by the Government of Ontario and the University of Toronto. It has been expanded a couple of times and now is home to 40 galleries and over 6,000,000 items. In addition to the permanent galleries, it also hosts special exhibitions on a regular basis. Many blogs could be written on the various galleries but as I have been fascinated with fossils and dinosaurs since I was a young boy, I’ve decided to write this initial blog about their dinosaur collection.

Trilobites were among the first marine arthropods (invertebrate animals with an exoskeleton) and flourished for about 270 million years starting around 521 million years ago. There have been over 22,000 species of trilobites discovered so far.

Fossils are formed when living organisms are buried quickly before they have time to decompose. Usually this happens when they are covered with mud, sand or volcanic ash. The soft tissues will often disappear leaving only the skeleton but sometimes even the tissues can be preserved. More sand or mud is deposited on top of the animal or plant and over time this will turn into rock. The bones themselves will turn to stone in a process known as being lithified. Eventually the rock may erode away exposing the fossil.

The first dinosaur fossil was discovered in England in 1672 and was named Megalosaurus, which means Great Lizard in Greek. The species itself wasn’t scientifically named until 1824 when it was originally thought to have walked on all fours like a lizard. Since then, further discoveries have shown that it was a biped and looked similar to a Tyrannosaurus Rex like the one featured on the cover photo. Some fossils are found in a nearly complete format like the one pictured above but this isn’t often the case. Sometimes only a bone or a few pieces of skeleton are found and the Megalosaurus was first identified by just a femur bone. The skeletal head of a Triceratops is featured below and is distinguished by the three horns on the face.

Albertosaurus was a similar species to the Tyrannosaurus Rex but smaller and very limited in range. It appears to have been pretty much restricted to the province of Alberta. It is interesting because since its original discovery in 1884 there have been 30 examples discovered. Of these, 26 were found in one location which suggests pack behaviour. Due to the larger than average number of specimens, it has been possible for Albertosaurus to be studied in greater detail than many other species where there are relatively few examples available.

Sauropods were the largest dinosaurs and Brontosaurus is likely the best known species within the group. These animals had long thin necks and tiny heads as well as long tails. They were herbivores and could reach 22 metres in length and weigh up to 17 tonnes. They lived around 150 million years ago in North America and were discovered in 1879 in Wyoming.

Dinosaurs laid eggs that were often protected by the mother while they were in the nest. In 2021 a fossil was discovered of a dinosaur that was buried while hunched over her nest of 24 eggs. At least seven of those eggs have preserved bones of the partially developed embryos. The museum has an example of dinosaur eggs on display.

We tend to be most familiar with the largest dinosaurs but of nearly 700 species identified most are actually quite small. And, of course, even the big dinosaurs were small when they first hatched. The image below shows the skeleton of a baby Maiasura, whose name means Good Mother in Greek. They were given this name because nests have been found which contained eggs and young animals. This told researchers that the mothers fed the infants in the nest. That was the first evidence of maternal activity in dinosaurs. The fossil below is of an infant which didn’t have the opportunity to grow to the full 9 metre length of an adult.

The world of the dinosaurs could be pretty violent with the large carnivores looking for prey. Some of the herbivores developed various methods of protecting themselves from long sharp horns on the face to bony shields protecting their necks. Stegosaurus grew flat plates along its back that may have prevented Allosaurus from biting it. Four sharp spikes protruded from the end of the tail and this could be swung at predators to convince them to find easier meals elsewhere. Hollywood likes to show this animal fighting off a Tyrannosaurus but in fact they lived millions of years apart and the Stegosaurus had died off before the T-Rex came along. The Stegosaurus had one of the smallest brain to body ratios of any of the dinosaurs but eating plants all day likely didn’t require a lot of thinking.

Dinosaurs first appeared around 245 million years ago and died out about 65 million years ago. During that time they dominated the land, sea and air. There’s a lot of speculation about what killed them off and chances are that we will never know. We are fortunate to have so many fossils available and places like the royal Ontario Museum where we can go to view them and learn about these fascinating creatures.

The Royal Ontario Museum is the type of place that can be visited many times and there will always be something interesting to look at and learn about. The dinosaur exhibit is just one small part of the museum.

Google Maps Link: Royal Ontario Museum

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Turner Chapel

February 19, 2023

Fugitive slaves and other black people began to arrive in Bronte and the Oakville area as early as 1830. The Act Against Slavery had been passed in Upper Canada, later renamed Ontario, in 1793 and was one of the first pieces of anti-slavery legislation in the world. It banned the importation of slaves and allowed children born to female slaves to go free at the age of 25. This meant that slavery would slowly disappear from the province. Britain banned slavery in Canada and other colonies in 1833 but the underground railroad was already in full swing bringing fugitive slaves into Canada. Many of these people ended up in the Oakville area.

One of these former slaves was James Wesley Hill who escaped to Canada inside a packing box and settled on a local farm. Over the next few years he returned to the United States many times and helped an estimated 700-800 African Americans escape to Canada. He offered them temporary work on his strawberry farm while they worked to establish themselves. James was also referred to as “Canada Jim” and he has been honoured by having a local school named after him. The following picture of James Wesley Hill is from the James Wesley Hill school page.

Around 1860 Samuel Adams and his brother in law, Rev. William Butler organized between 300 and 400 former slaves in the area to form a congregation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. They were able to build a small church on the east side of Sixteen Mile Creek. This church burned down and in 1890 a plot of land was gained on the west side of the creek. Several setbacks occurred and construction didn’t begin until 1891 with the first service being held on Jan. 1, 1892. The side view of the church in the picture below shows the rounded arches of the windows which shunned the pointed arches of the gothic architecture common in churches of the era. The row of bricks turned on an angle under the roof line is the sole form of ornamentation in the brickwork.

The church was named after Bishop Henry McNeal Turner who had been an advocate of the “Back to Africa” movement in the United States. Turner was the first black chaplain appointed by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The church was dedicated as Turner Chapel to honour the bishop. A manse was built in the 1930s to the west of the church to house the pastor of the congregation. The manse can be seen on the right of the picture below which also shows the rear of the church.

Although the cornerstone of the church is dated 1890 it wasn’t laid until 1891. It also has lettering which denotes the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The church was in use until the later part of the twentieth century when the congregation had dispersed to other communities. For awhile the church was leased to an offshoot of the Anglican Church. However, in 2000 the building was put up for sale. Since the Oakville Historical Society has strict guidelines on what can be done with the building, it wasn’t attractive to developers. In 2002 Jed Gardner decided to buy both the church and the manse to house his antique business. The picture below shows the interior of the chapel looking from the rear toward the front of the chapel.

The following picture shows the view from where the pastor used to stand looking toward the entrance. The antique shop is an interesting place to wander around and explore and you just might find something to add to your collection.

The Oakville Historical Society has put a sign on the front of the building to bring attention to the history of the chapel.

Turner Chapel is an important part of the history of the Black Community and the underground railroad in Oakville.

Google Maps Link: Turner Chapel

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