Category Archives: Black Creek

Roblin’s Mill

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Black Creek Pioneer Village is built around the homestead of Daniel and Elizabeth Stong.  Their story and a brief history of the village can be found in this earlier post.  Once the decision had been made to collect historic buildings to allow people to glimpse the life the settlers lived it was time to identify potential buildings to put in the village.  Since most pioneer villages were founded around a saw mill, grist mill or woollen mill it was necessary to move a mill to the site at Steeles Avenue and Jane Street.

Owen Roblin took possession of a land grant not too far from Trenton that included a lake that came to be known as Roblin’s Lake.  Owen blasted a head race from the lake to a point where he could create a 75 foot head of water to turn his 30-foot overshot water wheel.  He divided part of his property to create town lots which were the beginning of the town of Roblin’s Mills.  He added a sawmill and carding mill and the town attracted blacksmiths, a harness maker hotels and a general store.  Today the town is known as Ameliasburgh.  The picture below shows the mill around the time it closed.  The building in the foreground is the carding mill and the water wheel is between the two buildings.  The head race runs under the road.  The building in the background with the sloping roof is the File Brothers General Store which closed in 1951.


During the peak period around the time of the American Civil War, the mill was producing up to 100 barrels of flour per day.  Most of this was shipped to the northern states where it supported the army.  The mill was closed in 1920 and sat abandoned until 1965 when it was decided to demolish it.  The Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) was looking for a mill for Black Creek Pioneer Village and decided to purchase Roblin’s Mill and relocate it to the village.


A mill pond was created at the village using Black Creek as a source of water.  There is a second mill pond behind the mill where the water goes after it flows over the water wheel.  This picture shows the upper pond and the entrance to the headrace which also flows under the road.


The five-story stone mill was built in 1842 and soon became the focus of the community and included a post office.  As a commercial mill, it operated 24 hours per day with three run of stones.  The picture below and the cover shot show the open wooden flue that carries the water to the wheel.


Inside, large wooden gears turned by the water wheel drove the three mill stones.


Millstones relied on fine grooves that had to be dressed at least once a month when the mill was running 24 hours per day.


Samples of grain and flour were moved from one floor to the other using these belts and cups.


The ground flour was stored in dry barrels that were produced next door in the cooperage.  A dry barrel was less precise than ones known as wet barrels which were used for liquids such as whiskey.


Black Creek has added the cooperage of John Taylor to their collection of buildings.  The building dates to the 1850’s and was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1976.  It wasn’t restored or opened until 1988.  Coopers often located next to mill complexes so that there was a ready market for their wares.


Inside John Taylor’s Cooperage, you can see several types of barrels that were produced in the shop when it was located in Paris, Ontario.


We close with an archive picture of the mill before it was moved to the village.


I have yet to see the mill in operation although I have purchased a bag of flour that was milled there.

Google Maps Link: Black Creek Pioneer Village

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Downsview Dells

Saturday March 14th, 2015

It was a couple of degrees above freezing when we parked in the Downsview Dells parking lot south of Sheppard.  With one week left before the official start of spring, there are finally some signs that it is coming.

Bartholomew Bull bought a farm on lot 8 concession 3 (west of Keele between Lawrence and Wilson) in 1830 and gave it to his 2 year old son, John Perkins Bull. When John got married in 1844 he settled on the farm and named it Downs View.  He opened his house up as a place for religious services and during the 35 years he spent as Justice of the Peace he held court in his house and locked the convicts up in the cellar.  The house is currently in use as North Park Nursing Home.  Hopefully they don’t lock up the patients in the old jail.


When this park was created in 1960 it was named Black Creek Park.  The name was soon changed to prevent confusion with Black Creek Pioneer Village.  Black Creek flows from its headwaters in Vaughan to where it empties into the Humber River in the middle of Lambton Golf and Country Club.  Golf balls are a frequent sight along Toronto’s parks and ravines.  A golf ball will have between 300 and 500 dimples on it, with the number 366 being used frequently. Early in the history of golf, players noticed that older balls with nicks and bruises on them went further. These marks create turbulence in the layer of air closest to the ball and increase the distance the ball travels.  The dimples on the ball are there to act as turbulators. We found a Lambton golf ball that wouldn’t be out of place a few kilometers south of here.


As we headed south down the west side of the creek we found ourselves climbing in and out of little valleys and hills.  A dell is a small treed valley.  When the name was changed from Black Creek Park to Downsview Dells it was certainly appropriate.  The cover photo shows the entrance to the park in 1963.


One of the first sure signs of a change in the weather is the revival of those creatures that hibernate.  Not all spiders hibernate.  Many of them produce an egg sac and then die in the fall. Others build a nest inside the bark of a tree or in a rock pile.  At one point we found a split in a rock and dozens of tight little spiders nests inside.  When the weather warms up in the spring they hatch or wake up.  We saw this little spider hanging from a sumac tree.  Later we saw another spider of a different variety.  It was very tiny and perhaps a new hatchling.


The American Robin migrates south and returns along with the warmer weather.  We saw a large flock of them making their way along the muddy ground listening for worms.  With the ground still frozen below the surface the worms are not yet accessible but at least the spiders are.


A further sign of spring is the open water on the creeks and rivers in the city.  Two weeks ago we were able to cross at will.  The water has not crested yet and it will continue to rise until the snow is melted and the ground thaws out.  With the slow melt this year we may avoid some of the more serious flooding that a quick melt can cause.


This giant paper wasp nest is about the size of a soccer ball.  Notice the buds on the tree which are starting to open.


In the 1930’s the Great Depression resulted in many homeless men drifting through Toronto looking for work.  The original Seaton House was built in 1931 to provide food and shelter for some of these men.  In it’s current facilities since 1959, it has housed up to 900 men at a time, making it the largest homeless shelter in the city.  Seaton House also operates Downsview Dells.  This drug and alcohol rehab centre is tucked within the northern end of the park.  It houses 30 men who are referred there from Seaton House.  The house has a no trespassing sign on the side but is clearly visible from the park.


Perhaps the high success rate is due to the Ent who stands guard near the drive way to the rehab centre.