Category Archives: Credit River


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Caledon Township was surveyed between 1819 and 1820 with settlements beginning shortly after.  The town of Melville was founded in 1831 but was originally known as West Caledon after the church that was located on the southwest corner of Highpoint Sideroad (25th s.r.) and Willoughby Road (1st line west).

Jesse Ketchum Jr. saw the possibility for a mill and a town was born.  He built a dam on his property creating the mill pond that still exists today.  The concrete dam in the cover photo replaces an earlier wood structure that would have required constant maintenance. His father, Jesse Ketchum, had been a tanner in Toronto and had gotten rich selling leather to the government, whom he silently opposed in the rebellion of 1837.  In 1831 he had donated property for a school and a park in Yorkville, both named in his honour.  Jesse Jr. laid out the north part of Orangeville on lands owned by the family in 1856.  Then in 1859 he laid out an ambitious town plan for Melville on his property there.  Soon there was a tannery, possibly connected to the Ketchums, as well as a saw mill and an oat mill.  The town never grew the way Ketchum Jr. envisioned and eventually the tannery and mills all closed.


There is an Upper Credit Conservation Parking lot on Porterfield Road (2nd line west) south of town, near the train tracks.  From here a trail leads east following the Credit River.  A footbridge is provided to cross the river and then the trail divides but we followed it to the north, toward Melville.  As we made our way along the trail we could hear the approach of the Credit Valley Explorer as it was making a short run through Melville.  The picture below shows the engine as it is emerging from behind a small ridge.  The Explorer runs on the old Credit Valley Railway (CVR) right of way south of town.


To the early settlers a fence had no practical value.  Pigs and cows were left to forage all summer and were slaughtered in the fall.  By the middle of the 19th century farms were opened up enough that property lines needed to be marked and cedar rails were used, often in a zig-zag pattern.  These snaking fence lines wasted a lot of productive land and eventually they were replaced with straight fences. Fence wire was introduced in the 1890’s and steel poles came after WWII.  Snaking fences had one major advantage that kept them in use even after more advanced methods became available.  They were the only truly portable fences and farmers could move them to reconfigure their fields to meet changing needs.


Following the trail east along the river, you will come to a new fence where the trail loops back around.  This fence is running along the top of a berm in the field.  This berm is the former right of way for the Toronto Grey & Bruce Railway (TG&B) that ran through Melville starting in 1871.  This section of the line has been closed for nearly a century but the berm is still visible from Google Earth.  There isn’t much to see other than an obviously man-made hill in the field.  There are interpretive signs in the park but none about the railway. Yet, one can stand here and almost see the steam engines rolling into town.  The farmer has created a stone fence along the edge of his field where he sold a strip of land for the railway.  Every spring the frost lifts a new crop of stones to the surface of the fields so that the farmers have to clear the rocks before planting.  Stone fence lines across Ontario are the result of needing to dispose of these stones.


The CVR came into town in 1879 and it intersected with the TG&B just south of Highpoint Sideroad.  Known as Melville Junction it contained the station and freight buildings.  Today the junction has reverted to a farmer’s field and the old right of way for the TG&B is being kept open by a lawn mower.


In 1932 the CPR closed the section of TG&B line from Bolton to Melville.  A little south of Melville is the site of the Horseshoe Curve Rail Disaster where a train left the tracks in 1907 killing 7 and injuring 114.  From there the line passed through Cardwell Junction.  The portion of track between Melville Junction and Orangeville is still in use as part of the CPR line through town.  Between Highpoint Sideroad and Willoughby Road the tracks cross the Credit River on a bridge that replaced the original trestle.


This one and a half story cottage is the oldest remaining home in the village.  It was built around 1850 in what is known as the Georgian Style.  The 2 over 2 windows are likely replacements as most of the homes in this era had 6 over 6 windows.  The smaller panes of glass were easier to produce and transport without breakage.


Like all small towns, Melville had at least one hotel.  The large building on the northeast corner of town was also the post office.


According to the date stone, Caledon School Section 12 in Melville got a new building in 1871. Melville’s saw mill was doing a good business in decorative brackets for eaves and the local tradesmen liked to use them in pairs.


Italianate architecture was popular in Ontario between 1840 and 1890.  This style also tends to have the round headed windows and doors that can be seen in this example below from 1875.  Like many Italianate houses,  George Hillock’s home has heavy bracketing under the eaves with the ornamentation being paired.  Another interesting feature of the style is the Widow’s Walk.  This platform on the rooftop was often railed with highly detailed wrought iron.  The name comes from their frequent location on homes built near water and the suggestion that women would walk there looking out for their husbands to return from sea.  The fact that they often didn’t return made them widows.  It is, in fact, a variation on the cupola which is common to the Italianate style.


At the intersection of highway 10 and Highpoint Sideroad stands an abandoned house (red arrow on map). The preceding two buildings from the 1870’s were made of red brick with buff trim.  Typical of many homes in the 1850’s, this one is buff with red trim.  This farmhouse was built in 1859 by David Watson and has been covered in greater detail in a separate post which can be found here.


Google Maps link:  Melville

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Erindale Powerhouse

Saturday June 18, 2016

The Erindale Powerhouse was opened in 1910 and operated until power was delivered from Niagara Falls in 1923.  The building was closed and sat abandoned until 1977 when it was demolished.  Today, the site is only accessible by water.  The archive photo below shows the powerhouse shortly after construction.


Hiking the GTA visited The Erindale Hydro Electric Dam in October 2014 at which time we looked at the power structures on the north side of Dundas Street.  The intake system that drew water from Lake Erindale and brought it to the powerhouse was described along with photographs.  Water was fed through a pipe under Dundas Street to the power generation buildings on the south side of town.  The pipe, or penstock, is open on the north end and led to the question “What is on the other end?”


Our Credit River at Erindale post began as an attempt to follow the river south to locate the remains of the old powerhouse.  This trip was called off due to ice on the shale but a later trial was to prove that access from the west wasn’t possible.  The east end is fenced off by the Credit Valley Golf and Country Club.  It looked like access would be from the river on a nice day, if at all.  The shale cliff pictured below leads to the golf club and is on the same side of the river as the powerhouse remains.


In 1902 Erindale Light and Power Company was formed to construct an hydro electric generating plant on the Credit River at Erindale.  It took 8 years to complete the construction which included a tunnel under Dundas Street.   A natural crook in the river was used to bring the water through the shortest possible tunnel.  The powerhouse was built near the end of Proudfoot Street.  Erindale and New Toronto got their power from the plant until 1923 when supply came to the area from Niagara Falls.  The 1960 aerial photograph below shows the power generating station 37 years after it went out of service.


A small ravine is cut through the shale and initially it looked like a good possibility to be the tail race from the power station.  It is laid from top to bottom with old pipes that in many places are rusted through.


Buried in the hillside are the remains of a pump dated July 19, 1921.  This 95 year old pump was manufactured by F. E. Meyers of Ashland Ohio who were a major manufacturer of farm equipment.  Founded in 1870 they invented the double action pump which could deliver a steady stream instead of just spurts of liquid.  In 1910 they created the pump and spray system that allowed the Panama Canal zone to be sprayed for mosquitos.  This saved thousands of people from getting malaria and allowed construction of the canal to be completed.  The pumping system and pipes run directly toward the Credit Valley Golf and Country Club.  The first 6 holes of which were developed in 1930 for W. D. Ross who was Lieutenant Governor of Ontario at the time.  In 1934 the course was leased from Ross and opened to the public.  Since then it has been expanded several times including 5 holes in 1954 on the west side of the river to bring it up to a full 18 holes.  The pumping system in the ravine predates the golf course by a decade but is contemporary with the final days of the electrical powerhouse operation in the valley.  It supplied water to the orchards that formerly stood on the golf course property.  A similar pumping system is located on Loyalist Creek as seen in the post Erindale Orchards.


By 1916 the Erindale Powerhouse was in financial trouble and was bought out by the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario.  They continued to operate it until 1923 when power from Niagara Falls rendered it obsolete.  Demolished nearly 40 years ago, the woods are quickly taking over the site.


There are pieces of old walls and plenty of steel left along the ravine side.  The cover photo shows one of the steel plates from the old structure.


The old access road still runs along the side of the embankment.  It appears to be still maintained as there are no fallen branches on it and the tire tracks are free of plant growth.  There is a large open area at the bottom of the roadway that is being used as an amazing back yard by a home at the top of the ravine.


Purple Flowering Raspberry is a member of the rose family and it blooms from early in the spring until early fall.  It is often grown for decoration because of it’s long season and bright flowers.  The fruit is made of many drupelets and is furry compared to a raspberry.  The berry is a little tart to the taste but can be eaten and is part of the diet of squirrels and birds.


At the top of the access road are the old stone gate posts that marked the entrance to the facility.  Also located here is the “No Trespassing” sign that marked the beginning of the return journey.


This tree has grown around these two stones and lifted them two feet off the ground.  They’ll continue to rise as the tree grows until it eventually falls and rots leaving them a couple of feet away from where they started.  It’s a good thing they have all the time in the world because it’ll take them forever to walk into town at this pace.


This was an interesting trip but there is very little left of the old powerhouse.

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Lakes Aquitaine and Wabukayne

Saturday May 14, 2016

Two man-made lakes hide among the mid-1970’s planned community of Meadowvale West. Lake Aquitaine and Lake Wabukayne form a beautiful green oasis in the middle of apartment buildings and townhouses.

On April 25, 1969 Markborough Properties Limited announced their plans to develop a 3,000 acre community that would include three levels of schools, a community centre, a major retail centre and a park with a lake.  A place where people could live, work, shop and play.  The new community in the Streetsville and Meadowvale area would provide the biggest growth in the history of the new city of Mississauga.  On Dec. 14, 1970 a tree was planted to mark the beginning of construction and to remind the contractors of the city in the country theme of the development.  In 1971 Streetsville Mayor, Hazel McCallion, presided over the opening of the information centre that started to sell the community. By 1973 Fletcher Switzer’s property had been developed for townhouses but the farms south of it were still clearly visible in aerial photographs.  By 1975 Isaac Wylie’s house had been removed and the section of the 5th line west coloured in yellow on the 1877 county atlas below had been closed and abandoned.


When the master plan was developed it was decided to include a large park with a man-made lake on it.  The former Isaac Wylie property was chosen because of the small creek that flowed just south of the apple orchards.  Excavation for the lake began in September 1976 and when completed in November 1977 a 41 acre piece of land had been transformed into a park. A 12 acre lake containing 37 million gallons of water had been created and it was surrounded by 28 acres of parkland.  A 1 acre settling pool was included to remove pollutants before local run-off water was released into the lake.  Lake Aquitaine is 460 feet wide and 1780 feet long and the depth of 14-16 feet is perfect for the 3,300 rainbow trout that were stocked in it.  Robins, Canada Geese and Mallard Ducks all have hatched their little ones around the lake.  This female Mallard has her brood of five new born ducklings and is going for a stroll along the boardwalk.


This archive photo shows the lake during construction looking north.  A spillway was created to act as an overflow to control the level of the lake by allowing water to flow over the top if it rose too high.


The picture below shows the Lake Aquitaine spillway as seen looking south today.  Notice how wetland grasses have taken over the sides of the lake.


The trail continues past the spillway and along the shore of the lake.  Here, a rather sickly looking raccoon was hanging around listlessly at the water’s edge.  It is rare to see one so skinny in an urban environment where they have access to plenty of food.  This animal likely has canine distemper which is the same disease that dogs can get.


Water flows over a small dam from the settling pond into Lake Aquitaine in the picture below.


The residents of Meadowvale West have the luxury of a set of six exercise stations known as the Lake Aquitaine Exercise Circuit.  These stations provide sets of exercise equipment spaced along the 1.4 kilometer trail that loops around the lake.  Other residents, like a lady with a purse full of  peanuts, walk the loop daily.  This particular lady has a name for each of the local squirrels and stops to chat with them and throw them a peanut.  As a result the local population is healthy and very friendly.


When Lake Aquitaine was nearing completion a massive landscaping project was initiated that included planting 1265 trees and over 15,000 shrubs.  130,000 square yards of sod were laid and the paved walkways were lined with benches and lanterns.  Over the last 40 years the park has taken on a more mature feel and there are places where the hillsides are covered with hundreds of small maple trees.  These will form the basis for a forest a couple of decades from now.


The Lake Wabukayne Trail runs south from Lake Aquitaine and forms a 4.9 km loop around the second lake.  The trail was laid out in 1976 when the sewage system was set up for the new development.  Mature pine trees now line the trail along one section and the one pictured below is leaking pine resin.  This material, when collected and lit, makes an excellent candle that can burn for hours.


The county atlas above shows that almost every farm in the area included a large orchard. Orchards are illustrated as rows of dots, usually near the larger square dot that represents the house.  Many apple trees remain in the parks and they are in blossom this weekend.


Lake Wabukayne is named after Chief Wabukanyne of the Eagle Clan of the Mississauga Natives who lived at the Credit River.  His name appears on the “First Purchase”, the treaty of 1805 which sold much of the GTA to the British Government, and translates as White Snow.  In 1829 Henry Cook settled on Lot 6.  The farm stayed in the family with Peter being the owner at the time of the atlas above.  In the 1940’s Cecil Cook built a dam across Wabukayne Creek to create a cattle pond on the property.  When the planned community of Erin Mills was built the pond was converted to serve as flood control and was renamed after the creek that feeds it.  It has since regenerated and is home to many species of wild life.  Wabukayne Creek flows into Mullet Creek and eventually over a secret set of waterfalls before making it to the Credit River.  The picture below shows the dam that controls the water level in Lake Wabukayne.


Lake Wabukayne includes a unique floating island.  This island provides a safe habitat for ducks and other wild life.  As well as providing protection from wind and wave erosion the roots from the floating plants also help to filter the lake.  The floating island can be seen in the picture below surrounded by a series of white buoys.


The Meadowvale Community Centre officially opened on Jan. 23, 1982 and would have made a great place to park for a hike around the two lakes except the parking lot is not accessible at the moment.  After 3 years of planning, the 30 year old community centre was shut down in July 2014 for extensive updates and expansions.  It is scheduled to re-open on Oct. 22, 2016.  Parking is scarce in the neighbourhood but some can be found at the Meadowvale Town Centre.  This retail mall was opened on Jan. 25th 1978 to serve the planned community.

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Shalebank Hollow

Saturday Dec. 5, 2015

Mullet Creek flows through an area known as Shalebank Hollow in Mississauga.  Freshly reforested, the area still retains some evidence of it’s farming past.  Normally I like to look for the unique history of the places we hike but this week I must be satisfied to present a few pictures we took while on a short exploration.  With the passing of our father on Thursday, getting away from things briefly seemed even more necessary than usual but there isn’t time for the regular research and writing.  Therefore, please enjoy the following photo journal of some of the things we saw.

An early horse drawn hay rake known as a dump rake has been left sitting close to Mullet Creek and the trees have grown around it.  These rakes were operated from a seat above the curved steel teeth of the rake where the farmer lifted the implement as he went back and forth to create a windrow of hay.



There are many old “stubby” beer bottles along here plus this worn 1973 Pepsi bottle.


An old building on the floodplain for Mullet Creek has almost completed it’s collapse.





On the hill above the collapsed building stands what may be the original log home on the property.


In the woods are the remains of an old electric fence complete with ceramic insulators.  This type of fence was used to keep livestock from wandering away.


This old steel stove liner is being used in a shelter built in an old deer stand.


Where Mullet Creek crosses Mississauga Road there is this beautiful and restful waterfall that was featured in Mullet Creek’s Secret Waterfalls.


Look for a full feature story coming next week.

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The Caledon Aerial Tramway – The Cox Property

Saturday Oct. 24, 2015

For over 100 years a steam powered aerial tramway has been hidden away in the Caledon hills. It was 8 degrees when we set out and it started lightly raining almost as soon as we found the west end of the tramway.  Having parked on The Forks Road near Dominion Street we walked up the hill to the hairpin turn.  This is where the Credit Valley Railroad (CVR) built their station.  The CVR was absorbed into the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) who took over transportation for the mineral extraction activities in the area.  The embankment on the side of the railway has been reinforced by driving steel rails into the ground to support boards.


The medina sandstone in the Caledon hills had not been exploited with much success until the coming of the CVR.  McLaren’s Castle was built in 1864 and is a rare example of local stone prior to the arrival of the railway in 1879.  For the next thirty years quarries mined all the easily accessed deposits until one by one they were closed.  In 1900 an aerial tramway was built to bring stone from the eastern embankment of the Credit River to the railway line.  This avoided bringing it down to Dominion Street and then back up the hill on the Forks of the Credit Road. McLaren’s castle is shown in the archive photo below but it was destroyed in a series of fires in the 1960’s.

the grange

The Cox Property is the east half of lot 9 concession 4 while the west half of lot 9 is the Willoughby Property which features the Stonecutter’s Dam.  Both properties are owned by the Credit Valley Conservation Authority.  The CVC has taken a “hands off” approach to managing the Cox property.  No formal trails have been established and the area is being allowed to return to it’s naturally vegetated condition.  Almost immediately we found an area of disturbed rocks where steel rails could be seen underneath.  After a brief investigation we located the two inch steel cable from the tramway running through a chamber below ground.


A little farther along several steel railway rails have been exposed.  These rails support chunks of stone that hide the chamber below where the cable runs.  Inside, the curving end of the tramway cable can be seen.


I climbed into the chamber that the cable ran through.  After cleaning a bit of debris away I still couldn’t see where the cable went as it curved around a large block of cut stone and down deeper into the underground chamber.  Without preparations, or permission, it wasn’t possible to dig all the stone fill out of the chamber and discover if the cable turns on a hidden drive below.  The cover photo shows the cable from inside the chamber looking to the east where it entered this end of it’s route.  The walls are lined with cut stone and the roof is supported on a series of steel rails.  Above ground the rails are covered with a layer of stone that has been spread over the top.


The steel wire rope used on the tramway had a two inch diameter as can be seen relative to the 28mm (1.1 inch) coin in the picture below.  The rope appears to have a 6 X 7 construction which means that it has 6 strands made of 7 wires each.  The six strands are wrapped around a central core. Without seeing a cross section it isn’t possible to determine of there is a 7th strand in the core making it a 7 X 7 rope.  Using 7 wires per strand allows for larger outer wire diameter which greatly improves abrasion resistance but reduces flexibility.  The wires in the strands of this rope run in the same direction as the stands and this is known as a “lang lay”. Depending on the exact construction this wire rope should have a breaking strength somewhere between 175 and 200 tons.


Other evidence of past industrial use of the land is seen in the remains of a steel ladder.


There is a small patch of horsetail growing on the side of the hill and most of it has been chewed off.  White tail deer will sometimes eat horsetail and we saw the departing end of a deer as we came through this part of the woods.


Stone was brought from the quarry on the other end of the tramway and unloaded to waiting train cars on the CPR.  A large steel spike is seen protruding out of the side of the hill near where the tramway ended. This spike is similar to the ones I saw on the 1855 Gore and Vaughn Plank Road I reported in Dufferin Creek.


The Cox Property was the site of quarry number two as well as several smaller quarries.  The picture below shows the face of one of the smaller quarries.  We found various metal and wire scraps in this overgrown quarry.


Turkey tail fungus is known by the scientific name Trametes Versicolor and it grows on fallen hardwood and stumps.  This fungus contains a protein called PSK which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties.  It inhibits growth of breast and lung cancers as well various ones in the digestive system.  Treatment with turkey tail proteins has shown very little negative side effects.


The eastern end of the tramway was at a much higher elevation than the western end and I could see that cable making an excellent zip-line across the Credit River valley.  This picture looks from near the terminus on the Cox Property across the valley to where the steam boiler that powered it hides at the other end.


The Caledon aerial tramway has given up some of the secrets it guarded for the past century but I suspect that there is even more buried in that underground chamber.  The Cox property also contains a couple more quarries and access roads but after a couple of hours of non-stop rain, we decided to call it a day, leaving the rest for another time.

Please note that the Credit Valley Conservation considers this property to be private and as noted above, no trails are maintained on it.  Access to the property is by permission only.

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Mullet Creek’s Secret Waterfalls

Monday October 12, 2015

Mullet Creek contained a couple of surprise waterfalls and an old dam in the short section we hiked.  It originates in Meadowvale north of the 407  and empties into the Credit River on the University of Toronto Mississauga campus.  It was a gorgeous long weekend and Thanksgiving Monday was a beautiful day for a brief hike before getting the turkey in the oven.  We parked on O’Neil Court and entered the woods through the community walkway.

Reginald Watkins bought 150 acres of land in 1928 north of the now abandoned Erindale Power Dam.  He tore down one house on the property and enlarged the other which was named Lislehurst.  In 1965 The University of Toronto bought the property and founded Erindale College which is now called University of Toronto Mississauga.  The section of park backs onto the university campus and contains the remains of an old out building at the crest of the hill overlooking the ravine.  It appears that a series of trial excavation holes have been dug to investigate the ruins.


A long thin promontory of land provides access to the creek level.  We followed it down to where Mullet Creek winds it’s way through the ravine and on to the Credit River nearby. The creek splits into sections in the ravine and we crossed each in turn as we made our way north along the valley floor.


There are over 30 varieties of periwinkle.  As an invasive species they grow aggressively, often choking out native plant life.  They are frequently recommended for partially shaded areas or places where growing plants is difficult.  Care must be taken because they can escape and take hold in the wild.  One plant can spread to an area 8 feet across.  They normally bloom in late April to early May but we found a stray splash of periwinkle blue in the undergrowth.


An old steam boiler lies rusting away at the side of Mullet Creek.  It would have originally stood on four metal feet on the bottom.  The lower half contained the fire box and was open on the opposite side to this picture.  The front flue sheet contains the holes that the flues passed through and is matched by a second flue sheet on the back.


Mullet Creek is crossed by the double span of Burnhamthorpe Road.  A recent assessment was done for this bridge as well as sister bridges over the Credit River just east of here.  Original construction had created bridges where the sidewalks were too small to be properly functional. The study was completed to address several concerns.  At just .838 metres high, the guard rail on the river edge of the sidewalk was considered too low for safety.  The proposal was to increase this rail to 1.4 m.  There was also no rail between the sidewalk and road and so a second rail was proposed on the curb side.  The sidewalk was to be increased from 1.7 to 3 metres wide to allow cyclists and pedestrians to safely pass.  Look-out platforms were also created. This was accomplished by widening the road deck on the outside of the bridge.  The west bound span is seen from the creek level in the picture below.


Just beyond the Burnhamthorpe bridge lie the remains of an old dam.  Original wooden sections remain submerged in the water behind later concrete forms while the pre-cast concrete blocks on the top were added later still.


Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Atlantic Salmon were common in Lake Ontario and spawned in the Credit River every fall.  Due to pollution, dams, over-fishing and deforestation they were basically eliminated by the 1890’s.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s Chinook and Coho Salmon were introduced from the Pacific coast.  Chinook Solmon make their only spawning run when they are 4 years old and then die afterward.  This male Chinook has developed the characteristic hooked jaw called a kype and the darker colour of his one and only run upstream.  They can usually grow to lengths of 3 feet and weights of 25 pounds.  This specimen was caught by a young fellow named Jack who was fishing with his family.


As you walk up Mullet Creek toward Mississauga Road you come to several shelves of shale where the water cascades over the edge.  The picture below was taken just one bend in the creek prior to the cover photo which has a larger drop.  These two little water falls make an oasis in the heart of the city.


At one time a parkette stood at the corner of the creek and Mississauga Road.  The remains of the old parking area are starting to grow over but the old rail ties that outline the side and protect the trees in the middle will be around for many years to come.


Mullet Creek extends from here to north of the 407 and must contain other interesting places. Time will tell.

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Alton – Victorian Industrial Village

Saturday August 29, 2015

Shaw’s Creek drops 108 feet through a mile long series of rapids making it ideal for water powered industry.  At one point there were 8 dams and 12 mills operating along this stretch of the creek.  We parked on Mississauga road and started to follow a fisherman’s path along the north side of the creek.  It was overcast and 15 degrees but it soon became very hot and humid.

The community of Alton got it’s start in 1834 when Thomas Russell brought his family to lots 23 and 24 and the industrial history of Shaw’s Creek got underway.  Within a couple of years other families arrived and saw and grist mills sprang up on Shaw’s Creek along the rapids.  Mill owners built grand homes for themselves as well as smaller homes for the mill workers.  One of the early mills was McClelland grist mill which was built in 1845 of frame construction.  In 1881 Benjamin Ward built a four story stone building on the same site and opened Alton Knitting Mill. Ward’s son-in-law John M. Dods purchased the mills in 1892 and it became known as the Upper Mill, or Dod’s mill.  The picture below shows the mill from upstream on the north side of the mill pond.


Two metal penstocks remain beside the building at the far side of the dam.  The mill operated on a turbine whose intake can be seen just at water level in the previous photo.  As water levels dropped the Dods were forced to install a coal powered generator for additional power.


The mills burned in 1917 and during restoration the third floor was converted into a water tower and sprinkler system to prevent future loss to fire.  The mill operated until 1965 when it was closed and the equipment sold off.  It has since been renovated into a conference centre known as Miilcroft Inn.  The Little Mill pictured below was once a storage facility that was connected to the main mill by a catwalk made by Dick’s Foundry in Alton.


The Manor House is a large brick home which remains on the mill property.  It belonged to the Ward and later the Dod families and has been landscaped with gardens and fountains.


In 1938 Edsel Ford, Henry’s son, introduced a new line of vehicles under the name of Mercury to fill a market niche between the standard Ford models and the luxury Lincoln models.  From 1939 to 1951 the Mercury Eight was the only model offered under the Mercury name plate.  We found this beautiful 1949 model parked in front of the Manor house whose porch can also be seen below.


With a store and a post office in 1855 it was time for a name and Alton was chosen.  Soon it was home to a steam powered furniture factory operated by the King brothers, an axe factory, tannery,  a foundery and saw mills, grist and flour mills as well as woolen mills.  The building below sits on Queen Street and looks like an old wagon shop.


Behind it is one of several old dams and foundations located along the length of Shaw’s creek as it passes through the village.


The mechanic’s institute functioned as a library and was funded by local industrialists who thought that educating their employees was a win-win situation.  William Algie sponsored the construction of the Alton mechanic’s institute in 1882 just a year after he founded his Beaver Woolen Mills.  We had previously encountered a mechanic’s institute in the Forks of the Credit as seen in The Devil’s Pulpit.


Alton had five hotels when it was at it’s peak and it is lucky to have even one of them left today. The remaining building was originally known as the Dixie House but was badly damaged in a fire in 1890.  It was rebuilt and today is known as Palmer House.  It has two very large ornate lanterns on the second level, above the entrance.


In 1857 Charles Wheelock in his duties as provincial land surveyor identified nine mill privileges along Shaw’s Creek of which eight were eventually developed. In 1880 William Algie purchased privileges 5 and 6 on which sit the present mill and mill pond respectively.  In 1881 he opened Beaver Knitting Mills which became famous for  it’s fleece lined long underwear.  The mill with it’s water tower, chimney and overgrown mill pond can be seen in the cover photo.  The modern  concrete dam can be seen below along with it’s art piece Head In The Ocean which takes it’s name from the fact that it was originally installed in the Bay of Fundy where the world’s highest tides covered it daily.


The mill was partially destroyed by fire in 1908 at which time it was reduced from 3 stories to today’s two story building.  The fourth floor of the water tower was replaced with concrete during the restoration.  When William Algie died in 1915 the mill was acquired by Dod’s knitting company who ran it until 1932 when it closed.  The mill was used as a rubber factory from 1935 until 1982 producing balloons for Disney and condoms for soldiers during WWII, among other things.  With the mill restored as The Alton Mill Studios a plan is underway to restore the mill pond and hopefully restore green power to the facility.  An archival picture below shows the mill as it once looked.

Beaver Mill Alton

On the hill above the mill stood the miller’s house.  It has a large wrap around veranda that looks out over the mill pond and his milling empire.  It also features a second story balcony solarium.


Alton had three churches including a Presbyterian, Methodist and this Congregational Church dating to 1877. The building has also served as a town hall and has a unique garage door in the rear.


Back near the car on Mississauga road we encountered a pair of wild turkeys with half a dozen young ones or poults.  By 1909 the wild turkey had been wiped out in Ontario mostly due to loss of forest cover for the poults to be raised in.  Between 1984 and 1987 4, 400 wild turkeys were re-introduced into locations across the province.  With broods of 10 to 12 per year their numbers now total over 100,000 and they are hunted in both a spring and fall season.


There are many other remnants of dams and plenty of historic buildings that space doesn’t allow to appear here but which are well worth the exploration.

Here’s a checklist of popular hikes to take in before the season is over.

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The Bell Fountain – Belfountain

Saturday August 22, 2015

Set in the Caledon hills the town of Belfountain has a beautiful park with a swing bridge and water falls.  It was another excellent summer Saturday with an early morning temperature of just 13 degrees, a perfect day for a hike to a swing bridge.

The area was surveyed by 1820 but the rugged terrain made farming difficult and settlement was slow.  There was plenty of cherry and white pine trees and William Frank built a saw mill on the West Credit river in 1825.  Selling cherry wood for furniture and pine for construction he soon was able to dam the river where he built a grist mill.  The grist mill was purchased by Jonathon McCurdy who built another saw mill adjacent to it giving the community the temporary name of McCurdy’s Mills.  Belfountain was surveyed in 1846, registered in 1853 and by 1860 more saw mills, a tannery and another flour mill had been added.

Around 1850 Peter McNaughton set up a barrel making shop in town.  He wanted his cooperage to be easily distinguished and so he built his house like a barrel.  It was 12 feet wide and 12 feet tall with a pyramid for a roof.  He used wooden staves and steel bands in the construction and this earned the town the nickname “Tubtown” for awhile.  By the time this house was moved to Erin the town had taken on the name Belfountain.  We parked on Mississauga road on the edge of town where an old barn and the foundations of a farmhouse remain.


In 1908 Charles Mack bought the property that would become Belfountain Park.  It had been owned in the 1860’s by George Hughson and had been the home to four of Belfountain’s mills.   Mack had made his fortune as an inventor, most notably of the cushion rubber stamp which he sold to banks and post offices.  He wanted to create a park that would be memorable to those who visited and he has been successful for over a hundred years.  Mack built his own little version of Niagara Falls and added a swing bridge to view it from.  The current bridge replaces the 1909 bridge that I used to cross as a youngster.


Beside the waterfall is a  sluice gate and the round pipe from a penstock used for water power. There was a dam here prior to Mack building his waterfall and so the new dam continued to be used by local mills.  The mini Niagara Falls dam has been determined to be short of current Ontario code for dams and is under environmental assessment to see how it can be restored and the danger to downstream properties alleviated.


The gardens and falls area are lined with stone walls and stairways.  A local stonemason named Sam Brock was hired to do most of the decorative work and build the cave.


Mack built what he called Yellowstone Cave, complete with concrete stalagmites and stalactites. To me the cave looks more like a shrine of some kind and, perhaps, in some way it is a shrine to one man’s eccentricity.

Belfountain 1

Mack also built a fountain out of inverted bells with an upright bell at the top as a pun on the town’s name.  I’ve used the same pun in the title and cover photo.  After running for more than 100 years the bells are covered in a thick layer of moss but the water still flows.


A series of beautiful planters and gardens surrounded the area of the bell fountain.  Benches and lookouts were also provided for visitors.


A swimming and boating area above the water falls has been allowed to silt in so that it is no longer usable. In the 1970’s this was a great place to get cooled off on a hot summer day. Concrete steps now lead down into the water and muck.  After Charles Mack passed away his widow sold the park which was used commercially until the Credit Valley Conservation authority bought it in 1959.  They are currently in the works of a master plan to restore the heritage features and to make the area more enjoyable for visitors.


There are four generations of Monarch butterflies born each year in Ontario.  The picture below is of a butterfly which has just emerged from it’s chrysalis and it was still in the process of drying it’s wings.  The third generation of monarchs is born in July and August and will live for two to six weeks in which time it will lay the eggs for the fourth generation this year.  The fourth generation will be born in September and October.  This generation will not be like the three before it in that it is programmed to live for six to eight months and not just a few weeks.  This fourth generation will migrate south to places like Mexico to survive the winter.  When they return in the spring they will lay the eggs for next year’s first, short lived, generation of Monarch butterflies.


By 1870 Belfountain had become home to about 300 people.  The two local communities of Forks of the Credit and Brimstone were home to quarry workers and essentially were company towns.  The skilled tradesmen and quarry managers lived in Belfountain which, due to it’s mills, had become the economic centre of the region.  Quarry workers get thirsty and need a place to spend their pay cheques.  The ornate patterned brick building at the corner of Mississauga Road and Bush Street was opened as a tavern in 1888.


The Community Hall was built in 1893 of board and batten construction.  The precast concrete brick foundation dates to the 20th century and indicates that the building was raised at some point.  The hall was closed in 2015 due to safety concerns and it is unknown where the funding for restoration will come from.


Belfountain, with it’s bell fountain and mini Niagara Falls, makes a great place to visit and is especially nice when the fall colours are in full display.

There’s still plenty of summer weather left though so get out and enjoy it.  Perhaps visit one of the more popular places as picked by readers in this top 15 list.

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Forks of the Credit – Caledon Ski Club

Saturday Aug. 1, 2015

It started off much cooler than the last couple of weeks at only 17 degrees as we returned to the Forks of the Credit.  Once again we parked near Dominion Road, this time in search of an old tramway associated with two of the quarries around the Forks of the Credit.  Research suggested that it may have passed across the CVR tracks and reached between Quarry no. 2 on the Cox Property and the Big Hill Quarry on the east side of Dominion Road.

We set off along Forks of the Credit road and passed under the rail bridge.  As featured in the Devil’s Pulpit post, this bridge was the longest curved wooden trestle bridge in Ontario at the time of it’s construction.  Safety concerns led to it being filled in to form a more stable berm.  Of the 1,146 feet of trestle only the three sections crossing the road and river were left open.  The picture below looks up at the 85 foot high bridge and north to the berm it rests upon.  Inside this berm hides the original wooden trestle that was basically buried alive.  Special rail cars were loaded with gravel excavated locally and pulled out onto the trestle.  The gravel would pour through the trestle until it filled up the space to the rails above making this what is known as a fill trestle.


In the valley stands one of the original 33 homes from the village of Forks of the Credit.  Not much remains of the little village that grew up around the quarry industry.


The first bridge over the Credit River was replaced with a newer one near the bottom of the hairpin curve.  Near this second bridge over the Credit stands the former Post Office and General Store.


The Credit Valley Railway station stood in the small open space near the hairpin turn.


On the crest of the next curve stands the Cox house after which this piece of property is named. As far as the township is concerned this is also part of the Willoughby Property which features the unique and barely accessible Stonecutter’s Dam.  While the Willoughby Property has several maintained trails the Cox Property is being managed with a “hands off” approach.


The spider in the centre of this web is quite possibly an orchard orb weaver spider although there are several different varieties.  She was sitting out taking in the sunshine and watching for breakfast to come along.


Just north of the former railway station was a brick manufacturing plant that we weren’t able to locate in the heavy undergrowth.  We got onto a yellow marked trail that eventually led us to the Caledon Ski Club.  The Toronto Ski Club was formed in 1924 near Richmond Hill and by 1930 had 2000 members. They started expansion including in the Collingwood and  Caledon areas. In 1934 they hosted the Ontario Ski championships with some of the racing taking place in Caledon.  The picture below shows the top of one of the ski lifts while the cover photo shows the bottom of the lift.


Svend Jepson had won a silver medal for Denmark in gymnastics at the Olympics before emigrating to Canada.  He bought a property on the top of the escarpment overlooking the Forks of the Credit.  He cut a ski run down the side of the hill and by the 1930’s he was running a sort of ski resort on his property.  People would come to Inglewood by train where he would pick them up and bring them to his home.  He charged $2 for a bed and breakfast and the use of his 600 foot ski runs.  By the late 1930’s the Toronto Ski Club was moving it’s competitive racing to Collingwood and the runs in Caledon reverted to their natural state.  In 1957 Jepson’s daughter Helen bought the property next door.  Her and her husband used the two properties to start the Caledon Ski Club.


In December 1961 a new location was purchased on lot 11 where the slopes were twice as tall and there was challenging rocks to ski around.  A roadway was cleared to the site and a parking lot was cleared.  Soon some runs were cut and the first nylon tow rope was installed.  Caledon Ski Club now has 23 runs and 8 lifts.  The picture below shows one of the ponds where water is collected for use in snow making for the following season.


From the Dominion Street bridge the actual forks of the Credit can be seen where the East Branch meets up with the main Credit River.  We walked up Dominion Road to Brimstone were a small community of quarry workers lived.  Just before the town is a place where a mudslide in 2005 closed part of the roadway.  A series of concrete blocks has been installed to prevent further damage but a clear strip of hillside reveals the site of the landslide.  Near the village of Brimstone the two inch cable of the aerial tramway used to cross the valley.  The picture below shows the actual Forks of the Credit.


Along the east Credit river patches of Blue Vervain grow.  These slender purple spikes blossom from the bottom to the top.  The plant has been used for centuries as a pain reliever and stimulant.  It is also known to relieve headache and rheumatism.


The ski tramways we found were not the aerial tramways were were looking for but not being found isn’t the same as not being there.  Some places need to be explored in the spring or fall when there is no vegetation to hide the relics.  Or, perhaps someone who has been there will read this and comment.

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The Cataract Electric Company

Saturday July 25, 2015

Another one of those days that are actually too hot for hiking being 29 degrees but feeling like 35.  Personally, I’d rather it be minus 29 than plus when it comes to hiking.  There’s always another layer that can be added in winter but unless you want to feed the local insect population, there’s only so far you can go in the summer.

We found parking on the east side of the river, off of Charleston Sideroad. Parking is also available in the Forks of the Credit Provincial park.  We set off following a fishing trail that we thought would lead to the Cataract Falls and the remains of the Cataract Electric Company.   An archive photo of the five story building is shown below.

Cataract Powerhouse

What it led to was a long hike through poisonous wild parsnip patches and through places where the trail was impassible without fishing footwear.  One of the more unusual things we have seen is a piece of plastic pipe that was running like a broken tap.  The word siphon comes from a Greek word meaning pipe or tube.  A siphon causes a liquid to be carried uphill, against gravity, in a continuous self sustaining flow.  This pipe is carrying water from the river bottom on one side of the log and siphoning it over the log and back into the river.  The mystery is this, how did it get started?


There are several places along the river where evidence of former dams still exist.  This picture shows one of these sites which is just upstream from the Quarry Dr. bridge, seen in the back ground.  Another concrete structure stands on the opposite river bank just down stream from the bridge.


Evidence of former power transmission equipment now lays in the river a little farther along.


During World War two previous styles of temporary bridges were no longer suitable due to the weight of tanks.  Donald Bailey developed a system of pre-formed steel trusses that could be easily adapted to a wide variety of uses which was approved in 1940.  This bailey bridge was built in three days in 1999 by the Canadian 2nd Field Engineer Regiment.  Foundations for a former bridge appear on both sides of the river to the right in the picture below.


In 1818 William Grant, from Scotland, acquired the land at the falls on the north branch of the Credit River near the present day village of Cataract.  The original plan for a salt mine didn’t pan out and eventually a saw mill was built.  A tiny settlement called Gleniffer was started but soon disappeared.  The land was bought in 1858 by Richard Church who started a milling empire at the falls consisting of saw, grist and woolen mills.  The village of Churches Falls was born and would later come to be known as Cataract while the mill pond was known as Cataract Lake. Church’s original dam was just above the falls but it was badly damaged in a flood in 1912.  After that the dam was built upstream where a pedestrian bridge now crosses on the 1912 sluice gates.  This dam was dynamited in 1953 by the Canadian Pacific Railway because they feared that a flood might damage the tracks that run along the western side of the river gorge.  Just a year later Hurricane Hazel destroyed dams and bridges throughout the GTA.  The Credit Valley Explorer scenic rail tour now runs along these tracks.


Church built his sawmill out of wood and it was destroyed in a fire in 1881.  The Wheeler brothers rebuilt it as a three story stone grist mill.  This mill didn’t last and was destroyed by fire in 1885.  John Deagle purchased the property in 1890 and built a 5 story grist mill on the same foundations.  He soon closed the grist mill and converted the structure to the production of electricity.  As you approach the remains of the building a large electrical pole is down on the ground.  The cross beam carried many glass insulators, all of which have been removed.  A cable over an inch thick lies on the ground here as well.


Deagle produced his first electrcity from the Cataract on Nov. 2, 1899 under the name of The Cataract Electric Company Limited to light three experimental street lamps in town.  Due to right-of-way negotiations he supplied electricity to the farm on lot 5, concession 5 in Caledon making it the first farm in Ontario to have electricity.  In 1904 he signed contracts to bring electricity to the villages of Erin and Alton and eventually carried it as far as Orangeville.  He also supplied the Cheltenham Brickyards.  The view below looks out of the end of the power plant, beyond the falls, to the river in the gorge below.  Cataract Falls drops 21 meters over the side of the escarpment here and can be seen in the cover photo as it cascades over the falls.


After the flood of 1912 Deagle rebuilt his mill but sold the power plant just three years later. After several ownership changes it was under the control of the Caledon Electric Company by 1925.  Ontario Hydro purchased the property in 1944 but due to low water levels they shut the facility down in 1947.  The wall below has original Wheeler Brothers stonework in it while the poured concrete in the picture above is a later addition.  The water fall upstream is the site of the pre-1912 dam.  The riverbank has been reinforced twice to protect the CPR tracks above. The earlier work was done with cut stone and is at water level just below the dam.  Concrete was a 20th century addition.


Eastern hemlock grows in selected spots in the park.  It is known as a high yield cone producer and this year appears to be a good year.


We took the trail from the power station directly back into Cataract.  It comes out close to the Cataract Inn.  The window above the door on the left that says Cataract Inn is composed of stained glass.  This was known as the Horseshoe Inn in the late 1800’s.  The window over the door on the right has 1855 written in the glass to denote the date of construction.


A parting shot of the water dropping off the shelves of shale near the remains of the Cataract Electric Company.


Also check out the top 15 treks in the first 100 posts here.

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