Category Archives: Credit River

Hiking the GTA #100 – Amazing Animals

April 28, 2014 to July 18, 2015

Presented below is a gallery of animal pictures taken during the first 100 hikes on the Hiking the GTA adventure.

On July 21, 2015 I published my 100th post in this blog under the title Hiking the GTA #100 – Greatest Treks.  That post looked back at the creation of Hiking the GTA and listed the top 15 hikes as determined by activity on WordPress.  This post presents some of the amazing animals that we encountered along the way.  By hiking quietly and keeping off of the beaten path you have the opportunity to come face to face with some of the wide variety of wildlife we share our parks with.  Most of the animals are more afraid of you than you are of them and will disappear quickly.  In reality some of the plants in our parks are more dangerous than the wildlife.  The following pictures are in the order in which I took them except that I saved my personal favourite for last.  Links to the related articles are provided where additional descriptions of the animals are presented.

This White Tail Deer buck was following me through the woods along Wilket Creek on June 22, 2014.  This was the only creature I saw all year that made me nervous as I’m usually the one doing the following.


The little baby Cross Orb Weaver spiders in this picture are just hatching and look like grains of pepper leaving the egg sac.  The mother spider had previously brought a Daddy Long Legs spider into the web to provide a breakfast to the hatchlings.  Seen near Middle Road Bridge on Aug. 16, 2014


This Red Tailed Hawk was feasting near Barbertown on Aug. 23, 2014.


Also seen in Barbertown was this Dekay’s Brown Snake on Aug. 23, 2014


The Monarch Butterfly below was seen at the forks of the Don on Sept. 14, 2014.


Spadina House has it’s own resident fox as photographed on Dec. 21, 2014.

Spadina 74

This Snowy Owl was seen at the Adamson Estate on Jan. 24, 2015


This coyote was photographed in West Deane Park on Jan. 31, 2015


The beaver in this picture was seen in Etobicoke Valley Park on Feb. 28, 2015


This White Egret was fishing near the dam at The Old Mill on May 10, 2015.


The Red Breasted Grosbeak below was photographed in Norval on May 16, 2015.


This Trumpeter Swan, complete with tracking tag, was seen at the mouth of the Credit River and featured in The Ridgetown – Port Credit on May 23, 2015.


This Black-crowned Night Heron was published in The Forks of the Credit – The Stone Cutter’s Dam on July 18, 2015.  Unlike the Great Blue Heron in the cover photo it does not have long legs and neck.


Hiding in plain sight in the picture below is a new born White Tail Deer Fawn.  This is my favourite picture of the past year and was taken near the Barber Paper Mills on June 6, 2015.


This is just a sample of the some of the amazing animals we saw on our journeys in the first 100 hikes in this blog.  Many others were featured and many more will yet be photographed on future hikes.

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Hiking the GTA #100 – Greatest Treks

April 24, 2014 to July 18, 2015

The following is a look back on some of the most popular hikes in the past 100 blogs. Companion posts will include some of the more interesting plants and animals photographed along the way.

After years of hiking up down down the ravines in the GTA and collecting thousands of pictures I needed a better way to organize and describe my photos.  A friend suggested WordPress and so I took the pictures for Saturday April 24, 2014 and created my first post.  Since then I’ve had the opportunity to hike much of the Humber, Don and Credit Rivers along with a wide variety of other spots.  My mom has become an avid reader and I’ve picked up some other readers along the way.

We’ve visited some very interesting historical places, seen a lot of wildlife and the abundant nature the area has to offer.  We never missed a weekend due to rain-outs.  One hike this past winter never got published when I couldn’t differentiate between the polar bear picture and the egret due to the driving snow storm .  To celebrate this, my 100th post, I thought I’d take a look back at those stories that were the most popular in this first chapter of the ongoing adventure that is Hiking The GTA. Below are the top 15 posts and a link to the full story should something catch your fancy.

15. High Park – Colborne Lodge – Hike Date: Nov. 22, 2014

John Howard donated the land for High Park in 1873.  He built his house, Colborne Lodge in 1837 and it remains largely unchanged today.  This post explores the west side of the park including Grenadier Pond.


14. Humber Bay to Bloor – Hike Date: May 24, 2014

One of the earliest hikes in the blog, this one covers the lower stretch of the Don River.  Near Bloor Street an abandoned building overlooks King’s Mill Park.


13. Guildwood Park – Hike Date: Apr. 19, 2015

Home to the Guildwood Inn, this former artist colony features artwork from several of Toronto’s demolished buildings.


12. Military Burying Grounds – Hike Date: Mar. 22, 2015

The first burial in York (Toronto) occurred in 1794 when Lieutenant Governor Simcoe buried his one year old daughter in the woods behind Fort York.  This became the site of the Fort York cemetery until it was declared full and a second military burial grounds was opened at the west end of the Fort York Commons.


11. Don Valley Brick Works – Hike Date: Nov. 16, 2014

Starting in 1882 and lasting for close to 100 years, the Don Valley Brick Works produced much of the brick used in constructing early Toronto.  This post explores the various buildings as well as the old pit, now converted to a park.


10. Erindale Hydro Electric Dam – Hike Date: Oct. 19, 2014

Constructed between 1902 and 1910 the electric power generation plant in Erindale operated until 1923.  This hike explored the old dam, the surrounding park and the intake housing for the head race to the power station.


9. Bayview Estates – Hike Date: Nov. 2, 2014

The area of Bayview Avenue and Lawrence Avenue was home to several grand estates owned by Toronto’s millionaires in the early 1900’s.  This post visits several of these estates and stops by the pre-1929 Bayview Ave. bridge, pictured below.


8. The Devil’s Pulpit – Hike Date: July 11, 2015

The area around the Forks of the Credit was home to quarries during the late 1800’s.  This post explores an old lime kiln and climbs the 100 metre face of the Devil’s Pulpit.  The picture below shows the view from the top.


7 . Garbage Park Toronto – Hike Date: Apr. 13, 2015

This post was an example of me skipping stones in the big pond called city hall.  I was attempting to get the city to clean up an incredibly polluted stretch of parkland.  I went back and did a regular historical feature on the site in a later post called Dufferin Creek.  The Toronto Star featured the story in their column called The Fixer on April 22, 2015.  You can read their story here.


6. Barber Dynamo – Hike Date: June 6, 2015

Built in 1888 the Barber Dynamo provided electricity to the Barber Paper Mills until 1913 when electrical power was brought from Niagara Falls.  This historic building stands about 3 km downstream from the paper mill.


5. Pottery Road – Hike Date: Aug. 10, 2014

Pottery road likely followed part of an old Indian trail that ran along the Iroquois Bluffs.  When the Bayview extension was built in 1959 Pottery road was cut in two and the part west of Bayview was left to be reclaimed by nature.


4. Half Mile Bridge – Hike Date: Aug. 13, 2014

Built in 1888 this bridge brought the CPR into Union station.  Prior to it’s contruction the CPR train had to back up all the way from The Junction to Union Station.  This bridge across the Don River Valley was abandoned in 2007 and trees now grow beside the rails along the former right of way.


3. Barber Paper Mills – Hike Date: June 6, 2015

Situated on the side of the Credit River in Georgetown, the Barber Paper Mills were the first industry in Canada to build it’s own dynamo and transmission lines to provide electrical power to their mill.  A paper mill was operated here from the mid 1800’s until 1948 when it was closed.


2. Limehouse – Hike Date: June 20, 2015

The village of Limehouse developed around a local lime industry.  The remains of set kilns from the 1840’s and an 1860’s style draw kiln along with the foundations of a lime mill with it’s stone arch and a powder house make this an historically interesting hike.  The Bruce Trail runs through an area known as the Hole in the Wall where you can climb through cracks in the rock face.


1. Newmarket Ghost Canal – Hike Date: June 21, 2015

Although two previous plans to build a canal system using the Holland River had been abandoned when found to be impractical and too expensive, the idea was resurrected in 1904. The canal would run from Cook’s Bay on Lake Simcoe to Newmarket using three locks and four swing bridges.  Cost over-runs and insufficient water supply to fill the locks caused it to be cancelled in 1912 when construction was nearly complete.


Who knows what the future holds?  One thing I’m sure of is this.  If I get the opportunity to do another 100 hikes I’m going to see some awesome things.  Thanks to everyone for coming along on chapter one and let’s see what’s in store in chapter two of the adventure that is Hiking The GTA.

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Forks Of The Credit – The Stonecutter’s Dam

Saturday July 18, 2015

It was the hottest, stickiest day so far this year.  It was already 22 degrees, feeling like 30 at 9:00 in the morning.  By the time we got back to the car the humidity was making it feel like 39 degrees.  You need to carry a lot of water on days like this to avoid dehydration and possible heat stroke.

Peel County was surveyed in 1818-1819 with settlement starting the following year.  Settlers found a rugged terrain that was difficult to farm.  Lot 9 concession 4 was typical of the area and included a stretch of the escarpment where the Credit River cascades through a ravine.  The property didn’t suit farming but there was plenty of Queenston shale and limestone as well as gravel deposits.  It would be used for quarry purposes from the mid 1800’s until the 1930’s.  In 1986 the Ontario Heritage Foundation acquired the property in a combined purchase and donation from Bert Willoughby. Now known as the Willboughby Property it is west of the Devil’s Pulpit which we visited last week. Historical research conducted in 1988 identified several items of cultural heritage significance, a few of which are presented below.

We parked on the end of Scott street and entered the park near the old gravel pit.  As we entered the laneway to the former caretaker’s house we found a single yellow daylily.  These plants usually grow in small clusters so finding a single flower is unusual.  They get their name from the fact that the flowers only last for a single day.  They bloom overnight or in the morning and wither up the following night.  A new flower may grow on the same stem and if the flower is cut off it will continue to bloom for several days.  They come in many brilliant colours with this one having brown stamen which are the male parts and a yellow carpel, or female part.  This example is known as a lemon lily.


At the west end of the property a  gravel pit operated until the 1930’s.  Nearby stood a barn and workshop as well as the caretaker’s house and a windmill.  The gravel pit has started to grow over with trees as can be seen in the picture below.  We found evidence of the other structures but they appear to have all been removed.


As you follow the trail along you will come to the Crow’s Nest side trail.  To the left this trail runs past the Hillis Quarry overlooking the Forks road.  To the right it runs past Crows Nest Quarry and several smaller pits where limestone and sandstone were cut from the hill side.  We took the side of the trail along the Hillis Quarry which eventually loops back toward the river.  Along here an old pump house stands.


Behind the pump house stand two old bridge abutments made from blocks of cut stone.  These supported a siding from the Credit Valley Railway (CVR) that ran to the quarries.  The cut stone from these quarries was used to build some of the grandest buildings in Ontario in the late 1800’s.


What we call Old City Hall in Toronto was actually the third city hall.  It was completed in 1899 using 1,360 train car loads of cut stone.  The grey stone came from the Credit River Valley and may have crossed the bridge shown in the previous picture.  The brown stone was brought from New Brunswick.  The picture below shows the water colour that was created to promote the idea of building a new city hall.


The CVR retaining wall along the siding is part of the built or human heritage on the property. With the rails pulled up and trees growing on the former rail bed this almost appears to be a random wall built in the woods.  The retaining wall is yet another example of the use of cut stone on the property.


The rail siding to the quarries on the Willoughby property joined the CVR near the train station. The train station sat in the clearing at the hairpin turn on the Forks of the Credit road.


The Willoughby dam is about 100 metres upstream from the Forks of the Credit road along a Bruce Trail blue side trail in the bottom of the valley.  With a rise of 1.5 metres it is a migratory obstacle to all but jumping species of fish such as salmon and trout.


Along the side of the river we found a recently hatched nest of Eastern Snapping Turtle eggs. This turtle is considered to be of Special Concern in Canada.  The empty shells look like little curled up strips of paper running down into the hole.


Up river from the concrete dam is a mid 1800’s structure made of blocks of cut stone.  The stonecutter’s dam has a unique stone penstock that can be seen in the cover photo.  The penstock is a stone tunnel extending from the downstream side of the dam.  The intake in the wall of the dam was higher than the exit causing the water to fall through the penstock to deliver energy to turn a turbine or water wheel.  The picture below shows the back side of the dam where a large amount of wood has been washed up over the years.  Many dams were washed out in the major floods of 1878 and 1954 but the stonecutter’s dam has survived. When the Willoughby property was acquired and a conservation plan was developed the restoration of this dam and it’s associated mill structures was reviewed but unfortunately dismissed.


The mill pond behind the stonecutter’s dam is filling up with silt and weeds.  The dam was considered to be impassable to migratory fish but a single salmon was recently caught upstream and this suggests that some can go through (or get tossed over by fishermen).


If you follow the trail past the dam you will have to continue into Belfountain. The Willoughby property has been used for farming, quarrying and has now been turned into a park that hides it’s abundant history among the new growth forest.

The Black-Crowned Heron in the picture below was photographed a couple of days earlier but this bird was auditioning for a spot in the blog by posing for pictures.  This stocky little heron stands up to two feet tall and can weight two pounds.  Unlike the great blue heron, night herons do not have long necks and legs.


The Forks of the Credit contains ample space for future explorations of it’s natural beauty and historical artifacts.

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The Devil’s Pulpit

Saturday July 11, 2015

It was 23 degrees and sunny without a cloud in the sky.  We parked along the side of the Credit River just before Dominion Road.  The cover photo shows the area of the Forks of the Credit trestle around 1900.  We set out to investigate the remnants of several elements of this picture. We visited the trestle, the kilns where the chimney is and the white rock face on the cliff wall above and to the left of the kiln known as The Devil’s Pulpit.

This area was surveyed in 1819-1820 with the earliest settlement being at the site of present day Belfountain at the top of the escarpment.  With the coming of the Credit Valley Railway (CVR) the area of the Forks of the Credit became an industrial hub focused on the quarry industry.

At its peak Forks of the Credit had 33 houses, a store, a hotel and a brick school with a Mechanic’s Institute.  Mechanic’s Institutes were places where adults could access the use of books.  Often funded by industrialists with the intention of having better access to educated employees these preceded and often turned into public libraries.  The school still stands on Chisholme Street which is roughly where the third line would have passed had the hill not been so steep.  The picture below shows the date stone indicating that this was Caledon School Section 19 and it was built in 1884.  The date stone also reads Pro Bono Publico or For The Public Good.


Medina or Whirlpool sandstone was noted in an 1863 geological survey however there was no easy way to get it from quarry to potential market.  The CVR was established in 1872 and one of the key objectives in it’s charter was to provide a link between the aggregate resources in the Credit Valley and the markets in Toronto and Hamilton.  It came through the area in 1879 and ignited an industry that would prosper for 20 years.  The CVR built a 1,146 foot wooden trestle, 85 feet high to cross the valley.  At the time it was the longest curved trestle in Ontario but safety concerns led to much of it being filled in by dumping gravel through the trestle.  The archive photo below shows the trestle before being filled in with the Devil’s Pulpit in the background.  Compare this with the cover photo after infilling.


Only three spans over the Credit River and the Forks of the Credit Road remain open with the balance of the old wooden structure now hidden below a berm of gravel.


The original wooden trestle was replaced with concrete support and three steel spans in the early 1900’s. The centre span has steel truss work as can be seen in the picture below, taken from the south abutment, and is also seen in the cover photo.


Portions of the original round wood trestle still support the tracks on both abutments.


Vipers Bugloss or Blueweed grows in barren places and we found a few plants growing in the rocks beside the trestle.  The leaves, especially those closest to the root, can be infused in a tea. This tea is reported to alleviate headaches, fevers and inflammatory pains.  it is also said to give a general feeling of well being, relieving melancholy.


Turkey Vultures are carrion eaters and are the most common of North American vultures.  Like other North American vultures they are not closely related to the European vultures they resemble.  Convergent evolution is the term used to explain two series of random mutations that come out with the same results.  A hundred or more turkey vultures were riding the air currents above the river and the picture below shows just a few of them.


Between the trestle and the top of Chisholme street a siding used to run from the main CVR line to the Hoffman lime kilns.  Twelve draw kilns were built in a ring 30 metres long and 15 metres wide.  The whole set-up was enclosed in a sheltering building.  Several quarries operated in the Forks of the Credit in the late 1800’s supplying cut stone for buildings such as the Legislative Assembly of Ontario building at Queens Park in Toronto.  A layer of Dolostone covered this sandstone and Hoffman built the lime kilns in 1896 to take advantage of this resource.  Moss covers the walls of the pathway between the stone kilns.


Each of the 12 draw kilns were loaded and burned individually and with separate heat control. The kilns were started in a sequence such that there were always some being loaded, some in mid cycle and some being emptied of cooled down lime. The picture below shows inside of one kilns with it’s fire brick lining.  Similar kilns can be found at Limehouse.


The chimney stood 30 metres tall to exhaust the smoke and heat from the kilns but only the lower few metres remain standing.


The Bruce Trail works its way up the side of the escarpment past discarded boulders and small run off streams.  After climbing a little farther you come to an open quarry face of what was known as The Forks Quarries and now is referred to as The Devil’s Pulpit.


As you reach the upper portion of the 100 meter climb a series of stone and wooden stairs have been provided.  A steel cable is anchored into the rocks for added safety.


The view from atop the Devil’s Pulpit is quite spectacular at any time of the year but especially so in the fall when the leaves are changing.  A small white strip near the centre of the picture below, and about a third of the way up, is the railway and is almost lost in the valley below but gives perspective to the distance that can be seen from up here.  It can be seen when the picture is expanded.

Devils Pulpit

The climb to the top of the escarpment is a lot of work but it is well worth it.  The Bruce Trail continues out along the right of way for the third line but we went back down the hill.  The descent is easier and quicker than the ascent but be sure to watch your footing.  You don’t want to get back down too quickly!

Google Maps Link: Forks of the Credit

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Saturday July 4, 2015

Having explored the Cheltenham Brickyards and Badlands we walked up Mill Street and into the village of Cheltenham.  The dominant feature in the area is the Niagara Escarpment which offered prime building material, close to the surface.  Large red pieces of whirlpool sandstone were cut and used for major public buildings in Toronto and other urban centres.  In Chingaucousy Township, outcroppings of Queenston shale proved perfect for making terra cotta (Terra Cotta) and bricks (Cheltenham).  The Credit River winds its way through farms, past mills and industrial sites and provided power and transportation to the early settlers.

Charles Haines emigrated from Cheltenham, England and arrived in York (Toronto) in 1817.  Charles drew a half lot on the Credit River that had excellent prospects for a mill seat.  His first grist mill in 1827 was built of logs and had a single run of stones.  As the needs of the farming community increased a larger mill was required and Haines built a new one with three run of stones.  Haines was taking advantage of increased grain production in Peel as well as grinding American grain.  Under colonial tariffs it was lucrative to turn American grain into Canadian flour and sell it to England.  The grist mill burned down in 1945 and only the foundations remain. This is why Cheltenham has no mills on Mill Street.  The picture below shows the remnants of the dam structure as seen from the south side of the river.


As you look across the Credit River you can see remains of the dam on that side as well.  More imposing is the structure of the saw mill.  The first saw mill was erected by Haines around 1835.  The existing structure is reported to be the third one on the site.  It was built around 1886 and is one of the few remaining saw mills that are close to Toronto.  It is also featured in the cover photo in a shot from Mill Street.


Across from the old saw mill, also on Haines property, is a building called the Honey House.  In this building Theodore Haines, followed by his son Rusty, keep an apiary.  Cheltenham is surrounded with meadows where a wide variety of flowers are in bloom.  Here, the bees can collect nectar which is basically sucrose and water.  They use an enzyme to convert the sucrose into glucose and fructose and then eliminate all but about 18% of the water, making honey. This building is made of yellow and red brick, possibly from Interprovincial Brick, in the most interesting pattern I have yet featured.


Although the bumble bee doesn’t make honey it is useful in it’s own way.  Like the honey bee, it collects pollen from flowers and transfers it to other flowers, completing the process of pollination.


This house was built by Frederick Haines Sr. beside the general store following the fire of 1886.  In addition to running the general store and the grist mill Frederick was a key figure in the town.  The dichromate brick in this house gives beautiful decoration to the home. The extended bay windows give the house a symmetry around the arched entrance.  The building was used as an antique store during the 1960’s and 1970’s before being used as a retreat for the United Church.  It has now come full circle and serves as a private residence once again.


When a fire destroyed several buildings on the main street they were quickly rebuilt.  The General Store is located in a building made of local sandstone and limestone which replaced an earlier frame structure.  It was built in 1887 and has served a wide variety of uses over the years.  As well as being the general store and post office it has also been a bank, library, tailor’s shop and a doctor’s office.  When the telephone came to the community it housed the first local switchboard.  Also, Cheltenham’s first gas pumps were located in front of this building.


William Henry opened a frame inn beside the general store in 1848.  Lost to the fire of 1886 it was replaced with the brick building that stands here today.  The Cheltenham Hotel has dichromatic brick using yellow for corner quoins and window lintels to offset the red brick, making the building look more substantial.


The town has a large collection of historic buildings including several homes on the main street. The one pictured below with the fine scroll work sits across from the end of Mill Street.  It was built around 1875  by Charles King who had purchased the property from Fred Haines in 1870. The front lawn still sports the well and water pump.  This pump was made by R. McDougall & Co. in Galt.  McDougall was a manufacturer of heavy steel equipment from the late 1880’s until they were bought out in 1951.  They specialized in lathes, but also made water pumps, including the one at Earl Bales house and at Spadina House.


Charles Haines built his second house in 1835 on the top of the hill over looking the valley with his milling empire and the town it spawned.  The house is pictured below prior to restoration in 1988.

Top of the Hill-page1

The restored Haines house has now been converted to a bed and breakfast which is conveniently called Top Of The Hill.  The owners are related to Charles and Martha and the house has been in the family since it was built.  In 1988 the house was stripped of some of its additions and lifted up to get a new basement.  Guests of the B&B can relax among family antiques and read the diary written by Charles’ son, Charles, which describes life in the pioneer town.


The Credit River flows through town and makes a beautiful tapestry to portray the trees and the nearly still Canadian Flag.


Charles Haines lies buried in the cemetery across the road from the fire hall.  His legacy includes transferring the name Cheltenham from the UK to Upper Canada.  Several heritage buildings in town were built by himself or his direct descendants.


Cheltenham is a picturesque village which retains much of its historic form and buildings.  For this reason it is designated as a Cultural Heritage Landscape and many of its buildings are designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.


Cheltenham – Brickyards and Badlands

Saturday July 4, 2015

We parked at the site of the Cheltenham Brickyards.  It was 22 degrees and sunny, a beautiful Saturday morning.  It was time for us to investigate the brickyards as well as the community of Cheltenham, which will form a companion post.  The brickyards are fenced off so it’s handy to have a camera where the lense can fit through chain link fencing.

Cheltenham is situated on the Niagara Escarpment and the surrounding area has plenty of easily accessible shale deposits.  In the early 1900’s it was discovered that this shale made especially good dry pressed bricks.  Frederick Bruce McFarren was born Oct. 25, 1889 in Toronto and would become one of the best known figures in the Canadian clay brick industry. In 1914 he produced his first bricks in the Cheltenham Brickyards under the name of Interprovincial Bricks.  The brick in the picture below is marked “I B 8 0” for Interprovincial Bricks. Like other less than perfect examples, it has been discarded along the sides of the old railway tracks.


The Brickworks was sold by McFarren to Cooksville Brick in 1928 but Frederick retained a management position there until at least 1955.  McFarren was responsible that year to oversee the conversion of the plant from coal fire to natural gas. The building closest to Mississauga Road is the concrete coal storage shed.  Built of poured concrete with concrete buttresses it was used to store the coal that fed the kilns until 1955.  


Two, three story brick buildings remain on site.  These were known as crushing or mixing sheds and stood just to the north of the kilns and chimneys.  The two buildings feature brick buttresses and overhanging gable roofs.  The cover photo shows all five remaining kiln chimneys along with one of the crushing sheds.  Also seen in the picture below are concrete bases for brick storage sheds and steel beam supports for manufacturing buildings.


Five of the original six brick chimneys are still standing.  These four sided chimneys are built of bricks and reinforced with metal banding.  Originally they were set in pairs but the south eastern one is missing today.  Long buildings containing kilns ran between the chimneys.  The chimneys were used to exhaust the underground ventilation tunnels from the downdraft kilns.  The tunnels and some underground works still remain.  Intercontinental Brick introduced the first continuous or “railway” tunnel type of kiln in Canada in 1922.  The kilns at Intercontinental Brick were built by G. W. Booth.


Two manufacturing plants existed on the site and although they have been removed the brick walled earthworks still remain.


The Hamilton & North Western Railway was incorporated in 1872.  In 1888 they were absorbed into the Grand Trunk Railway.  The GTR was taken over by the Canadian National Railway in 1923.  Mcfarren chose the site of his brick factory carefully.  He needed a place where the raw materials for his bricks could be extracted on site so that he wouldn’t need to pay to transport it.  He also needed easy access to shipping, preferably by rail.  In 1912 a site was selected near the GTR tracks, close to Cheltenham for labour and with easy access to the local shale.  The picture below shows the now abandoned railway tracks and the berm on the right that hides the still active shale pit.


Another local innovation was the bringing of electrical power from Georgetown to power the plant.  Interprovincial Bricks was sold to E. P. Taylor in 1954 and to Domtar in 1955.  It was under Domtar ownership that the brickyards were finally closed in 1964. Meanwhile McFarren had purchased Streetsville Brick with the money he made from the original sale in 1928, renaming it McFarren Brick in 1929.  McFarren is remembered in Streetsville with a park named after him.

The Familiar Bluet is a damselfly, sitting with wings folded, and is common in Southern Ontario. They were darting all around us and one is hiding on the stalk of grass in the centre of this photograph.


The picture below shows what the brickyards may have looked like around 1930.  Several additional buildings can be seen, some of which were workers housing.  Notice the kilns running between the six chimneys.


Eyed Brown butterflies seemed to be everywhere along the sides of the old railway line.  As weather patterns change this butterfly is becoming more common in northern areas.  The less common Smoky Eyed Brown has 5 spots on the forewing instead of just four as on the example in the picture below.


Just north of Cheltenham are the Cheltenham Badlands.  The area of the Great Lakes was formerly an inland sea known as the Michigan Basin where over time a delta was formed of iron rich soil.  This mud was slowly compressed into what is now known as Queenston shale.  The iron in the shale gives it its red colour.  This shale was exposed when cattle grazing removed the protective vegetation cover.  Farming has been discontinued at this site since 1931 but the erosion is ongoing.  The clay seen here is similar to that found at the site of the Cheltenham Brickyards.  A hiking trail used to cross the badlands but people won’t stay on the trails and the erosion is increasing.  Therefore, the area has recently been fenced off while a new preservation plan is developed.


The Cheltenham Brickyards have a cultural heritage designation because they reveal an important use of the local landscape.  Proximity to raw resources and transportation allowed the nearby community to continue to prosper after the decline of the saw mill and grist mill industries.  Look for more on the founding of Cheltenham in an upcoming post.

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Glen Williams

Saturday June 27, 2015

It was cloudy and rain was in the forecast but at 18 degrees it was quite comfortable.  We parked at the Barber Paper Mills and started to hike north up the east side of the Credit River. A blue marked side trail, part of the Bruce Trail, runs for 12 km between here and Terra Cotta. With the sky turning black we decided that maybe the weather man was right and getting caught in the rain would be better left for a warmer day.  Along the trail a small patch of Gooseberries are growing.  Gooseberries are related to the currant family and were valued in the middle ages for their cooling properties in fevers.  They are currently harvested for jams and preserves.


The story of Glen Williams is very much the story of the Williams family.  Benajah Williams arrived in 1825 and built a saw mill and a flour mill on the Credit river in what would become known as Williamsburgh.  He was born in 1765 in New York but as a staunch Loyalist he emigrated to Upper Canada.  The Williams family supplied all the services that a rural community needed with Joel being the blacksmith, David the tanner, Isaac made cabinets, Jacob ran the Glen Woolen Mill and Charles had a general store and was first postmaster.  The Glen Woolen Mill was a town fixture until it burned down in 1954.

Benajah’s original sawmill was built in 1826 and, along with his flour mill, formed the nucleus of the community.  In the 1850’s he replaced it with the current mill.  It operated as a water powered saw mill before being converted into a hosiery factory and finally serving as an apple processing plant.  It belonged to Rheinhart Vinegars at the time of it’s closure in 1985.  It was restored in 1989 and painted yellow earning the nick name “The Yellow Mill.  Benajah passed away in 1851 leaving Charles to run  much of the town’s industry.


Beside the Yellow Mill stands the old stone building which housed the Georgetown Electric Light Company.  The two structures are shown together in the cover photo.  This two and a half story building was erected in 1893 on the foundations of the grist mill.  It provided electricity to Glen Williams for  20 years until 1913 when hydro was brought from Niagara Falls.  At this time both it and the Barber Dynamo a few km downstream were shut down.  It is an interesting building because the stone mason didn’t take the time to level the windows and so they slant on various angles.


Charles Williams opened a general store and post office in 1852.  When he applied for a post office licence it was refused on the grounds that there was already a post office in another town called Williamsburgh.  Charles settled on the name Glen Williams after the little glen in which the town sat.  The building was recently home to The Copper Kettle but is presently under renovations.


The Good Templars approached Charles Williams in 1870 asking for a piece of land on which to build a town hall for the community that they could also use for their temperance meetings. Charles deeded them the town lot adjacent to his General Store.  The town hall was built in 1871 and has served the community in many capacities including as a stage for Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery to perform dramas.


On the corner opposite to the town hall stands two connected buildings.  The first is the home of James Laidlaw who built it in 1858.  The building beside it belonged to the local tailor Thomas Frazier who operated his shop here starting in 1847.  Later it belonged to Laidlaw who ran a store here.  Timothy Eaton was a clerk in this building in 1853 and 1854 starting when he was 19.  Timothy would go on to found Eaton’s Department Store.


Benajah Williams and his family were Methodists and the first services in town were held in 1836.  The frame church was built in 1837 and given a veneer of bricks in 1903.  This church stands on one side of the Credit River.


On the opposite bank stands the St. Alban The Martyr Anglican Church.  It has an interesting shape with the bell tower at the rear instead of the front by the street.  The first services held in this building were in June of 1903.  I wonder if the Methodists decided to give their church a facelift of bricks in response to the construction of the Anglican church.


These two churches stood on either side of the Glen Williams mill pond.  The mill dam stretched between the two churches until it was destroyed by a flood in 1950.  Glen Williams has been subject to much flooding over the years with major floods in 1912, 1930, 1964 and 1965. Remanants of the dam can be seen on both sides of the river.


On the north end of town Joseph Tweedle operated a saw mill in the 1860’s.  In 1872 Richard Hurst replaced the saw mill with the large stone structure that stands here today.  In 1882 it was purchased by Samuel Beaumont who opened the Beaumont Knitting Mills.  Products from the mill included blankets, socks and mittens.  This mill at one time competed with Jacob Williams Woolen Mill and Benajah Williams hosiery factory in a local hub of the textile industry.


Having previously teased you with teasles in the Barbertown post I thought it fitting to post a picture of the young plant as it starts to open.  Later in the season it will bloom with a purple ring but for now it looks more like it belongs in a movie about an invasive species of plant from outer space.


Thanks to my brother for providing some of the pictures in this post.  He’s the guy who puts the “we” in “we”.

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J. H. Pinchin Apple and Turkey Farms

Saturday June 13, 2015

It was 16 degrees and time to take a look at a little spot on the Credit River which is home to the oldest house in Mississauga.  We parked in the parking lot of the Leslie Log House which is now located on the former J. H. Pinchin and Sons Apple and Turkey Farms.

John and Esther Leslie came to Upper Canada in 1824 and leased 200 acres in the area now known as Meadowvale.  This 26 foot by 36 foot house was where they started their family of seven children.  Their son Robert Leslie was a master builder who is credited with building several local houses which have been featured in previous posts.  Robert built the Barber house in Streetsville and the Hammond house in Erindale.  Another of their sons, George, moved to the area east of the Don River in Toronto which is now known as Leslieville.  The log house was moved to this location in 1994 because it’s original farmstead had been redeveloped for industrial uses.  The house is now in use as the home of The Streetsville Historical Society.


In the back yard behind the Leslie log house is a shed that looks like an outhouse.  This farm was settled in 1833 and like other older properties it may have had several outhouse positions over the years.  As holes were filled with waste a new hole was dug and the shed moved over it. There is a group of bottle collectors who seek out old outhouse locations and re-dig the holes. Very often old medicine bottles were dropped into the outhouse hole for disposal before the days of organized garbage collection. The bottle had a soft landing and frequently survived intact.  The contents of the hole turns to soil over time much like fertilizer in the garden.  I’ve never gone digging for bottles but have seen pictures of some pretty amazing finds including a gold pocket watch that likely elicited a curse as it fell.  Outhouses were freezing cold in winter, smelly in summer and full of bugs.  I’m thinking that reading in the washroom is a modern invention.


Behind the Leslie house are the foundations from a small barn or shed that originally belonged to the Pinchin Family.  James Herbert Pinchin bought this farm in 1926 and named it Riviere Farms. He raised apples and turkeys and children. In 1927 J.H. Pinchin was the secretary of the Clarkson-Dixie Fruit and Vegetable Farmer’s Co-Op. He held the position of secretary until at least 1939. The foundations of this building are field stone collected from around the farm when the land was cleared. Farmers collected stones every spring from their fields and used them for fences, foundations and sometimes entire buildings.


Angelica is one of several plants which are similar in appearance.  The toxic Giant Hogweed looks almost the same but grows much taller.  Queen Anne’s Lace is another similar plant which is smaller.  All of these plants should be avoided if you are unsure of the identification because of the dangerous burns the giant hogweed plant can inflict.


As you follow the curve of the river downstream you come to a series of burned out wooden posts standing like sentinels in the trees.  These small trees have grown up inside the foundations of a former turkey barn.  The barn is in the 1971 aerial photo but must have burned down some time shortly thereafter based on the way the forest is taking over again.


The old turkey barn has some of its original cages still intact.


In May 1927 James Pinchin announced in the Credit News that the Farmer’s Co-op had secured the rights to use the Bean Power Sprayer between Islington and Oakville.  When John Bean retired in 1880 he bought a ten acre almond orchard in California.  He found that he had to spray for bugs but that no suitable sprayer existed.  So he invented one and started manufacturing them in 1885.  Very soon the company became the largest manufacturer of orchard spray equipment in the world. Behind the remains of the burned out turkey barn is the remains of a Bean power sprayer.


If you are thinking about exploring this location please take note of the number of nails in this support beam from the old turkey barn and choose your footwear carefully.


The Pinchin family lived on this farm for about 90 years and when you see the beauty of the property and the Credit River that flows through it you can understand why.  Victor Pichin took over running the farm from his father and continued until around 2010.  Victor moved to the retirement home across the street where he passed away in his 93rd year.


The orchards must have looked and smelled amazing a month ago when the apple, pear and plum trees were all in blossom.  For 90 years people came to this farm for the “pick your own” fruit or to get their holiday turkeys. Today, the property belongs to the City of Mississauga and it is not clear what they will eventually do with it. So far they have torn down several buildings which is not a great start.  The trees in the orchard are loaded with this year’s crop of fruit.  It was reported that the farm produced 400 bushels of fruit per acre when it was in operation.


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The Barber Dynamo – Georgetown

Saturday June 6, 2015

After visiting the Barber Paper Mills we crossed the Credit River and made our way toward the Barber dynamo.  The walk back to the dynamo is about 3 km and will take you up and down the 100 foot sides of the ravine three times.  The former Grand Trunk Railway bridge is about half way back to the site.

The Grand Trunk Railway Bridge was built in 1855 and earned the nick-name the Iron Bridge. It crosses the 2000 foot wide river valley using 8 spans of 96 feet each and extensive berms on either side. The bridge rises 115 feet above the river. It was expanded in 2010 to accommodate a double track as part of GO Transit’s expansion of services.  Provision has been made for a third track in the future.  When you reach the rail bridge you will have the option of an upper or lower trail. Choose the upper trail as the climb is less severe here than further down the trail.


The paper mills were a growing business in the 1880’s when John Roaf Barber was running the company.  Born in Georgetown in 1841, John became the plant manager in 1861 and took over full control upon his father’s passing in 1880.  John was a visionary who had converted his mill to the use of paper pulp and was producing some of the finest paper in Canada.  The Barbers had already moved their mills once to get a better head of water to run the water wheels.  Now the water supply was proving to be inadequate again for the size of the business.

After you pass the train bridge you will descend back to the river level before climbing once more as you approach the dynamo.  The trail will split with one trail headed further downstream while the one to the right heads to the dynamo.  You will see a long earthen wall with a small bridge set into it.  This is the weir that was built to help retain the power mill pond.  The bridge sits above a former sluice gateway that has since disappeared.


When J.R. Barber was thinking about his shortage of power in the mill, the early uses of electricity were limited to a few street lighting applications.  No one had thought about generating it and transmitting it across wires for use in industry.  He contacted C. F. Brush, an early manufacturer of dynamo equipment, in Ohio and told him of his plans.  Originally it was deemed impossible but Barber persisted and convinced Brush to manufacture a 100 hp dynamo for him when Brush’s previous largest one had been 30 hp.  Barber selected a site downstream where he could dam the river and create a head of water 6.6 meters tall.  This height of drop was used to power the turbines that ran the dynamo.

The cover photo shows the ruins as you approach them from the west where the water entered.  Directly behind the dynamo building is a 3 meter deep intake channel.  The dynamo was a three story building.  Turbines were on the first floor, dynamo equipment on the second and living and eating quarters on the third.  The east wall in the picture below shows the remains of the second story windows which were the same as those on the first floor.  At water level a pair of stone arches were the outlets for the water after it was used to turn the turbines that powered the mill.  The water flowing out of these arches formed the tail race and was returned to the river downstream.


Water from the inlet was fed into a “Y’ branch penstock, the two ends of which can be seen below.  These in turn were connected to the turbines that were mounted in pairs in front of the water inlet ducts.  The turbines were 1.5 meters in diameter and may be the very ones pictured in the Barber Paper Mills post.


This view is from the south side of the dynamo looking across to the power house (now gone) on the north side.  When I was last here there was a pair of beautiful stone arches in that square hole.  Shafts ran through these arches to connect the dynamo to the turbines in the main room on the lower floor.  The arches are now only so many stone blocks smashed on the floor inside.


The larger of the two dynamos operated here was the 100 hp one that was mounted in the power house, a small extension on the north side of the building.  A smaller 60 hp unit was mounted inside on the second floor.  The 100 hp unit supplied power to the machinery at the mill while the smaller unit provided lighting.  Each was connected to the mill by one of two wires strung on telegraph poles installed for the purpose.  The larger unit was bolted down to rail ties. The remnants of the rail ties and mounting bolts can be seen in the picture below.


The weir can be seen in this picture as a the dark line running across the middle of the photo. The wall of the crumbling building can be seen at the left side of the weir.


By following the line of the old earthen berm toward the river it is possible to locate some of the original wooden crib that was the main part of the dam.  Several flat rows of wood are stacked up just near the water line in the picture below.  They would have been under water 127 years ago when they were installed.


The paper mill is under attack from developers.  The dynamo building is under attack from beavers.  John Roaf Barber chose this site because it was a suitable place to dam the river to create the pond he wanted to use to power his mill.  The local beavers also think it is a great place for a pond.  They are chewing down trees to make their dam and lodge out of.  Several of the trees they have chewed through have fallen onto the old dynamo building.  The same factors that led to the dynamo being constructed here are also speeding up the destruction of this historic building.


The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on the plant in the picture below is a female.  The female can be identified by the band of blue spots along the hind wing.


When public power came to Georgetown it was under the persuasion of J. R. Barber.  He closed the dynamo in 1913 and let the Alexander family live there.  Tragedy struck in 1918 when their young son fell off of the railway bridge and died.  The dynamo was closed and left to the mercy of the weather, vandals and the beavers.

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Barber Paper Mills – Georgetown

Saturday June 6, 2015

The Barber Paper Mill ruins are comprised of several Victorian era industrial buildings that are slowly decaying in Georgetown.  It was sunny and 11 degrees with enough breeze to blow the bugs away.  The next stop up the Credit River north of Norval is the Barber Dynamo.    We decided to access it from the north side which meant parking on Maple Ave. in Georgetown right beside the ruins of the Barber Paper Mills.  An exploration of the Dynamo pretty much requires a look at the paper mill that led to it’s creation.

The Barber family came to Upper Canada in 1822 and settled in the Niagara Peninsula.  In 1825 they helped James Crooks win a $500 bounty from the government for establishing the first paper mill in the colony.  In 1837 they decided to go into business for themselves and moved to Hungry Hollow (now Georgetown) and bought the woolen mill that belonged to George Kennedy who, in 1820,  was the founding father of Georgetown.  As the business expanded they started a second woolen mill just south of Streetsville in what would be known as Barbertown. By 1852 their woolen industry outgrew both buildings and a new larger one was built in Streetsville.  It was at this time that the new paper rolling building was completed.  This allowed the mill to expand from a 91 cm cylinder to a 122 cm paper rolling machine.  Wallpaper was added to their list of products and by 1862 it is said that they had the largest wallpaper factory in North America.


Beside the Paper Mill building stood the machine and maintenance shop.  It has lost all of it’s roof and can be seen in the foreground of this picture.


The archive photo below from 1910 shows the paper mills as they looked in their prime.  The paper machine building and maintenance shops can be seen near the bridge.  The little brown building behind the bridge was the offices, now demolished.  A horse barn and wood storage lot stand where Maple Avenue now runs.  The two smoke stacks were on boiler and digester rooms where the paper pulp was made.

Barber paper Mill 1910

The dam across the Credit River for the paper mill was replaced with the current concrete one some time between the picture above from 1910 and a subsequent one from 1930.  This picture is taken from the modern bridge which was built in 1973.


In 1869 John Roaf Barber took over the mill operation at the age of 30.  By 1886 the business was growing and the mill ran into an old problem.  Insufficient water power to keep the machines running.  At the mill site the head of water (height which it could be made to drop to do work) was only 4.5 meters.  A spot was found about 3 km downstream where a head of 6.6 meters could be obtained. The solution was to build the Barber dynamo which will be explored in a companion post.  The mill was using two sets of turbines like the one pictured below.  It appears that there may be at least 3 of these sets of turbines in the grass behind the sorting building which means the old ones from the dynamo may have been brought here as well. When the dynamo was brought into service in 1888 it made the paper mill the first industry in North America to generate and transmit electricity to operate it’s machines.


This is the river view of the paper machine building.  Paper had been made out of cotton and linen rags until 1869 when a pulp mill was added so that paper could be made from oat, wheat and rye straw.  By 1879 wood pulp was replacing straw and John Roaf Barber was on the leading edge of the new process.  The building below produced some of the countries finest wood based papers and ironically today there is a small tree growing on the roof above the first window.


The power connection station on the river side of the building is a later addition as is testified to by the red bricks inset into the field stone construction of the rest of the building.  There were originally two lines running from the dynamo to the mill.  One was used for lighting and one to power the machines.  After 1913 the mill was converted to Ontario Hydro.


This shot is taken from Maple Avenue and shows the south end of the property.  The incoming sorting and storage building is in the rear while the foundations for the incinerator building or the shipping building can be seen in the foreground.


We crossed the bridge to a blue marked side trail that is part of the Bruce Trail. Forget me nots grow along the north side of the Credit.  Legend has it that when God was naming the plants, this little one called out “forget me not” and God chose that for it’s name.  Prior to joining Canada in 1949 the Dominion of Newfoundland used the forget me not flower for their Remembrance Day flower. The poppy has since been adopted but some still prefer the traditional blue flower instead.


Normally born between late May and early July white tail deer fawns weight 4 to 8 pounds at birth. Fawns are supposed to hide for the first week while their mother forages. After this they will be with the mother until weaned in the fall. They will lose their white spots within the first year but they help camouflage them when they’re infants.  This little one is barely taller than the log it stands in front of and at first I thought it was a dog.


The paper mill was sold by the Barbers to Provincial Papers in 1913 who operated it until it closed in Nov. 1948.  Various tenants occupied the buildings until the mid-1970’s when it was closed and left to rot.  As for the fate of paper mill ruins?  That remains undetermined but in 2008 the site was named as a cultural heritage property.  In 2015 it made Heritage Canada’s top 10 list of most endangered heritage sites.  The current owners proposed a 14 story condo with much of the remaining heritage buildings retained.  Problems with clean-up of soil contaminated by years of heavy industry have left the project on hold and the property is on the market again for a cool 5 million dollars.  Leaving it behind we continued along the river toward the site of the Barber Dynamo.

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