Category Archives: Ghost Town

Richview – Ghost Towns of the GTA

 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The farming community of Richview got a formal start in 1852 when a post office with that name was opened.  After several post masters it was closed in 1887 and moved 2 miles east to the home of David Watt.   His house stood on the corner just north of the Union Chapel and cemetery.  With the post office and chapel in place, a town soon grew which came to include two shoe makers, two wagon makers, two churches,  two cemeteries as well as a blacksmith shop, a school and a green house complex.  However, without rail service the community became isolated and by the turn of the century it had begun to shrink.  The image below is from the Toronto Archives and shows Richview as it appeared in 1953 when it was still a rural community but greatly diminished from the former glory days.

 

Richview 1953

William Knaggs owned the south west corner of the intersection and in 1853 he sold a small piece for the purposes of a non-denominational church and cemetery.  The church became known as Union Chapel because it eventually housed three different congregations.  For a time the community was referred to as Union, prior to the arrival of the Richview Post Office.  The community of Dixie is another example of a very early Union Chapel, this one still stands alongside the oldest graveyard in Mississauga.  Knaggs’ son William donated additional land south of the cemetery in 1888 for the construction of a Primitive Methodist Church.  It can be seen along with the driving shed for the horses in the picture above.  William Knaggs died in 1853 and was buried as the first official interment in the cemetery, although not the first in actuality.  That had occurred in 1846.

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The county atlas below shows the Union Chapel and marks the cemetery as Primitive Methodist instead of non-denominational.  In 1877 the church had not yet been built but a town hall stood just south of the future location.  The school can be seen just east of the community almost on the Fourth Line (Martin Grove).  This had been the site of the first log school house in 1838.  When it was replaced in 1846 the school was moved to the east side of the fourth line.  In 1874 the school on the map below was opened and it remained in service until 1915 when a fourth school was built.

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The 1906 sketch below shows the south west corner with the post office in the house of Will Watt on the right.  The blacksmith shop of David Watt is in the middle of the picture while the family barns are on the left.  The gentleman plowing in the foreground is on the property that would later host a turkey farm and Bert’s Turkey Palace.  The Turkey Palace was demolished for the building of a ramp for the 427.

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Richview Cemetery has the remains of about 300 early settlers from Etobicoke, many of them lacking markers.  Many of the other markers are damaged and there is no money in reserve for repairs.  The remains of two other small community cemeteries have also been moved here.  The Willow Grove Burying Ground and The McFarlane Family Cemetery were relocated in the 1970’s.

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Andrew Coulter lived from 1793 until 1857 and owned a sawmill on Mimico Creek where West Deane Park is located today.  His farm was run by his four sons after his death.  More information about Coulter as well as historic and modern pictures of the house he built in 1852 can be found in the post for West Deane Park.  A second surviving house from Richview is that of Robert Coulter and it can be seen in the same post.

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Although the farm was passed on to the four boys as an inheritance not everyone was fortunate to survive in those harsh times.  Elizabeth Coulter died in 1852, the same year that the family upgraded from their first home to the grander brick home.  Young women often perished in childbirth but there is nothing on the stone to indicate that she was married.  Pregnancy outside of marriage was less common 150 years ago and so it is more likely that poor Elizabeth got sick and had inadequate medical treatment.  She only lived to 22.

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Starting with the construction of the 401 and later the 427 the farms around Richview were taken over for highway use.  The community of Richview was in the way and everything except the cemetery was removed.  The United Church that had begun as Primitive Methodist was closed and demolished in 1959.  The capture below is from Google earth and shows Richview today as a mass of highway interchanges.  The cemetery is circled in red and can be accessed from Eglinton Avenue.

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This small section of road on the east side of the cemetery is a remnant of the third line which later became highway 427, seen on the right.

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There is still an option to be buried at Richview Cemetery if you have relatives buried there.  Victor Kimber took care of the grounds for several decades until his death in 2005 and he is the most recent interment.  His first wife and then his parents are buried in the graves to the south of his.  His second wife, Ethel, will be buried on the north side of him when she passes on.  Victor will be surrounded by his two wives for eternity but hopefully the sound of the highway will drown them out, should they get to fighting over him.

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Richview cemetery provides a small reminder that the bustle of the city hides a very different the rural past.

Google Maps Link: Richview Cemetery

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Palestine – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The town of Palestine was founded in 1823 by Thomas Grafton.  He took the name Palestine from the Holy Land but his community never gained influence beyond a few local farms.  The town built a log school house in 1842 and replaced it with a brick structure in 1863.  Until 1870 church services were held in the school but a separate church building was constructed adjacent to it that year.  The church was closed in 1962 and torn down in 1965.  The general store was small and the town never had a post office of their own.  Today the main intersection has been taken over by city sprawl and only a couple of early farm houses remain.  We decided to hike along Etobicoke Creek through the farms that would have been the northern edge of Palestine but today are overrun by two multi-lane highways.  Kennedy Road is brown on the map below while Heart Lake Road is yellow and Dixie Road is green.  The houses featured in the story are circled and the larger circle indicates the site of the former waste water treatment plant.

Palestine Map

Toadflax, or butter and eggs, is not native to North America but has become naturalized.  Unlike an invasive plant, this one does not take over and crowd out native plants but is found in limited clusters.  Along the trail we found a comparatively large patch growing.  The plant has been used in natural remedies for centuries and is proven to have diuretic properties and is effective in reducing fevers.

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The Etobicoke Creek was full of life with salmon spawning in it every year when the European settlers first arrived.  It wasn’t long before dams prevented fish from getting upstream and mills dumped their waste directly into the creek disturbing the local habitat.  With the growth of Brampton the creek took on a new function with raw sewage being dumped into it.  It became so polluted that something had to be done and so Brampton became home to the first municipal waste water treatment plant in Canada.  Trunk sewer lines were built down the Credit River to the Clarkson Waste Water Treatment Plant and down Etobicoke Creek to the Lakeview Waste Water Treatment Plant making the municipal plant obsolete.  It was decommissioned and removed in the early 2000’s.  Today there is just a series of roads and the outline of the plant to mark the site.

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Before the opening of the 410 in 1978, Heart Lake Road was a continuous road that provided access to the water treatment plant through the driveway on the left in the picture below.  Construction of the 407 in 1997 further divided the road and left it with several names.  This section is now known as Westcreek Boulevard.  Current Etobicoke Creek Trail improvements through the valley include the development of parking lot at the end of this piece of road to allow trail users easy access.  Sketches suggest parking for about 40 vehicles.

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The trail passes under the 407 as it follows the creek south.

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The Etobicoke Creek Trail has entered into a Missing Links program which aims to build four sections of trail to link existing sections and complete the trail.  The Sherway, North and Valleywood Links each have their own timelines but the Kennedy Valley Link is currently under construction.

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The Etobicoke Creek winds through the area revealing evidence of much greater water flow at times in the past.  The ravine cliffs get taller as the creek approaches the lake with some shale banks of 30 metres being revealed downstream.  This far upstream the embankments are much more modest but they have cut as deep as the shale foundations below the topsoil and sand.

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The top of an old windmill stands above the treeline, obscured to those who are following the path to the south by a cluster of trees.  Looking north from the site of the new bridge the crumbling farm relic is easily seen.  Closer investigation reveals an open well with water inside that has no fence around it.  The pump is still down there and the tower is surprisingly solid considering the crumbling condition of the vein on the top.  I wonder how many children in the GTA are learning about alternate energy sources and could benefit from a working example in their local park.  Why not restore it and make it safe rather than demolish it to make it safe?  The story of pioneer windmills is told in greater detail in our post on The Shand Dam.

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The one house remaining in Palestine is that of William Reed.  His original house was replaced with this Edwardian style house around 1910.   The windmill above is on the back of this property.

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The Royal Grafton property was the original homestead in the community of Palestine.  By 1877 John Wedgewood had bought the west half of the lot and built the house featured below.  John was instrumental in the development of Palestine being involved in the erection of the shcool, temperance hall and church.  Recently the Poweraide Centre has been built on the lot and the future of the house is unknown although attempts to protect the roof are a hopeful sign.

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Japanese Beetles are native to Japan and appear to have found their way to North America in the early 1900’s, likely aboard ships.  They have since spread throughout the eastern parts of The United States and Canada.

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Our hike is outlined in yellow on this Google Earth capture.  The remnants of the wastewater treatment plant are circled in red.

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In the next few years the Etobicoke Creek Trail will be completed and hopefully they will put up interpretive signs for both Palestine and Mt. Charles, two of the ghost towns it will pass along the way.

Google Maps Link: Palestine.

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