Category Archives: Ghost Town

Altona – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Altona was founded in the early 1800s by Mennonites of Swiss-German descent who had emigrated from Pennsylvania. They named their community after Altona in Germany, a town which is now part of Hamburg, Germany. It remained a small farming community until 1850 when Abraham Reesor built the first saw and grist mills in the area. Abraham was the son of Peter Reesor who was one of the early pioneers in the GTA. A school was built in 1834 and the community seemed to peak around 1856 at about 256 people. By 1869 the census showed only 200 residents and by 1910 it was down to only 100 people. This was often the fate of hamlets that were bypassed by the railways. The image below shows the Reesor mill as pictured in the 1877 County Atlas.

A couple of churches, the school and a hotel complimented the general store and provided for the spiritual and physical needs of the residents. A Mennonite Meeting House was built in 1852 and is one of the few buildings left in the community.

Through the window the simple pews can be seen as well as the pulpit. There is no ornamentation in the church and no stained glass in the windows. The Mennonites met here until September 15, 1974, after which regular services ceased.

The oldest grave marker in the cemetery is dated to 1835 and precedes the building of the meeting house. The early members of the community are interred here, including the Reesors, Nightwanders, Widemans, Hoovers and Stouffers.

When the Federal government decided to build a second international airport for the GTA, a large area of flat land in Pickering was chosen. Altona was seen to be just below an approach to one of the runways and flights were envisioned coming in over the town at about 300 feet above. The town was essentially expropriated, and all the property owners were bought out. This small Georgian Style Cottage has survived and is distinguished by its elaborate two-tone brick work.

We gave more details about the proposed airport in our previous post on Brougham and so we won’t go through all of that again here. Several of the homes in Altona are still occupied but if the airport ever gets off the ground they may well be demolished.

The story and a half home with a front gable and gothic pointed arch front window was perhaps the most common style of architecture in Ontario in the years leading up to Confederation. There are a couple of them still remaining in Altona, but for how long?

The house of William Rhoddick has been demolished but the barn and silo remain. It has been 50 years since the land was expropriated and current assessments suggest that there will never be an actual need for this airport to be built. It’s sad that the legacy of the people who cleared the land and worked so hard to make a living has been lost and soon may be completely forgotten. I wonder how they would feel if they could see what has happened to the fruit of their labours.

With so many of the buildings in the hamlet in a continuous state of disrepair there is an ongoing threat due to nature. The powers of wind, rain and snow are slowly demolishing several of the buildings that haven’t already been intentionally destroyed.

The community has become one of empty laneways that lead to former houses that were either torn down or fell victim to arson and vandalism. The Barkey House was built by one of the early pioneers who was also a Mennonite preacher who served at the meeting house. The home was eventually sold to the Mitchell family who owned it until it was expropriated in 1972. The house made the news in 2012 when it was discovered that someone had built a confinement room in the basement with the intention of kidnapping a woman and keeping her there. The home burned down a couple of weeks after the discovery in a fire which was deemed as suspicious.

Just up the road from Altona is a small family cemetery on the former Forsyth property which is the final resting place for many of the early members of that family. The Forsyth Family Cemetery has a small area at the rear where several of the earliest markers have been gathered together and laid in a horizontal cement cairn to preserve them.

The fate of the remaining buildings in Altona is very much “up in the air” as it depends on the eventual outcome of the Pickering Airport.

Related stories: The Reesors – Pioneers of the GTA, Brougham – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Google Maps Link: Altona

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Edgeley – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, November 20, 2022

The community of Edgely was centered around the modern intersection of Jane Street and Highway 7. The first Europeans to settle in the area arrived around 1800 from Somerset, Pennsylvania. The northeast corner of the intersection had a hotel while the southeast corner had the general store which also had the post office from 1872 to 1960. A steam driven shingle mill was located on the northwest corner. A cider mill was located just south of the general store which produced cider, apple jelly and apple butter until it closed around 1900. Along with a community hall, there was also a blacksmith, dressmaker, a shoe maker, a wagon shop, a casket maker and two slaughterhouses.

In 1823 an acre of land was deeded to the Mennonite congregation in the Edgeley area for use as a cemetery and Meeting House. Jacob Smith Sr. (originally Schmitt) granted the land which currently is the most tangible evidence of the former community. After the Meeting House was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1976 the cemetery wasn’t maintained and by 1985 many of the earliest stones were in disrepair. The city of Vaughan gathered them together into a cairn to protect them from further deterioration.

The Meeting House was built in 1824 and clad with horizontal board siding. It was used for 99 years before being closed in 1923. It was operational again for a brief period between 1963 and 1976 after which it was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village. It is the oldest surviving log Meeting House in Ontario and was built out of first growth white pine that was cut in the area of Edgely. Services were only held in the church every fourth Sunday because the pastor was shared with other Meeting Houses in the area.

The benches and wood stove inside the meetinghouse are original to the building. As per Mennonite custom, none of the wood was painted. The work was done by hand and even the nails that were used were forged by the local blacksmith. The total cost of the building, not including the stove was $221.

The drive shed was built around 1860 and used to store carriages while the Mennonites were attending services at the meeting house.

An archive photo from about 1900 shows the Meeting House, also known as Schmitt Meeting House, along with the original drive shed. This shed was replaced in 1916.

Edgley had two buildings that were used by the local farmers to butcher their livestock. It is a timber frame structure that is clad with board and batten siding. When it was built in 1860 there was no easy way to store large quantities of meat and so the local farmers would work together. One animal would be butchered, and the meat shared. When it came time to prepare another animal it would be provided by a different farmer. Once refrigeration became available this practice was no longer needed and in 1970 the building was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village and opened as a rabbit hutch.

Most homes and farms had at least one apple tree and some had a full orchard. The fruit was harvested in the fall and stored for the winter to provide food for the family. Edgely had at least one of these storage cellars and it has been preserved by moving it to Black Creek Pioneer Village. The cellar was dismantled and moved to the village over a 65-day period. Two sets of wooden doors were used to help insulate the interior so that the fruit would be better preserved.

Inside, the storage cellar is just eight feet long and seven feet wide. The fruit or root vegetables were placed in the wooden bins and covered with layers of straw for better insulation and to increase the storage life. The small vent at the back of the building could be opened or closed in order to regulate the temperature inside.

A single house remains from the community, and it is located just south of the cemetery on Jane Street. This style of architecture is known as Edwardian and was built sometime between 1901 and 1910. It is also sometimes referred to as “four-square” because of the four windows on the front of the house.

The former community of Edgely has been almost completely erased from the landscape and is being replaced by high-rise condos. Fortunately, the cemetery is still there to mark the hamlet and a few buildings are being preserved at Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Related Stories: Ghost Towns of York Region, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Elizabeth Stong, Pioneer Cemetery Cairns

Google Maps Link: Edgeley

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Forest of Cars

August 21, 2022

While on a business trip near Thunder Bay back in April I noticed a forest which appeared to be full of abandoned cars. I decided on my return trip this past week to check it out. Unfortunately the place is marked as No Trespassing and the owner could not be seen to try to get permission to go in and have a look around. I had to settle for a few pictures that I took as I walked along the front of the property. The image below is taken from Google Earth and shows the cars, trucks and buses that can be seen on the open areas as well as three buildings in various states of collapse. On the right hand side of the image is Oliver Road from which the images in this post were taken.

One of my clients has their business a few kilometers away from this location and so I asked them what they knew about the property. It seems that the owner had collected the vehicles over a period of years and refused to sell any of them or even let people buy spare parts to repair their own vehicles or classic cars.

Another local person told me a story of trespassers encountering the owner who showed his displeasure by brandishing a gun! There’s also a story about the original owner passing away and someone new taking over the property.

Most of the cars near Oliver road appear to be forty or fifty years old but who knows what might be located deeper into the forest. The view from Google Earth suggests that there could be some real treasures waiting to be discovered.

There doesn’t appear to be anything online about the property or the owner although I plan to keep looking to see what can be found.

The cars, vans and trucks seem to have been parked in an open area and the woods have taken over again making it almost impossible to be able to get a vehicle out, even if you wanted to.

This Cadillac has had a tree fall on top of it. I would imagine that there are likely several cars on the property that have suffered similar damage over the years.

The next time I’m in the area will likely be in November when the leaves are off of the trees but it might not make a huge difference because most of the forest is made up of evergreen trees.

I have been given the offer of meeting another classic car collector a few sideroads over when I visit next time. Perhaps he will know more about this mysterious forest of cars. If this is the case, he may also be able to put me in touch with the owner.

With luck, maybe I can make arrangements to go exploring during my spring visit to the area. That could prove to be very interesting indeed.

It would appear that there are hundreds, perhaps a couple of thousand vehicles in this forest. Someday I hope to bring you more pictures and the complete history of this forest full of cars.

Google Maps Link: Murillo Car Forest

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Mongolia – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Mongolia was a community that grew around the modern intersection of Elgin Mills Road and Reesor Road. Peter De Guere arrived in 1801 and took the north west corner on lot 26. The adjoining lots were soon taken up as people cleared land for farming. As the community grew it got a tavern in 1841 and took on the name California Corners. It was never more than a farming community with a school, Methodist Church, and a Temperance Hall beside the blacksmiths shop. The rural atmosphere was lost in 1972 when the federal government decided that the flat land north of Pickering would make a good site for a future airport. They expropriated the entire town and then never built the airport. Studies show it won’t ever be needed and slowly the government is giving sections of the airport lands to help create Rouge National Urban Park. This is a far better use for the land, although it could still be productive farm land again. To explore and record what remains before it is lost we parked at the trail parking lot on the south east corner of the intersection. From there you can walk up or down Reesor Road to view the old homes or follow the trail to the historic Boyles Pioneer Cemetery. We did both. The 1877 county atlas section below shows many of the homes that still remain as well as the trail to the cemetery, which is marked with a star.

It was in 1853 that James Holden bought the corner of David Nightswanders property and the following year he opened a general store which he operated until 1861. When Nightswander got a post office for the town in 1864 he was told the name California Corners could not be used and so Mongolia was chosen from a list of approved names. A house was added beside the store in about 1870 but the store and post office burned down in 1920, leaving just the house behind. It is now being used as an information centre for Rouge National Urban Park and is one of the few homes from Mongolia that is still in great condition.

Martin Noble built this farm house in1840 and like several other older homes in the community it has been covered in white siding. I wonder if it was built of field stone like so many of the local homes were in the mid 1800s. I think we’ll be able to find out soon as the roof is caving in on this home in spite of it being on the heritage listing for Markham. Mongolia appears to be falling victim to neglect like so many of the heritage properties in the Pickering Airport Lands. It’s interesting that a designated home can’t have unapproved alterations because they can detract from the heritage properties that set it aside for preservation. However, there’s no provision in the listing to require a property to be maintained even though lack of maintenance is seriously detracting from the heritage value of these buildings.

The fields and forests around Mongolia are littered with the neglected dreams of the former inhabitants. Many out buildings, barns and drive sheds remain as well as several abandoned cars and at least a couple of boats. Now that this section of the former airport lands has been designated as part of Rouge National Urban Park it may be that some of this will be demolished while the rest is left to vanish into the new forest as it regrows across the farm fields.

The James Collins house was built in 1850 and was also subjected to white siding which likely hides a lovely brick or stone home on its stone foundation. The entire back side of this house is missing the roof and it won’t be long before this heritage designated home is lost forever.

The drive shed on the property is still in very good condition even though it may have been 50 years since the farm was active.

Another heritage property is the David Burke house from 1850. This home still looks pretty solid but has had all the interior walls stripped down to just the framing. One noticeable alteration to the home is the ground floor windows which have been replaced with smaller ones. Buff coloured bricks have been used to fill in the openings around the smaller windows which hides the alteration from a casual glance.

The Adam Betz house stands on the south west corner lot as it has done since 1851. Another one of the white siding victims in town, it stands an a thick stone foundation that may indicate another beautiful stone house.

Henry Barkey took over the North East corner of the intersection from Jacob Barkey in 1832 and lived near the centre of the lot. In 1860 a blacksmith shop was built near the corner of the intersection and was rented by George Calvert who appears in the 1861 census and the following couple as well.

The tenant in the house next door was usually the blacksmith although after the blacksmith shop closed it was rented to various people until it was taken over for the airport. It still appears to be lived in under a rental arrangement with the government.

School section #22 originally occupied a frame building on the east side of Reesor Road but in 1882 a new brick school house was opened across the street. When the school was closed the building was renovated and continues to serve as a residence.

There is a new trail that leads west from the parking lot and then turns south. It currently runs for only a little more than a kilometre but will eventually connect to a new parking lot on Major Mackenzie Drive. If you keep your eyes open you will find a 1965 Plymouth Fury which has obviously been parked here for quite some time. The Fury model was first released for the 1956 model year and was updated to its fourth generation for 1965.

The Methodist church stood north of the main intersection but its burial grounds were on the property of John Boyles. Located on a small plateau overlooking the river, it stands about 400 meters from the road. The stones have been gathered up and placed into an unusual ground level cairn with the stones lying flat. They may be more subject to the weather than they would be in a more common vertical presentation. There are at least 47 burials commemorated in this cairn and one additional one from 2002 that has a grave marker beside it. Please note that the trail ends before the cemetery and it is not part of the trail. If you choose to visit, please do so respectfully.

The gravestones in this cairn mark the lives of many of the early families in the area. John Boyles was the property owner and he died June 23, 1885 at the age of 91 and is buried here. Catherine Kester died on Sept. 12, 1816 in her 60th year and her headstone is one of the earliest that I’ve photographed anywhere in the GTA.

We previously looked at Brougham, which is another one of the Pickering Airport Lands ghost towns, which has also been left to rot and be demolished. Mongolia has a lot of heritage designated buildings that won’t be around in another ten years because they’re already becoming structurally unsound.

Related stories: For more information about the Pickering Airport check out our post Brougham – Ghost Towns of the GTA.

Google Maps Link: Mongolia

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Eversley – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Eversley, also known as Tinline Corners, developed in the early 1800s at the intersection of 3rd concession (Dufferin Street) and 15 sideroad and was likely named after Eversley, Hampton, England. It never grew to more than a hamlet and in 1869 the population was listed as 29. This included two blacksmiths, two carriage makers, a doctor, a pastor, a butcher, three farmers and James Tinline who was a general merchant and post master. There used to be a few more buildings than the ones that remain but both of the homes in the 1908 archive picture below still stand.

The oldest surviving building in Eversley is the Presbyterian church which was built in 1848. The congregation and the cemetery date to 1834 under a circuit preacher but three years later the local school teacher, John Tawse, took on the role of pastor. In 1860 Dr. James Carmichael became the second pastor and he remained until 1910. When it closed in 1958 the minister from Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto spoke the final sermon. Lady Flora Eaton bought the church in 1960 and handed it over to the York Pioneer and Historical Society because she felt it was important to preserve small town history. She was raised in Omeemee and knew the value of community in a small village. A cemetery is located on the north side of the church but was inaccessible due to the snow. It would be interesting to have a look there for the grave marker of Henry Frost (1816-1851) which has an unusual music motif.

Starting in 1837 the church and school shared a log building a little to the south of the present church. In 1843 a new school was built of red brick just to the north of the log school. After the church moved to their new building the log one was taken apart and used in other buildings. In 1893 a third school building was erected, this time across the road, using buff brick with red accents. In 1961 two more classrooms were added on the front and it operated for another decade. One important teacher from this school’s history is Henry Frost who is responsible for developing the music program for Ontario schools. He taught here from 1850-1851 and then he passed away and was laid to rest in the cemetery across the road.

James Tinline built a store on the north east corner and served as post master when the post office opened there in 1865. Henry Rogers built this house next door in 1887 which he operated as a mercantile. When Tinline’s store burned down, this building was owned by a Mr. Gellatly who took over the post office until it closed in 1928. A side entrance was provided to the family home while the main one served the retail business. This home has had siding, window moldings and gingerbread added since the time of the historic photo above.

Robert Riddett operated a wheelwright shop where he made wagons and carriages on the north west corner of the intersection. It has since been demolished and the land is now under cultivation by a farmer who leases it from Seneca College. Meanwhile in 1900, after the loss of Tinline’s store, James Wells built a new home on the site of the former post office. Flora Eaton later bought the house and it served as the foreman’s dwelling for Eaton Hall Farm across the road.

On the south east corner a cheese factory was opened in 1878 by Job and James Wells. They made butter in the Winter and Spring and then cheese in the Summer and Fall. The cheese factory was closed and then demolished in 1914 but one of the small worker cottages remains as well as several out buildings that are all in poor condition. Alex Hurst also had a blacksmith shop on this corner.

One of the most prominent buildings in the old community of Eversley is the Henry Pellatt barn because it is quite close to15 sideroad. It was built in the early 1920s and later sold to the Eaton family along with 400 acres of land which they added to their estate, Eaton Hall. The foundation is surrounded on four sides with 3 over 3 windows giving it a unique look and allowing lots of light into the animal pens. Henry Pellatt owned Casa Loma and the nearby Marylake estate in the 4th concession.

Starting in the 1920s Eversley was transformed by the arrival of the Eaton family who bought 700 acres in the north west area of the community. We’ve featured many of their buildings in our Eaton Hall post but we left the gate house out due to space limitations. This building is visible from Dufferin Street and is now part of the main entrance to Seneca King Campus.

The Schomberg & Aurora Railway was incorporated in 1896 to connect with the Toronto & York Radial Railway at Yonge Street. Construction began near Bond Lake in 1899 and it opened in 1902. Eversley was served with three stops in close proximity. The first was Eversley Sideroad which was about a kilometer east of town on 15 sideroad. Eversley Station was basically across the road from the entrance to the Eaton Hall gate house. A third stop was located on 16th sideroad and was known as Cider Mill Crossing. June 10, 1927 marked the last run on this line and today the old right of way can be identified from Google Earth and is used for a hiking trail through Seneca King Campus.

The Eaton Horse and Cattle Barn was completed in 1923 and was a notable sight in Eversley until it was destroyed by a fire in 1937. Lady Eaton promptly had it rebuilt but the two silos and clock tower were destroyed in a second fire on April 18, 1966 and were never replaced. The archive photo below shows the barns in their prime.

This ornate latch is found on the old dairy building from the Eaton Hall farm and is a reminder that Eversley has a history that includes the craftsmanship of the local blacksmith.

A sizeable portion of the former community of Eversley is now under the management of Seneca King Campus and there’s plenty of trails to explore. You can park in one of the lots on campus and explore the trails which include the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail. This robin was splashing around in a puddle and complaining about the recent weather.

Eversley has lost most of its residents but many historic buildings remain and none of the small town charm has disappeared.

Related stories: Pioneers of the GTA – Timothy Eaton, Eaton Hall, Toronto & York Radial Railway, Bond Lake, Casa Loma, Marylake

Google Maps Link: Eversley

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Brougham – Ghost Towns of the GTA

January 9, 2022

Brougham existed for 150 years as a quiet rural community that supported agriculture on the surrounding farms. Brougham had one claim to historical fame that came from a local man named Peter Matthews. The veteran of the War of 1812 was well respected in town and also a vocal supporter of democratic reforms. On December 2, 1837, Peter led a group of local men to join William Lyon Mackenzie in an armed rebellion against the government in Toronto. The rebellion failed but Matthews and another rebel named Samuel Lount were convicted of treason and publicly hanged. Matthews and Lount are buried in The Necropolis in Toronto.

When the excitement died down, Brougham went back to being a quiet hamlet where not much ever happened. That suddenly changed in 1972 when the Federal Government of Pierre Trudeau expropriated the entire community for an airport that it claimed would be operational by 1979. That airport was never built but the lands have been held in trust for a potential future airport.

William Bentley became one of the founders of Brougham after he emigrated from New York State in 1839 and settled in Pickering Township. Along with his brothers, he established a general store as well as a patent medicine factory. William built this house in 1853 at the main intersection of town and it quickly came to represent the prosperity of the community. The home boasts Italianate styling in the architecture including the belvedere on the roof. It’s interesting to see it sitting empty while carrying a Federal Historic Register designation and sitting on a potential airport flight path leading to a runway.

Constructed in 1854 as Pickering Town Hall, this wood-framed building was designed as an open concept meeting area for making community decisions. As such, it is fitting that it became the site of community meetings in 1972 to fight the federal government’s decision to expropriate the community in the name of a new airport. People Or Planes was a larger citizens group from throughout the original expropriated lands and beyond. They banded together and fought to stop the government from going ahead. Their success has kept these lands from being destroyed for the past half a century. For years it read “Pickering Community Hall” but the name has been changed above the entrance to reflect the community that it represented. This building also has a Federal Historic Designation, this one given in 2009. Just beside the community hall is a one-storey Georgian home with dichromate brick veneer that was built in 1860. As I was photographing the community hall the two residents next door asked me what I was doing. When I explained that I was photographing historic buildings we got into an interesting conversation about the community and the airport plans. I haven’t included their home out of respect for them, but it is listed on the Pickering Municipal Heritage Register (PMHR).

Brougham decided to replace their original wooden schoolhouse with a new brick one in 1859. It served the children of the community for 100 years before being closed. Recently it has been used as an art gallery and the building appears on the Federal Heritage Register.

The Wesleyan Methodists came to town early but the small size of the congregation didn’t allow them to have their own full-time pastor. Records indicate that in 1870 they were part of the Pickering circuit in which they shared a pastor on a rotation that included Claremont, Glen Major, Greenwood, and Kinsdale. By 1890 they were able to erect this handsome brick building at the main intersection in town. After 1925 it was known as St. John’s United Church. Today it carries on ministry as Pickering Standard Church and is listed on the PMHR.

The Temperance hall was built in 1880 and is listed on the PMHR. The Temperance Movement sought to restict or ban the consumption of alcohol and got started around 1820. Through various successes and failures they eventually managed to see legislation passed in both Canada and the United States that prohibited the sale of alcohol. The Temperance Hall in Bougham appears to have been raised at some point and a second floor added beneath. This could account for the fact that the brick butresses are not continued on the lower floor making them essentially useless. Early pictures of the main street show the building as it looks today but the windows are not bricked shut.

The former Commercial Hotel was built as a private home in 1860 and later converted into a hotel. It faces Highway 7 on the east end of town and is the last of three hotels that used to serve travelers through the hamlet. The former hotel has some interesting Gothic Revival architectural features. The pointed arch windows in the two second-storey gables are augmented by the decorative bargeboard or gingerbread trim. Each is topped by a finial (the pointed decoration) that makes it distinctive. In 2009 this building was added to the Federal Heritage Register which seems at odds with the plan to level the town for an airport.

The Miller Residence was built in 1880 and is the fifth building in town to appear on the Federal Heritage Register. This house was occupied by several leading families in the community over the years including the Bentleys, Hubbards, and Millers. The house is representative of late Victorian architecture in that it includes several styles such as Gothic Revival bargeboards and Italianate windows with rounded arches.

On the north side of the community hall is this 1 1/2- storey house which was built in 1860. It is typical of many homes that were built in this era with its centre gable and pointed arch window. This house is listed on the PMHR.

Just on the north edge of town, there stands a house that is also listed on the Pickering Municipal Heritage Register. It was built in 1860 and is shown on the County Atlas as being on the property of R. Lambert. The register lists it as the ex-Vanderligt home but on March 16, 2021, a fire broke out in the house. The two occupants were able to escape, but the fire department reported “extensive damage”. It’s unlikely that the federal government will want to restore the building because it solves the problem of yet another building on the PMHR.

Brougham is a community of driveways that go nowhere and vacant lots. With the government owning every property in town with an undisclosed demolition date no one wanted to invest in maintenance. Slowly people moved on and buildings were demolished as they became increasingly dilapidated.

In March of 1972, the federal government announced plans to build a major airport in Pickering to take the expected overflow from Malton Airport (Pearson International). they went ahead and expropriated 18,600 acres (7,530 hectares) and began making plans for construction. By 1975 construction was halted and the farmlands and houses were leased out for interim use. Recent studies suggest that the airport might be needed between 2027 and 2037, but might never be, and the federal government has given two large portions of the land to create Rouge National Urban Park. A study by KPMG concludes that it will not be necessary and Covid may have a lasting negative effect on the airline industry as well. The government remains committed to developing an airport on the reduced lands which include Brougham. The Transport Canada map below shows the original airport site in yellow and the reduced one in purple. Brougham is located in the extreme lower right-hand corner of the site but would be under an approach flight path. Land Over Landings carries on the work of People or Planes in fighting to save not only the communities involved but the farmland as well. There’s a great deal more information that’s available on their website Land Over Landings.

While the government is still actively talking about building the airport, the locals have slowly gone about the job of obtaining historical designations. With almost every property in Brougham listed on one heritage register or another, it will be interesting to see how the Federal Government goes about building an airport in the face of the existing local history.

To read more about the Rebellion of 1837 check out our story Rebel Rebel. You can also check out our story The Necropolis.

Google Maps Link: Brougham

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Hagerman’s Corners – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Hagerman’s Corners developed around the intersection of modern day Kennedy Road and 14th Avenue in Markham, just south of Unionville and north of Milliken. In fact, one of the four corners of Hagerman’s Corners was owned by Benjamin Milliken who donated land for the local school. By the time of the county atlas in 1877 the land was owned by William Milliken. The town had been founded in 1803 by Nicholas Hagerman who bought the property on the north west corner of the intersection.

Hagerman’s Corners never grew larger than a few buildings centred around the intersection. The post office was opened in 1873 and it was joined by a wagon maker’s shop, a hotel and a tavern as well as two churches and a handful of houses. The County Atlas below has green circles around the surviving structures which are featured in this article.

Hagerman’s Corners got its first school in 1858 but the wooden building burned down on April 11, 1888. They immediately set about replacing it with a unique brick schoolhouse. The building was designed by E.J. Lennox who is famous for designing Casa Loma. Rather than having an entrance that faced the street, this school had one on either side. One for boys and the other for girls. In 1966 the last classes were held in the school and it sat empty until 1985. That is when George and Patricia Zarafonitis bought the building and converted it into a restaurant.

Benjamin Milliken II was the son of the founder of Milliken and he built this home in 1855. The Milliken family attended the Presbyterian Church in Hagerman’s Corners and several of the grave markers in that cemetery bear their names.

Almost directly across the street from the Milliken house is the former home of Jesse Noble which was built in 1855. Ambrose Noble had purchased the property in 1826 and granted it to his son Jesse in 1864. The house was renovated and expanded in 1880. Today it serves as part of a bridal shop.

This home was lived in recently enough to have a satellite dish on the roof. It appears to be of 1850s or 1860s construction and could likely be returned to use with a little love and a pile of cash.

There’s only a few 19th century houses left in town and it appears that two of them may have had the same builder. There are two second empire style houses complete with the identifying mansard roof. While not identical, they stand out among the other historic homes.

The second mansard roof is only a couple houses away on the same side of the street. It’s possible that the houses in between were later additions and these homes were once neighbours. A pair of white two story, two bay houses with their imposing roofs.

The hotel in town was known as The Bee Hive Hotel and stood on the north east corner of the intersection. John and Jane Webber ran the hotel before moving their operation to Unionville where they owned The Queens hotel. In 1877 the property belonged to James Fairless who built the house pictured below, which is turned to face the former hotel.

The Presbyterian Church was built almost across the street from the Methodist one. Worship services were held in the little church on the east side of Kennedy Road until the Presbyterian congregation elected to join the United Church in 1925. They merged with the congregation at the newly named Ebenezer United Church at Brimley Road and Steeles Avenue in Milliken. Their original building was demolished shortly thereafter and the 1839 cemetery is now known as Hagerman Cemetery East.

The Hagerman family cemetery was located on the original family farm on the north west corner of the intersection. The family were committed to the Wesleyan Methodist faith and in 1849 land was donated for the use of a cemetery and the construction of a wood framed church building. The original church was replaced with a brick one in 1874 and it stood on the south west corner of the present cemetery lot. The cemetery was recently mapped with ground penetrating radar prior to work on expanding Kennedy Road. The foundations of the old structure showed up on the radar. The cemetery is now known as Hagerman Cemetery West and was founded in 1838.

The Hagerman family were members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and there’s a large section of memorials to them in this cemetery. In general, there are less of the older pioneer limestone tombstones in this cemetery than there are across the road.

In 1876 Robert Armstrong bought a property on the north edge of town from Nicholas Hagerman. The following year he built a story and a half Gothic Revival house on the property and began working the farm. His son Leslie took over the farm in 1903 and most recently the Government of Ontario purchased the property so they could build Highway 407. The house and property are now owned by infrastructure Ontario and the house is listed on the Markham heritage register.

Across from the new high school on Kennedy Road is another original home which belonged to John B Smith. The story and a half house has a full length front porch which was the family entertainment centre in the early days. There’s room for sitting after dinner and watching the world go by, or to have a chat with the neighbours.

Although the area has been highly developed over the past few decades there is a surprising number of buildings remaining that were shown on the county atlas 144 years ago. The same can’t be said for a lot of the ghost towns we’ve visited.

Related Blogs: Milliken Park, Union Mills – Unionville, Unionville – Dating By Design

Google Maps Link: Hagerman’s Corners

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Agincourt – Ghost Towns of the GTA

August 15, 2021

Agincourt remained a small community until 1858 when John Hill was finally successful in getting a post office for his general store at the crossroads of todays Brimley Road and Sheppard Avenue East. The name Agincourt was taken from a town in northern France where a decisive battle was fought in 1415 during The Hundred Years War between Britain and France. The earlier name for the community had been “Hero Town” and that didn’t seem appropriate for the new post office name. The town grew slowly with Hill’s General Store and Post Office being accompanied by Milnes Sawmill and a temperance hall along with a growing number of homes.

Thomas Paterson was one of the founders of Agincourt and started to raise a family in a small log cabin on the east side of todays Kennedy Road. As the family grew, three of his sons built nearly identical homes each taking up a section of the family farm. Thomas Jr. had the middle plot and his home is the lone survivor today. The house was built prior to 1850 and is one of the oldest brick houses remaining in Scarborough. The pictures in this article were taken in December 2020 which is why there are no leaves on the trees.

Hugh Elliot built this house around 1848 and it was expanded with a second floor around 1860. The new roofline is second empire and is the best surviving example of a style that was once quite popular in Scarborough. This house has been given an historical designation and is located on McCowan Road on a property that has been owned by developers since 1981. It has been kept in good maintenance and will be incorporated into a future development.

The house at 33 Murray was built in 1888 by the Kennedy Family who lived there until 1912 when the farm was sold to John Harris. The most interesting family to own the house was perhaps the most recent. Bill White bought the home in 1951 and became known as the first black man to run as a federal election candidate. His years of service led to him being designated as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

2656 Midland was built in 1863 and was originally the manse for the Knox Presbyterian Church. The church was founded in 1848 but this was the first home that they built for the use of the minister. Stylistically, the home reflects elements of the Regency Cottage design with the side porch likely being added at a later date.

The house at 20 Lockie Avenue was the latest farm house in the family of Thomas Archibald Paterson. Thomas Paterson had settled on the farm in 1820 and four generations of men with the same name occupied the farm until the 1950s. This Edwardian style home was built after 1900 and has a rare 3-bay configuration on the traditional four-square design.

School Section 14 was created in 1913 to serve the growing population around Agincourt. Three acres of land were donated by the Paterson Family and the school was constructed at a cost of $12,000. When it opened in 1914 it had 48 students and 2 teachers. By 1921 there were 107 students and still only 2 teachers.

Knox Free Presbyterian Church was founded in 1848 and quickly outgrew its original wood frame building. Forty members attended the first service on June 25 of that year. By 1872 a new sanctuary was required and as the picture below shows, an addition was made to the back as the church continued to grow. They have served the community as Knox United Church since 1925.

The original pioneer cemetery has grown into the Knox United Cemetery. The earliest burial was recorded in 1836, a dozen years before the founding of the church. The next oldest is 1848 perhaps one of the earliest services held in the new church.

Across the street from the church on the south west corner is a large lot that has been proposed as a site for townhomes and a new park. It was formerly a Lumber King Home Centre and then a flea market. The gas station that once occupied the corner of the property has been removed.

14 Allanford Road is a Second Empire home known as Lynn Bank and is designated as a heritage property. Built into the side of a small rise of land it has three floors with the mansard roof providing extra headroom to the bedrooms on the upper floor.

The community of Agincourt has become swallowed up in Scarborough’s ever expanding urban sprawl but the remnants of the early community still survive.

Google Maps Link: Agincourt

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Ghost Towns of York Region

Sunday, June 20, 2021

York Region has many small communities that have shrunk from their late 1800s sizes and faded almost into oblivion. They have lost their industry, blacksmiths and hotels and usually their stores as well. We refer to these as ghost towns although in the strictest sense they aren’t really. This blog collects 7 of the ones that we have visited and arranges them in alphabetical order. Each has a picture that represents the community as well as a brief description. The link for each will take you to a feature article on the community which has the local history as well as pictures of any surviving architectural features. At the end of each feature article is a google maps link in case you should wish to explore for yourself someday. Future companion blogs in this series will cover the ghost towns of the Peel Region, Halton Region, and the City of Toronto.

Cedar Grove still has it’s historic school and Lapp’s Cider Mill but the real treasure is Cedarena. The skating rink operated from 1927 until 2015 and now it sits waiting for skaters who never show up.

Elders Mills formed around a crossroad and thrived for a couple of decades before it went into decline. Several of the original houses and the 1872 school house still remain. A couple of the houses as well as the school have been incorporated into new structures which has saved them from demolition. The homes on the farms around the town have been removed as the land has been cleared for housing.

The former community of Laskay has declined considerably and now the old Methodist Church is a home. A few historic buildings still line the street but the best preserved of all is the old Laskay Emporium which serves as an fine example of a country store and post office at Black Creek Pioneer village. Filled with period merchandise it is a real blast from the past.

Maple has grown into a larger community but there’s still lots of older homes and the historic train station to remind us of the small town that started in the early 1800s. There’s also this amazing log home built with massive timbers that hides in a woodlot on the edge of town.

Ringwood has a lot of abandoned buildings including this 1887 school house which has some interesting wood paneling on the front. At that time, the population was 300 but began declining almost right away until within a few decades there were only 13 students in the school.

Sherwood was larger than Maple at one point but quickly faded into a couple of churches and a few homes. Most of these have since been demolished in order to build a large train switching facility. The Zion Evangelical Church still holds services and has an extensive pioneer cemetery.

Every Ghost Town has its pioneer cemetery where you can check out the old grave markers and remember the people who lived there a couple of hundred years ago. Some even have markers or cairns for Indigenous Peoples who lived here centuries ago and are buried within the community. Teston has both types of burial grounds but neither is well marked and even the pioneer head stones are missing.

Compared to Toronto and some of the other surrounding areas, York Region has still got quite a bit of its pioneer heritage in place.

Other ghost town collections: Ghost Towns of Toronto, Ghost Towns of Peel Region, Ghost Towns of Halton Region.

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Trafalgar – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Most people are familiar with Trafalgar Road but it could just as easily been named Postsville Road. That’s because the early name for the community of Trafalgar was Postsville. The Post Family settled at the intersection of Trafalgar Road and Dundas Street sometime shortly after 1807. Ephriam Post owned two lots #12 NDS (North Dundas Street) on the north east corner and lot 13 SDS on the south west corner. He built an inn on lot 13 and Posts Inn was a busy place serving as a change house for horse drawn stagecoaches that used to operate along Dundas Street. Hiram Post took over the Inn in 1841. The community was known as Posts Corners from 1815 until 1851 when it became Postsville. By the time of the 1877 County Atlas below it had been renamed Trafalgar. The points of interest in the story below have been circled on the map.

The community grew slowly and by 1869 had about 80 residents. There were two hotels, a butcher shop, a grist mill and carriagemaker as well as a blacksmith. It was in 1834 while James Thompson owned the north west corner of Governor’s Road (Dundas Street) and 7th line (Trafalgar Road) that small lots began to be sold for homes along both street frontages. These few homes formed the nucleus of the hamlet of Post’s Corners. The house just north of the corner was built around 1850.

The house next door is one of my personal favourites because although it is simple, and lacks extensive ornamentation, it has a quite unique look to it. The clipped gable on the front might be the only one of its type in the hundreds of historic homes featured in blogs so far. The style is Queen Anne and it was built around 1890 for Dr. Johnstone and his family while he worked as the veterinary inspector for Halton County. He was also the deputy reeve of Trafalgar Township. He died September 3, 1959 and was buried in Munn’s Cemetery where his wife is also interred. The family had been supporting members of Munns Methodist Church. This property is designated for condos but the current plan calls for the preservation of this house. I hope it is restored and put to good use.

James Appelbe came to Canada in 1815 from Ireland and by 1831 had married and settled in Postsville. For a few years he taught school at Munns Corners before becoming a merchant and postmaster. Locally, Appelbe was known as The Squire and was a justice of the peace. He also served as one of the first directors of The Bank of Toronto. Appelbe eventually acquired most of the land around Trafalgar and was one of its best known residents. His 1850 home used to stand closer to the intersection but it has been restored and moved by Great Gulf Homes after it was nearly destroyed by vandals. The house a four full length windows that reach from the floor to the ceiling on the main floor giving it a unique look and plenty of light.

Lot 12 on the North East corner was patented to Hugh Howard in 1807 and by 1820 he was able to build the wood frame house that stood on the property until just recently. John Clements bought the property in 1831 and when he passed away in 1873 it went to his son Matthew. The 1877 county atlas shows the property as M. Clements with two houses on it. This earlier house was lived in recently enough that the picture below shows a window air conditioner. By 2013 when the Cultural Heritage Assessment of Trafalgar Road was conducted the roof had caved in as had some of the walls. It has since been completely demolished.

The second farmhouse on the Clements property was built in the 1870s, likely by Matthew. This stucco farmhouse has been vacant long enough that the front yard is overgrown with hawthorn and other first generation regrowth trees that mask it from the road.

John Clements also owned the property across the road in the 1850’s but by 1877 had sold it to James Morrison who lived here until 1907. The house has belonged to the Bentley family since then but now sits empty waiting to find out what fate the developers have planned for it.

An old blacksmith shop still stands at the corner of Trafalgar Road and Burnhamthorpe Road but it is well on its way to becoming just another foundation in a field. Which means that when the developers arrive in a few years it’ll be gone completely.

John Jones owned the property with the blacksmith shop in the 1880’s and the family house still stands next door. It looks to have been recently abandoned and could be restored easily enough and I wonder what’s behind the siding? Does that gable window have the typical pointed arch of a gothic revival home?

Daniel Munn arrived in 1803 and took possession of the lot at the corner of sixth line and Dundas Street and began clearing his farm. That same year he set aside a small corner of the lot for a church but Methodist preachers would continue to hold meetings in the family home until 1844 when the first frame building was erected. A cemetery was opened across the road and in 1898 the present brick building was consecrated. In 1925 the congregation voted to join the United Church of Canada. When Dundas Street was widened in the 1970’s the church was moved 40 feet back from the road.

Munns Corners cemetery has a lot of older markers as it was also the primary cemetery for Trafalgar. Munn’s Church can be seen across the road.

Daniel Munns grave marker has faded to the point of being unidentifiable but you can still note the names of many of the pioneers on the county atlas above.

The south west corner of Trafalgar is being developed with high rise condos and the remaining farmlands are all owned by developers. It doesn’t seem likely that very much of the original community will remain in ten years time.

Also see our feature Ghost Towns of Halton Region

Google Maps Link: Trafalgar

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