Category Archives: Historic Site

German Mills Settlers Park

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The community of German Mills didn’t last very long and there is only one building left standing.  We decided to investigate the area which has now become a park and we found free parking on the end of Leslie Street where it has been closed north of Steeles Avenue.

The county atlas was drawn in 1877 and by that time there was no longer a community named German Mills.  The school was replaced in 1874 with a new building on German Mills Street but it is the last remaining structure from this early settlement.  On the map below Leslie Street is brown while John Street, a given road, is yellow.  German Mills Creek is in blue while our hike is roughly outlined in green.

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Jack in the pulpit grow for up to 100 years from their corm, a type of root similar to a small turnip, although basically inedible.  They spread through seeds that are grown inside their berries.  The berries will turn from green to red when the seeds are ready.  The berries can be harvested and the seeds gently squeezed out.  There will usually be 4 to 6 seeds in each berry.  These can be planted about 1/2 inch deep in the fall.

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German Mills was settled in 1794, the year following the founding of York (Toronto) by a group of German families.  They not only established the first industrial complex in Markham but set an early example of the development of Canada through a multicultural approach.  The settlement didn’t last long because the water supply was inadequate to power their mills.  The picture below shows a sketch of the settlement that can be found on an interpretive plaque along the trail.

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The main paved trail crosses German Mills Creek but we chose to follow the old road allowance for Leslie Street.  German Mills Creek appears to have a few minnows in it but not much else.  The creek runs for about 10 kilometres before emptying into the East Don River in the East Don Parklands.

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Pheasant’s-back Polypore is also known as Dryad’s Saddle and is one of the larger polypore mushrooms found in Ontario.  The caps can reach 12 inches or more with the example seen below coming in at nearly 13 inches.  Although this mushroom is edible it is also rather tough and rubbery.  The outer edges are sometimes pickled or fried and are reported to taste like watermelon rind.  They are common from May until November and they seem to have been quite prolific this year with some trees having had several crops growing on them already.

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On the county atlas above the lots belonging to John Lane and G. C. Harris have been outlined in black.  A large portion of each of these lots was used for gravel extraction between 1940 and 1960.  When the aggregate supply was exhausted the empty pit was converted into the Sabiston Landfill.  From 1960 to 1975 the landfill operated with no records of what types of materials were dumped there and in which sections.  The site continues to produce methane gas that is released into the air and leachate which enters the groundwater.  Today there is a one metre clay cap over the landfill and the area has been designated as the German Mills Meadow and Natural Habitat.

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The mound that represents the former landfill is now monitored for discharges.  A decade ago the Town of Markham was considering installing an aerobic system to help speed up the elimination of methane and leachate from the site.  Local residents protested the plan based on the fact that methane was below the 2.5% level that the Ministry of the Environment sets as safe.  The community succeeded in 2012 in getting the plan halted by arguing

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We found another one of these old canoes which has been planted to help encourage pollinators to do their thing.

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The community of German Mills constructed a one room log school to serve the children of the community.  In 1874 it was decided to replace the school with a larger board and batten structure.  The school was built with separate entrances for the boys and girls as was common in the Victorian Era.  One of the interesting features of the architecture is the way the batten curve into scallops under the boxed cornice of the roof.

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Originally known as school section number 2 there were over thirty different teachers who served here between 1874 and 1962 when it closed.  The original bell still hangs in the bell tower.

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One of the notable teachers from the school was Leonard S Klink who taught here in the 1890’s.  He was responsible for getting the students to plant rows of spruce trees around the sides of the property.  These trees continue to mark the outline of the school yard.  Klink went on to serve as the President of The University of British Columbia from 1919-1944.

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Poison ivy seems to have had a good year and there is plenty of it in German Mills Settlers Park.  The sap contains a substance known as urushiol that usually causes a reaction within 24-48 hours.  Controlling poison ivy by burning it can be very dangerous because inhalation of the smoke can cause the rash to develop on the inside of the lungs.  This can be very painful and possibly fatal.

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Bur Oak is a member of the group of white oaks and is also known as mossy cup oak.  The tree typically reaches 30 metres tall but has been known to be as large as 50 metres.  Like most oak trees they grow slowly but can live for up to 400 years.  The acorns are also large growing up to 5 cm in size.  These trees produce a heavy crop of acorns every few years in a process known as masting.  This bumper crop overwhelms the ability of the local wildlife to consume the acorns and ensures the survival of some seeds.

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German Mills Settlers Park is about to undergo construction work to prevent erosion from damaging the sewer pipe that runs along the length of the creek.  This will change the natural look of the creek for several years.

Google Maps Link: German Mills Settlers Park

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Canada’s Walk Of Fame

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The idea for a walk of fame originated in 1996 as a Toronto Walk of Fame.  It got started in 1998 with the first batch of inductees.  Since then a new group has been added every year and the names are displayed along King Street and Simcoe Street.  Stars honour Canadians in the areas of Arts and Entertainment, Business, Philanthropy, Science and Technology as well as Sports and Athletics.  The plaque below was placed to honour the start of our Walk of Fame.  It is placed in front of the main entrance to the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

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Ed Mirvish has a star right in front of the Royal Alexandria Theater.  It is the only one that is dated and it says July 10, 1996.  This is the date the walk of fame was conceived and a full two years before the first group of inductees were celebrated in 1998.  Edwin Mirvish was also known as “Honest Ed” and one of his accomplishments was the development of Honest Ed’s discount store.  Ed passed away in 2007 but the star that commemorates him is set directly in front of the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

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The Royal Alexandra theatre was built in 1907 and has been owned and operated by Ed Mirvish since 1963.  It s named after a Danish Princess who was the great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.  It was given the Letters Patent by King Edward VII giving it an official Royal designation.  It s believed to be the only surviving Royal theatre in North America.

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Rush are Canada’s most successful band when it comes to international sales.  They stand third behind The Beatles and Rolling Stones for the most Gold and Platinum album designations.

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Joni Mitchell is considered to be one of the best singer-songwriters to come out of Canada.  Her 1971 album Blue is the highest rated album by a female artist on the Billboard Top Albums of All Time coming in at number 30.

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The Guess Who were inducted in 2001 and their star names five of the forty people who have played in the band since it was formed in 1965.  Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Gary Peterson, Donnie McDougal and Bill Wallace were in the band in 2001, doing a series of reunion shows.  The irony is that the five of them never played together in the band prior to the reunion.  This lineup played before an estimated 450,000 crowd at the Toronto Sars Benefit Concert on July 30, 2003.

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Canada’s Walk of Fame is intended to give us our own version of the one in Hollywood and several of our stars are found in both places.  The stars in the Canadian walk are all damaged around the edges and several have been cracked or broken.  Our stars are subject to the extremes of Canadian weather.  They are salted in the winter and then run over and scraped by the sidewalk plows.  Some of the stars have already been replaced and many more are in need of repairs.  There is talk of finding an alternative method of displaying them, perhaps mounted in a wall along the sidewalk where they would be up and out of the way.

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There are currently 173 stars in the Canadian Walk of Fame with new inductees being added in November.

Google Maps Link: Royal Alexandria Theatre

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Ontario Place

July 15, 2018

Ontario Place was a jewel on the Toronto waterfront for 40 years before declining attendance caused the government to shut it down in October 2011 for the last time.  Plans were immediately announced that major renovations were planned and the park would re-open in time for Canada 150 in July 2017.  This didn’t happen and a change of provincial governments threatens to derail the project further.  I decided to take a walk around the park and see what is going on these days.

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Ontario Place was designed by Toronto architect Eberhard Zeidler.  A large part of the concept for Ontario Place came from the idea to have large display pods built over the water.  The idea likely was inspired by Expo 67 where Pods were built over the Saint Lawrence River in Montreal.  Three artificial islands were created in the harbour that are connected to the mainland by three bridges.  The central bridge connects to the set of pods which make up the middle island.  The five elevated pods are interconnected as they stand above Lake Ontario.  Each pod is a three story structure that encloses 743 square metres of space.  Originally used for multimedia exhibitions, they were intended to be flexible and accommodate other uses over the years.

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This is the seventh season that Ontario Place has been largely abandoned although it does appear to be open as I was not challenged by the staff I passed on the bridge.  The entire time that I spent walking through the park I met less than twenty other people.  It truly felt like walking through a ghost town.

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In the 1980’s over 3 million people per year visited the park but by 2010 the number was down to only 10% of that.  The log flume on the west island was always sure to soak the riders, a welcome treat on a hot day.

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The park was in a continual state of development with new attractions being added as the years went by.  The original pods were not the raving success that was envisioned but the idea of showcasing the northern part of the province was seen as a way of potentially attracting professionals to relocate north where there was a shortage of people.  In 1980 silos were constructed that resemble farm silos that stand across rural Ontario.  The wildlife displays didn’t do as well as expected and the silos were eventually converted into additional rides.

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The Cinesphere showcased the world’s first permanent IMAX projector on a screen that was 24 metres wide and 18 metres high.  The dome is 35 metres wide and when it opened in 1971 it became the icon of Ontario Place.  It was so successful that there was a regular line-up to get in.  On a school trip we saw a movie called Snow Day in which it felt like we were in a school bus running out of control on snowy roads.  A good choice for kids who had arrived via school bus.  Cinesphere was closed in 2012 along with the rest of the park but in 2014 the dome was given a cultural heritage designation.  As of 2017 the theater is open again on a full time basis with state of the art equipment.

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March of 1969 saw the first activity in the building of Ontario Place and it opened just over two years later on May 22, 1971.  Construction of the Cinesphere and the pods is seen in this 1970 photograph from the Toronto Archives.

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The design called for display pods suspended over the water to display the scientific and technological wonders of Ontario.  Constructing the pods over open water became an engineering problem and the costs mounted to the point of consuming the budget.  To reduce the costs a protective break wall was designed using three obsolete lake freighters.  They were sunk and filled with concrete to create a safe harbour for a marina.  The ships can be walked out to the end where one of the bridges is open for exploration.  The three ships anchors are also preserved on the third ship.  The picture below shows the outline of two of the ships where they meet.

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The 1970 photo below shows the three ships, reported to be the The Shaw, The Houghton and The Victorious in their positions with the west island being formed out of lake fill.

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The pods are now underutilized and the iconic sets of stairs on the outside are peeling and no longer ring with the sounds of crowds filled with laughter.

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The water park covered much of the east island and went under the name Soak City.  A series of coloured water slides was installed in the 1990’s and was a popular attraction until the park closed.  The slides remained in place until May of 2016 when they were disassembled to prevent a potential injury to people who insisted on climbing up and even rollerblading down them.  Today the central support tower is all that’s left except for a few abutments to mark the site of the water park.

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Trillium Park, containing the William G.  Davis Trail is the first part of Ontario Place to get a completely new lease on life.  This area was formerly a 7.5 acre parking lot.  Today it has been converted into a lush green space with a 1.3 kilometre trail named after Bill Davis who was premier on Ontario in 1971 when Ontario Place first opened.  The trail passes through an artificial ravine and contains the Moccasin Marker.  The carvings on either side of the ravine are intended to remind us of those who were here before us.

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I picked a good time to visit as the Indy was on and parts of Lakeshore Avenue were closed for the race.  I decided to park at Budapest Park and walk part of the Martin Goodman Trail to reach Ontario Place.  I used the Bruce Trail App to track my walk which came out to 10.4 kilometres.  By parking at Ontario Place you can explore the area with three or four kilometres worth of walking.   Be sure to make the walk along along the three sunken ships that is represented by the tail extending out into the lake on the map below.

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Having visited the park in 1972 or 1973 with my aunt and uncle, both of whom have passed on, I have fond memories of an Ontario Place that was vibrant and full of people.  It’s sad to see what has become of our waterfront park especially when there is no clear timeline for completion of the renovations.

As a parting thought, would you have wanted this job building the Cinesphere?

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Google Maps Link: Ontario Place

For additional places to explore visit our recent Greatest Treks 3 post.

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Rebel Rebel – William Lyon Mackenzie

Thursday, December 7, 2017

In the course of Hiking the GTA we have come across William Lyon Mackenzie several times.  December 7th, 2017 will be the 180th anniversary of the failure of his dream to overthrow British colonial rule.

Mackenzie was born near Dundee, Scotland on March 12, 1795.  William was born into the clan Mackenzie and both of his grandfathers had fought in the uprising of 1745 when the Scottish Highlanders fought unsuccessfully behind Prince Charles Stuart in an attempt to put a Scotish King back on the throne.  At the age of 25, he immigrated to Upper Canada and moved into the house pictured below in Queenston. On April 18, 1824, he planted 5 Honey Locust trees to mark the launch of his newspaper The Colonial Advocate.  Two of the trees survive and one is visible behind the chimney on the left.  The Colonial Advocate became a prime voice for the reform movement in Upper Canada and was highly critical of the ruling elect whom he berated with scathing personal attacks.

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Mackenzie moved to York (Toronto) in 1825 and continued to publish the Colonial Advocate.  It was so unpopular with the aristocracy that on June 8, 1826, several well-placed young men broke into his print shop and wrecked his printing press.  Then they carried his type down to the bay and threw it in.  This incident became known as the Types Riots and was used by Mackenzie to gain support for his reform movements.  The type in the picture below was photographed at the Mackenzie House Museum and is typical of what was thrown in the bay.  Capital letters were stored in the case on the top while small letters were stored in the case on the bottom.  From this, we derive the term upper case and lower case letters.

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Mackenzie was elected in 1831 and carried his reform attitude into the House of Assembly where it continued to get him in trouble.  He was expelled from the assembly 5 times between 1831 and 1834 but was re-elected every time.  York was incorporated as a city in 1834 and the name was changed to Toronto.  Elections were held to select the first mayor of the new city and Mackenzie won.  The following year he ran for the Assembly again and this time a majority of reformers were elected.  David Gibson was one of Mackenzie’s most consistent followers and was also elected.  Gibson was a surveyor and had named the town of Willowdale at modern Yonge and Shepherd.  His house was a common meeting place for Mackenzie and his rebels as they convinced themselves that the political process would never work and an open rebellion was required.  Gibson would later have a price put on his head for his part in the rebellion.  He would escape to the USA but his property was confiscated and the house and barns burned by the government in retaliation.  The current Gibson house was built upon his return in 1851 and operates as a museum hidden among the highrises of North York.

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Sir Francis Bond Head had moved the troops from Fort York to present day Quebec to put down the rebellion that was taking place in Lower Canada.  He didn’t think Mackenzie was capable of mounting an armed rebellion but he had dropped the word Colonial from his newspaper as the Advocate because he was no longer thinking in terms of being a colony.  The Draft Constitution for the Independent State of Upper Canada was presented at a meeting on November 18th, 1837 and a date of December 7th set for the uprising.  On December 4th Mackenzie arrived at Gibson’s house to find that Samual Lount had left Holland Landing with his supporters and was on his way to Montgomery’s Tavern, ahead of schedule.  This tavern was the second one on the site just north of Yonge and Eglinton and would have appeared as it did in this contemporary sketch of the death of Lt. Col. Robert Moodie.  Moodie had tried to force the rebel lines at the tavern on December 4th and when he drew his pistol he was met with four rifle shots and later died of his wounds.

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Meanwhile, John Powell, one of the ruling Family Compact, had attempted to kill Mackenzie but was captured when his gun misfired.  Mackenzie, along with his military leader Anthony Anderson, wanted to appear to be gentlemen and so they accepted Powell’s word that he was unarmed.  Powell later shot and killed Anderson and made his escape.  Anderson had military experience and his loss was critical for the rebels.  The following day Samuel Lount, Mackenzie and a detachment of men set out down Yonge Street.  Sheriff Willliam Jarvis and 27 men armed with muskets were hiding in William Sharpe’s garden (now the site of Maple Leaf Gardens).  That evening the Tory muskets fired into the darkness and the front row of rebels answered in kind.  They dropped to their knees so the men behind could fire over their heads but these militias thought their comrades were shot.  Once they fled the battle was over quickly but Lount had been captured.

By December 6th the rebel forces were discouraged and becoming outnumbered.  To prevent British support from arriving from Kingston or Lower Canada it was decided to burn the Queen Street bridge over the Don River.  Peter Matthews and 60 men set out to do this but they failed and Matthews was captured.   December 7th was revolution day and Mackenzie was determined to carry on.  He rallied his forces at Montgomery’s Tavern and prepared to march into the city.  However, Lieutenant Governor Bond Head had moved north with his cannon and opened fire.  When cannonballs started crashing through the tavern the rebels scattered.  Bond Head watched as the tavern was torched and Montgomery arrested.  The tavern was later replaced with another one that burned down in 1881.  The land was then sold to John Oulcott who built a three-story brick hotel.  It later served as the North Toronto post office from 1890 until it was torn down in the 1930’s.  Postal Station K was opened in 1936 and bears the inscription EviiiR for Edward viii, King of Canada.  Very few public buildings were erected during his 11-month reign and this is perhaps the only one in Toronto.  Today the old post office is being incorporated into a new condo tower.

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With the end of the rebellion came a period of retribution. Most of the rebels attempted to make their way to the United States. Mackenzie had a 1000 pound price on his head and so he made his way from farm to farm being hidden by his supporters.

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In all, 25 people were executed in Upper Canada following the rebellion.  Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews were the only two in Toronto, both of them at the Don Jail.  They were buried in the Potter’s Field at Yonge and Bloor where all hanged people were interred.  One hundred and fifty men were sentenced to banishment in Tasmania and Australia.  In February 1849 a general amnesty was granted and many started to return to Canada.  The picture below shows the Devil’s Cave where Mackenzie is said to have hidden during his flight to the States.

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Upon his return to Canada in 1849 he resumed his political life and went back to publishing his newspapers.  He was given the house at 82 Bond Street where he spent the remainder of his days.  The house was originally the middle of three townhouses that were built in 1858.  In 1936 the house was saved from demolition because of its historic value.  Mackenzie’s daughter married into the King family and when she had a son she named after her father.  William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister and the one that guided us through the Second World War.  He was in office at the time that the house was preserved.  Today it houses a museum and a print shop similar to the one that Mackenzie had when he lived in the house.

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William Lyon Mackenzie was instrumental in having the remains of Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews removed from their common grave in the potter’s field when that cemetery was closed.  They were reinterred at The Necropolis.  Mackenzie would be buried there himself when he passed away on August 28th, 1861 of an apoplectic seizure.

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The cover picture shows the memorial to Mackenzie that stands on the west side of Queens Park.  Before he passed away Mackenzie got to witness the establishment of a system of responsible government.  His life struggle had not been in vain.

Further reading:

The Firebrand – William Kilbourn contains Mackenzie’s own account of the rebellion.

1837 Rebellion A Tour Of Toronto and Nearby Places – Mark Frank has walking tours of the various points of interest.

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Mackenzie House

Sunday, October 22, 2017

William Lyon Mackenzie was a politician, publisher and rebel who became the first mayor of Toronto when the city was incorporated in 1834.  He had already been publishing his controversial Reform newspaper, The Colonial Advocate, for ten years at this time.  Frustrated, he concluded that the political process had failed him and so in December 1837, he led a rebellion to overthrow Upper Canada’s colonial rule, locally known as the Family Compact.  The rebellion failed and Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head placed a one thousand pound price on Mackenzie’s head.  William took his family and fled to the United States where he lived in exile until 1850.  Mackenzie was re-elected to the Legislature in 1851 where he served until 1858 when he retired from politics, but not from controversy or publishing.  His paper was then known as Mackenzie’s Toronto Weekly Message.  The picture below shows the July 16, 1859, issue.

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The picture below shows a carving of Mackenzie delivering his famous Seventh Report on Grievances to the Assembly.  This was his manifesto of all the changes he was demanding of the government.  It included three levels of government, all elected by the people, the abolishing of a state church and clergy reserves as well as giving the vote to women.

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Mackenzie House, seen in the cover photo was built in 1858 as the middle of three such townhomes.  It was given to Mackenzie in 1859 and he lived here until he died in 1861. The house has been serving as a museum since 1950 and has been decorated in the time period of the 1850’s to reflect what it would have been like when Mackenzie lived here.  Adults pay an entrance fee of $7.00 and more information can be found on their website.  The irons below are typical laundry tools of the period.  They were heated in the fire and then used to press the clothes after they had been hung to dry.

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In the winter the family would have spent much of its time in the basement as this was the warmest part of the house.  Both the kitchen and the dayroom had fireplaces in them and, naturally, only the rooms in use would have been heated.

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The master bedroom faces Bond Street and, unlike Colborne Lodge (built in the rebellion year of 1837), it had its own fireplace in the bedrooms.  Colborne Lodge, on the other hand, had an indoor washroom and so there was no need for the chamber pot under the bed, seen below.  There would have been an outhouse in the backyard of the Mackenzie house, likely about where the printing shop is located now.

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The house was built in an era when insulation was unheard of, with the possible exception of old newspapers stuffed in the walls.  Winter nights would have been very cold and the bed was heated up before you dared to slip into it.  The copper coloured pan on the long handle was warmed in the fire and slid between the sheets just before you crawled into bed.

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The second floor has two bedrooms and a box room which would have been used to store hat boxes and boxes of William’s printed materials and newspaper clippings.  This room had no fireplace but was likely used as a bedroom when their son George was living here.  The girls shared the bedroom at the back of the house, pictured below.  One of their daughters, Isabel, lived in this room until she married into the King family.  Her son William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister.  His actions during World War Two helped move Canada out of the shadow of Great Britain, something his grandfather was trying to do with his rebellion.

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One of the antiques in the print shop is known to have belonged to William and that is this case of printing type.  On June 8th, 1826 a group of young men who represented the Family Compact broke into Mackenzie’s print shop and smashed his printing press.  They took his cases of type and carted them down to the bay where they summarily deposited them.  This attempt to silence the constant criticism of the government that was printed in The Colonial Advocate became known as the Type Riots.  Mackenzie used this incident as a focal point to create anger over the abuses of those in power as he gathered support for his rebellion.

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Mackenzie didn’t usually set his own type, one of his apprentices would have done that.  The type that was used on his early newspapers was made from lead and print journeymen tended to have a very short lifespan due to lead poisoning.  The letters were laid out in the case so that letters that occur frequently beside each other are placed together in the tray.  Originally, capital letters were stored in the upper case and small letters were kept in the lower case.  From this practice, we derive the terms upper and lower case letters.  A good typesetter would be capable of 22 words per minute.

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This press is similar to the one that Mackenzie would have used during the later years of publishing.

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Mackenzie House is open 7 days a week as a museum and if you take the print shop tour you can operate the printing press yourself.

Google Maps Link: Mackenzie House

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The Necropolis

Sunday, March 19, 2017

In the early years of the Town of York there were only a few places to bury the dead.  The Military Burying Grounds or your local church cemetery.  If you weren’t affiliated with one of these, were insane or a criminal, you would have a problem.  The need for a common public cemetery became an issue that reformers took up. William Lyon Mackenzie used his newspaper, the Colonial Advocate in Dec. 1825 to call for the creation of a city cemetery for York.  $300 was raised through public donation with no donation over $1 being accepted.  The first burial in the new cemetery took place on July 18, 1826.  The cemetery took on the name of the Potter’s Field and within 25 years it was getting full with 6,700 burials having taken place.  The problem became that the location on the north-west corner of Yonge and Bloor was no longer in the bushes outside of town. The land was now prime space for development and the cemetery was closed with the intention of moving all the remains to either Mount Hope Cemetery or the newly opened Toronto Necropolis. The word Necropolis is Greek for “city of the dead”.

The Necropolis opened in 1850 on 18.25 acres of land beside Riverdale Farm where there is free parking on Winchester Street.  It became a new public cemetery and to date has taken in over 50,000 bodies.  The buildings were designed in 1872 in the Gothic Revival style. When the crematorium was added in 1933 it was the first one in Ontario.  Many of Toronto’s prominent citizens are interred at the Necropolis and together their stories bring life to the place.

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When the Rebellion of 1837 was over, several people were arrested and charged with treason.  Samuel Lount was a blacksmith who had served a term on the council for the Province of Canada.  When his friend William Lyon Mackenzie was putting together followers for his rebellion against the Family Compact he recruited Samuel Lount to help. Peter Matthews had served in the war of 1812 under Sir Isaac Brock and he too was enticed to join the rebellion.  With the failure of the rebellion, the authorities decided to make an example out of Lount and Matthews.  They were both convicted of treason and in spite of 35,000 signatures requesting clemency, they were hanged on April 12, 1838.  Having died as criminals they were denied burial in Christian cemeteries and were placed in the Potter’s Field with a common marker.  Theirs were two of the bodies that were moved to the necropolis.

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William Lyon Mackenzie was born in 1795 and was a Canadian politician and journalist known for his leadership in the reform movement in Canada.  Aside from his Colonial Advocate, Mackenzie also got involved in politics becoming Toronto’s first Mayor in 1834. By 1837 Mackenzie was getting anxious for reform and started an open rebellion.  Starting from Montgomery’s Tavern near Yonge and Eglinton on Dec. 5th he planned to march into Toronto and take over the Bank of Canada.  The rebels failed and many were arrested. Mackenzie went into exile in the United States until 1849 when he came back to Canada. He died in 1861 and was buried in the public cemetery that he had advocated for.

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Following the War of 1812, there was an ongoing fear that another conflict with the United States was possible.  A series of cross-border raids by Fenian supporters thinking to conquer Canada and hold it ransom in exchange for a free Ireland led to a movement to unify the British North American Colonies for their common defence.  Buried in the Necropolis is William Tempest who died in 1866 in the Battle of Ridegway.

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George Brown was born in 1818 and moved to Toronto in 1843.  The next year he began to publish his reform newspaper The Globe.  It became the Globe and Mail in 1936 and today is one of the city’s largest newspapers.  Brown was also a prominent politician who was instrumental in Canadian Confederation.  He participated in both The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences in 1864 and in 1867 was one of the Father’s of Confederation.  He ran in the first general election in Canada but lost to Sir. John A. Macdonald.  Brown retired to his publishing industry until his death in 1880.  A dismissed employee came into his office and during a struggle, shot Brown in the leg.  He later died from an associated infection.

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Edward (Ned) Hanlan was raised on Toronto Island and as a schoolboy, he would row himself across the harbour each day to and from school.  Hanlan became a professional sculler in 1874 and by 1877 had won the Canadian Championship.  He took the American and English titles in 1878 and 1879 respectively.  These victories led Ned to try for the world championship in 1880 which he won easily.  This made Ned Hanlan the first Canadian athlete to win a world championship and gain international attention.  Ned held the world championship for five years between 1880 and 1885.

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The Hanlan family had arrived on the island in 1862 as one of the first permanent residents.  When a violent storm hit in 1865 their house was washed into the water where it floated to Gibraltar Point.  The family just re-established themselves and began to put together an amusement park.  In 1878 John Hanlan built a large hotel on the west tip of the island looking north toward the city.  This end of the island soon came to be known as Hanlan’s Point.

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When the World Trade Centre was destroyed and The Pentagon attacked on September 11, 2001, the President Of The United States declared war on terror. As early as October 2001 military personnel were secretly deployed in Afghanistan.  Canada deployed more troops on an official mission in January 2002.  On the night of April 17, 2002, the Canadian forces were conducting exercises on Tarnak Farm near Kandahar when an American bomber mistook their practices for an attack and dropped a laser-guided 500-pound bomb on the Canadians.  Four men were killed including Ainsworth Dyer.  They were the first Canadians killed in combat since the Korean War.

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The cemetery is still taking new burials and one of the more recent is of Canadian medal and coin designer Dora de Pedery Hunt.  Dora was born in Budapest in 1913 and completed her studies in sculpture in 1943.  Arriving in Canada she took a job as a housekeeper to support herself.  After getting a job teaching sculpture she was able to devote her time and talents to designing medals and coins.  Her designs for some of the 1976 Olympic Coins brought her to international fame.

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Beginning in 1990 Dora de Pedery Hunt’s design for the Queen began to be used on Canadian Coins.  She was the first Canadian to design an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II for a coin in Canada.

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The Necropolis contains the remains of those who are remembered for a legacy that is recorded in the history books.  Among them lie the remains of those whose stories are only remembered by their families, or perhaps not at all.  The stones tell a story of infant mortality and death in childbirth.  Cholera and Spanish Flu epidemics have also taken their victims.  The stone below is an example of tragedy striking a family.  Hannah Horsman passed away 6 days after giving birth to a son named Albert.  The unfortunate little boy didn’t survive his first year.

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50,000 people are laid to rest in the Necropolis and each one of them has their own story to tell.  These are just a few of them.

Google Maps Link: The Necropolis

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Ball’s Falls

Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016

Ball’s Falls is a quick drive down the QEW toward St. Catherines.  In the mid-1800’s it was a major industrial centre and a hub for the region.  By the late 1800’s most of it was gone and the commercial activity had moved off the escarpment and closer to the lake.

George and John Ball were living near Albany New York in the 1770’s with their families operating a potash business.  Many settlers in that area produced potash by burning the wood on their property and then running water through the ashes repeatedly.  This ash was then boiled down in a pot until a potassium rich fertilizer was created.  When the American War of Independence broke out the Ball brothers fought on the side of the British.  At the end of the war in 1783 they fled to Niagara and took up land as United Empire Loyalists.  Their land on the Niagara Escarpment was an easy source of limestone and they operated several kilns on the property to produce lime.  One of the kilns closest to the house is being preserved.  A roof has been erected over the top of this draw kiln where at one time the chunks of limestone were poured into the top of the kiln.  The fire was kept hot from below until the rock was broken down.  The entrance to the oven is also being supported and inside the kiln the brick lining is starting to cave in.

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The first job of a settler was to secure a place to spend the winter.  Clearing the forest provided the logs to build the first family home.  Having a permanent dwelling was also a requirement for gaining the full patent on the land.  A house similar to the original Ball home is now being used to display the typical lifestyle of a settler and a spinning wheel can be seen through the window.

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By 1809 a grist mill had been set up to grind flour for the local farmers.  The building had four floors and George Ball was listed as the miller.  During the War of 1812, the American forces made several advances into Upper Canada but had to keep retreating.  When they did they would try to burn the mills along the way, as was done with John Burch’s mill at Niagara Falls.  To protect the food supplies of the British Military, and the local population, the army decided to station troops at Ball’s mill to ensure that it wouldn’t be destroyed.  As a result, the mill played a critical role in supporting the war effort.

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The mill was expanded in the 1840’s to include another run of stones.  Twenty Mile Creek was dammed above the lower falls to create a steady flow of water to operate the mill. Water was brought to the mill, in the background of the picture below, via the raceway which ran through the opening in the rock wall.  The large water wheel is still in place in the mill. After turning the wheel the water poured out through the back of the mill and dropped down the ravine face to the creek below.

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In 1816 they built a sawmill close the lower falls.  There was plenty of timber in the area and many local bridges were made with lumber sawn at the Ball’s sawmill.  In the early 1900’s the local supply of timber was exhausted and the sawmill closed.  The lower falls can be seen in the cover photo and they are classified as a classic waterfall because the width and height are about equal at 27 metres.  In the picture below, taken at the crest of the falls, you can see the walls of the gorge that the falls have cut over the years.  This waterfall exposes the upper layers of the Niagara Escarpment.  The top, darker layer, is the capstone of the escarpment known as the Lockport Formation.  Below that is the softer shale layers of the grey and red sandstone known as Thorold and Grimsby respectively.

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In 1824 they further expanded by adding a wool mill to their holdings.  Built onto a 60 foot bluff overlooking the creek it was placed 1/4 mile upstream near the Upper Falls.  The mill housed 8 looms that produced cloth and yarn.  It was run by water diverted from above the falls.  Due to the gradient of the land no dam was required to keep the mill operating. The archive photo below shows what the mill looked like during its years of operation.

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The mill is long gone but there is still one wall and a window frame nestled into a crevice overlooking the ravine.

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The upper falls are classified as a curtain falls because the width is greater than the height. The falls are 11 metres high.

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To the left of the falls in the picture above is a section of rock where the water is pouring out between layers of harder dolostone and softer limestone.  This is a type of karst activity that results from carbon dioxide mixing with rainwater.  This creates a weak form of carbonic acid which can erode the limestone.  Over time, the water has cut channels between the layers of rock where it flows out near the falls.

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As the Balls became more established they built the home which still stands close to the grist mill and adjacent to the lower falls.

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In the 1840’s there were several homes added to the community as well as a boarding house for the mill workers.  All communities needed a place of worship and a little church was added for the spiritual welfare of the residents.

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As the population grew it started to attract other tradesmen including a butcher, a cooper, a tailor, a bookmaker and a blacksmith.  In 1849 George P. M. Ball, the son, had a plan drawn up for a subdivision for a community to be called Glen Elgin. However, the community had already reached its peak and the plan was never implemented.  Two main factors led to the demise of Ball’s Falls.  The opening of the Welland Canal helped to prosper the communities closest to it.  Roads and railways ran along the strip of land between the escarpment and the lake and the area declined in importance.  By 1883 when George Sr. passed away only the grist mill remained in operation.  Within 5 years most of the buildings had been dismantled and sold for materials.  In 1910 the grist mill closed and the town was gone.  The blacksmith shop is seen below.

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In 1962 The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority purchased the property and it is currently managed as Ball’s Falls Conservation Area.  Some of the buildings at Ball’s Falls have been moved there from other locations to recreate the scene of the typical community.  There are three marked trails in the park as well as The Bruce Trail which runs beside the lower falls.  Twenty Mile Creek is prone to drying up in the summer so plan to visit in spring or after a good rain storm or snow melt.

Google Maps Link: Ball’s Falls Conservation Area

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