Category Archives: Humber River

Summerlea Park

Saturday July 12, 2014

It was another in a string of warm and sunny Saturdays.  It wasn’t very long before we were feeling the effects of the heat and humidity.  The Humber river has a west branch which meets up with the main river in Summerlea park.  We parked both vehicles here and took a brief excursion to the confluence of the two.  The water was high and dirty.


There is a stretch of rocky shoreline here where we found two excellent examples of Crinoid fossils.  Crinoids are marine animals of which about 600 species exist today.  They have a mouth surrounded by feeding arms.  The arms have a mucous that captures food particles as they float past.  The picture below is a species that lives near Indonesia today.


The two crinoid examples below are the best we have seen so far.  The segments of the feeding arms have been particularily well preserved.


We also found a very small piece of pottery about the right size to hold a small candle.


We left one vehicle parked here and moved to the corner of Finch and Islington where we parked the other in Irene Risk Park.  We wanted to look for Rowntree Mills after which the park on the east side of the Humber, just north of here, is named.  We didn’t find the mill because we got side tracked and actually never looked for it.  Along the side of the ravine there is a deep set of woods with multiple steel artifacts.  As we wondered through here we saw deer in front of us. We followed their trail and ended up on the side of the hill again.

Dairy farmers used to sell their milk to local creameries and cheese factories.  They collected the milk in 17 gallon milk churns which were left on a platform at the end of the laneway.  In the 1930’s a smaller 10 gallon churn was introduced.  Creameries collected the milk and packaged it in glass bottles which were delivered directly to the home well into the 1950’s. With the improvement in processing and delivery of dairy products a lot of smaller dairy operations were bought out and closed.   A 1925 list of cheese factories and creameries in Canada lists 1600 in Ontario alone.  By 1998 there were only 270 in all of Canada.  We found the old milk churn in the cover photo which was imprinted with “Canada Dairy” “Oakland” “Toronto”.  In the 1925 directory Oakland Dairy Limited is listed as registration #419 at 108 Nassau Street, near Spadina and College.


It seems like every week we are finding parts of old washing machines.  This is the wringer hood from a Kenmore Visi-Matic wringer washer.  Kenmore was the store brand sold by Sears.  Like the Thor and General Electric we found earlier, this one is from the 1950’s. There doesn’t appear to be a good reason for so many washing machines to be spread out along the Humber River valley.  Jim Gifford in his book “Hurricane Hazel” published a photograph of a washing machine that had been swept out of a home and deposited along the flood plain.  While that may explain the Thor machine, the GE and Kenmore were found well up the side of the ravine.


This washing machine sold for $149.95 in 1954.

Fall 1954 944_96

The side of the ravines in Toronto are strewn with old bricks.  Some of them have a story to tell.  In 1913 the Ontario Government found clay and shale deposits on land it owned in Mimico and opened the Toronto Brick and Tile Company using labour from the Toronto Central Prison which had opened in 1874.  The plant could produce over 2 million bricks per year which were used on government buildings providing a cheap source of construction materials.  During WWII the site was converted into POW Camp 22 and housed German marines and U-boat men.  In 1969 it was closed after pressure from labour unions claiming the factory was taking jobs away from their members.  The Mimico brick below was either made by a prison inmate or a prisoner of war.


As we made our way south along the hillside we got boxed in between two fences.  There is a large assortment of old metal objects along here including an old bbq, an engine, old oil containers and car horn.  We also found an old bottle from the late 1860’s or 1870’s. Bottles from this era are dated by the seam on the side.  On this one the seam only extends to the bottom of the neck and the lip on the top was added later.


It looks like Rowntree Mills will have to wait for another day.


Pine Point Park

Saturday July 5, 2014

We parked in the Pine Point arena parking lot and walked down the hill to the river. During the winter months the long steep run makes this one of the best toboggan hills in the city.  It was 19 degrees and sunny when we set out.  The trail runs under the 401 into a small park that extends to the Weston Golf and Country Club.

Crawford-Jones Memorial Park is named after Jim Crawford and Herb Jones.  Jim Crawford was a police officer and Herb Jones a contractor in 1954.  On the night of Hurricane Hazel they took a small boat along the Humber River and rescued dozens of people stranded in their homes.  The picture below is taken from the park on the east side of the river looking at the stack on the steam plant on Resources Road.  There is a spiral staircase running up the outside of the tower.


Along the edge of the river we saw a couple of dead Crayfish.  Crayfish are fresh water lobsters and live in places where the water does not freeze to the bottom in the winter.   They don’t tolerate polluted water which suggests that the Humber is pretty clean these days.  This was a larger specimen, about 10 cm long, but is missing one claw.


Most of the parks we hike have evidence of a local coyote but we rarely see one.  Coyotes are related to the wolf and have become very successful in urban areas.  Coyotes hunt a variety of small animals and will even eat a crayfish if the opportunity presents itself.  The tracks below were found along the edge of the river.


North of the 401 we followed the embankment on the side of the ravine.  This area is known as Pine Point Park.  Part way along we found a 1963 Pepsi bottle in an area where a lot of old bricks had been dumped.  Among several manufacturers we found Milton Bricks.  In 1877 when the Credit Valley Railway passed through the area of Milton they found a lot of clay and shale. Lot 1 Concession 1 of Esquesing Township belonged to Duncan Robertson and a large amount of Medina Shale was found here.  His son, David, started Milton Pressed Brick and Sewer Company.  Their bricks were pressed before baking and were a much higher quality brick than much of their competition.  By 1901 they were considered to be the best bricks available on the continent.  They employed 200 people at their peak but closed in 1974.  Ontario is unique in the large amount of it’s buildings which are made of bricks. In 1931 27% of Ontario buildings were built of brick while only 6% of Quebec buildings were and 2% or less in other provinces.  Ontario was rich in clay and had a huge export market for lumber which led to this trend in construction in the province.


By the early 1900’s Milton Brick was publishing a catalog of beautiful brick fireplace designs that could be ordered.









A little further along we found the half buried artifact that is in the cover photo.  We excavated enough to determine that it is an old hand crank broadcast seed spreader.  It is rusted right through and likely dates to the 1930’s.


As we were starting downhill to make our way back we found and old set of wooden stairs on the side of the hill.  Beside here in the little ravine we found the wringer from an old General Electric washing machine. Edison General Electric Company was founded in 1889 by American inventor Thomas Edison.  Edison is credited with inventing the long lasting light bulb, phonographs and the motion picture camera among his 1,093 patents.  This washing machine likely dates from the 1940’s or early 1950’s.  Clothes would have been taken out of the washer and pressed between the two rollers to squeeze the water out of them.  This machine had a quick release handle, seen open on the right hand end, to let you get your hand out when it got caught in the rollers.  Earlier versions didn’t have this safety feature and were nick-named “manglers” for obvious reasons.


The hillside trails are fully overgrown and its quite possible to walk within a few feet of something interesting and never see it.  The woods and fields are full of colour and purple is now prominent.  Asters, thistles, bellflowers and violets abound.



St. John’s Cemetery On The Humber

Saturday June 21, 2014

Summer officially started at 6:51 am.  So we did too!  It was a beautiful morning.  As I arrived on Emmett Road I saw a white tailed deer walk off of the soccer field (World Cup fever has taken over everywhere) and cross the road right in front of me.  She stopped and waited until I had my camera almost ready before disappearing into the woods.  We parked in the parking lot on Emmett and entered the woods on the east side of the river. This property was originally granted to John Dennis who died in 1832 in Toronto’s cholera epidemic.  His grandson, Henry Dennis, ran a saw mill on this site after 1851 but we saw no traces of it.

We walked north along the east side of the river planning to cover lots 1 through 5 between Eglinton and Lawrence Ave.  A tall smoke stack on the eastern hill marks the site of West Park Healthcare Centre.  It was opened in 1904 as the Toronto Free Hospital For Consumptive Poor.  Consumption is an older term for Tuberculosis or TB.  The hospital was generally known as Weston Sanitorium or “The San”.  The first effective treatment for TB was Streptomycin in the mid-1940’s.  It was given by injection or intravenous and became the cure for “the white plague”.

Close to the river, near the old hospital there is a large area of bottles in the woods.  There are dozens of little medication bottles for injections.  The smallest one in the middle of the picture below is dated 1948 and the slightly larger one on the right is 1945.  I have seen many medicine bottles shaped like the long rectangular bottle but none of them curved at the bottom like this one. It has HSP for hospital imprinted on the bottom and the shape may be for hanging it for IV purposes.  Glass containers were first used in the mid 1940’s for IV and were initially packed by the hospital pharmacy as this one likely was. Later, they were packed by major companies and then plastic replaced glass containers in the 1970’s.  Any or all of these three bottles could have contained Streptomycin for treating the TB patients in the hospital.


In the woods between the bottles and the hospital on the hill lie the remains of some old buildings from the farmstead on the former John Dennis property.  John Dennis was a United Empire Loyalist and it was 40 acres of his property on which the hospital was built. The picture below is the front entrance porch for the house.


A few feet away there are several of these long cement structures which appear to be part of the fence line.


This is a view from 1962 in which the house can be seen on the right with it’s little square front entrance porch and the fence line near the bottom.

Weston 1962

Along the water’s edge we found many fossils including Crinoids and this Brachiopod fossil.


As you walk along the east side of the river you will come to a larger water fall.  The east wall extends all the way from the river to the base of the ravine.  If you climb the ravine on the trail at the end of this wall you will find St. John’s Cemetery On the Humber.

John Denison came to York (Toronto) in 1796 and lived with Governor Simcoe at Castle Frank which was the first dwelling built by a white man in York.  In 1798 he purchased lots 3 and 4 on the Humber river.  The Denison men established themselves by serving in the war of 1812 and the rebellion of 1837.

While living in York, John had lost his infant daughter Elizabeth.  She was buried in the garden at Castle Frank because there was no burial ground in the town of York.  When he established himself on the Humber he had her moved to a plot of ground overlooking the river.  Elizabeth’s untimely death accounted for what surely must have been one of the first modern burials in Toronto. This cemetery is still in service and has been used exclusively for family members related to John Denison and the family of his wife Sophia Taylor.


John and Sophia Denison are buried beside their daughter.


In 1930 a chapel was erected by the Denison family in memory of George Taylor Denison (1816-1873).  The grounds crew gave us a rare opportunity for someone other than family to see inside the chapel.


The smoke stack from the Sanitorium as seen from the Eglinton Street bridge.


Google Maps Link: West Park Health Centre

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Raymore Drive

Saturday June 14, 2014

We parked on Emmett Ave and crossed the Humber on Eglinton.  On the west bank stands a memorial to the Ukrainian Canadian War Heroes and we descended to the river level near there.  Following the hillside between here and where the Humber Creek meets the Humber River is difficult and we alternated between hillside and river side.

Whitetail Deer mate (rut) in late October or early November and give birth to up to three fawns in late May or early June.  Along the way we found a spot where a fawn, only a few weeks old, had been down to the river to drink.


By comparison, the foot prints of an adult deer are about three times the size of the toonie. The foot prints in the picture below were found on one of the baseball diamonds in the park where the deer was apparently thrown out at second base.


The first electric washing machine was the 1907 Thor machine built by a Chicago company called Hurley.  The first washing machine to use a drum, replacing the ancient washboard, was patented in 1851.  It was powered by a hand crank.  To remove water from the clothes after washing, a pair of rollers called a wringer or mangler were used to squeeze the excess water out.

We found an old washing machine likely from the mid-1940’s manufactured by Thor Canadian Co. Ltd. Toronto.  The aluminum pole in the centre held the drum and the rusted steel pole held the wringers.


The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) was created in 1944 from The Canadian Engineering Standards Association.  In 1946 they introduced the CSA logo.  This name plate says CSA but lacks the logo.  That, along with it’s low CSA approval number (520), suggests that it is from 1944 or 1945.

Thor Canada

We came across an extensive race track built through the trees for remote control cars.  It appears to have been abandoned recently.


When Ontario was surveyed for settlement it was frequently laid out in 1000 acre square sections with a road allowance along all 4 sides.  The north/south roads were called lines and the east/west ones called side roads or concessions.  Within, the parcels of land would usually be divided into 5 land grants of 200 acres each.  Five lots ran north between side roads and extended between the two lines.  In York Township, Eglinton Avenue was known as Base Line and the lot on it’s north side was known as lot one.  Lawrence Avenue ran along the north side of lot five and was known as 5th side road.  Other side roads going north were Wilson/York Mills (10th SR), Sheppard (15th SR), Finch (20th SR) and Steeles (25th SR).  So York Township had 25 lots between Eglinton and Steeles.  Going west the lines were Bathurst (1st Line West), Dufferin (2nd Line), Keele (3rd Line), Jane (4th line) and Weston (5th line).  This grid is lost in the maze of the city but is still very evident in rural Ontario where there are often 5 grand old Victorian homes between the side roads marking out the original lots.

In the historical atlas example below we see the Etobicoke side of the Humber River.  Just above Lambton Mills is a road marked A, B, C.  That is the Base Line (Eglinton) and the five lots we hiked on are owned by Anderson, Stonehouse, Thompson and Pearson in the County Atlas from the 1880’s.  The road that runs along the top of Pearson’s property is the 5th side road (Lawrence)


We were hiking between the 4th and 5th lines on lots 1 through 5.  A surveyor’s stake lets us know that we are moving off lot two onto lot three.


Raymore Drive is on lots 4 and 5 which was owned by the Scarlett family until the 1850’s. When Hurricane Hazel hit on October 15, 1954 Raymore Drive was home to a subdivision along a curve in the river.  A footbridge crossed the river just upstream of the community and when the water level in the Humber rose by 20 feet it swept it off of one abutment swinging it out into the river. This caused the water in the river as well as a lot of debris to be re-directed onto the area of Raymore Drive.  14 homes were washed away, many with their occupants still inside.  Of the 81 people who lost their lives in the storm, 35 of them lived on Raymore Drive.  The cover photo shows the street on the morning after the storm.

The footbridge abutment was thrown up on the east side of the river.  The second abutment still stands on the middle of the river where it was washed by the flood.


Raymore Drive as it appears today with new growth trees where rows of houses once stood.


Raymore Drive as seen in this before and after comparison.  In the 1953 photo there are two streets of houses tucked inside the curve of the river.  The footbridge is seen crossing the river on an angle.  In the 1955 picture the area has been swept clean.

Raymore Drive before and after Hurricane Hazel

The Yellow Iris is native to Europe and parts of Asia but in Canada it is considered to be an invasive species.  It was first identified in 1911 in Newfoundland and in 1940 in Ontario.  It grows in wetland areas but it’s dense mats of leaves tend to cause the marshes to dry up reducing native habitat.



Google Maps Link: Raymore Drive

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Millwood Mills

Saturday June 7, 2014

It was a sunny and warm day.    We parked in the Home Smith Park parking lot at the west end of the Old Dundas street bridge.  We don’t normally go searching for anything specific when we hike but today was an exception.  While researching John Scarlett and Scarlett Mills last week I learned about a friend of his named Thomas Fisher and the mill he built on the Humber just below Lambton Mills.  So we set out to see what legacy of Thomas Fisher remained.

Thomas Fisher came to York in 1821 and in 1822 he leased the King’s Mill (Old Mill).  Under Fisher it prospered and expanded and he bought it from the government in 1834.  In 1835 he sold it and moved a little north to his own lot where there was an excellent mill site about half a km below Dundas street.

The parking lot is just above the west bridge abutment from the Old Dundas Street bridge. In the picture below an entire section of the bridge abutment and roadway is washed out by the flood waters after Hurricane Hazel swept through.

Old Dundas Street bridge after hazel

The old abutment has been revealed at the left of the picture now that the new retaining wall has collapsed into the river.


The first Millwood grist mill was a two story wooden mill and it burned down in 1847. Fisher replaced it with a five story mill.  The lower two floors were made of stone and the upper three of wood.  The mill had three runs of stones and ground wheat, oats and corn. Fisher built Millwood House on the top of the embankment above the mill.  He also built stables, a store and living quarters as well as an access road to the hill top.  In 1880 Millwood became Lambton Woolen Mills and was converted to steam power.  It burned down and was abandoned around 1900.

We followed the river looking for evidence of the old mill.   We found no trace of it and concluded that it must have been removed when the park was developed.  We followed the animal trail along the top of the hill looking for the access roadway that would have linked the mill with the house up top.

Along the side of the hill we found this big pipe sticking out of the ground with a large tree growing over it.  It is likely related to the steam operations at the mill.


Below this pipe we able to see the clear outline of a curved stream bed.  Thinking this could be the mill race from the old mill we descended the hill.  A mill race is a diversion stream from the mill pond where the miller can control the flow of water over the mill wheel.  When we reached the bottom we found the 166 year old foundations of Millwood Mill hiding in the trees near the modern washroom facility.

The outline of the old mill, which was 40 feet by 45 feet, is clearly visible as all four corners of the building can be easily located.


The outer south east corner of the foundation wall.


In the mid-1950’s there were still partial walls standing at the site of the old mill as can be seen in this archive photograph.

Millwood Mill 1954

We followed the ravine on the back side of the mill race and found a flat roadway, wide enough for a horse and cart, leading slowly up the side of the hill.  This appears to have been Fisher’s roadway between his home and the mill.

Having explored here we returned to the Dundas street bridge and went north on the west side of the river.  Just north of the new bridge we found the curved wall of earth that marks the retaining wall from the old mill pond for Lambton Mills.  It appears as the straight line in the middle of this picture and is quite an extensive earthen work.


Farther along this embankment we found a lot of old garbage.  There was a food bottle from 1948 and the bottom of a 1952 Pepsi bottle.  This 1964 licence plate from New Brunswick seems to be rather far away from home.


Later we found the neck of a Caufield Dairy bottle.  Caufield dairy was a local dairy operated off of a farm in the Albion and Weston road area.  The farm was sold to developers in the 1950’s.

This view is the Humber River from the new Dundas street bridge looking south toward Lambton Mills.  The first water fall in the picture is the site of the old Dundas Street Bridge and was where Cooper located his mills on either side of the river.


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Scarlett Mills

Sat. May 31, 2014

We parked off of Emmett Road and crossed the bridge to hike south along the west side of the river.  The morning was warm at 20 C and sunny.  We descended to the river bank alongside of the Eglinton bridge.  Suddenly we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes which was the first time this year.  What a difference a week makes.  A coating of bug spray and we were on our way.  From the bridge we had seen that the water was low and that there was a good chance of making our way right along the edge of the river.  If you chose to do this, be very careful as some of the rocks move or may be slippery.

The section of the Humber which lies north of Lambton Mills and below Eglinton was owned primarily by John Scarlett.  Arriving in 1809 to purchase a mill site and 33 acres of land, John was able to accumulate 1000 acres, or about 10 land grants, by 1815.  In 1820 he bought the road that ran through his property and renamed it Scarlett Road and so it continues to be known today.

John ran mill sites on both sides of the river where Scarlett road crosses the Humber.  Around the mill sites there grew up a community where John also operated a distillery. Today a small waterfall running in a straight line across the river, a little downstream, shows the site of the old mill dam.  Much of the former Scarlett property was deemed high risk for flooding following the disaster of Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and the land was bought up and turned into Scarlett Mills Park.

The old Scarlett Mills dam as seen from Google Earth.

Scarlett Mills Dam

Following the river it wasn’t long before we came across this item that looked like it had been buried for a long time.  Perhaps it was uncovered in last summer’s flash flooding of July 8, 2013.  It appears to be quite old but it’s function has not been determined.  There are 4 sets of bolts holding something made of wood together.


A little further along we found this old brick storm drain.  There is a newer drain just above it on the hillside which dates to after 1954 because it reads “Metropolitan Toronto” which was formed in that year.


By walking the riverbed we discovered this Crinoid fossil.  Claimed ages for  these marine animals range back to 350 million years ago, but they still exist in today’s oceans.


Keeping to the river’s edge we saw four families of Canada Geese herding about 25 of this spring’s little ones along the river.


We found an early example of a Fanta bottle.  Fanta soft drinks were developed in Germany during  the second world war because the Coca-Cola factory there was under embargo from the USA and needed a product for the home market that could be made with local ingredients.  After the war, Coke retained control of the rights and brought the product to North America.  This bottle from 1952 has the logo on the main body of the bottle as well as the neck.  Most bottles I could find on line only have the logo on the neck.


Along the way we found a vintage 1950’s school desk sitting in the woods.  This gives getting kicked out of class a whole new meaning.


On the east side of the river there are two golf courses on former Scarlett property making hiking on that side of the river impossible.  Just north of Dundas is the Lambton Golf Course which was started in 1902.  This site was the former location of the Simcoe Chase Course which was one of the City of York’s earliest horse race tracks.  It lasted until around 1842.  Between there and Eglinton is the Scarlett Woods Golf Course which opened July 1, 1974.

We had hoped to reach Dundas street and close the loop to Lambton Mills but time ran out and we shall have to save that part of the journey for another day.


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