Category Archives: Humber River

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.

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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.

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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.

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The outer south east corner of the foundation wall.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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