Category Archives: Mills

Tyrone Mill

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Tyrone mill is the last surviving, commercially operated, water powered mill in the GTA, and one of very few in all of Ontario. The village was founded around 1828 although records of it’s beginning are unclear. At one time the settlement was split with the English living on the eastern end in a community named Mount Hope while Irish settled on the western end in Tyrone. In 1840 the two ends decided to have a cricket match to see what the town would be called. The western side won and the town became known as Tyrone. The county atlas below shows the narrow town stretched out along the side road with no side streets. The road no longer goes around the mill pond and continues north and although it has been closed for decades it can still be traced on Google Earth.

The mill dates back to 1846 when James McFeeters and John Gray built a dam on Bowmanville Creek and erected a grist mill. The mill operated under different owners until 1908 when milling grain became unprofitable and the mill was converted to preparing feed stock. Even this operation didn’t last and by the late 1970’s the mill was once again in danger of closing permanently. It was purchased by Bob Shafer who decided to operate it as a water powered saw and grist mill and cater to those with a sense of the historic. It has now become a popular destination in the GTA where a short drive that can take you back into the pioneer lifestyle of the past.

Today the mill operates on the power supplied by a water wheel but in the past it has been supplied by a turbine. Parts of that turbine are now on display outside the mill.

The entrance to the mill still has an old bell which was once operated by a string that runs into the building to alert the owners that someone was entering. They could have been anywhere around the mill but would come to take care of their customers.

It also has its own small blacksmith shop and in the early days Abraham Younie operated a barrel shop that served the export trade of the grist mill. Younie owned property on the east end of town and later opened a stave factory to make the wooden parts for his cooper shop to turn into flour barrels.

Inside the mill there is a store tucked around all of the original mill structure. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions I was unable to see the full extent of the mill and its workings. The side of the store with the baker in it was closed off but baked goods could still be purchased, including fresh baked bread. One of the specialties of the mill bakery is home-made doughnuts and I was able to get some that were still slightly warm. Rolled in cinnamon and sugar these were the closest thing to the ones my great-grandmother used to make for us when we visited as children.

The blacksmith shop in Tryone was erected by a local mason named Richard Treneuth who is credited with several other stone buildings in the area. The blacksmith shop was built in 1860 for George Emmerson. The shop then passed to his apprentice Robert McCullough who operated it from 1895 to 1950.

Byam’s General Store stands across the street from the blacksmith shop. It occupies the site of a former hotel. The previous hotel was complete with a number of horse sheds in the back that have been replaced with lawn and trees.

Prior to 1860 the children in town had to walk two miles to get to their classes in either school section 10 or 13. Then a school was erected in town that took in parts of each of these school sections and created a new one. Then in 1892 the town built a beautiful brick school house, complete with a bell tower, on the site of the earlier school.

Across the street from the Methodist Church stands Tyrone Community Hall which was erected in 1925.

Methodist preachers traveled throughout the communities in Upper Canada and founded churches in almost every one of them. A small church had been built in the 1830’s but within a decade it was too small and was replaced with a new building in 1844. By 1868 this was also too small and was replaced with the present building which now houses the United Church.

John Gray owned the only stone house in the early town. He was one of the original settlers in the area, having arrived in 1810.

This house is a surviving example of the Georgian Style which was popular for many of the earliest homes in Upper Canada. This house was built by Samuel Bingham but was occupied by Samuel Younie for many years.

Tyrone Mill is a place that I will be visiting again to get a better look around when I can go upstairs to see the saw mill in operation and perhaps enjoy the added bonus of the excellent bakery.

Google Maps Link: Tyrone

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Goldie Mill Guelph

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Goldie’s Mill ruins in Guelph are part of a legacy that goes back to 1827 when David Gilkison built a sawmill on this site beside the Speed River.  Two doctors built a grist mill named Wellington Mills in 1845 but W. Clark and H. Orton lost their mill to a fire just five years later.  The mill was rebuilt in stone and given a new name, The People’s Mills.  After this new building burned in 1864 the land was bought by James Goldie.  He expanded the mill and completed a new stone building in 1866.  The Wellington Archives post card below shows the mill as it appeared in the early 1890’s.

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The Goldie family continued to operate and expand the mills until 1918 when they sold the operation.  It continued as a mill until the spring of 1929 when a flood washed out the dam.  The building was once again destroyed by fire in 1953 and has been left as a ruin ever since.  The picture below shows part of one wall.  The limestone that was used in the construction was all quarried and dressed on the site.  The masonry around the windows is quite impressive.

 

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Over the years the site added a cooperage to make barrels to ship the ground flour in as Goldie’s Mill became one of the primary producers in the area.  James Goldie was well respected and even served as the President of the Canadian Millers’ Association.  A foundry, tannery, piggery and distillery were all part of Goldie’s operations over the years.

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Industrial uses over the years have left the soils on the site with contamination and the work of the weather and the Speed River have created several sink holes.  For this reason the city decided to fence the site to keep the public out while they did further assessments.  It was found the most of the chemical waste on the mill site was about 0.75 metres below the surface but was somewhat less in some places.  The remediation plan includes adding a membrane where the soil is thin and then new soil and mulch.  This will fix the sink holes and eliminate any human impacts from the chemicals in the soil.  It is expected that the soil and sink hole repairs will cost $450,000.

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The building is also being stabilized and repaired so that it will be safe to use by the public.  The site has become popular for weddings which are expected to resume in the park in 2021 if the work is completed by then and there are no other delays.

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There are ruins on both sides of the Speed River and large sections of foundations are buried along the north and northwest sides of the building.

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The brick chimney sits on a foundation of cut limestone blocks.

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The 90-foot tall chimney is part of the heritage designation and has already been restored.  There is a plan to relocate a pair of Chimney Swifts to take up residence on Goldie Mill chimney.

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The remnants of the mill dam are in the river just upstream from the mill ruins.  The previous dam and mill pond were much larger than those left today.

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Across the street from the mill is the only other piece of architecture on Cardigan Street to survive from the 1850’s.  It was built in 1853 as a tavern and home for Bernard Kelly.  It was the common drinking hole for workers from the mills that operated along the river.  When Kelly died on 1882 James Goldie bought the place and rented it out as accommodations for some of his workers.  In 1911 the old inn was once again up for sale and this time it was purchased by the Stewart family who lived there until 1988.  It was eventually restored in 1996 to the original splendor.

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The picture below shows Kelly’s Tavern as it appeared in 1977, prior to restoration.  Notice that the door on the right has been closed and bricked in and all of the window shutters have been removed.  It has since been renovated and turned into four little apartment units.

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It will certainly be interesting to see how the restorations turn out and what has been done to preserve the building for future generations to enjoy.

The Rockwood Woolen Mill in Rockwood Park are also well worth a read and a visit.

Google Maps Link: Goldie Mill Georgetown

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The Distillery District.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The story of the Distillery District starts in 1832 with the idea for a grist mill on the east end of York (Toronto) harbour.  James Worts had been a miller in Suffolk, England before moving to York.  He built a 70-foot tall windmill that was a prominent feature on the York skyline and started a milling business with his brother-in-law William Gooderham.  Together they started a business that led to the largest distilling operation in Canada.  However, disaster struck in 1834 when James Worts lost his wife in childbirth.  Distraught, he jumped in the well at the mill and drowned himself just two weeks later.  Gooderham adopted his children and raised them along with his own thirteen.  Among the adopted was James Gooderham Worts who would become his partner in the business.

Their position on the waterfront provided easy access to large quantities of grain and so Gooderham decided to use some of it to make whiskey.  The distillery began in 1837 and being an entrepreneur, Gooderham began selling the spent grain wash to local farmers as feed.  Over the next four years he set up 9 acres of cattle sheds on the east side of Trinity Street and started a dairy operation as well.  The company kept fantastic records and appreciated their own history and so they retained the original millstone that was shipped from England in 1832 and used at the windmill.

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The Toronto Archives photo below shows the distillery as it appeared in the 1890’s on a post card.  It gives an idea of the scope of the enterprise that developed from that humble beginning with a windmill and a millstone.

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 In April of 1859 work started on the first wave of expansion for the company.  They began to build the most ambitious industrial building in the city, up to that time.  Built of Kingston limestone it is 80 feet wide and 300 feet long.  One half is five stories high to contain the mill while the west end is a story and a half and contained the distillery.  Working with lanterns in a dusty environment creates a serious fire hazard and many grist mills burned down because of it.  Gooderham has his constructed to be fire proof and when it burned in 1869 only the interior was lost.  This was quickly rebuilt and it is said that the grain that fell from the upper floors protected the milling equipment below and saved it from burning.  The cover photo shows the south side of the building which originally faced the Grand Trunk Railroad Tracks.

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The Boiler House is known as building number two and it is attached to the north side of the mill.  It was originally a single story limestone building but it has been radically altered overt the years.  When the boilers were upgraded in the 1880’s the limestone wall was removed to accommodate the equipment and was replaced with the present brick structure.  Just behind the smoke stack is building number four which was part of a major expansion in 1863.  The boiler house was using 30 tons of coal per day to fire the 100 horsepower engine in the mill.  The ashes from all this coal were taken and spread around the neighbourhood streets leading to some of the best packed streets in the young city.

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Several buildings were added to the north of the mill and west of Trinity Street in 1863 including new offices, cooperage buildings and the four story rectifying house for the purification of alcohol.   The modest offices pictured below served the growing business until they were replaced with a new office building on Wellington Street in 1892 known as the Flatiron Building.

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David Roberts Sr. was the architect for most of the early buildings in the compound while his son oversaw the construction of the later ones.  They were also responsible for designing several Gooderham family homes as well as the Flatiron Building.  Although the buildings served a utilitarian manufacturing function, Roberts made sure to include some purely aesthetic features.  Most of the brick buildings were set on limestone foundations so they would tie in visually with the stone mill.  The Rectifying House still has its decorative cupola and patterned brickwork.  This design is known as “arcaded corbelling” with a saw-tooth surmount.

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In the 1870’s another round of expansion took place.  The cattle sheds on the east side of Trinity Street were torn down and replaced with new ones on the east side of The Don River.  The Pure Spirits building, tank houses and store houses were built on their former site.  The Still Houses featured in the picture below were used to adjust the proof level of the spirits to ensure a consistent 40% alcohol.

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A dozen Tank Houses were added throughout the 1880’s for the storage of copper tanks of whiskey and later some were converted to hold up to 5,000 barrels per building.  

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Tankhouse Lane runs from Cherry Street to Trinity Street and is lined on both sides by these storage buildings.

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A shipping building was added in 1883 to store cases and barrels of whiskey that were ready for distribution to the markets.

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Meanwhile, the cattle sheds continued to function across the river and fifty years of disposing of the manure into Ashbridges Bay had contaminated it to the point where it was decided to fill it in and it was turned into The Port Lands.  During the First World War the company converted to producing acetone for the military under the name British Acetone.  The picture below is from the Toronto Archives and is dated November 30, 1916.

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After the war was finished the temperance movement succeeded in implementing Prohibition.  The company survived by distilling whiskey for export, although much of it passed through Quebec where it was legal and back into Ontario.  In 1927 the business was sold to Hiram Walker and continued to operate in a lesser fashion until the complex was closed in 1990.  

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The entrance to the Rectifying House was deliberately made grand to allow light into the interior of the building but it also has some awesome woodwork.  Two wooden arches support a circular oculi.  The original windmill was removed after the factory was converted to steam power and the site partially built over with the Rectifying House.  The semicircle of brighter red bricks in the lower corner of this picture marks the site of the windmill that started the enterprise.

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Rather than being turned into a museum like Black Creek Pioneer Village the site has been developed into The Distillery District which preserves the heritage in a unique way.  The factory buildings are full of interesting shops and activities that bring new life to one of the most complete Victorian Industrial Complexes in Canada.  The map below provides some insight into what awaits visitors to the area.

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The view below looks east along Gristmill Lane with the Stone Mill on the right and the chimney for the boiler room in the background.  The Coopers Shops and Rectifying House are on the left.

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This is one historic site that definitely needs another visit when I can go into the buildings and look around.

Just across Cherry Street stands the Palace Street School which was built in 1859 and served the children of many distillery workers.

Google Maps Link: Distillery District

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Walker Woods

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Uxbridge is known as the trails capital of Canada because of the 220 kilometres of trails that they manage near the community.  Of particular interest on this gorgeous Saturday morning was Walker Woods.  To explore we chose to park in the Glen Major Forest parking lot on 6th Concession so that we could do a brief exploration there and then follow the trail system north to Walker Woods.  The trails in the forest are fairly well marked with numbered posts that each have a map on top.  If you are following a specific route beware of side trails that are not marked as they will lead you astray.

Throughout Glen Major Forest there are extensive patches of Mayapples.  It appears that many of the flowers either failed to open or were never pollinated because they have shriveled up.  There are a few plants that have their single flower in full bloom.

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George Hopkins lived from 1818-1905 and in 1850 purchased 50 acres of land on Concession 6 in what is now Glen Major Forest.  He cleared most of the land and began growing potatoes, turnips, peas, carrots, wheat and oats.  He and his wife Margaret had nine children which they raised on the farm along with a variety of farm animals.  Only foundations remain of their buildings.

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We then started to follow the trails north toward Walker Woods.  The whole area had been open farmland at the turn of the twentieth century.  Thin soil and poor farming practices had left much of it underutilized.  James Walker was a Toronto lawyer who came to the area to ski in the 1930’s and took an interest in the abandoned farms in the area.  He bought his first four acres on the 6th concession in 1934 for $350.00.  When Walker returned home after the Second World War he started buying more properties in the area, eventually amassing 15 of them and 1,800 acres of land.  He then began the process of planting forests on the property to help curb the erosion that was taking place.

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Red Columbine are highly toxic if eaten and it is even recommended that you handle them with gloves.  The flower shape gives it the nick name Rock Bells.  They are also known as Canada Columbine or Aquilegia Canadensis.

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The bell shaped tubes, or spurs, are connected at the bottom and contain a sweet nectar that attracts hummingbirds, bees and hawk moths.

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Hawk Moths are a family that includes 1,450 species that can be found all around the world.  They are known for their rapid flying abilities which includes hovering.  This makes them perfectly adapted for getting at the nectar in Red Columbine flowers.

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Seeing a Canadian Flag hanging above the trail inspires a sense of patriotism even though anything else would be considered to be litter and make me upset.  It is interesting how a piece of cloth with this specific pattern can provoke pride in the country we live in.  For more on the design of our flag please see our National Flag Day post.

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James Walker turned his properties into a forest by planting over 2,500,000 trees eventually starting a nursery and planting over 300,000 of his own saplings.  He planted both Scotch and Red Pine as well as Maple, Beech, Black Walnut and Oak trees.  Many parts of the trails make their way through straight rows of trees and follow old logging roads.  Eventually the forest was mature enough that James started to make a profit out of it,  He started selling Christmas Trees, fire wood, hardwood boards, cord wood and pulp wood.  He build several structures for his venture that still remain in the forest including the drying shed where wood was left to dry.

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Walker created some of his own equipment including an early home made version of a log-splitter.  Inside the old drying shed is a single piece of equipment.  Belts ran on both sides of the device which may have been used for finishing boards.

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Outside the drying shed there are four cribs that were set up for drying wood on.  These  have been out of service for so long that new trees are growing up out of the middle of them.

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He had his own saw mill to cut the wood and it still stands a short distance away from the drying shed.  Several other of Walkers buildings are in use by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority as equipment sheds and they stand just off the trail on a bit of property that is off limits to the public.  The mill is interesting because it has a structure at the rear that resembles a grain elevator.  It contains two bays that were fed by a single conveyor belt.

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The elevator was likely used in the pulp wood side of the business.  Trap doors on the bottom of each bay could be opened to allow the pulp wood to be dumped into trucks or trailers.

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We returned to the drying shed and followed the trail west because we had decided to make our way back to the parking lot using the road.  Along the way there are several wetlands and ponds and we saw these two painted turtles sunning themselves on a log.

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Walker Woods and Glen Major Forest contain many trails, including some on the west side of Concession 6, which means that there is a lot more to explore on some future visit.

Here’s a link to the trail guide for all the local trails near Uxbridge.

Google Maps Link: Walker Woods

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Donalda Farm

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The property of the current Donalda Golf Club contains some of the oldest farm buildings remaining in the city of Toronto as well as one of the earliest surviving grist mills.  The property was deeded to William and Alexander Gray in 1825.  They quickly built a small milling empire along the sides of the Don River.  The County Atlas from 1877 shows the grist mill on one side of the river and the saw mill on the other.  The saw mill vanished when the timber industry ran out of local wood to use.  The grist mill was incorporated into later structures and the old lane way to the grist mill survives today as an access road.

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The lane way has been recognized for its historical significance and is now protected under the heritage act.  It served as an access road to allow farmers to bring their grain to the mill to sell it or have it ground for flour.  It served as a given road between the modern day Don Mills Road and Victoria Park Avenue.  The eastern half of this given road has been closed and serves the golf course.

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Around 1840 the two brothers built brick homes that stood side by side and just across the lane way from the grist mill.  These two houses still survive on the property and unfortunately it looks like the front of one of them has been painted red.  This hides the patterned brick work that is still evident on the side.  This house has a Georgian Style, a design that was popular between 1790 and 1875.

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The second house lacks the patterned brick but has a more Gothic design, popular from 1830-1890.  Based on the architectural styles it would appear that this house was constructed some time after the first one.

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The grist mill was built in the 1830s and operated until the farm was sold in 1916.  The Grays ground their own brand of flour which they called Wee MacGregor.  It is the oldest surviving grist mill in the city that stands on the original site.  The grain elevator shaft can still be found at the rear of the old mill.

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One of the doors on the top floor of the old grist mill appears to have shifted in its track.

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In 1916 David A Dunlap and Jesse Donalda Dunlap bought the farm from the Grays with the intention of building a model farm.  They had some ideas for sanitary husbandry that were ahead of their time and they wanted to showcase them to the world.  They hired the architects Wickson & Gregg to design and build their new barn, incorporating the old barn into the structure.  The cattle enjoyed soft radio music in the barn that featured fresh air ventilation.  In the winter they had steam heating to keep them warm and comfortable.  The pigs were bathed in olive oil and washed with toilet soap.  The front side of the old grist mill can be seen in this picture on the left of the new barn.

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The farm expanded to include 1800 acres of land with over 40 farm buildings and 30 employees .  A lot of attention to detail and fine workmanship went into everything including something as functional as the silo where the animal feed was kept.  No boring old poured concrete for this granary but rather some rather beautiful tiles have been used.

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This picture shows the farm buildings and the old grist mill from the side of the river where the saw mill once stood.

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David Dunlap made his fortune by founding the world’s greatest silver mine followed by founding the second greatest gold mine.  Although they never lived there permanently in 1920 the Dunlaps decided to build a new home that would be used as their country retreat.  The house was given doric columns and wrought iron was used to create a classical design.  When David died in 1924 he left a 5 million dollar estate farm that his wife operated with their son until it was sold in 1952.  By 1960 it had become the Donalda Golf Club and the home was renovated to become the club house.

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David Dunlap left a quarter million dollars each to several schools, hospitals and churches.  His donation to Toronto General Hospital funded the Dunlap Radiological Science Department.

Google Maps Link: Donalda Golf Course

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Elora Gorge

September, 22, 2018

Summer holidays in September give one the opportunity to visit places that are just outside of the range of a normal weekend.  Elora is one of those places and so off we went.  The town of Elora was founded as Irvine Settlement in 1832 but changed the name to Elora when the first post office was established in 1839.  Like Saint Mary’s, Elora is a town of stone buildings, much of the materials were extracted from the Elora Quarry.  The Quarry is now a swimming area managed by the Elora Gorge Park and one fee allows access to both parks.  Unfortunately, at this time of year the swimming area is closed and the quarry property is marked as No Trespassing.

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After being unable to visit the quarry we parked in the large town lot behind Ross Street.  The local foundry business was established in 1848 and rented out to several entrepreneurs who repaired anything mechanical or made of metal for the community.  The operation is most famously known as The Potter & Matheison Foundry.  Later, nuts and bolts as well as saws and other implements were made here.  This building is a fine example of restoration and we look forward to seeing what is done with the building next door.

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The building that is locally known as The Kiddie Kar Factory was built in 1873 following a fire at the site.  At the time it was known as The Elora Foundry and Agricultural Works.  In 1916 John Mundell purchased the rights to the Kiddie Kar which was a wooden tricycle.  He bought the old Potter foundry to use as a production factory.  The plan for redevelopment of the south side of the river calls for the development of condominiums and a hotel.  The old Kiddie Kar Factory is scheduled to be restored and included in the lobby of the condominium.

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Captain William Gilkinson, who founded the town, made plans for a sawmill as soon as he had purchased his property.  Three years later it was destroyed by a fire but it was rebuilt in 1839.  In 1854 the structure was rebuilt in stone but was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1859, 1866 and 1870.  The mill operated under many owners for the next 100 years but by 1974 it was ready to be converted into a 5-star hotel.  This was closed in 2010 but a new hotel development in 2018 has brought life back into the building.  It is one of the few remaining 5-story mills in Ontario.

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All that remains of The Elora Furniture Company is the shell of the building they developed in 1910.  The site dates back to the 1850’s and had several uses and several fires as well including those of 1886 and 1896.  By the 1920’s the factory was turning out bedsteads and wooden furniture frames with a staff of over 40 people.  Much of their production was shipped unfinished to upholstery shops who completed them to the specification of the customers.

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A trail leads from behind the old industrial section of Elora and into the Elora Gorge Park from the back entrance.  Three kilometres of trails wind through the park offering spectacular views of the gorge.  Limestone cliffs rise 22-metres from the river to the table lands above.

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A stairway allows you to pass through a karst cave where you can reach a platform halfway down the side of the cliff face.  This cave is known as the hole in the wall.  A second cave is seen on the left in the picture below but it can’t be accessed safely.  From here you have to climb the stairs back to the top of the ravine to continue downstream.

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There were several species of mushrooms that we hadn’t seen so far this season. Birch Polypores are quite distinctive among these shelf fungi.  The tree below shows them in several stages of development, from a small bud to a fully formed mushroom.  The underside has a lip around the outer edge.  This polypore has had several uses over the years including being used as a razor strope, an anesthetic and to keep fires burning.

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Following the trail leads to a bridge where you can cross the river at the height of the gorge.  There is also a low level bridge which was closed leading to a temporary closure of most of the campsites on the north side of the river.  This bridge gives a nice view up and down the river which will be interesting as the fall colours come on.

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The park promotes tubbing down the Grand River through the ravine.  There is a 2 kilometre course with specified entry and exit points.  The stairs that access the river at the entry point have a crank at the top to hoist the stairs for the winter.  This keeps the winter ice from demolishing them.

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There is room to follow the shore upstream a short distance when the water isn’t too high.  This provides some nice views of the gorge from the lower perspective.  People use the trails and stairs to access the river for fishing purposes.  The area is known for brown trout but smallmouth bass, carp, northern pike and walleye are also caught.

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We followed the north side of the river until we found ourselves back in town.  Elora has much of their early heritage preserved in the many stone buildings that remain in town.  One building of interest is the drill shed which was built in 1865.  During the 1860’s the United States was fighting their civil war and British North America started to fear for their defense and so the strength of local militias was increased.  This led to the construction of drill sheds in which to train the volunteers.  Most of these have been destroyed but this rare one still survives and today serves as a liquor store with an unusually beautiful interior.

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Just upstream from this building is a foot bridge and another dam.  A nice old stone raceway leads from the pond behind the dam.

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Elora is a remarkably well preserved community that still displays much of the early architecture due to the fact that it was built of stone and didn’t fall prey to fire.

While in the area, why not visit the Shand Dam?

Google Maps Link: Elora Gorge

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Coldwater Mill

Sunday June 14, 2015

Today we had the honour of celebrating my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary.  They had a celebration after the morning service in their church near Orillia.  They married in 1955 and raised 5 boys.  After the celebrations we had a choice of heading home down highway 11 from Orillia or going to Coldwater and getting on the 400.  With an historical mill in Coldwater the choice was simplified.  The picture below is just a quick sketch of what my mom and dad may have looked like on their wedding day.

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In the early 1830’s the government set up a 9,800 acre reserve for native peoples in the area that is now known as Coldwater.  About 500 Ojibwa moved into the reserve and started to grow grain.  In 1832 over 500 bushels of grain were harvested and the need for a grist mill became apparent.  The government thought that the mill would provide employment for some of the local people and so contracted to have mills constructed near the rapids at Coldwater. Although a government project, the mill appears to have been funded by the natives themselves.  A saw mill was constructed first and by July 1833 it was busy cutting the wood for the grist mill.  By April 1834 the grist mill was completed and opened for business.  Within 2 years the natives decided that milling was not for them and they leased the mill to Miles Stennet and moved to Christian Island in Georgian Bay.  By 1849 they decided to sell the mills and thus began a series of ownership changes.  The saw mill was closed in 1874.  In 1880 the mill changed hands again and extensive modifications began.  The third story was added and by the end of the decade the undershot water wheel was replaced with more efficient turbines.

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This mill stone is one of two original ones brought here in 1833 from France.  This type of stone is known as a French Burh Stone.  It is made up of segments of burh stone which are cemented together and held in place with a band of iron.  This stone is about 1.5 metres across and weighs 760 kg.  The flat surfaces are called “land” and the grooves are called “furrows”.  The furrows move the flour toward the outside of the stone as well as letting air in to reduce the heat that is created during grinding of the grain.  A stationary bedstone and a spinning runner stone made up a pair, or run, of stones.  The original stones at Coldwater were removed in 1889 and replaced with metal rollers.

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The first turbine was a small Francis turbine which was replaced in about 1906 by a larger one manufactured by Barber Hydraulic Turbines of Meaford Ontario. The turbine weighs 3100 pounds and has a maximum speed of 81 rpm.  It was operated with a 10 foot head of water to produce the energy to operate the mill.  The turbines from the mill were put on display when the mill was restored in 1995.  Water entered through this end of the turbine to rotate the shaft that contained the cast bevelled gear.

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The photo below shows the turbine and shaft connected to the large beveled gear. Two small electric motors for generating electricity were installed in 1955 and they are on display here as well.

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The beveled gear had 84 wooden teeth.  Wood was used for the teeth for several reasons.  From a noise and vibration point of view these were much quieter.  They also reduced the risk of a spark which could set the dusty old wooden building on fire.  Lastly, they provided a predetermined failure mode if the wheels got jammed.  The wooden teeth would break and not the steel ones making repairs easier and faster.

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The smaller beveled gear rotated the drive shaft that transferred power to the mill stones.

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In 1924 the steel rollers for making flour were removed and the mill became strictly a feed mill providing fodder to the local farmers.  When the mill adopted the steel rollers for flour making in 1889 they marketed their product under the name “Jersey Lily” as can be seen in the cover photo.  The shed behind the mill has a Purity Flour sign which would be more at home in Manitoba.

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In 1955 the mill was converted to electrical power and the turbines shut down for the last time. They sat idle in the mill race until 1983 when they were removed.  Changes in farming and the introduction of personal feed mills on farms led to the mill closing in 1994.  Arend and Connie Meiling had owned the mill since 1989 and now considered tearing it down and selling the lumber.  The Coldwater Mill Heritage Foundation got involved and bought the mill. In 1995 they started an extensive restoration of the mill which is now protected under an architectural and historical designation.

Palgrave

Saturday May 30, 2015

It was a day after my father’s 80th birthday and so the plan was to meet in Barrie to celebrate. The choice between driving up the 400 or leaving earlier and making a side trip was less difficult than determining where that side trip would lead.  In the end we chose to look at the Palgrave dam and mill pond.

Palgrave  was originally called Buckstown after the owner of the Western Hotel which was opened in 1846.  This name survived until 1869 when the post office was established and the name was changed to Palgrave.  Due to the large amount of lumber in the local forests this became an important industry in the early development of the town.

It is the season for moth and butterflies to be in their larvae or caterpillar state.   Inch worm is a term that is applied to the caterpillar of the geometer moth, a large family of 35,000 species. Ironically the word geometer applies better to the caterpillar than the moth as it comes from the Latin “geometra” or earth-measurer.  This is because the caterpillar has only 2 or 3 prolegs on the back end.  Their looping gait makes it look like they’re measuring the ground as they go along.

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Palgrave grew up around a saw mill and a grist mill.  These two industries were essential to the development of a community.  The saw mill provided basic building materials while the grist mill provided basic food supplies for humans and livestock.  A dam would be built to create a constant supply of water.  The mills are gone but the mill pond remains, complete with its own secrets.  In August 2011 a body was found in the pond which belonged to a 42 year old woman who had been kidnapped from her home in Brampton.  Raqual Junio was murdered by her estranged husband and her body dumped in the old mill pond.

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The view of the dam from below the waterfalls.

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The jack-in-the-pulpit plant exhibits a wide variance in size with this example being near the upper end of 65 cm (26 inches).  Identifiable by it’s flowers contained in a spadix and the hood drooped over top this was the only specimen in the immediate neighbourhood.  Once cooked or properly dried this plant can be eaten as a root vegetable.  The raw plant, however, contains raphides that are like tiny little needles that cause a burning sensation and possible severe irritation if eaten. The plant grows from the same corm for up to 100 years.

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On March 5, 1880 town lot 4 was sold to the Reverend W.F. Swallow for $70 for use as a church property. It had been the site of a store and saloon prior to that.  In  1882 they purchased lot 3 beside it for use as a cemetery.  Prior to this, Anglicans had to take their loved ones to Bolton for burial.  St. Alban’s Anglican Church was built in 1882 in the English Gothic Revival style that was popular at the time.  St. Alban’s retains it’s original bell tower and entrance vestibule.   The church was closed in 1996.  The cemetery was closed in 2007 and the remaining bones were dis-interred and moved to Bolton for reburial.  The church is now used as a saloon, as the property has come full circle.  The one story building on the left has been built on the site of the former cemetery.

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The Elm Tree Hotel was just one of the hotels in town but survives with it’s unique three point roof.  This hotel appears to have been built in 1878 after the arrival of the railway in town.  This spurred growth and the town doubled in size in a year from 150 to 300 residents.  Several other old buildings remain in town but there is little information available on-line about their history.

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The Elm Tree hotel no longer has it’s elm tree.  It was cut down to allow for the widening of highway 50 through town.  The picture below was taken in 1914 and borrowed from Wikipedia.

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Canadian artist David Milne lived in town from 1929 until 1932 and painted several scenes.  The painting Kitchen Chimney is in the National Gallery of Canada and the Elm Tree Hotel can be seen in the background at the left.  His painting “The Village” is also in the National Gallery and is used as the cover photo for this post.  St. Alban’s church with its bell tower can be seen at the left.

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In 1877 the Hamilton & North-Western railway was built through the middle of town.  The railway was later taken over by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1888 and ended up as a part of the Canadian National.  Passenger service ended in 1960 and the tracks were removed in 1986. The rail bed has since been turned into a hiking trail.   The trail can be seen in the picture below on the little rise where the wooden trail sign stands.

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The Primitive Methodists built their church and cemetery in 1878 on lots 17, 18 and 19.  Their cemetery remains and the church has served the United Church since it’s inception 1925.

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The Pan American Games are the third largest international multi-sport games in the world. Started in 1951 in Buenos Aires it now contains 41 member nations.  The games are played every four years in the summer before the next Summer Olympic Games.  Toronto is host to the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am games which run from July 10-26.  The dressage and jumping competitions will be held in Palgrave at the Caledon Equestrian Park.  We were able to stop by and have a look at some of the local horses getting warmed up.

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It is so nice to see the fresh green of the new growth on the ends of the pine tree branches.

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The Barrie Light Company

Saturday May 30, 2015

After visiting with my parents in Barrie there was an opportunity to make a short visit to a site near town.  A street with the name Finlay Mill Road pretty much needs to be investigated and we were only a km away.  Light rain was falling with the threat of a downpour.

Willow creek crosses Finlay Mill road where a half dozen mills, a soap factory, distillery and two power generating plants once stood.  This was the industrial core of Midhurst.  Preserved here are a set of mill stones and the school bell that was used in SS No. 6.  The original building dates to 1866 but a second building containing this bell was built in 1887 where it was used until 1962.

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Charles Singleton Bell operated a bellfoundry in Hillsboro Ohio starting in 1875 under the name C.S. Bell.  In 1882 he changed the name to C.S. Bell & Co. when his son joined the company, a name he operated under until 1894. Starting in 1894 he changed the name again, this time to The C.S. Bell Company when the company was incorporated.  The name stamped on the bell below dates it to 1882-1894 which is correct for the 1887 date for the second school building. The number 20 on the stem identifies it as a 20″ bell.  C.S. Bell and Co. sold school bells in diameters ranging from 20 to 28 inches.  Farm bells were smaller than 20 inches while bells over 30 inches in diameter were made for churches and fire halls.

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On April 15, 1878 the town of Barrie enacted legislation creating the Barrie Water Company and the Barrie Gas company.  Town by-law 345 in 1888 gave exclusive rights to James Burton, George Ball and Samuel Lount to provide electric power to the town.  They formed the Barrie Light Company.  They built two generating plants on Willow Creek.  On June 4 1888 they successfully transmitted power to a station on the end of Bayfield Street.  In August, with great fanfare, they lit 17 street lights in downtown Barrie.  At the same time the Barrie Gas Company’s 10 year contract for street lighting expired and was never renewed.  By the mid-1890’s people began to feel that the private companies were charging too much and public ownership was proposed.  The Barrie Light Company was sold to the city for $22,501.  Barrie’s population reached 6,500 by 1910 and the electrical consumption started to exceed production capacity at the two old generating stations.  The solution was to switch to Ontario Hydro which was completed by 1912.  The old production facility was abandoned and later demolished.

The foundations from the 1888 power generating station remain on the west side of Willow Creek.

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Concrete pieces are strewn across the creek where the power facility once stood.

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Remains of foundations can be seen in the trees on the other side of the creek.

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Just beyond the first power mill Willow Creek flows through an area where erosion of the sandy hillside makes following the trail a very risky concept.

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Dragonflies and Damselflies are two separate species which are often confused. The easiest way to tell them apart is in the rest position of the wings.  Dragon flies sit with their wings spread out while damselflies sit with them folded above the back.  The female Ebony Jewelwing damselfly has a small white spot on the tips of the wings while the male is all black.  The female is pictured below.

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It began to rain harder and lacking a paddle we decided not to venture farther up the creek. The foundations of a second power station remain to be located on a future visit when hopefully the surrounding area will yield more of the secrets of historic Midhurst.

 

Nicolston Mill

Monday May 19, 2015

Victoria Day in Ontario and so I had the day off work.  The weatherman was calling for rain starting later in the morning so I decided to make a quick exploration before it started.  As it turns out there was no need to rush because it didn’t rain.

John Nicol arrived in 1828 and built a grist mill on this site.  As the farming community grew around the mill it was converted to also be a feed mill.  It provided flour to farmers and feed to their livestock until 1900 when it burned down.  The community was without a mill until 1907 when it was replaced with this current building.  The settlement came to be known as Nicolston when the post office arrived.  As the town grew it gained a post office, hotel, blacksmith shop, school, a woolen mill and general store.  The town slowly disappeared and the mill was closed in 1967.  It was the last water-powered mill to close in South Simcoe.  The mill area has been converted to an RV campground and it is posted as no trespassing unless you are registered as a camping guest.

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The river above the mill dam was quiet and is marked as no fishing.

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The mill dam at Nicolston has a series of steps to it as well as an overflow at the side (not pictured)

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Many fish migrate between the sea or open lakes and fresh water streams and these fish are known as diadromous.  When settlers arrived and started to put dams up across the local rivers and streams they caused a major disturbance to the migration patterns of fish.  In 1837 Richard McFarlan built and patented a fish ladder to let fish get around his dam in Bathurst New Brunswick.  Nichols mill dam has a fish ladder as can be seen in the picture below.  I wonder if maybe Darwin had seen a fish climbing a set of stairs and that inspired his theory of evolution?

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Various wheels transfered the power from the wheel or turbine to the grinding stones inside the mill.  The wooden ribs are slowly falling out of the largest wheel.

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Nicolston’s Mill has a large water turbine on the side lawn. Water forced this wheel to turn and transfer energy to a series of wheels and drives like those pictured above.

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The spiral casing held the turbine blades causing them to spin by the force of the water rushing through the chamber.

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After visiting the mill I decided to take a drive into the countryside to see what I could see.  I found an old closed road that appeared to still have an accessible road allowance.  Along here I found the remnants of a shed which contained several interesting artifacts that appeared to need a good home.

The Calumet Baking Powder Company dates to 1889 when it was established in Chicago Illinois. The company is named after a local word for peace pipe and the area of Calumet City. The company adopted an Indian Head for a logo which later appears to have been copied for the Chicago Black Hawks logo. The baking powder was known as double acting because it started to work while it was being mixed but continued working in the oven as well. In 1929 when General Foods bought them out, Calumet became a brand name for General Foods to distribute under. This little tin was a free promotional sample which was distributed by General Foods Toronto.

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I also found a Carruther’s Whole Milk Dairy bottle with a small chip in the lip.  Located at 1315 Davenport Road they marketed their milk with the slogan “Carruthers’ Milk – Stands for happiness and good health, and is essential to both.”  They are listed in the 1928 Department of Agriculture listing of Cheese Factories and Creameries.

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In May 1868 Dr. Samuel Pitcher was granted a patent for a product known as Castoria.  It was sold as a laxative.  In 1871 Charles Henry Fletcher bought the rights and renamed the product Fletcher’s Castoria.  The bottle I found says Dr. S. Pitcher on it making it one of the first three year’s production.

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Minard’s Liniment was invented in the 1860’s by Dr. Levi Minard in Nova Scotia.  Made with camphor it provided instant relief for sore muscles.  Minard’s liniment is still sold today but you have to travel to the back roads of Ontario to come up with a bottle from the 1880’s like the one pictured below.

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The town of Nicolston isn’t much more than a mill and a new subdivision on the hill overlooking it.  This is the view of the mill as you drive up the hill and out of town on the 5th line.

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