Category Archives: Mississauga

Timothy Street – Pioneers of the GTA

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The founder of Streetsville was born in New York in 1777 and emigrated to Upper Canada in 1801 after marrying Abigail Smith.  They lived near Niagara for twenty years and in 1818-1819 Timothy financed the survey of Toronto Township and was compensated with 4500 acres of land that would become the town of Streetville.  We decided to go and explore some of the legacy he left behind.  We parked on Mill Street beside his historic home.  The county atlas below shows how large Streetsville had become by 1877 when it was released.

Streetsville (2)

Timothy founded a milling empire and in 1825 built the house that still stands at the end of Mill Street near his mills.  He first built a grist mill around 1822 and soon added a lumber and saw mill.  He continued to expand by adding a tannery, distillery and clothing mill.  The brick house he constructed is considered to be the first brick house to be built in Peel County and remains the oldest one.  It is a story and a half and has been added to at least twice partly to accommodate the 12 children he raised along with Abigail.


Timothy needed water to power his mills and so he built a dam across the Credit River just north of the mills.  He found a narrow place where an earthen berm could be built to retain the mill pond.  Originally the dam would have consisted of a wooden crib across the river that was filled with stones.  This type of dam required constant repairs, some of which could be quite dangerous.  Many millers lost their lives trying to save their mill dams from being washed away in the raging spring waters.


In 1824 Timothy Street deeded an acre of his land to the Presbyterian Church for the purposes of establishing a Protestant cemetery.  Five of his own children would die in their youth and be buried in this cemetery.


Timothy Street died an January 31, 1848 and was buried in the cemetery where his children were interred.


From the pioneer cemetery the silos of the Barbertown mills can be seen.  The milling community of Barbertown was located at the Credit River and Eglinton Avenue.  It included what was the largest woolen mill in Ontario during the middle of the 1800’s.


The trails along the sides of the Credit River through Streetsville form part of the Culham Trail and will eventually be part of the Credit Valley Trail.


By 1890 the pioneer cemetery was reaching capacity and land for a new cemetery was donated to the town by Timothy Street’s daughter.


A new study has found that squirrels use the local birds to help them determine if it is safe to go outside their nests.  Squirrels will listen to the tweets of birds in the area to help them understand if there could be red-tailed hawks near by.  When the birds are chattering away in normal fashion the squirrels go about their usual business of gathering nuts.  When the birds go silent the squirrels interpret this to mean danger and they take cover.


The first high school in Peel County was built in Streetsville in 1851.  It was enlarged in 1877 when the two rooms in the front were added along with the Italianate tower.  It served as the school for 115 years before being converted to the town hall in 1966.  By 1974 it had been converted to be the local police station before its present tenant, the Kinsmen Senior Citizens Centre.


Streetsville is one of the truly unique places where the city has surrounded a small town but failed to absorb it.  As a result Streetsville still has a lot of its small town charm and we have visited several times.

Further reading about Streetsville: Alpha Mills, Streetsville’s Forgotten Foundations, Hyde Mill, Barbertown

Google Maps Link: Mill Street Streetsville

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Lotten – Cawthra Estate Mississauga

Sunday Jan. 31, 2016

York (Toronto) was just ten years old in 1803 when Joseph Cawthra emigrated from Yorkshire in England.  He was granted 400 acres of land extending north from Lake Ontario.  Cawthra raised nine children and soon found that farming wasn’t for him so he moved to York where he established an apothecary and then a general store.  They built houses at King and Sherbourne and later at King and Bay.  The land grant was broken up when the lake front portion was given to Mabel Cawthra and her husband Agar Adamson for a wedding gift.  The Adamson Estate was featured in a previous post.

In 1926 Grace Cawthra-Elliot and her husband Colonel Harry Cawthra Elliot built a new home on the family property near Port Credit using bricks covered with plaster.  The old dirt road that accessed the home has since been named Cawthra Road and widened to 6 lanes in places.  The home was built to remind them of the families roots in England in a style known as Georgian Revivalist.  The house is five bays long designed symmetrically around the centre door.  Each window has twelve over twelve double hung sash windows. They feature plain lintels above each window and plain lugsills below.  At two and one half stories the upper floor has quarter round gable windows with radiating muntins.  Some say it also has the ghost of a servant who can be seen looking out the quarter round windows at Cawthra Road.


The house was designed to make a statement with the front door where the symmetry continues down to the centre line.  Four pilasters support a simple entablature above the doorway.  Side lights mounted on either side of the door are made of wrought iron as are the shutter hinges and closures.


The front of the house featured a extensive lawn with landscaped gardens along either side.  The gardens were accessed by three sets of steps which today lead into the new growth of trees which have taken over the property.


The Cawthras had a swimming pool dug in the front yard, at the end of the south gardens. The swimming pool was filled with water collected on the property and at one time was much larger than the remnant that lies behind the chain link fence.  The two steps that can be seen in the picture below would have been under water in the 1930’s when the pool was one of only a couple in Mississauga.  We previously featured pictures of Mississauga’s first swimming pool, constructed in 1918, in our story on Riverwood Estate.


The north side of the house also featured extensive gardens.  A wide lawn stood between the house and the family’s prized rose gardens.  Their orchard was at the end of the rose gardens and provided a quiet place for Grace and Harry to sit and quietly enjoy their country home.  The picture below shows the rose bushes whose green leaves provide a welcome change from the usual browns of mid-winter.


The north gardens were flanked by a row of pine trees on either side.  This row of trees is clearly visible from Cawthra Road as you drive by, once you know where to look for it.


The Cawthras built themselves a walled garden where they could grow flowers and vegetables and keep them protected from the local rabbits and deer.  The wall was three bricks thick and stood over 8 feet tall.  They featured arched entrance ways and, like the house,  were built with bricks brought from Yeadon Hall, the family home at College and St. George in Toronto.


The property was legally known as lot 10 in the original survey and so they called it Cawthra Lotten.  The house can be seen behind the gate post.  Joseph recieved the grant in 1804 and by 1808 he had completed the requirements to take full possession of the property.  These requirements normally included the clearing and fencing of a few acres, the construction of a small house and the clearing and maintaining the road allowance along the sides of the property.  The house was added in 1926 and Grace lived here from then until she passed away in 1974.  The city of Mississauga purchased the property at that time and operates it as a limited use park because it contains specimens of Jefferson salamanders.  They are one of the salamander species considered most at risk in Ontario. Fences are in place to keep people from disturbing their habitat.  We have previously featured pictures of the eastern red-backed salamander, one at least risk, in our Vandalized Memorial post.


Having parked at the end of 9th street we made our way through the woods that cover the former lawns of the estate.  The forest floor is littered with the trunks of ash trees that were recently cut down.  Most of the ash trees in southern Ontario will be killed by the Emerald Ash Borer.  This insect will have completed it’s devastation by 2017 having killed 99% of the 860,000 ash trees in Toronto alone.  The city of Mississauga is in a similar situation and is actively removing ash trees and replacing them with other native trees. The picture below shows the remains of ash trees lying on the ground among the pink ribbons of the newly planted replacement trees.


Google maps link: Cawthra Estate

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Rattray Marsh

Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, and Monday, Sept. 11, 2017

Rattray Marsh contains fossils that help form it, abundant wildlife and 100-year-old abandoned structures. And that’s just in the corner we explored.  We set out to enjoy the last Saturday of summer and decided to visit the Rattray Marsh.  There is very little parking at the marsh and so we parked at the Bradley Museum.

James Rattray was born in 1887 and after having served in WW1 he made a fortune in the mining industry.  He was friends with Percy and Ida Parker who owned the Riverwood Estate.  In 1945 he bought the Fudger mansion along with 148 acres including the mouth of Sheridan Creek.  The historical atlas shows that the creeks emptying into Lake Ontario along this stretch all had a marsh where they emptied into the lake.  Today, the marsh on Sheridan Creek is the only one left between Toronto and Burlington.  The rest of them have been filled in and when James Rattray died in 1959 developers started making plans to build homes on this one too. The Credit Valley Conservation bought the property in 1972 after local residents petitioned to have the marsh saved.  It was opened as Rattray Marsh Conservation Area in 1975.

The shoreline along this part of the lake is made up of flat stones that have been rounded through years of wave action.  They have been washed up on the beach in a wall known as a shingle bar.  This rock barrier slowed and sometimes stopped, the flow of Sheridan Creek into the lake.  The waters pooled behind this wall and silt settled on the bottom where aquatic plants took root forming the marsh over time.  The picture below shows the mouth of Sheridan Creek and the rock barrier, or shingles bar, that maintains the marsh.


The threat to the marsh actually started long before the developers made specific plans to fill it in. Without realizing it they had already initiated a slow process that would do so.  As development occurred on properties upstream the amount of sediment in the marsh increased.  Buildings, roads, and parking lots don’t absorb water like fields and forests do. Water runs off quickly and carries soil and other dirt into the creek.  The water slows down in the marsh where this silt settles and quickly buries the natural ecosystem.  To restore the marsh some of this sediment was removed to expose the native soil and allow the seeds trapped inside to germinate.  White carp have also invaded the marsh and are disturbing the sediment on the bottom through their feeding.  This has destroyed plant life and the habitat it provided. The carp have been isolated and are now kept out by fences in the marsh like the one pictured below.


We did a little beach combing looking for interesting rocks and fossils.  The wall of shingle stones along the shoreline is full of fossils.  The remains of these long-gone creatures now serve to keep the creek out of the lake and helped the marsh to form.  There were many small stones with multiple fossils of worms in them.

Along the lake shore at the creek mouth, there is a deteriorating break wall that was installed to help preserve the marsh from erosion.  A little east of here a large concrete chamber stands looking out over Lake Ontario.  The top is broken off and several small trees are taking root inside.  This was likely built in 1918 when Fudger had the house built on the property,  He was obsessed with fire protection and built his house out of concrete.  This appears to be an old pump house, perhaps part of a fire suppression system.


Turtlehead flowers grow in moist soil and bloom from late in August through to October. They get their name from the shape of their white, red or pink flowers which look like a turtle with its mouth open.  Turtlehead flowers have been used in traditional medicines for centuries.  They make an excellent remedy for skin sores as well as reportedly being used for birth control by some native tribes.  They are a favourite food for white tailed deer like the young male featured in the cover photo.


Aside from carp, Rattray Marsh has also been invaded by the emerald ash borer.  This little green insect kills 99.9% of all ash trees it comes into contact with.  Unfortunately, most of the tree cover in the marsh and surrounding area is ash.  The picture below shows trees with an orange mark on them.  These are infested with the ash borer and will be cut down and replaced with new plantings.  Trees that are not infected can be protected against the insect at a cost of about $200 per tree for an injection that must be repeated every two years.  Injected trees have a little metal tag on them.


On Monday, September 11, 2017, we returned to the marsh to explore the boardwalks and see what the back half of the park holds.

The Trans Canada Trail and the Waterfront Trail pass through the 90-acre park on a common boardwalk. There is a secondary trail which is 1.8 km long and a small 0.3 km loop known as the Knoll Trail.  Credit Valley Conservation has recently completed upgrades and replacements to much of the boardwalk around Sheridan Creek and they reopened on September 2, 2017.


Rattray Marsh was rather low on water and we could see where it had been several feet deeper recently.


Google Maps Link: Rattray Marsh

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Erindale Orchards

Sat. Jan. 3, 2014

The day started off nice at -2 but was predicted to have a storm starting around noon.  We parked one more time in Erindale Park.  The plan was to enter the west side of the Credit River just south of the Sawmill Valley Creek’s confluence with the Credit.  We wanted to try and get to a point across the river from the Erindale Power Plant that we had been seeking when we hiked the Credit River at Erindale on January first.  We walked down the edge of Sawmill Valley Creek and turned south along the west side of the Credit River.  Almost immediately we came to the foundations of an old building which we identified as a house when we found the swimming pool in the back yard.


Keeping to the river side of the fence line, we made our way along the river.  Soon we were past the point where we were stopped two days earlier by the shale cliffs on the east bank of the river.  Presently we found a raccoon who, contrary to their normal nocturnal habits, was sitting on the ground in broad daylight.  Suspecting that he was ill we acted with caution but there was no aggression.   In captivity a raccoon can live for up to 20 years but the normal life expectancy of a raccoon in the wild is less than 3 years.  Ones like this that aren’t in peak condition can become dinner to the local coyote helping to keep that number low.


As we approached the bend in the river we started to see that the shale banks farther along would pose a problem like the one we experienced a couple of days earlier.  At the bend in the river we found the mouth of a small stream and so we followed it west toward Mississauga Road.


A little way upstream we started to find extensive sections of old pipe along with concrete foundations in the creek.


As we contemplated what their original purpose had been we noticed two people working in the woods with a Bobcat cleaning up fallen trees.  The man approached us and we had an opportunity to ask about the pipes.  He shared with us that the area above the ravine had been an extensive orchard and in the 1930’s a pump house had been built to irrigate the orchards. He also told us that the creek was named Loyalist Creek.  Pipes still run up the side of the hill on the south of Loyalist Creek toward orchards that were already gone by the 1960’s.


We crossed Loyalist Creek and made our way as far along the shale cliffs as was reasonable and then turned back.  The shale along here has layers of thick harder stone that stick out like rows of broken teeth.


Right at the mouth of  Loyalist Creek are several pieces of old concrete. We met the gentleman a second time and he had actually never noticed them.  It is likely that a dam was placed at the mouth of Loyalist Creek to retain a pond of water for consistent irrigation of the orchards during dry seasons.  As we were leaving we encountered the Bobcat operator who was quick to inform us that we were on private property, a fact that her husband had already failed to mention twice.  When we got to Mississauga Road we discovered that the property was very well marked with No Trespassing signs.  We had missed them by entering along Sawmill Valley Creek.  This is one hike that you can’t try yourself.  The old concrete at the mouth of the Loyalist Creek is shown in the photo below.


Returning home it was time to do some research to see what could be learned.  I discovered that the 1880 Historical Atlas shows extensive apple farms around Erindale including the farm of Thomas Hammond.  In the 1971 aerial photo below, the Hammond farm has a large orchard that by quick calculation contains over 900 trees.  They appear as the straight rows of little dots. The Hammond farm house appears just to the left of the orchard at the top of the picture.  It was designated as a heritage building in 1991 and so a quick follow-up appeared to be in order. The area was sold for development shortly after this picture and by 1976 houses had replaced the orchards.

Apples 1971

(Sunday, Jan. 4)  We returned and parked near the old Hammond house which was built by Oliver Hammond. Oliver was born in 1812 and is featured in the cover photo.   Oliver built his house in 1866 and it currently sits on a large property tucked in the middle of the subdivision which was his farm’s final crop.  Loyalist Creek flows through the property close to the house.  A developer’s proposal suggests that the open space around the house will soon hold 7 new homes.  Hammond’s house will become just an odd old house, looking out of place, amid the modern homes on a small cul-de-sac.


All that remains of the orchards is three rows of old trees in the park along the side of Lincoln Green Close.  It seems like these trees might still produce fruit in spite of their age.  Apple trees are not native to North America but were introduced by the French around 1606.  The McIntosh apple is named after John McIntosh who discovered a sapling on his farm in Upper Canada in 1811 and cultivated the tree which produced an exceptional fruit.  By the early 1900’s the McIntosh was the most commonly cultivated apple in North America.  This was due to the fact that it was good for both eating and cooking.   I’m not sure what kind of trees these are but they were planted around the right time to be McIntosh.


The old Erindale Power Station remains elusive, but there is always future explorations to be made.

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