Tiffany Falls

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Tiffany Falls is named after Doctor Oliver Tiffany who was the first medical doctor in an area that included Hamilton, Burlington, Ancaster, Guelph, and Galt.  Oliver was born in Massachusettes in 1763 and graduated from Philadelphia Medical College.  He came to Upper Canada in the 1790’s and settled in Ancaster in 1796.  There is a small paid parking lot on Wilson Street East where you can access both Tiffany Falls Trail and the Bruce Trail.  The main trail leads to the falls while a second one will take you to the remains of an old kiln.


Doctor Tiffany was known to keep horses stabled around the countryside so that he could always have a fresh mount wherever he was in the case of an emergency.  For forty years he looked after the needs of the people in his vast community.  He kept a medical ledger where he recorded the services that he performed at each household. The doctor prescribed quinine for malaria and kept laudanum for pain.  The rest of his treatment tended to be naturopathic and compounded from things he grew in his herb garden.  His ledger records payment in the form of pumpkins or the mending of a pitchfork.  Four days worth of ploughing was given in exchange for the doctor’s services as well as whiskey, hay and oats.  Oliver Tiffany was so well loved that when he died on May 7th, 1835, the buggies of 600 people who attended the funeral made a historic traffic jam.  Tiffany Falls, as seen in the cover photo, is a ribbon falls 21 metres tall and 6 metres wide.  The various layers of the escarpment can be seen beside Tiffany Falls in the picture below.


Across Wilson Street, The Bruce Trail continues to make its way toward Sherman Falls. The parking situation is poor at this second attraction and will possibly leave you with a ticket. Therefore, we suggest parking at Tiffany Falls and hiking to Sherman Falls.  The area around Ancaster was one of the earliest settled in Upper Canada and the land shows signs of many different uses over the years.  A set of old stairs leads up the side of the escarpment.


Along the Bruce Trail between Tiffany Falls and Sherman Falls, there has been an extensive retaining wall installed.  The wall is made from local limestone blocks like many of the older buildings in Ancaster.


Sherman Falls is 17 metres high and is classified as a terraced ribbon waterfall.  A ribbon waterfall is much taller than it is wide, in this case, only 8 metres.  Sherman Falls was featured as one of seven falls we visited on the coldest day in February 2016 in a post called Frozen Waterfalls of Ancaster.  This tributary of Ancaster Creek is spring fed and so the falls have a much more consistent flow of water than some of the other local ones. Sometimes known as Angel Falls or Fairy Falls it takes its name from Clifton Sherman who once owned the property and was the founder of Dominion Foundry and Steel Company (Dofasco).


Google Maps Link:  Tiffany Falls

Like us at

Follow us at

Griffin House

July 22, 2017

Enerals Griffin arrived in Port Stanley in 1829 with his wife Priscilla from the United States. They came to Canada via the underground railroad to start a new life where black people had a measure of freedom that they didn’t have in Virginia at the time.  There is no record of where the Griffin family lived during the years between 1829 and 1834 but they started a family and saved enough money to establish themselves.  In 1834 they bought a small one and a half story, four room house that had been built in 1827 and was owned by George Hogeboom.  It has a front-sloping gable roof and is clad in unfinished horizontal clapboards.  The picture below shows the house and the old driveway while the cover photo shows a closer view of the front of the house.


Along with the house, they purchased 50 acres of land on Mineral Springs Road in Ancaster, from which they would make a living and sustain their family.  Over the next 154 years, the family would continue to farm the property until it was sold to the Hamilton Conservation Authority in 1988.  The house was named as a National Historic Site in 2008 partly because it is one of last early 19th century Georgian Style clapboard homes in the Ancaster area.  It is also listed as one of six sites in Ontario that is culturally relevant to Canadian Black history.  Rather than settling in an area that was designated for former slaves, the Griffins chose to buy a farm and live in a predominantly white European area.  The area has been determined to be archaeologically sensitive and digs on the site have uncovered over 3,000 artifacts including stoneware and clay pipes.  The ruins of the family saw mill stand near the crest of a waterfall on a small tributary of Sulphur Creek.  The original boards for the construction of the home were cut in this saw mill from trees that were felled on the property.


Following the Griffin Trail to the Homestead Trail allows you to explore the property and also brings you to the waterfall.  Known as Griffin Falls and also as Heritage Falls there was very little water on this day and moss was taking over the cliff face.  In the spring there is normally water here and this is the best time to view this 5-metre washboard classical cascade.


We had parked at The Hermitage where there is a 10 dollar fee per car.  In the corner of the parking lot, the old gatehouse for the Hermitage still guards the entrance.


Behind the gatehouse is Hermitage Cascade on Hermitage Creek.  This 4-metre cascade falls had a much better flow than the close by Griffin Falls.


On a previous visit, the Hermitage was under restoration and we wanted to see how the job had turned out. There are many trails through the property including the Bruce Trail and we followed the one leading to the old homestead.  The ruins of the main house have been restored on three sides.  The burned ends of the second-floor beams can still be seen sticking out of the wall.


Google Maps Link: Griffin House

Like us at

Follow us at

Rosetta McClain Gardens

Monday, July 3, 2017

Rosetta McClain Gardens is a jewel along the Scarborough Bluffs.  The gardens have been transformed into a place for all to enjoy, especially the handicapped.  Close to the parking lot is a sign showing the layout of the park.  The sign has Braille on it and is laid out in relief so that everyone can find their way around with ease.  The walkways and paths have been created out of different types of material so that the handicapped can find their way around more easily.  Cobblestone, bricks and interlocking stones each create a path that feels and sounds different to aid the visually impaired.


In 1904 Thomas McDonald West bought 40 acres of land over looking the Scarborough Bluffs.  When he passed away he divided it among his four children with each one getting about 10 acres.  His daughter, Rosetta, and her husband Robert Watson McClain made many improvements to their property in the form of gardens and walkways.


When Rosetta died in 1940 her husband wanted to find a way to commemorate her and in 1959 he offered the city the land for a park to be named after her.  In 1977 the land was conveyed to the care and control of Toronto Region Conservation Authority.  They’ve added parcels of land three times, incorporating other parts of the original homestead) to bring the total to 22 acres.  To add to the enjoyment of the visually impaired the gardens have been laid out as scent gardens.  There are extensive rose gardens which were, unfortunately, a little past their prime.


The old McClain house still stands, although in ruins, on the property.  Efforts have been made to preserve the remnants by adding concrete along the top edge of some of the crumbling walls.


Rosetta McClain Gardens have a good view of Lake Ontario from the top of the Scarborough Bluffs but there is no access to the lake.  A fence keeps people from getting too close to an earlier fence which is no longer moored to the eroding sand.  The concrete pole anchor has been left hanging high above the lake while it waits to eventually fall. Access to the lake and the view of the Scarborough Bluffs can be found just east of Rosetta McClain Gardens at the foot of Brimley Road in Bluffer’s Park.


The extensive gardens and a wide variety of trees make it an excellent place for birdwatchers to observe their feathered friends.

Google Maps Link: Rosetta McClain Gardens

Like us at

Follow us at

Pine Ridge Day Camp

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Oakville Recreation Commission operated several day camps in the 1950’s along Sixteen Mile Creek.  Two of them were located on Lower Base Line and were on the Milton side of Lower Base Line.  Children were taken from town to the day camps to give them an experience of the outdoors as part of their summer vacation from school.  Older teens were taken every summer to a training camp at Fisher’s Glen on Lake Erie.

Rotary Park or Pine Ridge Day Camp was located on the top of the hill while Henderson Park was along the banks of Sixteen Mile Creek below.  Day campers would walk between the two to go swimming in the creek on hot summer days.   There were originally 5 buildings on the Pine Ridge site which were screened from the creek by a row of pine trees along the ridge of the ravine.  The three cabins and the dining hall were removed a long time ago but for some reason, the washroom facility was left intact.  The picture below shows the old playing field along with the remains of the washrooms, tucked in under the trees.


Inside the washrooms, there is little left.  When I first visited here in the late 1990’s the building was more or less intact and all the toilets were undamaged.  The first ten years of abandonment wasn’t very hard on the building.  The next twenty years, along with some senseless vandalism has nearly demolished the building.  It is unlikely that there are very many winter storms left in the old structure.  It is impressive that the children who came to day camp here had the use of flush toilets instead of the typical outhouse one might expect to find.  The people who closed the place up removed four buildings and then placed concrete blocks to prevent people from parking along the road or entering the old laneway.  They took out the electrical wires and left the place pretty much as they found it when it was severed from the corner of the farmer’s field. All except the washrooms!  Perhaps they were expecting to use the fields for games or events in the future and anticipated the need for the washrooms.


Down the hill from Pink Ridge Camp was Henderson Park where the children would go swimming and fishing.  Adjacent to Henderson Park there used to be a small parking lot that allowed continued access to the river even after the park had closed.  From here you could get to a trail along the top of the ravine above the Queenston shale embankments on the opposite side of Sixteen Mile Creek.


This parking lot was closed several years ago because there were too many late night parties with large campfires. Alcohol, cars and backroads are a bad combination and so the parking lot was sealed off around 2012 when the one lane bridge was replaced.  The parking lot has since filled up with field grasses and weeds.  A new invader, Giant Hogweed now lines the creek banks and is spreading through the floodplain.  They can be seen in the picture above where they stand out against the red shale.  Each plant goes to seed only once before it dies but it can produce between 50,000 and 120,000 seeds.  These can be blown up to 10 metres on the wind but travel much farther when carried by water.  They will float for up to three days without sinking and get washed out across the floodplains during high water events.  The example in the picture below is likely 10 feet tall.


Pine Ridge and Henderson Day Camps were in the business of making great summer memories for children.  Today, they are in danger of becoming just a memory themselves.

Google Maps Link: Pine Ridge Park

Like us at

Follow us at

The Credit Valley Trail

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Credit Valley Trail is a proposed trail that will run from Lake Ontario to Island Lake near Orangeville, covering a walking distance of 113 kilometres.  It roughly follows the Credit River, one of the major waterways in the GTA.  As such it was home to a lot of the activity in the pioneer era.  The fact that the northern tip of the trail can be reached from midtown Toronto in just over an hour makes it ideal for a through hike because each of the sections is within a short drive of home.  Credit Valley Conservation and the Credit Valey Trail Committee have released a map showing the proposed route as well as 20 Heritage Destinations as a prelude to the official plan which is due this fall.  Hiking the GTA has visited all 20 Heritage Destinations over the past 3 years and presents the following summary of each of them to get you primed for the newest trail in the GTA. A link to a longer article with more pictures is given along with a photo from the article.  You don’t need to wait for the official launch of the trail to get out and see what’s out there.

1.) Port Credit

Where the Credit River empties into Lake Ontario The harbour has been active since 1834 for an industry known as “stone-hooking” where shale was collected from the lake bottom for use in construction.  Today the Ridgetown, a 100-year old ship, guards the entrance to the harbour.


2.) Erindale

Erindale Park is formerly Erindale Lake from the days when a power generating plant was built in the small community.  The historic town retains many of its older buildings but the old hydroelectric dam in the park is an obvious attraction.  The view from the top of the dam gives a clue to the depth of the lake it created.


3.) Riverwood

The Riverwood Estate has become a major park in Mississauga and features a 100-year-old stone mansion.  The estate also had the first swimming pool in the future city and has a cool set of stairs hiding in the woods.


4.) Streetsville

The Hyde Mill in Streetsville was in business as early as 1840 and in 1906 was converted to become the first municipally owned power plant in Ontario.  Streetsville retains much of its historic character and still feels like a small town in the middle of the city.


5.) Meadowvale

Meadowvale has a cultural heritage designation because of the number of historic buildings that it has retained.  The Silverthorne grist mill was demolished but the foundation and the raceways remain.


6.) Churchville

Churchville developed around the mills that Amaziah Church built in 1815.  The community has one of two one-lane bridges that remain in Brampton.  This steel pony truss bridge was built in 1907.


7.) Eldorado

Eldorado Park was originally a mill site that was later turned into a family park.  The Toronto Suburban Railway passed through the park and they turned the park into a destination for their passengers.  The park still has plenty of its historic character left to explore including the remains of the old dam.


8.) Huttonville

John McMurchy’s woollen mill can be seen from Mississauga Road and was a major employer in the small community of Huttonville.  A powerhouse was built and the river dammed to ensure a steady supply of water to power it all.  The remains of the dam were badly damaged by Hurricane Hazel.


9.) Norval

The town of Norval was home to several mills and was a stage coach stop on road between Guelph and Toronto.  The old mill dam still spans the Credit River.


10.) Georgetown

The Barber Paper Mill stands beside the river in a state of ongoing decay while a developer toys with the idea of preserving the heritage buildings within the context of a new building.  Downstream the Barbers built a dynamo to power their paper mill.


11.) Glen Williams

Glen Willimas was a local hub of textile manufacturers in the 1800’s with three knitting mills competing with each other.  The town is full of history and many of the old buildings house little shops today.


12.) Terra Cotta

Terra Cotta Conservation Area has changed a lot over the years and today is more natural than it has been in many decades.  There is a 12 metre waterfall in the park along with several different trails to keep you exploring.


13.) Cheltenham

The town of Cheltenham has several historical buildings remaining as well as their old mill.  Outside of town the Badlands have exposed the Queenston Shale which was exploited at the Cheltenham Brickyards.


14.) Boston Mills

The town of Boston Mills has all but vanished and now the school has been converted to a morgue and stands in the graveyard.  On the edge of “town”, a number of old country club chalets have been abandoned and are rapidly collapsing.


15.) Inglewood

Inglewood is a railway town in that it was built at the intersection of The Hamilton & Northwestern Railway and the Credit Valley Railway.  It retains much of its railway heritage as well as the Riverside Woolen Mills.


16.) Belfountain

Like many communities, the town of Belfountain grew up around a mill site.  Later a park was built that featured an artificial version of Niagara Falls that could be viewed from a swing bridge.


17.) Cataract

Mills were built at the Cataract Falls starting in 1858 and a community known as Churchville was started.  Soon the name changed to Cataract and by 1899 the mill had been converted to the production of electricity under the name of Cataract Electric Company.


18.) Alton

Alton was an industrial centre in the late 1800’s with several mills lining Shaw’s Creek before it reaches the Credit River.  A few of the knitting mills remain in town and there are still dams with waterfalls at a couple of sites.


19.) Melville

A mill with a mill pond along with the Credit Valley Railway and the Toronto Grey & Bruce Railway were enough to get the community of Melville started.  Today the former mill pond remains as well as ghost line of the TG&B.


20.) Orangeville – Island Lake

The Credit Valley Trail ends at the Island Lake Conservation Area.  The property formerly belonged to the Island family but when the kettle lake was flooded a reservoir was created for Orangeville and a conservation area began.  Boardwalks and bridges allow you to walk an 8-kilometre trail around and across the lake.

IMG_20160220_134329_hdr (2)

The proposed trail is not complete yet and may take some years to come to fruition.  We have another twenty posts of places that fall between the Heritage Destinations that the Credit Valley Conservation and Credit Valley Trail have identified.  Perhaps we’ll share them in a future post.

Google Maps Links for each point of interest are included in the stories.

Like us at

Follow us at

Boston Mills

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The community of Boston Mills was known by several names over the years including The Credit, Caslor’s Corners and Boston.  It was originally founded in the 1820’s as The Credit when the River ran through the only intersection in town.  By the 1850’s Hiram Caslor had built a saw, grist and carding mill and Caslor’s Corners was the common name.  The post office came to town in the 1860’s and the name Boston was selected, supposedly after the song “The Long Road To Boston”.

On the 1877 county atlas map below, the community of Boston Mills is shown simply as Boston.  Chingaucousey Road is yellow and Boston Mills Road is light grey.  The Credit River has been coloured blue as has a small tributary flowing through Robert Wilkinson’s property.  The section of the Hamilton North Western Railway that we walked is coloured green as are some sections of roads around Boston Mills that we walked along.



A railway line runs up either side of the Credit River.  On the south side, the Credit Valley Railway made its way toward Orangeville.  This section of track is still active today between Brampton and Orangeville.  On the north side of the river ran the Hamilton & Northwestern Railway.  Most recently the Canadian National operated it until 1987 when it was closed and the rails were removed.  The right of way has been converted into the Caledon Trailway.  We parked beside it on Chingaucousey Road where there is free parking.  There are a number of abandoned chalets that served the Caledon Country Club from the 1960’s into the 1980’s.  One of the chalets can be seen from the parking spot.


The Caledon Trailway also shares this path with the Trans Canada Trail.  It is a popular spot for cyclists, dog walkers, joggers and the occasional blogger.


There are many side trails that run through the woods on the former Robert Wilkinson property.  We explored a few of them and ended up on the tributary of the Credit River that runs through the property.  The rail line runs high above the ravine floor and can be seen in the picture below as the straight line where the sky meets the ground.  The concrete culvert is a later addition.  The rail line originally crossed the ravine on a wooden trestle.  For stability and maintenance purposes these old trestles were often filled in by dumping gravel through the tracks until a mound was formed.  The culvert was added at the time that the trestle was filled in.


The corner of Chingoucousey Road (formerly second line west) and Boston Mills Road (formerly 32nd sideroad) is bisected by the Credit River.  This allows one bridge to serve both roads.  The modern bridge was built in 1964 and the abutments for the former alignment can still be easily seen from the bridge.  The former road emerged directly in front of the gates of Boston Mills Cemetery.


In May 1832 David Williams was struck and killed by a falling tree.  They took the bark from the tree and made a coffin out of it.  David was buried on a small hillside overlooking the Credit River.  Other local pioneers who needed non-denominational burial grounds were laid to rest alongside Williams.  In 1858 the plot of land was sold to the community by John Marshall for three grains of wheat representing the past, present and future.  In 1896 the cemetery was expanded by an acre and it grew again in 1908. There is a large grave marker shaped like a cross that identifies the Sinclair plot which remained private until 1921 when the cemetery went into perpetual care.  The picture below shows the gates to the cemetery.  They were built in 1931 as identified by the small stone marker on the right gate post.  1823 on the left gate post records the first burial.


In 1969 the school property was sold when the school board started to amalgamate schools.  From the county atlas, it appears that there was a school on the south side of Boston Mills Road in 1877.  The one room stone schoolhouse was built in 1888 and is designated as Caledon SS No. 8.  When it was added to the cemetery it became a mortuary to store the deceased for the winter while they await burial in the spring.  The surrounding grounds have been used for burials making for the unusual combination of a schoolhouse in a graveyard.  There are stories of hauntings in the cemetery and claims that there are times when lights can be seen in the old schoolhouse.  Floating orbs and playing children can be seen along with an old priest among the stones in the old graveyard.


Returning to the car we passed the farm that belonged to John Marshall in the 1870’s. The cemetery is located on the corner of this property which still has a well maintained century old barn.  Many types of farming no longer rely on the barn for storage and a lot of the ones in Southern Ontario have either fallen down or been removed so that the wood can be reused.


Boston Mills was considered for recognition as a cultural heritage district but much of the early town has been lost.  The old schoolhouse isn’t even recognized as a heritage building as there are only three old schools in Caledon on the heritage register.

Google Maps Link: Boston Mills

Like us at

Follow us at

Flynntown – Ghost Towns of Toronto

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Last week we visited the former community of Oriole at Sheppard Avenue and Leslie Street and made a short excursion north that only made it as far as Newtonbrook Creek.  To pick up where that hike left off, we took advantage of free street parking on Alamosa Drive and Gatehead Road where there is an entrance to the park.  The next community north along the river was known as Flynntown and was located around the intersection of Leslie and Finch.  Like Oriole, it formed around the mill sites that were prominent along the Don River in the first half of the 19th century.  It too was a name applied to a postal district in much the same way that we use postal codes today.

The 1877 county atlas below shows the area of the hike with the section of the East Don River that we covered being outlined in blue.  A small tip of German Mills Creek is coloured leading to the right near the top of the map.  We started at the former property of William Dunton where we looked for the remains of the saw mill built by Phillip Phillips. Old Cummer Road has been coloured in black and we followed the short piece that runs on an angle from the stream up to where it meets the grey line marking the new section of Cummer Road.  Cooper’s grist mill is shown where the new road meets the older section.

german (2)

Near the bottom of the hill when you enter the park off Alamosa Drive you will find a set of tennis courts.  Near the courts, beside the river, is a pole with life saving equipment on it.  That marks the spot where Philip Phillips built his saw mill in the early 1800’s.  The wood for the mill was rough hewn by hand indicating that it was prepared before the mill went into operation.  After the saw mill was up and running the wood produced displayed the obvious signs of being cut with a blade or wheel.  The houses and barns closest to the mill would have been constructed with wood that had been prepared at the saw mill.  The picture below shows the remains of what is most likely part of the wooden crib for the old mill dam.  The only other place we have seen the wooden crib preserved is at the Barber Dynamo.  One of the mill mapping sites reports that these are actual timers to the saw mill.


Tree Swallows are highly social birds and can form flocks of thousands around their nesting sites.  They breed in Canada and the United States but spend the winter in Mexico, the Carribean and throughout Central America.  Their genus name is tachycineta bicolor which comes from the ancient Greek for “moving quickly” and the bicolor from their two coloured markings.  The males have much brighter blue-green upperparts while the females tend to have duller colours.  The female needs to hide on the nest for two weeks before the eggs hatch and another three before the young ones are ready to leave the nest.  The brighter male likes to be obvious as he dive bombs intruders to protect the nest.


Following the trail north of Finch Avenue brings you to the intersection of Old Cummer Road and the century-old bridge across the river.  The single-lane bridge was replaced when the surrounding farms were developed for housing.  In 1968 the new portion of Cummer Road (grey on the map above) was opened and this became Old Cummer Road and was closed to through traffic.


The road north of the closed bridge has been largely overgrown and the former pavement has all but vanished.  Cummer operated a saw mill and a woollen mill on the river near his home but it closed in 1857 and all traces are now lost.


Crossing under the new Cummer Road bridge, the trail quickly follows a pedestrian bridge to the east side of the Don River.  We chose a small path that led along the west side but after crossing a drainage ditch the trail quickly vanished.  Our intention was to find any evidence of the mill site or dam that was shown on the county atlas.  The mill appears to have been somewhere near the new bridge and no trace exists.  The concrete dam we found on Cooper’s property would have been built here long after the mill had closed and would have replaced a wood crib dam.  The mill pond shown on the map has been drained.  The cover photo shows the dam from the downstream side while the picture below shows the upstream side.


This dam looks more like an electrical generating dam than one used to store water for mill operations.  A large building stood  near the end of the dam but all traces of it have vanished today.  What remains is an old utility pole that has a large transformer attached to the top along with several old light sockets.  A second electrical pole is leaning into the trees a little farther upstream.


Returning to the main trail, we crossed the Don River and went up the east side to explore the dam from that vantage point.  Near this place, German Mills Creek empties into The Don.  German Mills Creek flows for about 10 kilometres as a left tributary of the East Don River.  It gets its name from the community of German settlers who, in 1796, became the first pioneers in Markham Township.  The settlement of German Mills fell apart after only a few years but the name has been preserved via this creek.  The bridge across the creek has been here for a long time and formerly provided access to the mills and other establishments in the valley.  Today this little bridge supports the traffic along the hiking trail that follows the former roadway.


The picture below shows German Mills Creek and the confluence with the East Don River as seen from the old bridge over the creek.


The Don River is interwoven with the early history of Toronto and York County and there will always be more to explore another day.

Google Maps Link: Flynntown

Like us at

Follow us at