Glenorchy – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The community of Glenorchy never had a large population and had all but vanished until the city of Oakville started to expand into the area.  It won’t be long before the community will have lost all of its historical charms among new townhouses and subdivisions.  The few original houses and a school stood along the fourth line near Burnhamthorpe Road.

Glenorchy Schoolhouse

The 1877 county atlas below shows the east branch of Sixteen Mile Creek in blue as it flows under the fourth line which is marked in brown.  Glenorchy is not marked on the map, perhaps because it didn’t have a post office.  The name is likely of Scottish origin and means valley of tumbling waters.  Sixteen Mile Creek and the picturesque valley it flows through could easily give rise to a name like that.

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This picture shows the fourth line with the bridge in the foreground.  A set of stairs leads down the side of the hill to the school which is located in the ravine.  The county atlas above shows the school to the west of the road which means that the earlier road and bridge alignment likely took a more direct route to the bottom and may be still visible behind the stairs at the time of this picture.  This photo was supplied by Neil Omstead.

Glenorchy Schoolhouse

We parked on the Fourth Line south of Lower Base Line near the entrance to Glenorchy Conservation Area.  Glenorchy Conservation Area protects 400 hectares of environmentally sensitive land containing both the Sixteen Mile Creek Valley and Trafalgar Moraine.  The trail follows the old road south and into the ravine.

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The fourth line makes a steep descent to the creek and on this day the ice was just forming in the water.

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As you follow the fourth line south down the side of the ravine you see the back of the remaining abutment from the former bridge.

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The fourth line bridge over Sixteen Mile Creek is shown in the county atlas of 1877.  The exact location of this bridge has been hidden by time.  In 1898 Dr Ansun Buck of Palermo, a nearby ghost town, designed a new bridge over the creek.  It was built with the north abutment made of cut stone.  The picture below shows the bridge around 1900 and was taken from close to the location of the public school which was built in the floodplain of the creek.

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Only the north abutment remains today.  The south approach to the bridge can still be identified by a pathway that has a ridge of earth piled on each side from the levelling of the road.  The north abutment has a major crack in it where the soil has washed away from behind the cut stones and they are slowly shifting.  There is a possibility that this abutment may partially collapse.

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The bridge stood until 1964 when it collapsed.  There was construction in the area and traffic was being diverted onto the fourth line.  A fully loaded potato truck followed the detour onto the bridge but it collapsed under the weight.  The picture below from the Halton Archives shows the truck in the ravine and the crane that was brought in to retrieve it.  The picture is dated March 1965 however that is the date it was printed and not the date it was taken.  In those days, you didn’t get to upload your pictures from the side of the river, you had to wait until the whole roll of film was finished and take it in for development.

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A new bridge was built over the creek in the 1980’s and online sources say it was built on the same abutment as the earlier bridge.  Having visited the site it seems likely that it was built a hundred metres downstream where today’s footbridge crosses.  This bridge was closed in 2001 on a permanent basis.  The steep slope of the northern approach combined with a hairpin turn onto the bridge meant that it was closed for the winter every year anyway.  The road was closed to vehicle traffic but left open for pedestrians and cyclists.  Looking below the new footbridge you can see the larger cut stone abutment for the 1980’s bridge.

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Looking from the south toward the bridge you can see the sharp turn in the road and the steep incline as the road makes its way toward Lower Base Line.  It is easy to see why a fully loaded truck was out of place coming down the steep hill onto the hairpin turn that leads onto the bridge.

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In 1835 George Ludlow and his wife Francis moved to Trafalgar and built this log cabin which stands at the end of Burnhamthorpe Road in Glenorchy.  Francis gave birth to their six daughters in this three-room cabin.  Similar to the first house on the Stong property (now Black Creek Pioneer Village) this house has two bedrooms and a living room where the cooking, weaving and dining would have been done.  The end of the house with the chimney had this family room in it.  The bedrooms are on the end of the house with no window.  The cabin is known as the Ludlow/Slacer cabin because of Martha, the second oldest daughter, who lived here after she married John Slacer.  The cabin is marked with a red arrow on the county atlas above.

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In 1991 there was a sign welcoming people into Glenochy.  The population was 18 at that time.  This house is near the corner of the Fourth Line and Burnhamthorpe Road.  It is one of several that appear to be uninhabited although this one has a light on over the front porch, not exactly common among abandoned places.  There is very little information on historic houses in Glenorchy, unlike nearby Palermo but this house stands on property that also belonged to John Slacer in 1877.

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Kings Christian College is located at the corner of the old Fourth Line and Burnhamthorpe where it replaces a couple of historic homes.  This set of gates stands on the south side of Burnhamthorpe Road but a quick investigation shows that whatever they originally announced, remains here no more.  Perhaps they once led to the farmhouse of T.L. Johnson and I’ve marked a potential laneway in green on the map above.

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Glenorchy may have had only 18 people in 1991 but since then it has a brand new subdivision and the town of Oakville is approaching quickly.  The Glenorchy Conservation is yet to be explored and so a future visit is in order.

Google Maps Link: Glenorchy

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The Devil Made Me Do It

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ontario has some very interesting geological features named after the devil.  So far we’ve visited five of them, all of which have a beauty one wouldn’t normally associate with their namesake.  The links for each are given as well as a brief description of what can be seen there.  Google Maps links for the locations are contained in each story.

The Devil’s Punch Bowl

The Devil’s Punch Bowl is a 37-metre waterfall on Stoney Creek.  There is a 7-metre lower punch bowl and combined all the layers of the Niagara Escarpment are exposed here.  Stories suggest that at one time the water from the falls was collected and used by local moonshiners and so the area took the name The Devil’s Punch Bowl.

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The Devil’s Pulpit

The Devil’s Pulpit looks out over the Forks of the Credit.  It is accessed by the Bruce Trail and involves a climb up the side of the escarpment as seen in the cover photo. Having climbed to the top you are treated to the expansive vista pictured below which has its charms regardless of the season.  This site was formerly known as the Forks Quarries but is now known as the Devil’s Pulpit.

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The Devil’s Well

The world’s largest intact glacial pothole is known as the Devil’s Well.  There are six obvious potholes along the top of the cliff that was formed when calcium and magnesium carbonates in the limestone were dissolved in mildly acidic rainwater.  Rapidly moving water at the end of the last ice age would have scoured the inside of these karst formations and created the potholes, five of which merged into each other.  The remaining pothole is over 13 metres deep and has a maximum diameter of 6.4 metres.  The Devil’s Well is truly a remarkable pothole.

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The Devil’s Cave

North of Oakville is a cave that has collapsed and the entrance is now closed.  Behind this rock, it may still open up into a cavern known as the Devil’s Cave.  The pool in the back of the cave was referred to as the Devil’s Pool.  This cave may have played a role in the aftermath of the 1837 Rebellion in that rebel leader William Lyon Mackenzie is said to have stayed in the Devil’s Cave one night during his flight to exile in the United States.

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Devil’s Falls

Devil’s Falls drops 12-metres into the Grand River and is the farthest away from the GTA of these five devils.  The picture below shows a side view from the top as we were unwilling to try and scale down the side of the ravine.  Local stories of smoke that came out of a cave part way down the side were used to discourage children from playing on the steep cliffs.  The idea that the devil lived in the cave led to the name Devil’s Creek being applied to the short waterway nearby which ends at Devil’s Falls.

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We have yet to visit the Devil’s Tabletop.  Please reply with a comment if you know of another geological feature with “Devil” in the name that may be of interest to readers.

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Humber Bay Park – East and West

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017

Humber Bay Park is split in two by Mimico Creek with the two sides being cleverly named East and West.  They sit at the west end of the Humber Bay shoreline.  Both sides of the park have parking lots accessible off of Lakeshore Boulevard.  In 1970 the Lakeshore bridge over Mimico Creek was right at the mouth of the creek.

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All of Humber Bay Park has been created by lake fill since that time. It was developed by the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and is operated under the authority of Metropolitan Toronto Parks.  We parked in the west side of the park and the picture below was taken along the shore. It shows that the park is made of what is considered clean fill. This is mostly bricks and concrete from demolition projects which supposedly does not contain any environmental hazards.

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51 million cubic metres of landfill was used by the time the park opened on June 11, 1984.  The debris slowly erodes out of the shoreline and gets tumbled and rounded in the lake. As the years go by they will return to the sand from which they were created. A similar process is going on in Lakeside Park a little west of here.  Many of the bricks in this section of the park were made by Hamilton Brickworks.

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Some wildlife is quite adaptable to living in close proximity to humans.  Although the park is made of landfill, beaver have moved in and made the shoreline home.  Instead of building a lodge to hide from predators in, this large specimen has a home in among the armour stone that lines the shore near the boat launch on the west side of the park.  The west park is also home to the Humber Bay Boating Federation and hosts two yacht clubs. The Etobicoke Yacht Club and Mimico Cruising Club provide docking facilities and the Humber College Sailing School is also operated from the west park.  Two red and white lighthouses are located in the yacht basin that were built in 1895 to mark the eastern gap in Toronto Harbour.  They were moved to the park after being taken out of service in 1973 and relocated in 1981.

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Canada Geese can actually be herded quite easily when they don’t have their young chicks to defend.  Parental instincts can make them much more aggressive than they are under normal circumstances.

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The mud along the side of Mimico Creek reveals the wildlife that lives in this little greenbelt.  White-tailed deer prints are mixed with those of racoons and Canada Geese.  Coyote prints can be found here as well.  They are easily identifiable by the fact that the front claws curl inward.  Domestic dogs have their nails worn down from walking on hard floors and concrete sidewalks.  The front two claws of the coyote print below cut a pair of deep grooves into the mud.  They would do a deadly job on a small animal, should it be caught unawares.

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In 1997 the first single rib inclined arch bridge in North America was built across the Mimico creek near the mouth.  The creek is 90 metres wide at this point but was reduced to 44 metres to keep construction costs down.  The bridge deck was also reduced to just 2.5 metres to keep the project on it’s $650,000 budget.  The narrowing of the creek provided wetlands around the bridge attracting wildlife to the area.

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The east park contains several ponds, the largest of which is traversed by a boardwalk.  Several restoration projects are underway in the park with the trail being diverted onto the boardwalk while the main trail is being repaired.  New habitats are being created along the shore by the addition of some random sunken logs, rock piles, log cribs and sunken vertical trees.

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From the park, you can look back the shore and see the many towers that have sprung up over the years.  On the right-hand side, you can see the white arch of the bridge over the Humber River.  When it was built in 1994 many of these towers didn’t exist.  To the west of here at the mouth of Mimico Creek, the towers get taller with the tallest tower, 62 floors,  in Canada outside of the downtown core currently under construction.

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The park contains Toronto’s memorial to the victims of the bombing of Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985.  The flight originated in Montreal and was bound for Dehli and Bombay but it was lost over the Atlantic near Ireland. The sundial memorial in Humber Pay Park East was revealed on June 23, 2007, to commemorate the 329 lives that were lost to the bombing on that day. The stones in the sundial podium were donated from every province and territory in Canada as well as the countries of India, Ireland, Japan, and the USA. All of whom were touched by the tragedy.

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This fall we photographed two pieces of artwork in along the east trail between Mimico Creek and the mouth of the Humber River.  They were created by local artists out of driftwood and represent a bather looking out toward Toronto’s skyline as well as the word Toronto.  The Toronto sign was badly damaged and had been repaired a few times but was finally removed on Dec. 9th, 2017.

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The Waterfront Trail runs for 740 kilometres and part of it passes through the East and West Humber Bay Park area where it can be accessed by the residents of all the new towers going up along the shoreline.

Google Maps Link: Humber Bay Park

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Rebel Rebel – William Lyon Mackenzie

Thursday, December 7, 2017

In the course of Hiking the GTA we have come across William Lyon Mackenzie several times.  December 7th, 2017 will be the 180th anniversary of the failure of his dream to overthrow British colonial rule.

Mackenzie was born near Dundee, Scotland on March 12, 1795.  William was born into the clan Mackenzie and both of his grandfathers had fought in the uprising of 1745 when the Scottish Highlanders fought unsuccessfully behind Prince Charles Stuart in an attempt to put a Scotish King back on the throne.  At the age of 25, he immigrated to Upper Canada and moved into the house pictured below in Queenston. On April 18, 1824, he planted 5 Honey Locust trees to mark the launch of his newspaper The Colonial Advocate.  Two of the trees survive and one is visible behind the chimney on the left.  The Colonial Advocate became a prime voice for the reform movement in Upper Canada and was highly critical of the ruling elect whom he berated with scathing personal attacks.

Colonial Advocate

Mackenzie moved to York (Toronto) in 1825 and continued to publish the Colonial Advocate.  It was so unpopular with the aristocracy that on June 8, 1826, several well-placed young men broke into his print shop and wrecked his printing press.  Then they carried his type down to the bay and threw it in.  This incident became known as the Types Riots and was used by Mackenzie to gain support for his reform movements.  The type in the picture below was photographed at the Mackenzie House Museum and is typical of what was thrown in the bay.  Capital letters were stored in the case on the top while small letters were stored in the case on the bottom.  From this, we derive the term upper case and lower case letters.

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Mackenzie was elected in 1831 and carried his reform attitude into the House of Assembly where it continued to get him in trouble.  He was expelled from the assembly 5 times between 1831 and 1834 but was re-elected every time.  York was incorporated as a city in 1834 and the name was changed to Toronto.  Elections were held to select the first mayor of the new city and Mackenzie won.  The following year he ran for the Assembly again and this time a majority of reformers were elected.  David Gibson was one of Mackenzie’s most consistent followers and was also elected.  Gibson was a surveyor and had named the town of Willowdale at modern Yonge and Shepherd.  His house was a common meeting place for Mackenzie and his rebels as they convinced themselves that the political process would never work and an open rebellion was required.  Gibson would later have a price put on his head for his part in the rebellion.  He would escape to the USA but his property was confiscated and the house and barns burned by the government in retaliation.  The current Gibson house was built upon his return in 1851 and operates as a museum hidden among the highrises of North York.

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Sir Francis Bond Head had moved the troops from Fort York to present day Quebec to put down the rebellion that was taking place in Lower Canada.  He didn’t think Mackenzie was capable of mounting an armed rebellion but he had dropped the word Colonial from his newspaper as the Advocate because he was no longer thinking in terms of being a colony.  The Draft Constitution for the Independent State of Upper Canada was presented at a meeting on November 18th, 1837 and a date of December 7th set for the uprising.  On December 4th Mackenzie arrived at Gibson’s house to find that Samual Lount had left Holland Landing with his supporters and was on his way to Montgomery’s Tavern, ahead of schedule.  This tavern was the second one on the site just north of Yonge and Eglinton and would have appeared as it did in this contemporary sketch of the death of Lt. Col. Robert Moodie.  Moodie had tried to force the rebel lines at the tavern on December 4th and when he drew his pistol he was met with four rifle shots and later died of his wounds.

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Meanwhile, John Powell, one of the ruling Family Compact, had attempted to kill Mackenzie but was captured when his gun misfired.  Mackenzie, along with his military leader Anthony Anderson, wanted to appear to be gentlemen and so they accepted Powell’s word that he was unarmed.  Powell later shot and killed Anderson and made his escape.  Anderson had military experience and his loss was critical for the rebels.  The following day Samuel Lount, Mackenzie and a detachment of men set out down Yonge Street.  Sheriff Willliam Jarvis and 27 men armed with muskets were hiding in William Sharpe’s garden (now the site of Maple Leaf Gardens).  That evening the Tory muskets fired into the darkness and the front row of rebels answered in kind.  They dropped to their knees so the men behind could fire over their heads but these militias thought their comrades were shot.  Once they fled the battle was over quickly but Lount had been captured.

By December 6th the rebel forces were discouraged and becoming outnumbered.  To prevent British support from arriving from Kingston or Lower Canada it was decided to burn the Queen Street bridge over the Don River.  Peter Matthews and 60 men set out to do this but they failed and Matthews was captured.   December 7th was revolution day and Mackenzie was determined to carry on.  He rallied his forces at Montgomery’s Tavern and prepared to march into the city.  However, Lieutenant Governor Bond Head had moved north with his cannon and opened fire.  When cannonballs started crashing through the tavern the rebels scattered.  Bond Head watched as the tavern was torched and Montgomery arrested.  The tavern was later replaced with another one that burned down in 1881.  The land was then sold to John Oulcott who built a three-story brick hotel.  It later served as the North Toronto post office from 1890 until it was torn down in the 1930’s.  Postal Station K was opened in 1936 and bears the inscription EviiiR for Edward viii, King of Canada.  Very few public buildings were erected during his 11-month reign and this is perhaps the only one in Toronto.  Today the old post office is being incorporated into a new condo tower.

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With the end of the rebellion came a period of retribution. Most of the rebels attempted to make their way to the United States. Mackenzie had a 1000 pound price on his head and so he made his way from farm to farm being hidden by his supporters.

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In all, 25 people were executed in Upper Canada following the rebellion.  Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews were the only two in Toronto, both of them at the Don Jail.  They were buried in the Potter’s Field at Yonge and Bloor where all hanged people were interred.  One hundred and fifty men were sentenced to banishment in Tasmania and Australia.  In February 1849 a general amnesty was granted and many started to return to Canada.  The picture below shows the Devil’s Cave where Mackenzie is said to have hidden during his flight to the States.

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Upon his return to Canada in 1849 he resumed his political life and went back to publishing his newspapers.  He was given the house at 82 Bond Street where he spent the remainder of his days.  The house was originally the middle of three townhouses that were built in 1858.  In 1936 the house was saved from demolition because of its historic value.  Mackenzie’s daughter married into the King family and when she had a son she named after her father.  William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister and the one that guided us through the Second World War.  He was in office at the time that the house was preserved.  Today it houses a museum and a print shop similar to the one that Mackenzie had when he lived in the house.

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William Lyon Mackenzie was instrumental in having the remains of Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews removed from their common grave in the potter’s field when that cemetery was closed.  They were reinterred at The Necropolis.  Mackenzie would be buried there himself when he passed away on August 28th, 1861 of an apoplectic seizure.

Mackenzie Grave

The cover picture shows the memorial to Mackenzie that stands on the west side of Queens Park.  Before he passed away Mackenzie got to witness the establishment of a system of responsible government.  His life struggle had not been in vain.

Further reading:

The Firebrand – William Kilbourn contains Mackenzie’s own account of the rebellion.

1837 Rebellion A Tour Of Toronto and Nearby Places – Mark Frank has walking tours of the various points of interest.

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Palermo – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday, November 25, 201

While investigating The Devil’s Cave we had the opportunity to drive through the former town of Palermo.  Today there are several historic buildings left but they are being threatened by the expansion of Oakville.  Widening of Bronte Road and then a bypass when highway 5 and 25 were moved has left the town with mostly empty buildings.

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Lawrence Hagar arrived in 1805 and founded the town which was named Hagartown after him.  In 1836 it was renamed Palermo after Horatio Nelson,  Lord of Palermo.  The Lawrence Foundry and Agricultural Works was founded in 1842 and became the main employer in the new community.   The town grew quickly and by 1869 there were three hundred people living in the community at the intersection of Bronte Road and Dundas Street.   In addition to the usual blacksmith shops and hotels, they also had a harness shop, a wagon shop, and a brick schoolhouse.  Later the town included a telegraph company office as well.  The picture below shows the town around 1900.  The house in the foreground on the right remains but little else still does.  The foundry is on the left but it burned down in the 1950’s.

Palermo 1900

Lawrence Hagar built his original log home in 1805 and replaced it with a two-story Georgian home in 1848.  That home was listed as vacant in 2008 but has since been removed.  The third Hagar house was built in 1870 by Jonathan Hagar.  Jonathan had moved out of Palermo when he was 25 in search of fortune in gold mines in Australia and California.  When his father Lawrence died in 1857 he returned to Palermo to take over the family business.  The house also features a small barn that was constructed around 1900 to house the family horses.  The Hagar General Store stood just to the west of the house until it was removed for the widening of Dundas Street.  This property is currently being rezoned for a 10 story apartment building that appears to incorporate the house in the main entrance to the tower.  The house is registered with the historical society but does not have protection as a designated property.

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Lawrence Hagar was a devout Methodist and the first worship services in town were held in his home.  In 1824 land was deeded for a chapel on a property that had been used for a few burials beginning in 1813.  A chapel was built but when the Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada and the Wesleyan Methodist church of England merged there was a split in Palermo and for a while two chapels existed.  One was located on either side of the cemetery.  In 1867 work began on a new church to house both congregations.  The brick church was opened in 1869 with a steeple that has been removed since then.  The church is still active under the name of the United Church of Canada.

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The cemetery has a surprising number of pioneer stones in it.  The first burial was in 1813 and we found this stone which reads in part: Alexander Rose who departed this life September 27th, 1813 aged 44 years.

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The present school is the fourth one to serve the community.  As early as 1819 there was a one-room log school in town.  It was one of only 3 schools in Trafalgar Township.  A brick school was built in 1842 and then replaced in 1875.  In 1940 this third school was damaged in a storm and many of the original materials were incorporated into the new building that opened in 1942.  The school building has the 1875 date stone incorporated into the back of the building.  It was closed in the early 1960’s and converted into the Palermo Police department.  Today it houses the historical society and has been registered but not given a historical designation.

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Dr Ansun Buck served the community for over 40 years.  He built a surgery in his house in the 1860’s and from there took care of the medical needs of Palermo and surrounding area.  Buck also designed one of the early bridges over Bronte Creek.  When he died in 1919 he was buried in the Presbyterian Church cemetery.  His house is an excellent example of Italianate architecture with a few Gothic touches to make it stand out.  This is one of only two houses in town that is designated as a heritage structure

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H. M. Switzer purchased 24 acres of land in 1861 and built this Italianate house in 1868. Switzer was the postmaster and a merchant in town.  This is the other house in town to have a heritage designation.

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Caleb Smith built this house in 1875.  His father was Benjamin Smith who was the town carriage maker in 1806.  Smith built a large Georgian style house in 1822 that was the oldest home in Palermo.  It was allowed to deteriorate and it finally collapsed in 2007.  Caleb’s house is currently empty as are all the other original homes on the south end of Old Bronte Road.  I hope they restore it because it has some very interesting bracketing on the front porch.

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This gothic revival style house was built in 1880 beside the Methodist Church (now United Church).  It served as a parsonage for the next 32 years with one of the ladies groups being charged with preparing it for each new minister.  It was moved from the original location on Dundas Street to the present one on (old) Bronte Road around 1912 when the church sold it.  There appears to be a plan to restore and move some of the homes to save them but it is unclear which ones.

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This house on Dundas Street is one of the few that really look like they should be decommissioned.  Rather, it looks to be in the process of collapsing as several other original structures in town have done.  The cover photo shows the front door to be off centre, perhaps it was some kind of store at one time.

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A park has always been central to Palermo life.  The park used to be on the west side of town but was in the way of the revised intersection for highway 5 and 25.  A new park with ball diamonds was created on the north side of Dundas Street.  There is a pond that stands between the schoolyard and the new park.  I imagine that there is no shortage of waterfowl in the summer months.

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It remains to be seen what will come of the original community of Hagartown which flourished under the name of Palermo.  I hope they don’t allow it to become a name on a signpost on a cemetery, commemorated by two or three original structures scattered among the new urban sprawl.

Google Maps Link: Palermo

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The Devil’s Cave

Saturday, November 25, 2017

On December 7th, 1837 William Lyon Mackenzie’s rebellion in Upper Canada was crushed and he was forced to flee to the United States to avoid arrest and trial for treason.  The story goes that he hid for the night in a cave north of Oakville before making his way to the border.   Locally the cave has become known as the Devil’s Cave.  An artesian spring in the back of the cave created a small pool which local school children came to call the Devil’s Pool.

The picture below is from the Oakville Archives and is believed to have been taken around 1915 on a school trip to the cave.  Where Bronte Road meets the present QEW was a community known as Merton.  The Merton school was known as SS #15 and was a log building until 1857 when a brick one was constructed.  It was demolished to make way for the QEW and the few remaining students were taken to Palermo starting in 1958.  We knew the cave had collapsed and couldn’t be entered but set out to locate it and see what remained.

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As soon as we started moving through the grass on leaves we disturbed a number of small white moths.  Winter moths emerge from the ground between late November and the end of the year.  They are an invasive species of which only the male can fly.  The female crawls to the base of a tree where she attracts the male with her pheromones and then lays about 150 eggs in the bark.  In the spring the caterpillars hatch and begin to devour the leaves of maples, oaks and apple trees.  In the middle of the summer, the caterpillars go underground to pupate and emerge as moths in the fall.  They can kill a tree by removing the leaves for three years in a row.

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There are several distinct roadways and man-made berms as you descend the side of the ravine.

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This section of the ravine revealed a pioneer artifact in the form of an old saw.

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There is a fisherman’s trail along the creek but you will need good footwear or you can count on wet feet and you make your way through several sections of wetlands and marsh.  The sides of the ravine have open seepage as water flows along the surface of the hillside.  There were still a couple of late-season salmon in the river although the run is basically over.

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There is a point where you will not be able to continue at river level due to the shale cliff that has been eroded into the embankment.

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Forced upward you will find the limestone to be full of fossils.  The limestone is full of holes which is evidence of karst activity, typical of the formation of caves.

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About 3/4 of the way up the hillside is the remains of the entrance to the Devil’s Cave.  It has collapsed some time ago and can no longer be entered.  Water flows out of the bottom of the old entrance, perhaps a legacy of the old pool inside the cave.

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Probing with sticks and flashlights showed that the cave extends farther than can be seen with the available light.

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At this point you will be forced to retrace your steps.

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Roblin’s Mill

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Black Creek Pioneer Village is built around the homestead of Daniel and Elizabeth Stong.  Their story and a brief history of the village can be found in this earlier post.  Once the decision had been made to collect historic buildings to allow people to glimpse the life the settlers lived it was time to identify potential buildings to put in the village.  Since most pioneer villages were founded around a saw mill, grist mill or woollen mill it was necessary to move a mill to the site at Steeles Avenue and Jane Street.

Owen Roblin took possession of a land grant not too far from Trenton that included a lake that came to be known as Roblin’s Lake.  Owen blasted a head race from the lake to a point where he could create a 75 foot head of water to turn his 30-foot overshot water wheel.  He divided part of his property to create town lots which were the beginning of the town of Roblin’s Mills.  He added a sawmill and carding mill and the town attracted blacksmiths, a harness maker hotels and a general store.  Today the town is known as Ameliasburgh.  The picture below shows the mill around the time it closed.  The building in the foreground is the carding mill and the water wheel is between the two buildings.  The head race runs under the road.  The building in the background with the sloping roof is the File Brothers General Store which closed in 1951.

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During the peak period around the time of the American Civil War, the mill was producing up to 100 barrels of flour per day.  Most of this was shipped to the northern states where it supported the army.  The mill was closed in 1920 and sat abandoned until 1965 when it was decided to demolish it.  The Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) was looking for a mill for Black Creek Pioneer Village and decided to purchase Roblin’s Mill and relocate it to the village.

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A mill pond was created at the village using Black Creek as a source of water.  There is a second mill pond behind the mill where the water goes after it flows over the water wheel.  This picture shows the upper pond and the entrance to the headrace which also flows under the road.

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The five-story stone mill was built in 1842 and soon became the focus of the community and included a post office.  As a commercial mill, it operated 24 hours per day with three run of stones.  The picture below and the cover shot show the open wooden flue that carries the water to the wheel.

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Inside, large wooden gears turned by the water wheel drove the three mill stones.

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Millstones relied on fine grooves that had to be dressed at least once a month when the mill was running 24 hours per day.

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Samples of grain and flour were moved from one floor to the other using these belts and cups.

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The ground flour was stored in dry barrels that were produced next door in the cooperage.  A dry barrel was less precise than ones known as wet barrels which were used for liquids such as whiskey.

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Black Creek has added the cooperage of John Taylor to their collection of buildings.  The building dates to the 1850’s and was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1976.  It wasn’t restored or opened until 1988.  Coopers often located next to mill complexes so that there was a ready market for their wares.

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Inside John Taylor’s Cooperage, you can see several types of barrels that were produced in the shop when it was located in Paris, Ontario.

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We close with an archive picture of the mill before it was moved to the village.

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I have yet to see the mill in operation although I have purchased a bag of flour that was milled there.

Google Maps Link: Black Creek Pioneer Village

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