Tag Archives: Barbertown

Ghost Towns of Peel Region

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Peel County has changed over the years since it was created, even taking on the name Regional Municipality of Peel. Some communities were founded that flourished and others that have failed. As time goes on and developers do their work some of these former communities are being eliminated, all except for a ghost of the original community. This blog collects 9 of the ones that we have visited and arranges them in alphabetical order. Each has a picture that represents the community as well as a brief description. The link for each will take you to a feature article on the community which has the local history as well as pictures of any surviving architectural features. At the end of each feature article is a google maps link in case you should wish to explore for yourself someday. Future companion blogs in this series will cover the ghost towns of Halton Region, York Region, and the City of Toronto.

Barbertown is the site of an old mill that is still operating. It has been clad over, hiding its original stone construction. The mill is no longer powered by water and the old sluice gate has been filled in. A tree is growing where the water once ran and it has taken a solid hold on the old crank assembly.

It is common to find an old church standing beside a graveyard. Boston Mills has its old school in its graveyard. That is quite unusual. The railway through town has been closed and turned into a hiking trail and the group of small cottages that once stood on the end of the golf course are falling in on themselves.

Britannia still has several original buildings although like the Gardner home below some no longer stand in their original locations. This 1840’s house has been moved about a kilometer south on Hurontario Street.

Burnhamthorpe reached a maximum of about 100 people in the 1870’s and then began to decline. Several houses and an old church remain and the one shown below was built in 1882. Between 1897 and 1912 it served as a store and the community post office.

Dixie was a small community where each church denomination was too small to afford their own building. The solution was to get together and build a chapel that they all could share. Later they would each grow large enough to erect their own church building and move out of the Union Chapel.

Humber Grove was built in the scenic hollow around Duffy’s Lane and the Humber River. When Hurricane Hazel flooded the rivers in the GTA the government developed a flood control plan that would have built a dam north of the community. Since the valley would have been flooded the existing houses were bought up and removed. The dam was never built and now Humber Grove is now a community of streets and bridge abutments with no residents.

Malton isn’t a true ghost town because there’s still a thriving town, just not the original town where 500 people lived. After the community declined it was overrun by the airport and its associated sprawl. It still has some vintage homes and interestingly enough the empty ones have the windows boarded up and then painted to look like windows.

Mt. Charles is another community that was over-run by the airport and it’s supporting industries. Until recently there were several other buildings, including the blacksmith shop but these have been demolished. John Dale’s house, below, and a few others still survive, as does the cemetery.

Palestine was founded in 1823 but never grew beyond a church, school and a few houses. At one time the Etobicoke Creek ravine held a wastewater treatment plant that has also been removed.

There are still several ghost towns in Peel that we haven’t photographed yet and we’re looking forward to exploring them one day.

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Koliba Park

Saturday, May 30, 2020

There is an interesting enclave in Mississauga in the area of Barbertown and Streetsville.  In 1945 three Slovakian farmers were returning to Canada after serving in World War 2 and together they purchased 10 acres of land just north of Eglinton Avenue.  The little park they established was given the nick named “Midgetville”.  There is no parking close by and so we parked some distance down river and made our way north toward the site.  The trail along the river has become quite naturalized through the section known as Hewick’s Meadows.

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Heavy rains have caused the Credit River to flood its banks and divert a large flow of water onto the walking trail.  This has led to some major erosion of the path.


On the north side of Eglinton Avenue you join Barbertown Road to make your way toward Koliba Park.  Barbertown Road used to contain many houses built for the people who worked in the various mills in Barbertown.  Most of these old workers cottages have been replaced with modern homes but there are still a couple remaining from the mid-1800’s.  The picture below shows a typical duplex of the era, although it has been covered up with siding.


A little farther along Barbertown Road you will find another small abandoned home that housed a single family. Likely a new home will fill this site in the near future.


Koliba is a Slovak word that means “Shepherd’s Hut” and it suits the small cottages that were built in the valley at the bottom of Barbertown Road.  Over the years most of the 10 acres of the original property was sold of and has been developed but the small park with its cottages and playgrounds has been retained.  It hosts several Slovak events each year as well as being rented out by Slovakian churches for their services in the summer months.  Due to the fact that the site is isolated there has been a number of cases of vandalism over the years and so the gates are kept locked.  We were forced to take our pictures through the fencing.


Under normal circumstances the park hosts an opening weekend banquet on the first Saturday in May but that was cancelled this year due to the pandemic.  The Slovak Canada Day picnic that normally happens at the end of June will likely not happen either.  Instead of the park being filled with weekend campers the swing sets sit idle this year.


The Barbertown bridge was originally built to bring the mill workers from the houses on Barbertown Road to the mills that still line the east side of the river as it flows though Streetsville.  More information on the mills can be found in our post on Barbertown.  We decided to stay on the west side of the Credit River to see if we could make our way upstream to the Streetsville Dam.


Oyster Mushrooms are one of the most commonly harvested wild mushrooms in Ontario.  During the First World War the Germans began to cultivate Oyster Mushrooms for food and today they are commonly cultivated around the world.


As we made our way along the river bank we disturbed a family of Canada Geese with their five goslings.   The jumped in the water and began to cross the river with the two adults keeping the little ones safe between them.


Along the side of the river we found a dead Sea Lamprey.  Their mouth is as large or larger than the head and has no jaw.  The circular rows of teeth and suction cup mouth allow it to attach itself to fish where it slowly kills the fish by draining its blood.  Lampreys spawn in fresh water after which the adults die.  The larvae burrow in the silt at the bottom of the river and live in fresh water for several years.  They then undergo a metamorphosis that allows them to switch to salt water and they migrate to the sea.  A year and a half later they return to the fresh water rivers to span and die.


The view inside the Lampreys mouth is like something out of an old horror movie.


A pair of Turkey Vultures were circling above the river.  Perhaps one of them will eat the remains of the Lamprey.


We reached a point where the river flows beside a steep embankment where we were forced to turn back.  It might be interesting to return to Koliba Park when they are participating in Doors Open Mississauga so that we can get a look inside the buildings.

Google Maps Link: Koliba Park

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Barbertown – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday August 23, 2014

Overcast and 21 degrees but feeling more like 26 with the humidity.  We parked in the little parking lot on the east side of the Credit River just south of Eglinton Ave.

We encountered a patch of poison ivy that had started to turn red.  Poison Ivy is distinctive with it’s three leaf pattern on each stem.  It likes carbon dioxide and has doubled both it’s habitat and strength since the 1960’s.  Late in August the berries turn white as seen in the photo below.  The berries are eaten by birds and bears and are still viable after passing through them.  Some people can have a severe allergic reaction to poison ivy.


We saw a small Dekay’s Brown snake lying on a branch sunning itself.  They can grow to about 50 cm but the young, which are born in late summer, are 8-11 cm in length.  This snake is not poisonous but can emit a foul smelling musk if it feels threatened.


In 1843 the Barber Brothers, William and Robert, decided to expand their Georgetown mill operation by buying William Comfort’s farm and mill site just south of Streetsville.  In 1852 they built a 4 storey wollen mill.  When it burned in 1861 their workers just built a new one and opened again only three months later.  Within 10 years it was the fourth largest textile mill in Ontario.  During the first world war it was converted to a flour mill which it continues as today.  The second mill remains on the left in the photo below but has been covered over with stucco and aluminum siding.  The cover photo shows the mill as it looked in 1950.


Mills used to be built tall to take advantage of shafts and pulleys that were turned by the water wheel.  In this four story mill the wool was carded on the top floor then moved to the third floor where it was spun into yarn.  On the second floor it would be woven into blankets and assorted textiles.  On the first floor it was was cleaned, checked for quality and prepared for shipping.

Carding wool is a process which runs the wool through a carding material.  We get the word “carding” from the Latin word “carduus” which means teasel.  When the Barbers ran their mill, their workers would have used the heads of the teasel plant to draw out the fibres of the wool into long strands that could be spun.  Today carding is performed with a set of paddles with many closely spaced pins on them.  Teasel plants still grow around the mill property.  By mid summer the plant can be up to 2 meters tall with large purple heads on them.  The flower forms a purple ring that works its way down the the head as it blooms.  The ones pictured below have finished blooming.


The Barbertown bridge was built in 1898 to carry workers from about 40 cottages that were built along Base Line (now Eglinton Road).  The staff of the mill reached 200 at one point and used this bridge to access the cottages on the other side of the river along Barbertown Road.  The bridge originally carried a roadway as wide as the cross beams on the bottom.  A narrower foot bridge has been installed for modern pedestrian traffic.


A sluice gate is used to control the flow of water at a mill site.  By raising and lowering the gate a mill could control the speed of the water wheel.  At Barbertown the sluice gate was raised and lowered by a hand crank that would have been operated by two people. When water power was finally abandoned here in 1974 the sluice was filled in. Today a tree grows where a deep ditch full of water once ran.  The tree has grown almost completely around the steel rod as if to still the works of man even further.


The Barber dam was washed out in 1974 and never replaced.


William Barber built himself a two story house in 1862 on the corner of Barbertown Road and Mississauga Road.  It survives today as a restaurant. An 1860’s carriage parked near the front of the house reminds us of how these roads and the Barbertown Bridge were originally used.  I can picture William coming out in the morning and getting onto perhaps this very carriage.  After an inspection of the mill, perhaps a trip down Mississauga Road into Port Credit to arrange the sale or shipment of some of his textiles.


Rail corridors were strung with telegraph wires allowing transmission of information about train positions.  When electrical power was spreading in the early 1900’s the utility poles were converted to carry power as well.  Glass insulators were patented in the 1880’s and were used where each wire was attached to the pole.  In the picture below many of the original ones have been broken off but several good examples remain.  The light blue ones are possibly older than the clear glass style but to know for sure a date is usually embossed on the right side of the molder’s logo.


We disturbed a Red-Tailed Hawk who was having a little snack.  Although they eat mainly rodents they are not opposed to a little water fowl once in while as this one was enjoying. Females are up to 25% larger than males and this was therefore likely a female.


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