Friday April 3, 2015.
It was by far the warmest hike of the year so far at 12 degrees feeling like 18. Before we got back to the cars we were carrying sweaters and coats. It was Good Friday and perfectly applicable that we should go to church. So we went to Churchville to explore the historical little village and the conservation area that separates it from Meadowvale. We parked in the same lot as last week where the Second Line dead ends below the New Derry Road. Crossing under the bridge we made our way north intending to make it as far as Steeles Avenue.
One of the first plants to respond to the warmer days and increased sunshine is the dogwood. Also known as Cornus Sericea they grow wild in wetlands throughout Canada. Their bark takes on a brighter red colour before the leaves come out.
When the Derry Road Bypass (now just Derry Road) was built in the mid 1990’s the Second Line was closed where the bypass intersected it. After investigating a woodlot just north of the bypass we headed west back toward the Credit River. The picture below shows the closed second line looking south toward Meadowvale.
The Credit Valley Railway (CVR) was incorporated in 1871 with a mandate to build a railway from Toronto to Orangeville with various branches westward to Waterloo. The railway stopped at Meadowvale where the station was at the corner of Old Creditview and Old Derry (now marked by a single old telegraph pole). It bypassed Churchville on the east and made it’s next stop in Brampton. By 1881 the CVR was in trouble and was incorporated into the Canadian Pacific Railway. We crossed the old CVR tracks where some of the tie down plates are dated 1921 as seen below.
Perhaps the first new growth of the spring are these Coltsfoot flowers that are growing along the banks of the river. Coltsfoot are unique in that the flowers appear without the previous formation of any leaves. After the seeds are distributed the flower disappears and the leaves grow, making at appear to be a plant without flowers. The name comes from two Latin words which mean to act on, or cast out, a cough. We now know that the plant has certain toxic alkaloids that destroy the liver and some countries have banned it’s medicinal use. The plant which is the first sign of new life this spring turns out to be toxic to life, if ingested. In the picture below it looks like a dandelion but is too early and also lacks the green leaves.
Built in 1907 the current one lane bridge over the Credit River in Churchville replaced several earlier wooden bridges that crossed the river in the centre of town. The bridge style is known as a steel pony truss bridge. A truss bridge is one of the earliest designs of bridges and was very common during the 19th and early 20th century. A truss bridge uses a design of triangles to keep the elements of the bridge stressed either through tension or compression. Where the sides extend above the roadway but are not connected across the top it is known as a “pony truss”. This bridge is one of only two single lane bridges remaining in Brampton. A 1911 picture of the bridge is featured in the cover photo. It was taken at about this time of year and large slabs of ice are melting beside the bridge abutments. Of note are the three people who are standing on the outside of the bridge railing in the historical photograph.
Amaziah Church founded the town in 1815 when he built mills on the Credit which were at first known as Church’s Mills. With a population of 80 it got it’s own post office and the new name of Churchville in 1831. By the 1850’s it had peaked at over 200 people and was home to 5 mills and over 20 small businesses plus three general stores. The crash in grain prices following the Crimean War hurt the small milling community and between 1866 and 1877 all of the mills closed. In 1875 a fire destroyed much of the town, which was never rebuilt. The failure of the CVR to come into town in 1877 was a final blow to ensure it wouldn’t recover from it’s decline. Of the 98 homes that once stood in the village less than 20 remain.
This building dates to 1840 and may have originally been a wagon shop belonging to Thomas Fogerty. It served as the final general store for the community and lasted until the 1960’s when it was converted into a residence. The original store windows have been hidden when the front porch was enclosed.
Formerly known as the May Hotel this 1830’s structure is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Churchville.
At one time there were three churches in town. The Anglican and Episcopalian churches have been lost and the only one remaining is the Weslyan Methodist, built in 1856.
The old plow in the picture below has been sitting in one place for so long that a group of small trees is growing up in the middle of the frame.
The first burial in the Churchville cemetery was Amaziah Church in 1831.
The town of Churchville sits on the floodplain for the Credit River and has experienced repeated flooding over the years. When the town was recognized as a Cultural Heritage District it was decided to do something to protect the historic homes in town. In 1989 a protective berm was built between the river and the homes along it’s east side. Behind houses it has been built with a concrete wall and between houses the gentle slope of the berm can be seen. The picture below is taken from beside the former volunteer fire department station.
Tagged on the plate as a 100 year vehicle it was appropriate that we saw it entering the 1907 bridge.