Tag Archives: credit valley explorer

Melville

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Caledon Township was surveyed between 1819 and 1820 with settlements beginning shortly after.  The town of Melville was founded in 1831 but was originally known as West Caledon after the church that was located on the southwest corner of Highpoint Sideroad (25th s.r.) and Willoughby Road (1st line west).

Jesse Ketchum Jr. saw the possibility for a mill and a town was born.  He built a dam on his property creating the mill pond that still exists today.  The concrete dam in the cover photo replaces an earlier wood structure that would have required constant maintenance. His father, Jesse Ketchum, had been a tanner in Toronto and had gotten rich selling leather to the government, whom he silently opposed in the rebellion of 1837.  In 1831 he had donated property for a school and a park in Yorkville, both named in his honour.  Jesse Jr. laid out the north part of Orangeville on lands owned by the family in 1856.  Then in 1859 he laid out an ambitious town plan for Melville on his property there.  Soon there was a tannery, possibly connected to the Ketchums, as well as a saw mill and an oat mill.  The town never grew the way Ketchum Jr. envisioned and eventually the tannery and mills all closed.

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There is an Upper Credit Conservation Parking lot on Porterfield Road (2nd line west) south of town, near the train tracks.  From here a trail leads east following the Credit River.  A footbridge is provided to cross the river and then the trail divides but we followed it to the north, toward Melville.  As we made our way along the trail we could hear the approach of the Credit Valley Explorer as it was making a short run through Melville.  The picture below shows the engine as it is emerging from behind a small ridge.  The Explorer runs on the old Credit Valley Railway (CVR) right of way south of town.

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To the early settlers a fence had no practical value.  Pigs and cows were left to forage all summer and were slaughtered in the fall.  By the middle of the 19th century farms were opened up enough that property lines needed to be marked and cedar rails were used, often in a zig-zag pattern.  These snaking fence lines wasted a lot of productive land and eventually they were replaced with straight fences. Fence wire was introduced in the 1890’s and steel poles came after WWII.  Snaking fences had one major advantage that kept them in use even after more advanced methods became available.  They were the only truly portable fences and farmers could move them to reconfigure their fields to meet changing needs.

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Following the trail east along the river, you will come to a new fence where the trail loops back around.  This fence is running along the top of a berm in the field.  This berm is the former right of way for the Toronto Grey & Bruce Railway (TG&B) that ran through Melville starting in 1871.  This section of the line has been closed for nearly a century but the berm is still visible from Google Earth.  There isn’t much to see other than an obviously man-made hill in the field.  There are interpretive signs in the park but none about the railway. Yet, one can stand here and almost see the steam engines rolling into town.  The farmer has created a stone fence along the edge of his field where he sold a strip of land for the railway.  Every spring the frost lifts a new crop of stones to the surface of the fields so that the farmers have to clear the rocks before planting.  Stone fence lines across Ontario are the result of needing to dispose of these stones.

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The CVR came into town in 1879 and it intersected with the TG&B just south of Highpoint Sideroad.  Known as Melville Junction it contained the station and freight buildings.  Today the junction has reverted to a farmer’s field and the old right of way for the TG&B is being kept open by a lawn mower.

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In 1932 the CPR closed the section of TG&B line from Bolton to Melville.  A little south of Melville is the site of the Horseshoe Curve Rail Disaster where a train left the tracks in 1907 killing 7 and injuring 114.  From there the line passed through Cardwell Junction.  The portion of track between Melville Junction and Orangeville is still in use as part of the CPR line through town.  Between Highpoint Sideroad and Willoughby Road the tracks cross the Credit River on a bridge that replaced the original trestle.

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This one and a half story cottage is the oldest remaining home in the village.  It was built around 1850 in what is known as the Georgian Style.  The 2 over 2 windows are likely replacements as most of the homes in this era had 6 over 6 windows.  The smaller panes of glass were easier to produce and transport without breakage.

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Like all small towns, Melville had at least one hotel.  The large building on the northeast corner of town was also the post office.

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According to the date stone, Caledon School Section 12 in Melville got a new building in 1871. Melville’s saw mill was doing a good business in decorative brackets for eaves and the local tradesmen liked to use them in pairs.

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Italianate architecture was popular in Ontario between 1840 and 1890.  This style also tends to have the round headed windows and doors that can be seen in this example below from 1875.  Like many Italianate houses,  George Hillock’s home has heavy bracketing under the eaves with the ornamentation being paired.  Another interesting feature of the style is the Widow’s Walk.  This platform on the rooftop was often railed with highly detailed wrought iron.  The name comes from their frequent location on homes built near water and the suggestion that women would walk there looking out for their husbands to return from sea.  The fact that they often didn’t return made them widows.  It is, in fact, a variation on the cupola which is common to the Italianate style.

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At the intersection of highway 10 and Highpoint Sideroad stands an abandoned house (red arrow on map). The preceding two buildings from the 1870’s were made of red brick with buff trim.  Typical of many homes in the 1850’s, this one is buff with red trim.  This farmhouse was built in 1859 by David Watson and has been covered in greater detail in a separate post which can be found here.

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Google Maps link:  Melville

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The Cataract Electric Company

Saturday July 25, 2015

Another one of those days that are actually too hot for hiking being 29 degrees but feeling like 35.  Personally, I’d rather it be minus 29 than plus when it comes to hiking.  There’s always another layer that can be added in winter but unless you want to feed the local insect population, there’s only so far you can go in the summer.

We found parking on the east side of the river, off of Charleston Sideroad. Parking is also available in the Forks of the Credit Provincial park.  We set off following a fishing trail that we thought would lead to the Cataract Falls and the remains of the Cataract Electric Company.   An archive photo of the five story building is shown below.

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What it led to was a long hike through poisonous wild parsnip patches and through places where the trail was impassible without fishing footwear.  One of the more unusual things we have seen is a piece of plastic pipe that was running like a broken tap.  The word siphon comes from a Greek word meaning pipe or tube.  A siphon causes a liquid to be carried uphill, against gravity, in a continuous self sustaining flow.  This pipe is carrying water from the river bottom on one side of the log and siphoning it over the log and back into the river.  The mystery is this, how did it get started?

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There are several places along the river where evidence of former dams still exist.  This picture shows one of these sites which is just upstream from the Quarry Dr. bridge, seen in the back ground.  Another concrete structure stands on the opposite river bank just down stream from the bridge.

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Evidence of former power transmission equipment now lays in the river a little farther along.

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During World War two previous styles of temporary bridges were no longer suitable due to the weight of tanks.  Donald Bailey developed a system of pre-formed steel trusses that could be easily adapted to a wide variety of uses which was approved in 1940.  This bailey bridge was built in three days in 1999 by the Canadian 2nd Field Engineer Regiment.  Foundations for a former bridge appear on both sides of the river to the right in the picture below.

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In 1818 William Grant, from Scotland, acquired the land at the falls on the north branch of the Credit River near the present day village of Cataract.  The original plan for a salt mine didn’t pan out and eventually a saw mill was built.  A tiny settlement called Gleniffer was started but soon disappeared.  The land was bought in 1858 by Richard Church who started a milling empire at the falls consisting of saw, grist and woolen mills.  The village of Churchville was born and would later come to be known as Cataract while the mill pond was known as Cataract Lake. Church’s original dam was just above the falls but it was badly damaged in a flood in 1912.  After that the dam was built upstream where a pedestrian bridge now crosses on the 1912 sluice gates.  This dam was dynamited in 1953 by the Canadian Pacific Railway because they feared that a flood might damage the tracks that run along the western side of the river gorge.  Just a year later Hurricane Hazel destroyed dams and bridges throughout the GTA.  The Credit Valley Explorer scenic rail tour now runs along these tracks.

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Church built his sawmill out of wood and it was destroyed in a fire in 1881.  The Wheeler brothers rebuilt it as a three story stone grist mill.  This mill didn’t last and was destroyed by fire in 1885.  John Deagle purchased the property in 1890 and built a 5 story grist mill on the same foundations.  He soon closed the grist mill and converted the structure to the production of electricity.  As you approach the remains of the building a large electrical pole is down on the ground.  The cross beam carried many glass insulators, all of which have been removed.  A cable over an inch thick lies on the ground here as well.

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Deagle produced his first electrcity from the Cataract on Nov. 2, 1899 under the name of The Cataract Electric Company Limited to light three experimental street lamps in town.  Due to right-of-way negotiations he supplied electricity to the farm on lot 5, concession 5 in Caledon making it the first farm in Ontario to have electricity.  In 1904 he signed contracts to bring electricity to the villages of Erin and Alton and eventually carried it as far as Orangeville.  He also supplied the Cheltenham Brickyards.  The view below looks out of the end of the power plant, beyond the falls, to the river in the gorge below.  Cataract Falls drops 21 meters over the side of the escarpment here and can be seen in the cover photo as it cascades over the falls.

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After the flood of 1912 Deagle rebuilt his mill but sold the power plant just three years later. After several ownership changes it was under the control of the Caledon Electric Company by 1925.  Ontario Hydro purchased the property in 1944 but due to low water levels they shut the facility down in 1947.  The wall below has original Wheeler Brothers stonework in it while the poured concrete in the picture above is a later addition.  The water fall upstream is the site of the pre-1912 dam.  The riverbank has been reinforced twice to protect the CPR tracks above. The earlier work was done with cut stone and is at water level just below the dam.  Concrete was a 20th century addition.

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Eastern hemlock grows in selected spots in the park.  It is known as a high yield cone producer and this year appears to be a good year.

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We took the trail from the power station directly back into Cataract.  It comes out close to the Cataract Inn.  The window above the door on the left that says Cataract Inn is composed of stained glass.  This was known as the Horseshoe Inn in the late 1800’s.  The window over the door on the right has 1855 written in the glass to denote the date of construction.

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A parting shot of the water dropping off the shelves of shale near the remains of the Cataract Electric Company.

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Also check out the top 15 treks in the first 100 posts here.

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