Tag Archives: Gooderham & Worts

Hermit Hollow – Hillsburgh

Tuesday Sept. 15, 2015

After having visited The Ghost Town Of Sixteen Hollow and Trout Hollow I wanted to complete the trilogy and visit the collapsed house in Hermit Hollow.  I parked off of Station Road where the old Credit Valley Railway station once stood.  I walked south on the old rail line then walked the length of the main street.

After the coming of the railway potato growing became an important part of the Hillsburgh economy.  In 1881 the first carload of 210 bags of potatoes was shipped from Hillsburgh to Toronto.  Before long up to 3,000 bags a day were being shipped.  For a few years the town even celebrated Potato Fest.  The cover photo shows a plastic button from the 1973 festival. Beside the railway station stood large potato sorting and storage sheds.  An underground potato storage facility near the railway station has been converted into a house.  Note the concrete storage entrance on the side of the house and the extensive berm for storage.  All of the windows have been reduced in height and bricked in and a doorway has been closed off where the propane storage tank stands.

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In 1821 William Howe bought lots 22 and 23 in the seventh concession of Erin township.  He built a general store and trading post on the 7th line.  His second, larger store, blew up due to careless smoking and storage of gunpowder. A third store was then built which operated into the 1970’s.  All of the old tin advertising for Coke, Black Cat Cigarettes and the Orange Crush door handle are all gone from the store front and now it survives as an office building.

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Nazareth Hill arrived a couple of years later and built a hotel on lot 25.  He surveyed his property for town lots and named the community after himself.  As Hillsburgh grew it swallowed Howville.  It was incorporated as a police village in 1899 with a population of 500.

The first school house dates to 1844 and survives today as a private residence.  A one room brick school was completed in 1864 with an addition for the juniors on the front in 1878. In 1960 six acres were purchased from the Nodwell farm and Ross R. McKay school was opened with four class rooms.  The picture below shows the old school which has served local farmers as Hillsburgh Feed since 1963.  The 1864 school room is hiding in the back beside the feed silos.

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William How is buried in the pioneer cemetery near the middle of town.  After many years of neglect the stones were gathered up and placed in a central location.

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William Nodwell came to Canada from Ireland in 1838 and settled on Lot 24.  His first log home burned down within a year.  Nodwell then sold half of the lot and constructed another log house and barns.  In 1868 the brick house shown below was built.  This view shows the front of the now abandoned house with it’s second story oriel window.  In 1895 the house at the corner of the lane was added for use by family members.  In 1926 Mungo Nodwell took over running the farm which was well known for the  potatoes he grew.  Today there is an open proposal to develop this farm for a subdivision and the electric fence that used to surround the school yard has been replaced with a row of trees.

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A second town hall was built in 1887.  The date stone is interesting because it has no “h” on the end of the town’s name.  Notice the two maple leaves above the date and the beaver below. The Beaver was the name of the town newspaper in 1887 and cost 25 cents per year, paid in advance.

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Six of Hillsburgh’s seven church buildings remain.  The first, and only missing, church was the Union Church and it stood beside the pioneer cemetery.  As each of the denominations grew they left the Union Church and got their own buildings.  From the south end of town is the Baptist Church (1862), Christian Church (1906) and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian (1869) which burned in 1965 and was rebuilt in the original walls.  Beside the river stands the United Church which was reassembled here in 1926 and the Anglican Church seen below.  It was built in the early 1890’s but closed in 1918 and served as a honey extracting plant after that.

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Hillsburgh didn’t have a fire hall until the church fire of 1965.  After that it had a two door building that stood beside the river.  When the arena was replaced it was moved to Station Road.  Today there is a semi-circle of concrete on the ground behind the arena to mark the tower where the fire hoses were hung to dry.

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The Exchange Hotel was built in 1883 and was one of three hotel buildings that remain in town. Until recently It had stables in the back for the traveler’s horses and lettering on the arch which said “Good Stabling”.  It is the only three story building in Hillsburgh.

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Church Street was home to the Methodist Church.  This was also the site of the town’s third cemetery which lies below the lawn.

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The Barbour house, dated 1889, is on Orangeville Street and is one of half a dozen houses in town which are dated in the 1880’s and 90’s on a diamond shape date stone.  These were built by Alexander Hyndman whose own 1879 house stands beside the Christian Church.

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On the south east corner of the 8th line and 27th side road lies one of the headwaters of the Credit River.  In 1906 this property belonged to the Caledon Trout Club and later was a fish hatchery.  From here the water flows through Hillsburgh’s three existing ponds and into the Credit River.  A little boat dropped in this trickle of water could eventually emerge in Lake Ontario at Port Credit beside the much larger ship The Ridgetown.

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Leaving town on the 7th line there are two large hills.  In the hollow on lot 18 stood an old shack covered with asphalt siding.  During the early 1970’s a hermit lived in this house.  It was already in a state of decay at that time and collapsed by the middle of the decade.  Today one wall remains leaning against a tree and the rest is in advanced decay on the ground.  In good hermit fashion the property is strewn with old tin cans and empty bottles.

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An old car from the 1940’s or early 1950’s lies rusting in the tall grass at the back of Hermit Hollow.

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Hillsburgh retains many historical buildings and is an interesting time capsule of rural Ontario.

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Silverthorne Grist Mill – Meadowvale

Saturday March 28, 2015

(Revised March 31st)

It was minus 10 with a wind chill of minus 18.  This was one of the coldest morning hikes of the year, in spite of the date on the calendar.  We parked in the Meadowvale Conservation Area parking lot where the Second Line dead ends south of the new Derry Road.  We crossed under the bridge and walked north where the Meadowvale mill pond once connected with the river.

When John Beatty arrived in 1819 he brought the first settlers to the area.  He built mills along the Credit River and founded Meadowvale.  In 1831 Beatty sold his mills to James Crawford who opened saw and carding mills to compete with John Simpson who operated mills on lot 10 south of  Derry Road.  By 1836 Meadowvale had reached village status.  In 1844 Francis Silverthorne took over from Crawford and greatly expanded the mill complex building a saw mill.  In 1845 he added a large grist mill.  When it burned in 1853 he got backing from the Bank of Upper Canada and rebuilt.  During the Crimean War the price of flour had jumped from $1.50 per barrel to $3.00.  Silverthorne stockpiled grain in an effort to take advantage but when the war ended in 1860 the price fell to $1.00 per barrel.  When the Bank of Upper Canada foreclosed on his loan, William Gooderham, who was in charge of the bank, bought the property.  Gooderham and Worts had also purchased Alpha Mills, north of Streetsville, the same year.  Silverthorne retired to the family mansion, Cherry Hill.

After the Gooderhams the mill was owned by the Wheelers until 1895 when it was sold to Henry Brown.  Henry restored the mill and returned it to full production.  In 1906 he set about developing Meadowvale into a tourist attraction.  The first step was to increase the size of the mill pond and create what came to be known as Willow Lake.  He built a larger dam further north on the Credit to allow more water to be retained.  By following the western wall of the former Willow Lake we were able to locate the remnants of this dam.  Concrete remains can be found on both sides of the Credit River.

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Water is held in the western most parts of the old Willow Lake as we made our way along the berm toward the old mill.  The land along the western side of the old lake has been scooped out to create a retaining wall for the mill pond.

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After publishing this post I came across the following picture in the heritage assessment of 2014.  It shows an aerial view of Meadowvale with the old mill pond drawn in with dark blue and previous courses of the river in light blue.  Derry Road runs across the lower right corner and second line across the upper right corner.  Silerthorne’s grist mill is sketched in where the mill pond approaches Derry Road then follows along it in dark blue as the tail race.  His saw mill is drawn in a little above there where an old tail race returns to the river.

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As you approach old Derry Road concrete structures from the mill come into view.

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The mill stretched over both sides of the millway with the water wheel, and later the turbine, generating power to turn the grinding wheels to produce flour.

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The foundations on the west side of the millrace are pictured below.  Notice the stonework in the middle at ground level that marks a former water tunnel through the wall.

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This picture shows the main foundations for the water wheel.  Notice the bridge in the background where the tail race leads out along Willow Lane on it’s way back to the Credit River.

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The mill changed hands several times until it went out of production in 1950.  The Emersons owned the mill at the time and kept it for storage.  Fire is a common fate for grist mills and the community became concerned about its safety.  The wood was 100 years old, dry and full of a century of flour dust.  When Luther Emmerson was told he had to demolish it he did so himself.  Smashing it up in a fury and leaving the pieces where they fell.  The wood was carried away and the rest settled and was filled in.  They say the old turbines are still buried in the basement.

The mill stone has been preserved on the site of the Silverthorne Mill.  Mill stones come in pairs. The lower stone is stationary and is called the bedstone.  The upper stone, or runner, spins and does the actual grinding.  The grooves serve to channel the flour to the outside of the stones for collection.  The grain is fed through the eye in the centre of the runner stone to be ground between them.  Both upper and lower stones are preserved here.

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Willow Lane used to be known as Water Street and is home to some of the oldest houses in the village.  The house at 1125 Willow Lane is the oldest remaining building in town having been constructed in 1825 by John Beatty.  It later belonged to Crawford, Silverthorne and Gooderham as it seems to have changed hands with the ownership of the mills.

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By 1917 Guelph was linked to Toronto via the Toronto Suburban Railway line.  It ran from Lambton to Guelph, passing through Meadowvale.  The line ran from 1917 until it was shut down in 1931 when travel between Guelph and Toronto had switched to bus and car on highway 7.  The tail race from Silverthorne’s mill ran between Derry road and Willow Lane. The foundations of the old suburban railway line remain but are badly crumbling.

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The picture below shows the railway bridge over the tail race in 1915.  The past 100 years have taken their toll on the bridge.  The route of the train is even less easily distinguished as a flood control pond has been built on the old right of way south of Derry road.

Radial Railway Bridge, Meadowvale, c1915

Walking along the river back to the car you could hear the rustle of slush in the river as it rubbed along the river bank.  We weren’t the only ones hiking up the Credit River.

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By 1856 the mill was a major employer in the village and Silverthorne built cottages for his mill workers at 7077 and 7079 Pond Street.

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Charles Horace “Holly” Gooderham came to Meadowvale to run the mills on behalf of his father William Gooderham of Gooderham and Worts in Toronto.  In 1870 he commissioned a 21 room mansion that cost him $30,000.  The Gooderhams ran the mills, a cooperage and the general store in town.  When William Gooderham died in 1881 Holly left for Toronto and the estate was sold.  During the 1920’s it belonged to Samuel Curry whose brother, Walter, was a Member of the Legislative Assembly in Ontario from 1919-1923.  The house received several modifications over the years, including the oversized front portico and the white siding in the late 1970’s.

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Meadowvale was the first community to be honoured with the designation “Heritage Conservation District“.  The original community survives, largely intact, complete with it’s narrow streets designed for horse and carriage.  There are many historic buildings in town which will form the basis of a companion post.

 

Alpha Mills

Saturday Mar. 21, 2015

Spring officially started last night at 6:45 local time.  This morning was cloudy and dull with a wind that made the two degrees feel more like minus six.  A winter hang-over I guess.  We parked at the end of Alpha Mills Road where a walkway leads to the Credit River off Plainsman Road.

In 1825 Christopher Row(e) built a mill on lot 7 Concession IV where the river curves to the east, just north of Streetsville.   When J. Deady took over running the mill he renamed it Alpha Mills. It can be seen near the centre in the cover picture from the 1877 Peel County Atlas on property shown as belonging to Gooderham and Worts.  By 1877 there were 30 mills on the Credit River with 10 of them being textile related.  This was a localized industry that included the Barbertown Mills.

By the mid 1850’s Gooderham and Worts (G&W) had become the largest distillery in Canada and today their downtown manufacturing empire is preserved as 40 heritage buildings.  It is the largest collection of Victorian era industrial architecture in North America.  G&W began adding other mills to their holdings including Norval in 1845 and Hillsburgh in 1850.  In 1860 they acquired Alpha Mills and branded it as Alpha Knitting Mills.  G&W operated the mill until around the turn of the 20th century. William Gooderham’s grandson Albert would go on to purchase and gift a piece of property for Connaught Labs to the University of Toronto in 1917.  The 1971 aerial photo below shows the mill pond as the flat black area in the upper right corner.  The mill dam and water fall stretch across the river with the Alpha Knitting Mill building standing to the left just beside the dam.

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Not long after the photo above was taken the buildings and dam were removed and one of the most detailed diversion weirs I’ve ever seen was built in it’s place.  Storm water flows out of a buried channel and into these eight slots.  The concrete is curved upward to prevent things from washing over the edge and choking the system below, in this case it is this winter’s ice sheets.  The curve of the concrete gives the optical illusion that the water is flowing up hill.

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From the bottom of the storm drain looking back up there are 8 rows of concrete pillars with half-round steps in between.  For most of the length they are divided down the middle by a concrete wall.

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The long cold stretch of below freezing weather throughout February of this year froze the Credit River to a depth of up to two feet,  When the snow finally started to melt, the water level in the river increased under the ice, snapping it into large sheets which then washed up on the shore.  In the picture below they are stacked up four high.

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As we walked north up the west side of the river we crossed large chucks of river ice.  The piece of wood in the picture below has been trimmed clean by the local beaver.  It is rounded at both ends and all the bark removed.  Rather than construction material, this has been a food source for an example of Canada’s largest rodent. Once on shore, the river ice tends to melt in one of two ways.  The example in the picture below shows a slab of ice cut through by hundreds of small holes.

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In other places the ice is full of thousands of fine cracks that cause it to shatter into little shards. Either way, the ice is melted much faster than if it just melted along the exposed surfaces.

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I don’t usually post pictures of dead animals, although we see all kinds of them, but this Kestrel was wedged upside down in a pine tree.  There was no obvious cause of death and it appeared to have happened very recently.  Quite possibly it flew into the tree in the dark and broke it’s neck although this kind of accident must be quite rare.  It is considered rare, but birds do suffer heart disease, making this another possible explanation.  Or this kestrel might simply have been doing it’s impersonation of Kessel.

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Having made our way to Creditview road we crossed on the bridge and started back up the other side. While walking along the river at this time of year it is important not to walk on any shelf of ice that might be close to the river edge.  I suspect that, had we stepped on this shelf when we passed, we wouldn’t have enjoyed the water quite as much as the two ducks in the picture below.  Like these ducks, it was obvious that the bird kingdom has started to count itself off into breeding pairs.  Cardinals, Buffleheads and Canada Geese were also seen to be paired up.

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There is only a short stretch of the east river bank that is safely passable at this time of the year. The bank of the river on this side is full of new growth and bramble.  At one time several of the homes on top of the ravine had built wooden or concrete stairs to access the river side.  The tree that has taken out this abandoned set of stairs looked like fair warning and so we returned to Creditview Road.  Sir Monty Drive provides a short cut back to the park without having to walk too far on roads.

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The park on the east side of the river is accessed from Sir Monty Drive and has a maintained trail on it.  This part of the river is known as River Run Park.  Large clusters of teasels grow along the trail.

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Someone has taken the time to cover this old well with a roof but the current dwelling is at the top of the ravine.  Perhaps an earlier home stood closer to this water source making the task of bringing water to the hill top unnecessary.

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