Tag Archives: Humber River

Hurricane Hazel – Raymore Drive

Sunday, April 5, 2020

With restrictions in place that are intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Hiking the GTA is looking into our collection of unpublished pictures to see what new stories we can bring you.  We hope to keep ourselves entertained, and perhaps you as well, while we wait for the parks and trails to be opened up for us again. 

These pictures were taken on September 19, 2019 with the idea of a possible post about the destruction caused by Hurricane Hazel in the area of Raymore Drive.  We had previously featured some information in our post Raymore Drive and so we won’t cover all that material again.  As we walked along the Humber River on a beautiful Saturday in September we stopped to watch the ducks and admire one that was a little different.  It may be just a variegated mallard as it doesn’t seem to match any duck in the National Geographic bird book.

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The picture below shows Raymore Drive in Etobicoke in 1953, about a year before Hurricane Hazel struck.  When the hurricane paused over the GTA on October 15, 1954 it dumped so much rain that the rivers all flooded their banks and 81 people were killed.  Notice the pedestrian bridge that crossed the Humber River and the two streets of houses that were tucked into the curve of the river.

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When the water levels rose on the river the bridge was swept off of the west abutment and began to deflect the flow of the river into the housing development.  With the full flow of the river rising by 20 feet there were 14 homes washed away and 35 people lost their lives in this small enclave.  In the 1956 picture the bridge is gone and so are the houses on the two streets closest to the river.

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The east bank of the river still has the remains of the bridge abutment and, as a memorial, it has been plastered with replicas of the news papers that came out following the storm.

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There is a set of concrete walls that surrounded the old bridge abutments.  Just for fun I walked through the grasses and shrubs that surrounded the old structure.  That was a big mistake because I ended up with hundreds of little seed pods stuck to my clothes that had to be picked off one-by-one.

The whole structure has been overgrown during the past 65 years and it is difficult to imagine exactly what it may have looked like when it was in use.

This willow tree will eventually push over this section of the wall as nature slowly reclaims its own space.

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Some parts of the old bridge foundations have been washed into the river where they now provide some shelter and habitat for the blacknose dace that live in the river.

A new pedestrian bridge has been built across the river to link two sections of the Humber River Trail.

A large section of the west abutment can be seen in the river where pieces of wood and tree branches have been washed onto the top by high water and then left stranded there.

The former residential streets have been retained and are now in use as the main hiking trails through Raymore Park.  Many of the homes in the various flood plains around the city were washed away or damaged beyond repair.  In the aftermath of the hurricane it was decided that no homes would be allowed on the flood plains of any watercourse in the GTA.  Homes that survived Hazel were bought up by local conservation authorities and soon demolished.  This led to the creation of many of the ravine trails and parkland that we enjoy in the city today.

The Old Albion Road bridge across the Humber River was destroyed on the night of October 15, 1954 along with another 40 bridges in the GTA.  A short piece of the former road allowance and the old cut stone blocks of the east bank abutment mark one side of the old road alignment.  On the west bank of the river all traces of the former road have been removed.

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Over on The Rouge River the storm washed the Old Finch Avenue bridge away and shifted the abutment so that the new bridge appears to be on a new alignment.

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It’s tragic to think of the destruction that nature can cause but there have been several steps take to reduce the risk in the future.  Flood control dams were built on each of the three main rivers.  Milne Dam on the Rouge River, G. Ross Lord Dam on the Don River and Claireville Dam on the Humber River.

Google Maps Link: Raymore Drive

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Laskay – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Laskay is not a ghost town in the formal sense because people still live there.  It was founded in 1832 when a dam was erected on the East Humber River to create a mill pond for a sawmill.  Joseph Baldwin took over the mill site that year when he bought the 100-acre property.  In 1849 he added a grist mill and later expanded with a woollen mill.  When he arrived the community had the nickname Bulltown but Baldwin changed the name to Laskay after his hometown of Laskay in England.

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The Humber River was prone to flooding and the mill dam was often washed out.  The buildings themselves were destroyed in the floods of the late 1870’s.  By the time of the map above the sawmill was already gone.  The Grist Mill and Carding Mill are marked in blue.  Fires took out the rest of the mills and by the end of the century, they were all gone.

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Village lots were laid out on either side of the river on Joseph Baldwin and David Archibald’s lands.  From the 1850’s these lots began to fill up with workers from the mills along the river.  The town soon had a blacksmith whose shop once stood on Old Forge Road.  Travellers along 3rd line west (Weston Road) would seek a place to water their horses and wash the dust from their throats and beginning in 1845 they made Laskay Tavern a regular stop.  The tavern was built by Baldwin who constructed a general store and post office next door.  Adjacent to that, he built a dressmaking store for his wife to run, a business she shared with her sister.  The tavern is in use as a private home today.

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The town doctor lived in this house on the main street.  The side and rear of the house were planted with herb gardens used in various healing ointments and potions.

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The county atlas shows a Primitive Methodist church in the town in 1877, marked with red on the map.  The church itself was absorbed into the United Church of Canada and the building was eventually closed as a church.  Today it is marked by Old Church Road on which this interesting house can be found.  The walls contain double sets of buttresses with concrete caps as was common on churches around the turn of the past century.  It appears that the old wood structure was either replaced or given a new brick cladding around 1908.  Today most of the church structure is gone and a house stands amid the old walls.

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The Laskay Emporium is shown below and in the cover photo.  It was one of the main hubs of the community starting in 1856 when it was built.  It served the town as a general store and post office for nearly a century.  The store had a “Boom Town” front that hid the sloping roof from the street.  The veranda has a unique sloping roofline under which the locals would sit to watch the evening fade and smoke their pipes.  The Emporium closed and sat vacant waiting for demolition until February 19, 1960, when it was rescued and moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village where it is preserved.

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Joseph Baldwin’s son Henry was the postmaster for 20 years and part of his job was to sort the daily mail into the various slots on the post office pigeonholes.  The Post Office is designated with PO and marked in orange on the map.

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The emporium was the Walmart of the era, importing things and reselling them.  All the usual household needs could be bought here.

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Customers could buy milk by the cup for 2 cents or a lemon for 3 cents.  Three cups of sugar sold for 20 cents and eggs were 2 cents each. You could get four cups of flour for 20 cents, a cup of butter for 18 cents and baking soda for 5 cents.  For under a dollar you could get the ingredients to make a cake.  The cod for your main meal would cost you 8 cents.

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The Emporium was divided into three rooms on the ground floor with one serving in part as an office.  The post master’s desk and safe are seen in this picture.

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The third room was used to sell larger items and to unpack the crates of imported goods.  Beginning in 1852 the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railway began stopping at their new station in Springhill (King City) to deliver products from overseas as well as to allow local products, such as grain milled in Laskay, to be shipped to market. A selection of typical cookware is displayed in the rafters of the Emporium.

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One other building from Laskay has been preserved and that is Laskay Hall which was moved from the town to King Township Museum in 2017.  It was built in 1859 by the Sons of Temperance.  Since this museum also houses the railway station mentioned above, the oldest surviving railway station in Canada, it will certainly be featured in a future post.

Google Maps Link: Laskay

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Humber Grove – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The remains of a ghost town lie along the Humber River on Duffy’s Lane just north of Bolton.  The property of George Elliot on the county atlas below was in the Elliot family from 1855 until 1929.  During this time a few homes were built along Duffy’s Lane with views of the river.  Only two are shown at the time the atlas was drawn in 1877.  By 1909 there were half a dozen homes with a small community forming around the bridge over the river.  In 1929 the 100-acre half lot was sold to Bertram Realty Company who planned to capitalize on the quiet setting along the river.  They divided the land into small parcels and started selling them for cottages.  People began to buy the lots and build on them and by the early 1950’s there were enough children to support the construction of a new school at the corner of King Road and Duffy’s Lane.

In October 1954 Hurricane Hazel hit the GTA killing 81 people and changing the way we managed our floodplains.  Local conservation authorities across the GTA began to buy properties and remove houses that were considered at risk.  They also developed a plan that called for the construction of 15 major flood control dams and reservoirs including one on the Humber River just north of Bolton.  Of these dams only Claireville, G Ross Lord and Milne Dam were constructed.  The Glasgow dam would have been 29 metres high and Humber Grove would have been under the new flood control lake.  Slowly the houses were moved or demolished until by 1977 there were no buildings remaining.

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Duffy’s Lane is exactly that, their original laneway.  This is what is known as a “given road” because it is not part of the original grid of the township survey.  It is a privately constructed road, on private land, that was given for the use of the public.  For reference, Duffy’s Lane has been coloured brown on the map above.  The Duffy house was built in the 1840’s and has been given a historical designation by the township of Caledon.  It is seen in the picture below and marked with a red arrow on the map above.

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Duffy’s Lane has had many alignments in the area where Humber Grove was and there have been at least four bridges over the river.  The county atlas above shows a bridge over the west branch of the Humber River that predated the use of poured concrete for bridge construction by 20 to 30 years.  Therefore, the abandoned bridge in the cover photo has to be at least the second bridge at this location.  The picture below shows the abutment for the old bridge in the lower right corner.  This bridge was likely built at the time that a subdivision plan was put forward in the 1920’s.  A new bridge would have been helpful in persuading people to buy a lot this far outside of Bolton. On the left in this picture are two newer bridges, the lower one from 1985.  In 2013 work began on the Emil Kolb Parkway as a bypass to keep the increasing flow of traffic from going through downtown Bolton.  The new multi-lane bridge was built in 2014 and the older one converted to a pedestrian trail.  It is likely that some of the original Humber Grove foundations were lost during the construction of these various bridges.

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Milkweed pods have started to break open exposing their seeds to the wind.  Each tiny, flat seed is carried on the breeze by hundreds of tiny filaments attached to it.

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Milkweed is essential in the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly.  There were many of these orange beauties flying around and it seems like it is late in the year for them.  This is the fourth generation of monarch born in Ontario this year and it is programmed to fly to Mexico to spend the winter.  The example in the picture below is a female because it lacks the two little black dots on the hind wings that mark the male scent glands.

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Throughout the woods, there are several obvious laneways, most often marked with a double row of trees that lined either side of the old roads.  In a couple of places, there are old hydro poles in the woods that have the wires cut from them because the homes they once served no longer exist.

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At the end of the laneway above is an obvious clearing where a house once stood.  The back end of the property has been reinforced with a concrete wall.

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A garter snake was sitting on a fallen branch taking in the late October sunshine.  These snakes don’t actually hibernate unless they are in a climate where it goes below -40 Celcius.  In reptiles, hibernation is normally referred to as brumation.  In most cases, the garter snake is awake through the winter with a 77% reduced heart rate and minimal oxygen intake.

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The original alignment of Duffy’s Lane can still be found running north from the earlier bridge abutments at the river.  Former laneways extend into the woods along the sides of the road.  We found an old concrete foundation a few feet into the first of these laneways.  The woods have been regenerating for 40 years and most of the former entrances can only be made out due to the parallel rows of mature trees that line either side.

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Old fence lines mark the edges of the various properties that used to line both sides of old Duffy’s Lane.

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The boletus family of mushrooms includes over 100 varieties, many of which are edible.  They can be distinguished by the tubes that carry the spores under the cap rather than the gills that can be found on many other types of mushrooms.  Make sure that you never touch or eat any mushroom that you cannot positively identify.  There are often similar looking species where some are edible and some are poisonous and can kill you.

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There is a lot of tall grass, dog-strangling vines and undergrowth throughout the area. There are plenty of foundations remaining to be found, perhaps when there is less foliage.  Humber Grove can be accessed from the Humber Valley Heritage Trail.  We explored part of this trail in a previous post called Humber Heritage Trail Bolton.

The Toronto Region Conservation Authority has an informative article on Humber Grove with historic maps that can be found here.

Google Maps Link: Humber Grove

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Rowntree Mills

Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014

It was overcast and 5 degrees with occasional light drizzle.  Parking is available on Hathor Crescent just before Rowntree Mills Road descends the hill to the river.  The road is closed at the bottom of the hill and from here the bridge across the Humber river can be seen.  The bridge is a steel girder construction and has been fitted with new wood decking to convert it into a safe pedestrian bridge.  It’s construction likely dates to around 1900.  The bridge can be seen crossing the river in the lower corner of the cover photo, which is an aerial shot from 1953. The photo below of the bridge is taken from the west bank of the river.

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Joseph Rowntree arrived in Canada from England in 1830 and set himself up in an area known as Pine Ridge, just outside of Thistletown.  In 1843 he built a saw mill on the east side of the Humber river and in 1848 he built a grist mill on the west side.  A road was built to access the mill which we now call Rowntree Mills road.  A bridge was built across the river and he named it all Greenholme Mills.  In 1870 Joseph added the Humberwood Mills, a mile down river, to the family holdings.  The cover photo shows the grist mill as it appeared in 1953. Rowntree Mills road crosses the bridge and passes to the west of the mill.  A laneway completes the loop on the river side of the mill.  Today the area where the mill stood 60 years ago has become completely overgrown.  All that could be found was this square area of concrete in the woods and many piles of bricks, stone and concrete.

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From the east side of the river the former mill site can be identified by the row of pine trees that ran along side of the lane way that lies between the mill and the river.  They show up as the dark strip to the right of the road, adjacent to the mill, in the cover photo.  I can picture Joseph planting these pines along the ridge in honour of the community of Pine Ridge where he lived. The mill stood about 20 feet above the current water level of the river.  It isn’t immediately obvious how Joseph used the water power from the river to turn the grinding wheels in his grist mill.  It may have initially been an undershot wheel sticking out into the river.

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It was a morning full of various birds.  At one point a migration of cardinals passed through but none sat still long enough to get their picture taken.  There were also flickers, herons, and large birds of prey.  Some of the trees in the area display the straight rows of tiny holes that are typical of a yellow-bellied sap sucker.  These woodpeckers drill little holes from which they feed on the sap that flows out.  The tree in the picture below had these rows of holes extending for as far up the tree as the eye can see.

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This plant is known as tall thimbleweed.  The single head on a tall stem contains tiny nubs that make it look like a thimble.  When the seed heads burst open they look and feel like cotton. Native peoples used the plants for medicinal purposes but we now know that the leaves are toxic in large doses and so the plant is used mainly for decoration.  The picture below shows both a closed pod and one that has blown open to spread its seeds to the wind.

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This very large red tailed hawk didn’t seem to mind posing for the camera.

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Rowntree Mills Park and the surrounding ravines have been taken over by white tail deer.  In one spot I was able to see 8 females at one time plus at least one male.  Mating season is known as rutting season for these deer.  Males begin their part of the rut in the fall when the velvet is falling off of their antlers.  In North America this lasts for several weeks with the peak being on average, November 13th.  The male’s part in the reproductive act lasts for exactly one thrust.  Ho-Hum.  Females go into rut for periods of up to 3 days at a time and can do so 7 times over the rutting season, or until they conceive. The picture below has at least 4 deer looking at the camera plus 4 others hiding in the background.

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In October 1954 the area on the east bank of the river just north of Rowntree Mills road was home to a small community of houses.  On the morning of October 16, 1954, there were 12 less of them there because Hurricane Hazel had swept them away.  Two people died in this area as well when they were trapped in their car as the river washed it down stream.  Today the area has been cleaned up and there is no trace, other than in old aerial photos, to show where the homes were. Rowntree Mills Park was named after Joseph in 1969 but was closed in 2009 due to wild parties that trashed the park.  Today it is basically abandoned although the grass is cut and the leaves are cleaned up.  The picture below is taken from the front yard of one of these former homes looking along the street where others once stood.

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At the corner of Rowntree Mills Road and Islington Avenue is a pioneer cemetery.  This land was donated in 1848 by Joseph Rowntree to be used for Pine Ridge Methodist Church and its cemetery.  There are many grave markers in here that commemorate the lives of various members of the Rowntree family.  Although it seems likely that Joesph was laid to rest here, I was unable to locate his grave marker.

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Google Maps link: Rowntree Mills Park

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Claireville

Saturday Aug. 3, 2014

It was cool, at least to start with, at only 17 degrees.  We parked in the Humberwoods Community Centre and hiked north on the west side of the Humber.  Just south of Finch Avenue is a little park that has been developed as a bird flyway.  There are dozens of nests and things to attract birds and this is a great little park for bird watchers.  In the picture below are a couple of the many odd shaped nesting places that have been constructed there.

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The groundhog is a member of the Marmot family and is a type of ground squirrel.  They are one of the few species that enter true hibernation and they sleep until March or April. In the wild in Ontario they are always sleeping on groundhog day, and therefore, actually never see their own shadow.  After mating in the spring the pair stays together until the young are about to be born in April or May.  The male then leaves the burrow and the parenting to the female.  She gives birth to between 2 and 6 hairless blind kits. The young groundhog below was scared of us but didn’t try to run away.

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It was early in the morning and the dew sparkled on the spider webs.

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When the 427 was built plans were already in place to expand the highway by adding lanes between the North/South lanes.  As we went under the highway we could see the supports for the expansion that were built at the same time as the rest of the bridge.

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Claireville Dam was one of the flood control dams built in response to the damage caused by Hurricane Hazel.  in 1959 The Plan For Flood Control and Water Conservation was released.  Since 1960 over 40,000 acres of land has been acquired and 3 of the originally proposed 15 dams have been built.  Claireville dam was the first one, built in 1964.  The dam allows the Conservation Authority to collect water from heavy rains and release it slowly after the storm has passed.

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Indian Line started off as an Indian trail along the shore of the Humber river.  When the land survey was made it was part of the border between Peel County and York County. When hwy 427 was extended north it became part of an off and on ramp to the highway. In 1992 when the highway was further extended it was closed off and abandoned.  Parts of it now form hwy 50 north of Steeles ave.  Indian Line campground used to be accessed from just south of the river off of this road but is now accessed off of Finch Ave.  The picture below looks up the old roadway to the bridge that crosses the CN tracks.  When this bridge was built in the 1960’s this was an important road and it was made wide enough for 4 lanes to be opened one day.

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Claireville was a community that started in 1850 on the estate of Jean du Petit Pont de la Haye at the intersection of Steeles and Indian Line.  He named the town after his daughter Claire.  A third road ran diagonal through the property and was originally known as Claireville Road because that was the location of the toll booth along the road.  Early roads in Ontario were known for their mud (an early nick-name for Toronto was “Muddy York”) and were covered over in planks as soon as possible.  Plank roads required continuous maintenance and this was paid for through tolls collected by the road keeper. A horse and rider would pay 1/2 pence and 20 hogs or sheep cost 1/2 pence.  A wagon was 1 pence if drawn by a single horse but 1 1/2 pence if drawn by two.  When the Claireville road was planked a toll house was established.  Of all the houses which once stood in this town only a few remain.  There is a white two story house which remains and this was originally the toll house.  Since the 1950’s the town has declined and is now mainly an industrial neighbourhood.  The picture below shows the town as it was in 1947.

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This picture has nothing to do with this hike but is a follow-up to last week’s move.  As I was cleaning the apartment I swept deep under a baseboard heater and out popped a little round black disc.  At first it didn’t look like anything but I could see that there was some writing on it.  I placed it in Coke for a few minutes to remove some of the gunge on it.  King Christian 7 ruled Denmark from 1668 to 1808.  The 1 Skilling Danske coin I found is in poor condition but still has a value of about $10.  Thank You to the previous tenant in my unit who lost this coin.  Don’t worry, it has found a good home in my collection.  It is interesting to me that Toronto was founded in 1796 at which time this coin was already 25 years old.  I find a lot of older things out hiking, but the oldest one so far was right under my heater for the past 8 years!

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Summerlea Park

Saturday July 12, 2014

It was another in a string of warm and sunny Saturdays.  It wasn’t very long before we were feeling the effects of the heat and humidity.  The Humber river has a west branch which meets up with the main river in Summerlea park.  We parked both vehicles here and took a brief excursion to the confluence of the two.  The water was high and dirty.

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There is a stretch of rocky shoreline here where we found two excellent examples of Crinoid fossils.  Crinoids are marine animals of which about 600 species exist today.  They have a mouth surrounded by feeding arms.  The arms have a mucous that captures food particles as they float past.  The picture below is a species that lives near Indonesia today.

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The two crinoid examples below are the best we have seen so far.  The segments of the feeding arms have been particularily well preserved.

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We also found a very small piece of pottery about the right size to hold a small candle.

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We left one vehicle parked here and moved to the corner of Finch and Islington where we parked the other in Irene Risk Park.  We wanted to look for Rowntree Mills after which the park on the east side of the Humber, just north of here, is named.  We didn’t find the mill because we got side tracked and actually never looked for it.  Along the side of the ravine there is a deep set of woods with multiple steel artifacts.  As we wondered through here we saw deer in front of us. We followed their trail and ended up on the side of the hill again.

Dairy farmers used to sell their milk to local creameries and cheese factories.  They collected the milk in 17 gallon milk churns which were left on a platform at the end of the laneway.  In the 1930’s a smaller 10 gallon churn was introduced.  Creameries collected the milk and packaged it in glass bottles which were delivered directly to the home well into the 1950’s. With the improvement in processing and delivery of dairy products a lot of smaller dairy operations were bought out and closed.   A 1925 list of cheese factories and creameries in Canada lists 1600 in Ontario alone.  By 1998 there were only 270 in all of Canada.  We found the old milk churn in the cover photo which was imprinted with “Canada Dairy” “Oakland” “Toronto”.  In the 1925 directory Oakland Dairy Limited is listed as registration #419 at 108 Nassau Street, near Spadina and College.

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It seems like every week we are finding parts of old washing machines.  This is the wringer hood from a Kenmore Visi-Matic wringer washer.  Kenmore was the store brand sold by Sears.  Like the Thor and General Electric we found earlier, this one is from the 1950’s. There doesn’t appear to be a good reason for so many washing machines to be spread out along the Humber River valley.  Jim Gifford in his book “Hurricane Hazel” published a photograph of a washing machine that had been swept out of a home and deposited along the flood plain.  While that may explain the Thor machine, the GE and Kenmore were found well up the side of the ravine.

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This washing machine sold for $149.95 in 1954.

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The side of the ravines in Toronto are strewn with old bricks.  Some of them have a story to tell.  In 1913 the Ontario Government found clay and shale deposits on land it owned in Mimico and opened the Toronto Brick and Tile Company using labour from the Toronto Central Prison which had opened in 1874.  The plant could produce over 2 million bricks per year which were used on government buildings providing a cheap source of construction materials.  During WWII the site was converted into POW Camp 22 and housed German marines and U-boat men.  In 1969 it was closed after pressure from labour unions claiming the factory was taking jobs away from their members.  The Mimico brick below was either made by a prison inmate or a prisoner of war.

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As we made our way south along the hillside we got boxed in between two fences.  There is a large assortment of old metal objects along here including an old bbq, an engine, old oil containers and car horn.  We also found an old bottle from the late 1860’s or 1870’s. Bottles from this era are dated by the seam on the side.  On this one the seam only extends to the bottom of the neck and the lip on the top was added later.

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It looks like Rowntree Mills will have to wait for another day.

 

Pine Point Park

Saturday July 5, 2014

We parked in the Pine Point arena parking lot and walked down the hill to the river. During the winter months the long steep run makes this one of the best toboggan hills in the city.  It was 19 degrees and sunny when we set out.  The trail runs under the 401 into a small park that extends to the Weston Golf and Country Club.

Crawford-Jones Memorial Park is named after Jim Crawford and Herb Jones.  Jim Crawford was a police officer and Herb Jones a contractor in 1954.  On the night of Hurricane Hazel they took a small boat along the Humber River and rescued dozens of people stranded in their homes.  The picture below is taken from the park on the east side of the river looking at the stack on the steam plant on Resources Road.  There is a spiral staircase running up the outside of the tower.

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Along the edge of the river we saw a couple of dead Crayfish.  Crayfish are fresh water lobsters and live in places where the water does not freeze to the bottom in the winter.   They don’t tolerate polluted water which suggests that the Humber is pretty clean these days.  This was a larger specimen, about 10 cm long, but is missing one claw.

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Most of the parks we hike have evidence of a local coyote but we rarely see one.  Coyotes are related to the wolf and have become very successful in urban areas.  Coyotes hunt a variety of small animals and will even eat a crayfish if the opportunity presents itself.  The tracks below were found along the edge of the river.

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North of the 401 we followed the embankment on the side of the ravine.  This area is known as Pine Point Park.  Part way along we found a 1963 Pepsi bottle in an area where a lot of old bricks had been dumped.  Among several manufacturers we found Milton Bricks.  In 1877 when the Credit Valley Railway passed through the area of Milton they found a lot of clay and shale. Lot 1 Concession 1 of Esquesing Township belonged to Duncan Robertson and a large amount of Medina Shale was found here.  His son, David, started Milton Pressed Brick and Sewer Company.  Their bricks were pressed before baking and were a much higher quality brick than much of their competition.  By 1901 they were considered to be the best bricks available on the continent.  They employed 200 people at their peak but closed in 1974.  Ontario is unique in the large amount of it’s buildings which are made of bricks. In 1931 27% of Ontario buildings were built of brick while only 6% of Quebec buildings were and 2% or less in other provinces.  Ontario was rich in clay and had a huge export market for lumber which led to this trend in construction in the province.

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By the early 1900’s Milton Brick was publishing a catalog of beautiful brick fireplace designs that could be ordered.

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A little further along we found the half buried artifact that is in the cover photo.  We excavated enough to determine that it is an old hand crank broadcast seed spreader.  It is rusted right through and likely dates to the 1930’s.

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As we were starting downhill to make our way back we found and old set of wooden stairs on the side of the hill.  Beside here in the little ravine we found the wringer from an old General Electric washing machine. Edison General Electric Company was founded in 1889 by American inventor Thomas Edison.  Edison is credited with inventing the long lasting light bulb, phonographs and the motion picture camera among his 1,093 patents.  This washing machine likely dates from the 1940’s or early 1950’s.  Clothes would have been taken out of the washer and pressed between the two rollers to squeeze the water out of them.  This machine had a quick release handle, seen open on the right hand end, to let you get your hand out when it got caught in the rollers.  Earlier versions didn’t have this safety feature and were nick-named “manglers” for obvious reasons.

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The hillside trails are fully overgrown and its quite possible to walk within a few feet of something interesting and never see it.  The woods and fields are full of colour and purple is now prominent.  Asters, thistles, bellflowers and violets abound.

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St. John’s Cemetery On The Humber

Saturday June 21, 2014

Summer officially started at 6:51 am.  So we did too!  It was a beautiful morning.  As I arrived on Emmett Road I saw a white tailed deer walk off of the soccer field (World Cup fever has taken over everywhere) and cross the road right in front of me.  She stopped and waited until I had my camera almost ready before disappearing into the woods.  We parked in the parking lot on Emmett and entered the woods on the east side of the river. This property was originally granted to John Dennis who died in 1832 in Toronto’s cholera epidemic.  His grandson, Henry Dennis, ran a saw mill on this site after 1851 but we saw no traces of it.

We walked north along the east side of the river planning to cover lots 1 through 5 between Eglinton and Lawrence Ave.  A tall smoke stack on the eastern hill marks the site of West Park Healthcare Centre.  It was opened in 1904 as the Toronto Free Hospital For Consumptive Poor.  Consumption is an older term for Tuberculosis or TB.  The hospital was generally known as Weston Sanitorium or “The San”.  The first effective treatment for TB was Streptomycin in the mid-1940’s.  It was given by injection or intravenous and became the cure for “the white plague”.

Close to the river, near the old hospital there is a large area of bottles in the woods.  There are dozens of little medication bottles for injections.  The smallest one in the middle of the picture below is dated 1948 and the slightly larger one on the right is 1945.  I have seen many medicine bottles shaped like the long rectangular bottle but none of them curved at the bottom like this one. It has HSP for hospital imprinted on the bottom and the shape may be for hanging it for IV purposes.  Glass containers were first used in the mid 1940’s for IV and were initially packed by the hospital pharmacy as this one likely was. Later, they were packed by major companies and then plastic replaced glass containers in the 1970’s.  Any or all of these three bottles could have contained Streptomycin for treating the TB patients in the hospital.

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In the woods between the bottles and the hospital on the hill lie the remains of some old buildings from the farmstead on the former John Dennis property.  John Dennis was a United Empire Loyalist and it was 40 acres of his property on which the hospital was built. The picture below is the front entrance porch for the house.

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A few feet away there are several of these long cement structures which appear to be part of the fence line.

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This is a view from 1962 in which the house can be seen on the right with it’s little square front entrance porch and the fence line near the bottom.

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Along the water’s edge we found many fossils including Crinoids and this Brachiopod fossil.

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As you walk along the east side of the river you will come to a larger water fall.  The east wall extends all the way from the river to the base of the ravine.  If you climb the ravine on the trail at the end of this wall you will find St. John’s Cemetery On the Humber.

John Denison came to York (Toronto) in 1796 and lived with Governor Simcoe at Castle Frank which was the first dwelling built by a white man in York.  In 1798 he purchased lots 3 and 4 on the Humber river.  The Denison men established themselves by serving in the war of 1812 and the rebellion of 1837.

While living in York, John had lost his infant daughter Elizabeth.  She was buried in the garden at Castle Frank because there was no burial ground in the town of York.  When he established himself on the Humber he had her moved to a plot of ground overlooking the river.  Elizabeth’s untimely death accounted for what surely must have been one of the first modern burials in Toronto. This cemetery is still in service and has been used exclusively for family members related to John Denison and the family of his wife Sophia Taylor.

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John and Sophia Denison are buried beside their daughter.

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In 1930 a chapel was erected by the Denison family in memory of George Taylor Denison (1816-1873).  The grounds crew gave us a rare opportunity for someone other than family to see inside the chapel.

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The smoke stack from the Sanitorium as seen from the Eglinton Street bridge.

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Google Maps Link: West Park Health Centre

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Raymore Drive

Saturday June 14, 2014

We parked on Emmett Ave and crossed the Humber on Eglinton.  On the west bank stands a memorial to the Ukrainian Canadian War Heroes and we descended to the river level near there.  Following the hillside between here and where the Humber Creek meets the Humber River is difficult and we alternated between hillside and river side.

Whitetail Deer mate (rut) in late October or early November and give birth to up to three fawns in late May or early June.  Along the way we found a spot where a fawn, only a few weeks old, had been down to the river to drink.

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By comparison, the foot prints of an adult deer are about three times the size of the toonie. The foot prints in the picture below were found on one of the baseball diamonds in the park where the deer was apparently thrown out at second base.

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The first electric washing machine was the 1907 Thor machine built by a Chicago company called Hurley.  The first washing machine to use a drum, replacing the ancient washboard, was patented in 1851.  It was powered by a hand crank.  To remove water from the clothes after washing, a pair of rollers called a wringer or mangler were used to squeeze the excess water out.

We found an old washing machine likely from the mid-1940’s manufactured by Thor Canadian Co. Ltd. Toronto.  The aluminum pole in the centre held the drum and the rusted steel pole held the wringers.

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The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) was created in 1944 from The Canadian Engineering Standards Association.  In 1946 they introduced the CSA logo.  This name plate says CSA but lacks the logo.  That, along with it’s low CSA approval number (520), suggests that it is from 1944 or 1945.

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We came across an extensive race track built through the trees for remote control cars.  It appears to have been abandoned recently.

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When Ontario was surveyed for settlement it was frequently laid out in 1000 acre square sections with a road allowance along all 4 sides.  The north/south roads were called lines and the east/west ones called side roads or concessions.  Within, the parcels of land would usually be divided into 5 land grants of 200 acres each.  Five lots ran north between side roads and extended between the two lines.  In York Township, Eglinton Avenue was known as Base Line and the lot on it’s north side was known as lot one.  Lawrence Avenue ran along the north side of lot five and was known as 5th side road.  Other side roads going north were Wilson/York Mills (10th SR), Sheppard (15th SR), Finch (20th SR) and Steeles (25th SR).  So York Township had 25 lots between Eglinton and Steeles.  Going west the lines were Bathurst (1st Line West), Dufferin (2nd Line), Keele (3rd Line), Jane (4th line) and Weston (5th line).  This grid is lost in the maze of the city but is still very evident in rural Ontario where there are often 5 grand old Victorian homes between the side roads marking out the original lots.

In the historical atlas example below we see the Etobicoke side of the Humber River.  Just above Lambton Mills is a road marked A, B, C.  That is the Base Line (Eglinton) and the five lots we hiked on are owned by Anderson, Stonehouse, Thompson and Pearson in the County Atlas from the 1880’s.  The road that runs along the top of Pearson’s property is the 5th side road (Lawrence)

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We were hiking between the 4th and 5th lines on lots 1 through 5.  A surveyor’s stake lets us know that we are moving off lot two onto lot three.

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Raymore Drive is on lots 4 and 5 which was owned by the Scarlett family until the 1850’s. When Hurricane Hazel hit on October 15, 1954 Raymore Drive was home to a subdivision along a curve in the river.  A footbridge crossed the river just upstream of the community and when the water level in the Humber rose by 20 feet it swept it off of one abutment swinging it out into the river. This caused the water in the river as well as a lot of debris to be re-directed onto the area of Raymore Drive.  14 homes were washed away, many with their occupants still inside.  Of the 81 people who lost their lives in the storm, 35 of them lived on Raymore Drive.  The cover photo shows the street on the morning after the storm.

The footbridge abutment was thrown up on the east side of the river.  The second abutment still stands on the middle of the river where it was washed by the flood.

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Raymore Drive as it appears today with new growth trees where rows of houses once stood.

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Raymore Drive as seen in this before and after comparison.  In the 1953 photo there are two streets of houses tucked inside the curve of the river.  The footbridge is seen crossing the river on an angle.  In the 1955 picture the area has been swept clean.

Raymore Drive before and after Hurricane Hazel

The Yellow Iris is native to Europe and parts of Asia but in Canada it is considered to be an invasive species.  It was first identified in 1911 in Newfoundland and in 1940 in Ontario.  It grows in wetland areas but it’s dense mats of leaves tend to cause the marshes to dry up reducing native habitat.

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Google Maps Link: Raymore Drive

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Millwood Mills

Saturday June 7, 2014

It was a sunny and warm day.    We parked in the Home Smith Park parking lot at the west end of the Old Dundas street bridge.  We don’t normally go searching for anything specific when we hike but today was an exception.  While researching John Scarlett and Scarlett Mills last week I learned about a friend of his named Thomas Fisher and the mill he built on the Humber just below Lambton Mills.  So we set out to see what legacy of Thomas Fisher remained.

Thomas Fisher came to York in 1821 and in 1822 he leased the King’s Mill (Old Mill).  Under Fisher it prospered and expanded and he bought it from the government in 1834.  In 1835 he sold it and moved a little north to his own lot where there was an excellent mill site about half a km below Dundas street.

The parking lot is just above the west bridge abutment from the Old Dundas Street bridge. In the picture below an entire section of the bridge abutment and roadway is washed out by the flood waters after Hurricane Hazel swept through.

Old Dundas Street bridge after hazel

The old abutment has been revealed at the left of the picture now that the new retaining wall has collapsed into the river.

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The first Millwood grist mill was a two story wooden mill and it burned down in 1847. Fisher replaced it with a five story mill.  The lower two floors were made of stone and the upper three of wood.  The mill had three runs of stones and ground wheat, oats and corn. Fisher built Millwood House on the top of the embankment above the mill.  He also built stables, a store and living quarters as well as an access road to the hill top.  In 1880 Millwood became Lambton Woolen Mills and was converted to steam power.  It burned down and was abandoned around 1900.

We followed the river looking for evidence of the old mill.   We found no trace of it and concluded that it must have been removed when the park was developed.  We followed the animal trail along the top of the hill looking for the access roadway that would have linked the mill with the house up top.

Along the side of the hill we found this big pipe sticking out of the ground with a large tree growing over it.  It is likely related to the steam operations at the mill.

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Below this pipe we able to see the clear outline of a curved stream bed.  Thinking this could be the mill race from the old mill we descended the hill.  A mill race is a diversion stream from the mill pond where the miller can control the flow of water over the mill wheel.  When we reached the bottom we found the 166 year old foundations of Millwood Mill hiding in the trees near the modern washroom facility.

The outline of the old mill, which was 40 feet by 45 feet, is clearly visible as all four corners of the building can be easily located.

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The outer south east corner of the foundation wall.

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In the mid-1950’s there were still partial walls standing at the site of the old mill as can be seen in this archive photograph.

Millwood Mill 1954

We followed the ravine on the back side of the mill race and found a flat roadway, wide enough for a horse and cart, leading slowly up the side of the hill.  This appears to have been Fisher’s roadway between his home and the mill.

Having explored here we returned to the Dundas street bridge and went north on the west side of the river.  Just north of the new bridge we found the curved wall of earth that marks the retaining wall from the old mill pond for Lambton Mills.  It appears as the straight line in the middle of this picture and is quite an extensive earthen work.

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Farther along this embankment we found a lot of old garbage.  There was a food bottle from 1948 and the bottom of a 1952 Pepsi bottle.  This 1964 licence plate from New Brunswick seems to be rather far away from home.

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Later we found the neck of a Caufield Dairy bottle.  Caufield dairy was a local dairy operated off of a farm in the Albion and Weston road area.  The farm was sold to developers in the 1950’s.

This view is the Humber River from the new Dundas street bridge looking south toward Lambton Mills.  The first water fall in the picture is the site of the old Dundas Street Bridge and was where Cooper located his mills on either side of the river.

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