Tag Archives: Meadowvale Conservation Area

Meadowvale Conservation Area

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Armed with the new camera I got for Christmas and the promise of a warm sunny day we set off for Meadowvale Conservation Area in Mississauga.  We have previously written about much of the history of the conservation area from the perspective of the various dams and berms associated with Silverthorne’s grist mill.  We won’t cover that again here and the link will be supplied again at the end of this story.  Today we were interested in the western side of the conservation area where the Guelph Radial Line used to run.  The Toronto Suburban Railway operated 5 electric commuter lines, including the one that ran up Yonge Street known as the Toronto & York Radial Railway   The line to Guelph was the longest in the system at 49 miles.  Stop 47 was a small station in Meadowvale after which the line crossed the Credit River and ran through the property that would become the conservation area.

When visiting the conservation area in the 1990’s there was quaint little suspension bridge that carried the pedestrian trail across the Credit River.  It was demolished in 2009 leaving only the metal posts on the river bank.  A decaying sign in the woods announces the removal of the bridge but it isn’t really needed any longer.  To see a picture of what the bridge looked like you can follow this link to a similar bridge in Warden Woods.

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My new camera allows me to get much better shots of birds and the cardinal in the photo below was only a small red spot to the naked eye.  I think I’m going to like having it along.

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The new bridge is a little farther south and considerably longer.  It crosses an area that is likely under water when the river is flooding.

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From the west end of the bridge there is a line that can be seen running horizontal through the woods.  This is the right of way for the former radial line.  The official opening of the railway came on April 14, 1917 and soon trains were running between Lambton and Guelph every two hours.  The trip lasted two and half hours and was very popular until the early 1930’s.  Rising costs, poor profits and a string of accidents coupled with a new love of the automobile led to the line being closed in August of 1931.  The tracks were removed in 1936 and in many urban areas the line has been built over with housing developments.

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The bridge that carries Old Derry Road over the Credit River was built in 1948.  It is known as a camelback truss bridge and is part of the Meadowvale Cultural Heritage District.

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The tail race for the Silverthorne grist mill joined the river just north of the bridge.  The tail race was crossed by the radial line near the last house on Willow Lane.  Both of the abutments are crumbling after 100 years with no maintenance.  This picture was taken at the time we explored the side of the conservation area with the mill foundations in it.

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The abutments for the crossing of the Credit River are still easy to locate a short distance north of the truss bridge.  The picture below shows the south abutment as seen from across the river.

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The last house on Willow Lane is undergoing a restoration.  The south abutment can be seen in the lower corner of the picture and the abutments for the crossing of the tail race are basically in the front yard.  With frequent passenger and cargo service this must have been a great place for train enthusiasts or a noisy place for anyone else.

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The abutment on the north side of the river has become completely overgrown with vines and must be all but hidden in the summer when the grass is full height.  Behind the vines the century old concrete is crumbling badly.

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Where the radial line ran through the park there are still about ten of the old electric poles standing.  The poles supported an overhead caternary system that delivered 1500 volt DC to power the cars.  They can be picked out because of their straight lines and flat tops.  In several cases the pole has a blue slash on it as can be seen on the extreme left in the cover photo.

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Fungus can still be found in the winter and it often adds colour and interesting patterns to what can be an otherwise drab landscape.  These turkey tail fungus entirely surrounded this old stump.

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The intersection of the radial line with the active Canadian Pacific Railway appears to lie somewhere under the six lanes of the new Derry Road.  North of Derry, the Samuelson Circle Trail continues on the old right of way.  The berm can be identified in many places along here because it rises a couple feet above the surrounding land.  Culverts allowed drainage from one side of the berm to the other and one can be found in this section.

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Cinnabar-red polypore can grow p to 14 centimetres in size and those pictured here are some of the larger specimens.  They grow all year and some will produce spores in the second and third years.  This fungus is not edible.

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Meadowvale Conservation Area is full of interesting historical artifacts for those who like to look for such things in the area in which they are hiking.  Many of these are associated with the Silverthorne Grist Mill which we covered in detail in a previous blog. The Guelph Radial Line has left only a few clues to the former right of way as it passed through the GTA.  A ghostly set of piers that cross the old mill pond in Limehouse is one example of interesting place to visit.

Google Maps Link: Meadowvale Conservation Area

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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.