Tag Archives: Milton

Milton Mill Pond

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Milton was founded in 1821 by Jasper Martin who had emigrated from Northumberland, England earlier in the year with his wife Sarah and their two sons. They settled on a property along 16-Mile Creek where they built a grist mill. The community was first known as Martin’s Mills but when it got its first post office it took the name Milton from the English poet John Milton, who was a personal favourite of Jasper Martin. A new stone mill was built in 1856 which survived until 1963 when it burned down. At that time the mill was being operated by Robin Hood Flour who donated the property to the town for a park after the fire. The town developed the park as a Centennial Project to mark the 1967 anniversary of Confederation.

This County Atlas map of 1878 shows the town as it used to be, centred on the mill pond. I’ve marked the approximate route of this hike in green and the waterways in blue.

A restoration of the pond took place in 2000 with invasive plants being removed. The gazebo was built in 2001 and has become a popular place to get wedding photos taken.

There’s a nice trail that runs along a narrow berm between the south side of the mill pond and 16-Mile Creek. There’s plenty of great views out over the pond where people have created small paths so that they could go fishing. It’s interesting to contemplate the importance of this berm to the early millers who were responsible for maintaining the waterway for a mile upstream and downstream. They had to remove fallen trees and other blockages that could cause a sudden surge of water taking out their dam or one downstream somewhere. Jasper Martin scooped this berm up from the bottom of the pond and then would have walked it regularly to keep an eye on things.

The Mill Pond has been stocked with trout but it doesn’t provide a suitable habitat to sustain their populations. People as well as the local heron fish in the pond for carp and panfish and there were several places along the trail where people were fishing. I stopped to watch two young boys fishing and was rewarded with the sight of a heron sitting on a rail on the other side of the pond.

A Painted Turtle was taking in the afternoon sunshine on a log in the middle of the pond. This was a fairly large specimen indicating that it is likely getting fairly old. The Painted Turtle shell is made up of 13 plates or scutes. As the turtle grows it sheds the outer layer of its plates and grows new ones. These plates exhibit growth rings like those on a tree and can be counted to determine the age of the turtle. But, you have to catch him first.

The trail passes under an old rail bridge that provides a pedestrian path across the creek and mill pond. It can be accessed from the park on Mill Street or from the north side of the mill pond but not from the walking trail between the two. We’ll look at the history of this railway later in the article.

This 1911 photo from Milton Images shows a Grand Trunk Railway train crossing the bridge at the mill pond.

Once you pass below the old train bridge you can continue to follow the trail with the creek on one side and the inflow to the mill pond on the other. You will come to concrete blocks which mark the start of the pond and after that the curve of 16-Mile Creek. Crossing over the creek on a small foot bridge you come to a larger forested area which featured several different types of mushrooms. These Oyster mushrooms were growing in large numbers in one small area beside the creek and are considered to be a delicacy by some.

Milton was bypassed by early railways and didn’t get the first one in town until 1876 when the Hamilton & North-western Railway arrived running north-south through town and across the mill pond on the bridge we saw earlier. The Credit Valley Railway arrived the next year running east-west just north of the mill pond. The Hamilton & North-western became the Northern & North-western before being bought by the Grand Trunk Railway late in the century. In 1923 the Grand Trunk became part of the Canadian National Railway and they operated the passenger service on the line until 1973 when the tracks were realigned and service discontinued. I followed the tracks to where they end a little north of the mill pond and also in the other direction to where they used to cross Bronte Road.

Several areas of the forest floor were covered in clusters of White Worm Coral fungus which grows between July and September and is considered edible. The white fingers are quite brittle but become almost translucent when wet.

As you make your way around the far end of the mill pond you come to the John Sproat House which was built in the Georgian style in 1857. This stone home was originally built as a Ladies Seminary Educational Residence but was later used as a private residence. One prominent owner of the house was P. L. Robertson who was the inventor of the Robertson Head Screw.

Orange Mycena mushrooms grow in tight little clusters on deciduous wood and are quite common in Southern Ontario. While this species might have some antibacterial properties, it is also known to be a mutagen which can cause genetic mutations that result in cancer.

Founding father Jasper Martin built his house across the street from the mill in 1821 making it the oldest building in town. This home has paired brackets under the eves and an ornate doorway but little other decoration. The Milton historical society has done a great job of identifying historic homes and putting small white plaques on them describing the original owner and date of construction.

I included this house which stands across the street from the mill pond because I love the style of architecture. The round tower with domed cap is Romanesque and all the accents have been done with terra cotta panels giving the home a unique look. It was built in 1892 for Richard L. Hemstreet the Presbyterian Church bought it to house their various pastors between 1924 and 1970.

The little side excursion along the old railway line towards Bronte Road leads past the rear of the P. L. Robertson Manufacturing Company. Formed in Hamilton in 1907 the factory relocated to Milton the following year and began marketing an industrial screw with a unique square drive, the first socket head screw available. The Robertson Screw was quickly implemented by Canadian manufacturing while the Phillips drive became popular in the United States. The Robertson building and properties are now vacant.

Bronte Pioneer Cemetery is a short walk north of the Robertson factory and was opened in 1824 as the final resting place of many of Milton’s pioneers. Jasper Martin, the town’s founder was buried here when he passed away in 1833. The cemetery is partially forested and has several stones hiding in a rear corner of the grounds. Many of the earliest stones have been collected into a cairn to preserve what remains of them.

The historic mill pond is a great place to go for a quiet walk with plenty of things to see and is reported to be an excellent place to see the fall colours.

Google Maps Link: Milton Mill Pond

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Mountsberg

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mountsberg Conservation Area covers 472 hectares of which 202 are covered with a water control reservoir.  Since 1994 the park has featured a Raptor Centre which is home to a collection of 15 birds of prey.  Horses and sheep call the farm home along with bison and elk.  There’s also a play barn for the kids to enjoy and a Maple Syrup festival in the spring. Sixteen kilometres of hiking trails criss-cross the park and allow you to experience the abundant wildlife.  There is a $7.50 fee per car and you have to put it into an envelope so be sure to bring correct change or plan to make a donation.

Archibald (Archabald on the County Atlas below) Cameron moved from Perthshire in Scotland in 1833 and settled on 100 acres of land.  His son, Duncan bought the property adjacent to his and Donald purchased two parcels of land next to these.

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Duncan Cameron purchased the 100 acres to the east of his father’s lot and started his homestead there.  In 1857 he built a stone house and a barn, both of which remain today. The house has an odd window on the second floor which was shaped like a simple diamond.  The county atlas shows how close to the house the Credit Valley Railroad was constructed when the Milton line was extended to Galt in 1879.  The Duncan house remained in the family until James Cameron, Duncan’s son, passed away in 1962.  The farm changed hands a couple of times and was purchased in 1964 by The Halton Region Conservation Authority.  They built the dam in 1966 and the Wildlife Centre in 1974.

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Near the barn is an observation tower which looks out over the Mountsberg Reservoir. Bronte Creek was dammed and the reservoir has since been stocked with fish.  Bass, Pike, Crappies, and Perch can all be caught in the shallow waters.  The former Credit Valley Railway crosses the reservoir on a berm that previously passed through a farm field.  The lower section of the reservoir has been drained for the winter.

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On the north side of the tracks, just east of the house are the remains of the family lime kiln.  It was built shortly after the house, likely around 1860, for the use of the family. Limestone was common in the area and settlers would load it into a set kiln like this one. Wood was packed around it and burned for several days until the limestone was broken down.  The limestone was broken into lumps around 2 inches in diameter and layered into the kiln along with the fuel.  It would take about a day to load the kiln and then it burned for three days.  After two days of cooling down, it could be unloaded and the lime separated from the waste.  Lime was used in the making of soap as well as construction materials.

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The first Earth day took place on April 22, 1970.  Since that time it has grown into an international event that takes place in 193 countries around the world.  In 1990 Earth Day 20 was celebrated and in Mountsberg Park the Plant-A-Tree program contributed the small forest on the north side of the train tracks, across from the Cameron House.  These trees are doing quite well a quarter century later.

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The Raptor Centre at the park is home to many birds that have been rescued locally and are incapable of survival in the wild.  The Great Horned Owl on the cover photo is one of two in the park.  These owls have a grip ten times as tight as that of a human and talons that can hold with as much as 200 pounds per square inch force.  They are known to take prey that is up to three times their weight and this includes skunks, opossums and even other raptors.

The Gyrfalcon, seen below, lives in arctic and sub-arctic regions and is rarely seen in Southern Ontario.  This is the largest of the falcon species with the females weighing up to two kilograms.  Their diet contains mostly of other birds including ducks, gulls, and geese but they also enjoy lemmings and hare.

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Rough-legged Hawks are the only hawks in Ontario that have feathers on their legs extending down to their feet.  It weighs about a kilogram, with the female being slightly larger. They are a northern bird and live mainly off of small rodents like voles and lemmings. They can be occasionally be seen in Southern Ontario during the winter.

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Broad Winged Hawks live in large forests and prefer small rodents for their prey as they only weigh about 500 grams themselves. They are relatively small among the hawk family but congregate in large flocks known as kettles in the fall to migrate south for the winter. A kettle of broad winged hawks can contain up to 1000 birds

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Takenya is one of two red-tailed hawks at the centre but she sits up and pays attention when you call her name.  One of the trainers suggested that the birds don’t actually know their names but as the picture below shows, she would turn her head and stare right at you when you call her.

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American Bison, often called Buffalo in error, are kept on the farm.  As we approached they moved across the field but soon returned to stand by the fence.  The largest of the five already had a broken horn and was clearly guarding the smaller ones.  It routinely stood between me and the smallest one so getting a picture was quite difficult.  I wasn’t sure if it was my red coat or the imminent arrival of the ladies with the food buckets that had their attention but after feeding they went for a run around the pen.  They can reach speeds up to 60 kilometres per hour.

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Mountsberg has extensive hiking trails as well as the dam that are yet to be explored.  This is a park that will require more than one visit.

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Google Maps Link: Mountsberg

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