Tag Archives: Streetsville

Timothy Street – Pioneers of the GTA

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The founder of Streetsville was born in New York in 1777 and emigrated to Upper Canada in 1801 after marrying Abigail Smith.  They lived near Niagara for twenty years and in 1818-1819 Timothy financed the survey of Toronto Township and was compensated with 4500 acres of land that would become the town of Streetville.  We decided to go and explore some of the legacy he left behind.  We parked on Mill Street beside his historic home.  The county atlas below shows how large Streetsville had become by 1877 when it was released.

Streetsville (2)

Timothy founded a milling empire and in 1825 built the house that still stands at the end of Mill Street near his mills.  He first built a grist mill around 1822 and soon added a lumber and saw mill.  He continued to expand by adding a tannery, distillery and clothing mill.  The brick house he constructed is considered to be the first brick house to be built in Peel County and remains the oldest one.  It is a story and a half and has been added to at least twice partly to accommodate the 12 children he raised along with Abigail.


Timothy needed water to power his mills and so he built a dam across the Credit River just north of the mills.  He found a narrow place where an earthen berm could be built to retain the mill pond.  Originally the dam would have consisted of a wooden crib across the river that was filled with stones.  This type of dam required constant repairs, some of which could be quite dangerous.  Many millers lost their lives trying to save their mill dams from being washed away in the raging spring waters.


In 1824 Timothy Street deeded an acre of his land to the Presbyterian Church for the purposes of establishing a Protestant cemetery.  Five of his own children would die in their youth and be buried in this cemetery.


Timothy Street died an January 31, 1848 and was buried in the cemetery where his children were interred.


From the pioneer cemetery the silos of the Barbertown mills can be seen.  The milling community of Barbertown was located at the Credit River and Eglinton Avenue.  It included what was the largest woolen mill in Ontario during the middle of the 1800’s.


The trails along the sides of the Credit River through Streetsville form part of the Culham Trail and will eventually be part of the Credit Valley Trail.


By 1890 the pioneer cemetery was reaching capacity and land for a new cemetery was donated to the town by Timothy Street’s daughter.


A new study has found that squirrels use the local birds to help them determine if it is safe to go outside their nests.  Squirrels will listen to the tweets of birds in the area to help them understand if there could be red-tailed hawks near by.  When the birds are chattering away in normal fashion the squirrels go about their usual business of gathering nuts.  When the birds go silent the squirrels interpret this to mean danger and they take cover.


The first high school in Peel County was built in Streetsville in 1851.  It was enlarged in 1877 when the two rooms in the front were added along with the Italianate tower.  It served as the school for 115 years before being converted to the town hall in 1966.  By 1974 it had been converted to be the local police station before its present tenant, the Kinsmen Senior Citizens Centre.


Streetsville is one of the truly unique places where the city has surrounded a small town but failed to absorb it.  As a result Streetsville still has a lot of its small town charm and we have visited several times.

Further reading about Streetsville: Alpha Mills, Streetsville’s Forgotten Foundations, Hyde Mill, Barbertown

Google Maps Link: Mill Street Streetsville

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Streetsville’s Forgotten Foundations

Saturday Oct. 4, 2014

Autumn has certainly set in.  It was cool at 14 degrees and the skies were dark with clouds.  We decided that it wouldn’t dare rain on us so we set out.  Having parked on Mill street in Streetsville we were right in the area where Timothy Street had built the mill in 1819 that got the town started.

In 1818 the final parcel of land along the Credit River was ceded by the natives to the government.  Timothy Street financed the task of surveying the area while Richard Bristol conducted the work.  In exchange for his work Timothy was given 1000 acres of land which is now known as Streetsville as well as 3,500 other acres scattered throughout Halton and Peel counties.   Timothy Street is listed in the town directories as a tanner.

In 1825 he built the house in the picture below which looked out over his business empire.  This house is believed to be the oldest remaining brick house in Peel County.


Access covers are one of many items that are usually dated and can therefore tell a little of the tale of a place.  Main street crosses the Credit near Timothy’s house.  At this point the name changes to Bristol Road in honour of Richard Bristol for his work in surveying the area.  Access covers usually indicate the date on which a road or bridge was built or restored.  The cover featured in the photo below is unique in the fact that it has a fish on it.  Dated 2011 it came from St. George which is near Brantford.  It is appropriate because this bridge is a suitable place to stand and watch the fall salmon run in the river.  We didn’t see any this week because the river was too dirty and cloudy.


From the west bank of the  Credit River we had seen a set of foundations that we believed were another of the five mills that once lined the Credit River around Streetsville.  We went north in Timothy Street Park along the Culham Trail.  When we finally had a chance to check them out they appear to be a little less obviously mill foundations.  There are four thick concrete pillars which run in a slightly curved line with the first one beside the river, pictured below, having four holes formed in the side.  The fourth one abutting against an earthen mound has a mounting surface on top of it.  The mound behind it runs in a curved line off through the trees.  The cover picture shows the four pillars from the side of the mound looking out toward the river.  Large trees growing in places between them.  Having visited the site it is hard to see this as a mill.  It looks more like an unfinished roadway of some kind.  A member of the Streetsville Historical Society suggested that it may be related to Timothy Street’s mills but the use of concrete suggests a date around 1900 or later.


The picture below shows the third pillar in the foreground and the fourth behind it.  Notice the step down on the side of number three. The fourth one has a full ledge along the front as if something was mounted there. Forgotten by time and seemingly undocumented on the internet this project could be up to about 125 years old.  Older bridge supports would likely have been made of cut stone and not concrete. If anyone has any information about this artifact please feel free to leave a comment.


When we visited Riverside Park on Sept. 9th the wild cucumber were in full fruit.  A seed grows in each of four chambers inside the cucumber.  In the fall the bottom of the fruit literally pops open and the seeds are dropped out.  The plant dies off every winter and relies on these seeds to carry on the following season.


The fall is a time when many berries ripen.  Several types of berries last on the bush and provide food for birds that spend the winter here.  The red berries in this picture hang in clusters on a plant with serrated edged leaves.  After looking through countless sites dedicated to berries in Ontario, I have to conclude that this is not a native plant and that it has escaped from a garden somewhere.  One way plants can escape from gardens is when their berries are eaten and the seeds pass through the bird and remain viable.  A seed that gets dropped in a soil condition in which it can grow may be found miles from the original plant.


The male Bank Swallow chooses a colony to join.  Colonies are founded in areas of loose soils for easy digging.  The male will then select a site for his burrow which is normally about 2/3 of the way up the embankment to reduce access to ground predators.  The tunnel will extend about 2 feet into the soil where temperatures are more stable and here a larger chamber will be dug for the nest.  When the nests are complete, female Bank Swallows will hover in front of the nests to choose a mate.  The female will then collect the grasses to line the bottom of the nest where she will lay her eggs.  Several holes were seen along the river bank, one of which is shown below.


Here is another view of Hyde mills which clearly shows the 1840 part of the mill built of stone on the right (closer to the river) and the 1906 portion built of bricks on the left.  Having reached here we came to the most southern point on the Riverview Park hike a couple of weeks ago. This completes a section of the river but the mystery of the four concrete supports and the earthen wall remains, for now…


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Hyde Mill Streetsville

Sat. Sep. 20, 2014

A beautiful morning for the final Saturday of summer.  We parked on Mill street in Streetsville. Taking the little trail that heads north on the west side of the Credit River we passed through and area where the young bushes were cropped off a foot off of the ground.  Deer had grazed as they made their way along the river bank.  We followed them toward the walls of an old mill we had seen when we were in Riverside park a couple weeks ago.

At the mill site water was diverted from the stream or mill pond to the water wheel by a small stream that was usually man made.  Where the water was brought to the wheel was called the head race.  The water wheel, or later a turbine, was used to transfer the energy from the falling water to turn the gears inside the mill.  This would drive the grinding wheels in a grist mill or the saw blades in a saw mill.  The water was then returned to the river by means of the tail race. We found the tail race to the mill and knew that it would lead us there.


The remains of an old vehicle, likely a late 1940’s or early 1950’s, lay at the bottom of the hill. This car may have been here for quite a long time as it is damaged beyond identification.


A second car lies decaying in the same area.  This car is in much better shape although it has been stripped clean of every usable part.  The trunk lid still contains an old decal showing how to use the tire jack.  From the part number on the decal we were able to identify this car as a 1977 Ford Galaxy 500.  These two vehicles must have been dumped down here before the trees grew up on the embankment above.  They may have been stolen and dumped down here or just abandoned here by their owners.  Either way, it is hard to see why they were left here and not removed by the city.  There is now a new acronym for those wishing to make fun of Fords. (F)ound (O)n (R)iver (D)rowned.


The car in the foreground of the picture below shows what the Galaxy 500 would have looked like when it was new.


Heman and Mary Hyde ran a large inn at Church and Main street for 40 years and this, along with proceeds from their saw mill, placed them among the wealthy in early Streetsville.  Their son, John “Church” Hyde, built his own little merchant-miller empire.  By 1840 he had built a mill on the west side of the river near the end of Church street.  The mill expanded into a saw and grist mill, cooperage and stave factory.  Staves are the thin wood boards which were used by a cooper to make barrels.  He also built quarters for his workers at the mill site.  In 1906 the mill was converted to produce hydro electricity for the town of Streetsville.  It was Ontario’s first municipally owned power plant.  The plant continued to be the source for power for the town until 1943 when Streetsville joined Ontario Hydro.  The plant continued to provide auxiliary power until 1960 when it was shut down.  In the photo below are two tunnels under the building where water was used to turn turbines.


There are two holes where shafts from the water turbines came up from these water tunnels below.


A steam pipe like the one below helped us to locate the Millwood Mills during a hike back in June.  This also helps to identify this part of the mill as being of the newer 1906 construction.


The mill is designated as a heritage site because of the remaining door and window frames which can be seen in the cover photo.  Since it is now intended to be preserved I find it odd that the interior of the mill is allowed to become overgrown with small trees. In a few years these trees will push over the walls and ruin this historical building.


When the mill was restored in 1906 a new dam was built across the Credit River.  The foundations remain in a pattern of squares on the river bed.


Fall would officially begin a day later, but there was a hint of colour coming in some maple trees already and the sumac trees are bright red.  Fall’s showcase of beauty is about to begin.



As we had hiked up the west side of the river we had seen the remains of yet another mill, this one on the east bank of the Credit river.  Hmmm….


Google Maps link: Hyde Mill

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Riverside Park Streetsville

Saturday Sept. 6, 2014

It was a cool morning following a night of rain.  We decided that there was time for a short hike. Parking on Riverside Place we walked the path down to the east bank of the Credit River.  We thought we just might find evidence of Timothy Street’s mill, after which the town of Streetsville was named.  Streetsville has retained it’s small town feel even as it has been surrounded by the city of Mississauga.  In 1953 two of the first suburbs in Canada were built near Streetsville.  The one on the north east was called Riverside and opened in 1955.  The park at the bottom of the hill along the river may have contained the mill pond.  The tree in the cover shot is a massive black willow that stands near the side of an old mill race.  It is likely over 100 years old and witness to many changes in the river valley.

We watched a female downy woodpecker looking for lunch on a dead tree.  The downy is the smallest woodpecker in Ontario.  The males can be distinguished from the females by the red cap on the back of the head.  The downy and the hairy woodpecker look almost identical, yet they come from different genera.  Downy woodpeckers average about 6 inches while the hairy is normally around 15 inches in size.  They have the same markings except the white feathers on the tails.  Being unrelated they cannot inter-breed raising the question as to why they look so much alike.  Scientists use the term “convergent evolution” to describe two apparent random sets of independent mutations that, against all odds, somehow produced the same result.


The Goldenrod Gall Fly is a small brownish fly that lives it’s entire life cycle around the plant.  In the spring the male will wait on a plant for the female to arrive so he can dance for her.  After mating she deposits her eggs directly into the stem of the young goldenrod plant.  The eggs hatch in about 10 days, roughly the same time as the adult completes it’s two week life cycle and dies.  The larva live their whole lives inside the plant where they chew a nest.  Their saliva causes the plant to grow a gall around the larva, up to the size of a golf ball.  Just before winter the larva will chew an escape tunnel out almost to the outer skin.  Then it converts most of its body fluid to glycol, a substance like anti-freeze, and sets down for the winter.  In the spring the larva wakes up and molts into the pupa from which the adult fly will hatch.  The adult will escape through the tunnel it dug the fall before.  When it reaches the end of the tunnel it inflates special pouches in it’s head to “blow apart” the skin of the gall.  The male fly then begins its two week life cycle on the outside.  Goldenrod galls are easy to find but it is rare to see two galls on a single plant.


Wild cucumbers grow along the edges of Toronto’s rivers and streams.  They are related to cucumbers, squash and other gourds but unlike other members of it’s family, are not edible. The fruit will contain 4 seeds which drop out of the bottom after the pod has ripened.  The plant dies each fall and re-grows in the spring from the seeds of the year before.


Milkweeds produce a pod which contains hundreds of little seeds.  These little seeds each have a silky tassle which allows them to be blown by the wind to aid distribution.  Milkweed is essential to the life cycle of monarch butterflies.  They lay their eggs on the plant and the emerging caterpillars eat it.  Monarch butterflies travel 4,800 km to Mexico to winter every year. In the winter of 2013-2014 only 44% of the butterflies arrived compared to the year before.  In order to improve the future of these butterflies the David Suzuki Foundation has a program promoting the planting of milkweed in Toronto.


We found the old Streetsville mill but it was on the other side of the Credit River.  Exploration awaits…