This week I bought the Bruce Trail App for my phone and so it got it’s first workout. After identifying a section we hadn’t been on before we set out for the parking area on the map (8th line north of 22 Side road, north of Georgetown). There are several places that you can pull off and park that are not on the map including where the main trail crosses the road a little farther north. With the tracking feature turned on it marked our trail as we progressed and created a record of the hike that can be saved toward earning trail badges.
We entered on the Eight Line Side Trail and made our way to The Great Esker Side Trail. Along the way we identified the remains of an old car in the woods. It has clearly been there for decades as it has no motor and is surrounded by mature trees. It is in a very advanced state of decay. The front bumpers and grill pattern were quite unique in the various car models of the 1940’s. Having looked through hundreds of online picyures, positive identification wasn’t possible but the closest candidate was a 1946 Chevy Stylemaster. That particular car was a sedan and this model was most likely a truck.
Flowering Raspberries grow along the trail in many places. Their flowers are quite large for the raspberry family and have a long period of blooms which also makes them os special interest to honey bees. The fruit looks like a large lat raspberry and is used by mammals and birds.
Eskers are glacial deposits that run in nearly straight lines and rise above the surrounding landscapes. They are formed during the melting phase of the ice age when water is rushing in a river either over or under the ice. The formation of eskers is described in greater detail in our earlier post The Brampton Esker. The Great Esker Side Trail run, in part, along the top of an esker. It stands about 30 metres above the surrounding terrain but is much shorter than the one in Brampton. As far as eskers go, the Great Esker isn’t so great. The Thelon Esker is almost 800 kilomtres long. The trail leads directly up the esker.
The escarpment is made up of limestone and harder layers of dolostone. Scattered throughout the landscape are large granite boulders that appear to be out of place. They have been carried by the glacier and deposited across the province by the retreating ice sheet. Rocks that are different sizes or minerals than the ones common to where they are found are known as glacial erratics.
Old stone fences run through the trees marking off the earlier fields. More recently some guide wires have been put in some places along the trail. These are growing into the trees in several spots.
Most of the mayapples, or mandrakes, have been harvested by the local wildlife but a couple large ones remained that are still green. When they start to turn yellow they will put off a pungent odor that attracts raccoons. It is suggested to remove the seeds if you do happen to harvest some of this native fruit. You’ll have to be lucky because the raccoons check daily for the newly ripening fruit.
Butterflies abound along the trial and this Appalachian Brown was one of several flittering among the plants.
The poison ivy doing very well along the sides of the trails. Urushiol oil in the leaves and stem causes an allergic reaction in 85% of people. It is white when the stem is broken but turns black upon exposure to oxygen. The oil is highly concentrated and a drop the size of a pin head can cause an allergic reaction in 500 people. In the Unite States about 350,000 people a year get a rash that can last for up to 3 weeks.
One of the truly interesting boardwalks is this one that takes advantage of this tree and the massive root system to carry the trail.
Snow Creek Falls are located at the intersection of 27th side road and the 8th line so we made a detour to see how much water was there at this time.
It was certainly cool to check out the Great Esker Side Trail and take the Bruce Trail App for a test run. It likely means more hikes on the Bruce in the near future.
Claireville Conservation Area is nestled between four major communities in the GTA. A gore is a triangular piece of land and Gore Township is shaped like this. It means the the conservation area is easily accessible from Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga and Vaughan. There is free parking in a small lot off Highway 50 just north of Steeles Avenue.
As soon as we stepped out of the car we spotted a female white tailed deer in the field beyond. A healthy looking deer she wasn’t too keen on a photo shoot and quickly disappeared. There are sightings of a leucistic deer in the park. We didn’t see any white deer on this expedition. but they are seen regularly by visitors to the park.
Orchard Grass grows in the old farmstead. They don’t grow from underground rhizomes but rather spread through a process known as tillering. The subsequent stalks are produced off the original root, having been established from an original seed. The flowers on these examples were in full bloom and producing a pollen that I am allergic to.
There is a main trail through the park but we found that it was used by cars who drove quick enough to stir up a choking cloud of dust. As usual the secondary trails were much better.
Pearl Crescent butterflies have a wide range of habitat throughout North America. It is quite common throughout the United States but in Ontario it is not as common as the Northern Crescent. The main distinguishing feature between the male and female is the colour of the antenna knobs. The males usually have black ones while the female seen below has white antenna knobs.
Claireville Conservation Area features a tree caching trail. Nineteen trees along the trail have been tagged so that hikers with smartphones can access information about the tree species in the park. With my phone I only had to take a picture of this tag to find out that it is an American Beech. The link provides considerable information about the tree including the fact that it could live for 300 years. For those with an understanding of environmental concerns they also tell you that this tree is storing over 2000 kilograms of carbon.
John and Rebecca Wiley emigrated to Upper Canada in 1836 and settles in Gore Township. Their one hundred acre farm was called River-view Farm and was divided between their two sons when John passed away in 1864. The two properties of Leonard and William are outlined in yellow on the 1877 county atlas below. The Wiley family operated the farm until 1962 when it was sold to the Metropolitan Conservation Authority. The bridge over the West Humber on Gorewood Drive was named after the family.
Wooden bridges were built across the many streams and rivers in Ontario using timber from trees that were cut to clear the road. These bridges were in constant need of repair and early in the 20th century concrete bridges became popular. Concrete bowstring bridges were popular because they were able to use local materials and labour. By the 1920’s there were about 65 concrete bowstring bridges in Canada, almost all of them in Ontario. Only a few of these remain in place and even less of these remain open to vehicle traffic. There are only two remaining in Brampton, the other one being on Creditview Road near Eldorado Park.
The Wiley Bridge was named after the local family and built in 1924 from materials likely quarried on the property. It was built on a bias, which means that it crosses the river on an angle. The bridge was reinforced with three overhead concrete girders that join the two bowstring arches. These run on opposing angles as can be seen in the preceding picture. All this combines to give the bridge an odd appearance as if one side is longer than the other, or that it is wider at one end than the other. The bridge has a continuous span deck and concrete hangers and parapet, all of which is still in very good condition. The bridge was given heritage protection in 2013.
Claireville Conservation area also includes the reservoir south of Steeles Avenue that was featured in the post Claireville. With 848 acres to explore and a rare white deer to be seen, there is plenty of reasons to return to Claireville Conservation Area.
When people think of the Bloor Street Viaduct they usually think of the bridge over the Don River and Don Valley Parkway. Or, thoughts of Toronto’s suicide bridge may come to mind. Few people realize that the viaduct is comprised of two bridges and a length of landfill. These are known as the Don Section which spans the Don River and is 1620 feet long and 131 feet above the river. The Rosedale Section is another bridge, this one over the Rosedale Ravine while the Bloor Section is landfill along the side of the Rosedale Ravine, connecting the original portion of Bloor Street with the Rosedale Section.
In 1899 when the fire map below was created, Bloor Street ended at Sherbourne Street and there was no easy access across the Rosedale Ravine and the Don River Valley. A plan was put forth to build bridges across the two waterways and connect Bloor Street with Danforth Avenue on the east end. The existing section of Bloor Street is coloured yellow. The Bloor section of the Bloor Viaduct is coloured black while the Rosedale Section is coloured green with the eventual TTC bridge in red.
By 1901 the city was expanding to the east but the only two bridges across the Don River were on Queen Street and Gerrard Street and they were unable to handle the increased traffic that expansion brought. A proposal was put forward to survey the best route for connecting Bloor Street with Danforth. Although the proposal would come up again in 1906 and 1907 it wasn’t until the area of Danforth was annexed to the city in 1909 that things got serious.
To investigate the viaduct in its entirety I had to do it in two portions, starting below the Don Section. This was accessed from Riverale Park using a combination of The Lower Don Trail and the abandoned Canadian Pacific tracks that run from Half Mile Bridge. The picture below shows the viaduct looking south. The abandoned railway and the Don Valley Parkway run between piers A and B. The Lower Don Trail runs between B and C.
On January 1, 1910 the people voted No to a referendum but the need for a bridge didn’t go away. City Council hired a firm of traffic consultants to see if a subway might be the answer to their traffic problems. Their report of August 25th, 1910 suggested a Yonge Street, Queen Street and Bloor Street subway line. They proposed a double deck bridge over both the Don Valley and Rosedale Ravine with a subway on the lower deck. On January 1, 1913 the people approved construction on the viaduct on an altered route that required an angled bridge across Rosedale Ravine and landfill between Sherbourne and Parliament Streets.
Seen from the opposite direction the archive picture below shows construction of the Bloor Viaduct. Pier C is in the foreground with the crane sitting above pier B. A series of falseworks were constructed below the bridge to support the steel structure during assembly and later removed. The steel girders of the bridge can be seen extending out from each pier to an eventual connection in the middle. Each girder has three hinges, one on either and and one in the middle.
Rolland Caldwell Harris was Commissioner of Public Works and he supported the idea of including the subway decks for eventual use. The sod turning ceremony took place on January 16, 1915 with construction of the piers beginning immediately. Four of the piers across the Don River section are sunk over 40 feet below the river to sit on the bedrock. The subway line along Bloor Street didn’t open until February 26, 1966 but the lower deck saved the TTC millions of dollars in construction costs. A subway train makes its way east under Don Section in the picture below.
Having explored below the viaduct I wanted to examine the Bloor section and the Rosedale Section. I was able to find parking on Bloor Street right near Sherbourne and so I set off to explore the section of landfill that now carries five lanes of traffic and two bicycle lanes. The side of the embankment down to Rosedale Valley Road is steep in places but has developed a mature tree cover.
During construction the viaduct was opened in three phases with the Bloor Section opening to traffic last. The Rosedale Section being the shortest was completed and opened in October of 1917 and the Don Section was opened on October 18, 1918. As the fill settled in the Bloor Section it continued to crack and it wasn’t until August 23, 1919 that this last section was opened. A long portion of the embankment has been supported with concrete and provides an easy way down.
The Rosedale section is 190 feet long and stands 90 feet above the ravine floor. There is only one span in this section and the steel beams were assembled on the ground and then hoisted into position. This eliminated the need for falsework under this bridge.
When it came time to build the subway it was decided that the curve created by the Rosedale Bridge was too severe for safe operation of the trains and so the subway deck was never used. From below the bridge you can still see the screened off openings for both the east and west lines. The eastbound lane is marked in yellow on this picture of the west abutment.
A new covered bridge for the subway was installed beside the Rosedale Bridge in 1966.
After passing Castle Frank and its subway station you come to the longer Don Section of the viaduct. The bridge had become the most popular place in Toronto to commit suicide and by 2003 nearly 500 people had jumped to their deaths. The city approved a barrier in 1998 but delayed 5 years over funding issues. Meanwhile, over 48 more people jumped creating a hazard to traffic below. The Luminous Veil was installed at a cost of $5.5 million dollars and has put an end to the unfortunate use of the bridge but suicide rates in the city remain unchanged .
The view south from the bridge shows the DVP in the left corner and the Lower Don Trail beside it. The river separates the trail from the Canadian Pacific tracks and the Bayview Avenue Extension. The Luminous Veil does mess up the view to a large degree.
The Bloor Street Viaduct was officially named Prince Edward Viaduct when it opened in 1918 although it retains the..
When the Canadian Pacific Railway was built through the GTA in the 1880’s it passed through Leaside and The Junction but didn’t run south to Union Station. In 1888 they were given approval to build a spur line through the Don Valley and into downtown Toronto. The line was in use until 2007 when it was closed and the right of way is currently owned by Metrolinx with an unspecified plan for potential future use. Hiking the GTA proposes that this old rail line would make a perfect hiking trail connecting several parks that will soon be joined under the name of Wonscotonach Parklands.
I parked on Carlton Street at Riverdale Park and took the stairs to the bottom of the hill. There is access to the Lower Don Trail from the pedestrian bridge over the Don Valley Parkway. Turning north you quickly come to a pedestrian bridge over the Don River and a small side trail that leads to the old Canadian Pacific Railway bridge over the Don River.
There are plenty of places where the rail line has all but vanished into new growth in the past ten years.
The old railway passes under the Bloor Viaduct, one of Toronto’s best known bridges.
From the railway you will have the chance to watch TTC subway trains running below Bloor Street. The eastbound train above is running on a subway deck that was built into the bridge 50 years before it would host the first commuters.
A bumble bee was collecting pollen from some late apple blossoms and storing it in pouches along its rear legs. The myth that bumble bees defy the laws of physics by being able to fly seems to date back to 1934 and a book called Le Vol Des Insects. There’s obvious flaws in the calculations that claim the wing size is too small to lift the weight of the creature. If this were true I saw dozens of physics defying bees just on this brief hike.
Just north of the Bloor Viaduct is an old switch light for directing train traffic. This light would inform the engineer of the presence of other trains on the same track.
In recent times the half mile bridge over the DVP and Don River has been gated and posted No Trespassing. There is also a help line number on the fence for those who have approached the bridge in a state of depression, thinking about ending it all.
Someone has cut the fence to gain access to the bridge but several people have reported being stopped by police for being on the bridge and, luckily, they were only given warnings. One of the main attractions is the spectacular view of the city from the bridge. The Don Valley Brick Works (now Evergreen Brickworks) can be seen to the left of the tracks. Beyond here, the line carries on toward Crother’s Woods.
With a small investment for safety on the half mile bridge, a new rail trail could be established linking several existing parks and pathways which would help to integrate our network of trails in the city.
The idea for a Trans Canada Trail was given birth at the time that the country was celebrating 125 years of Confederation. The plan was to complete a trail that would link all the provinces and territories by 2017 when the country celebrated 150 years. In a quarter century a trail was created that extends over 42,000 kilometres and is the longest multi-use trail network in the world. The trail passes directly through the GTA and then curves back along the top again as it heads north. The map below was snipped from the official map https://thegreattrail.ca/explore-the-map/
A non-profit organization called The Trans Canada Trail was established to raise funds for the creation and maintenance of the trail. All levels of government contributed to the project and donations were sought from corporations and individuals. The province of Prince Edward Island was first to complete their section which is known as Confederation Trail. To explore the original section of the trail we parked in the small lot on The Gore Road just north of Old Church Road. After a short walk east toward Mill Lane and Humber Station Road we made our way west to Caledon East.
Pavilions have been established along the route where donors are recognized. The first pavilion to be created is the one in Caledon East. An inscription program was put in place for individuals who donated to finance a metre of the trail. An inscription would be added to the pavilion of your choice. My family had a inscription placed in the Calgary pavilion, the city where our late brother was born. The inscription program was officially terminated in 2012 when it was determined to be a drain on resources that was hindering the actual development of the trail. If you donate today, the federal government will give 50 cents on the dollar as donation matching.
The trail has been established using existing trails as a foundation. The first section to be opened was the Caledon Trailway in 1995. When the trail was connected from The Atlantic to The Pacific and Arctic Oceans in 2017 a new stone and pavilion were placed in Caledon East where The Trans Canada Trail was first opened. The stone bears the new name of the trail.
The trail has been connected from coast to coast but it is far from completed. Large sections follow roadways which in some cases are temporary until green-ways can be developed. In other areas the trail may always be stuck on the side of roadways, mostly rural but also including some busier sections. Some portions, such as one in New Brunswick on the Saint John River cannot be hiked or cycled, but must be completed in a boat or canoe. The trail is intended to promote six main activities: walking/hiking, cycling, paddling, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Along the trail near Caledon East we found a single True Morel growing. These fungus are edible and can be distinguished from similar inedible ones by the fact that they are hollow inside, from stem to tip of the mushroom.
The section of trail that passes through Caledon East follows the route of the Hamilton and North Western Railway which was later amalgamated into the Canadian National Railway. It was abandoned in the 1980’s and Caledon purchased the right of way in 1989. In 1994 they started to convert it into a multi-use trail which opened the following year. The trail along here continues to use the old rail bridges to cross streams and roadways. This is the bridge over Mill Lane.
Dragonflies rest with their wings open while damselflies rest with them folded on their backs. There are about 5,000 species of dragonflies in the world and 130 of these have been identified in Ontario. We saw half a dozen different ones along the way. This male Chalk Fronted Corporal was one of several that were soaking up the heat on the trail. They tend to follow humans as they hike because they like to eat the mosquitoes and biting flies that are attracted to people. For this reason it is always nice to see these insects.
We found a patch of gooseberries growing along the trail. They are not native to North America but have become naturalized, likely from garden escapees. The fruit is cultivated and is an excellent source of vitamin C. It can be eaten as is, cooked into pies or preserved in jams. It is also used to flavour wines, sodas and teas.
The Humber Valley Heritage Trail along with The Bruce Trail are accessible from the Great Trail near Caledon East. In other places The Great Trail shares pathway with The Lakefront Trail and The Pan Am Trail. The pedestrian bridge crossing the mouth of Highland Creek is one example of a shared trail.
Based on the amount of fur in this scat it appears that someone is not doing the stoop and scoop after their coyote.
Along the trail we saw several chipmunks and squirrels as well as this rabbit. The hunting seems to be pretty good for the local coyote population.
We’ve visited several sections of The Great Trail along the Waterfront Trail as well as on The Caledon Trailway. At 42,000 kilometres in length, this is one trail that few will be able to complete end-to-end.
The village of Islington was originally called Mimico when it was founded in 1814. Dundas Street was the main route between York and the western part of Upper Canada. It became an important stopover on the stage coach route that ran along Dundas Street. The village has been absorbed into the city around it but it’s original charm is being captured in a series of murals along Dundas Street. The Islington Business Improvement Area (BIA) is a group charged with making the area attractive and preventing graffiti. In 2004 they began to set aside a portion of the local taxes to be used to create outdoor murals that depict some of the history of the community. To date there are 26 murals that cover over 25,000 square feet of public art. Many of the murals were painted by John Kuna although several were painted by Sarah Collard and also Arts Etobicoke. Each painting takes between 300 and 400 hours of work.
The paintings cover 5 blocks along Dundas Street and they are mostly painted on the sides of buildings. The first two murals, however, are painted on bridges over Mimico Creek. These young ladies are singing a welcome to visitors as they enter the community.
This mural depicts golfing in Islington in the 1920’s. The Islington Golf Club was established in 1923 on the old Appleby Farm. Notice the ball collector in this painting who is wearing a protective wire cage.
The old Islington Hotel is seen in this mural that depicts Islington in 1912. The drive shed where horses were stabled can be seen in the foreground and Clayton’s Butcher shop is just beyond the hotel. This mural is part of a pair that together depict the street view of the town a hundred years ago.
Gordon’s Dairy was a big part of everyday life in Islington. Their milk wagons, and later milk trucks, delivered dairy products on a daily basis to homes in town. The dairy was in a building that featured yellow tiles on the outside and had a lunch counter inside. This mural shows the dairy as it existed around 1940.
The Royal Conservatory of Music had a branch in Islington between the 1950’s and the 1980’s. This mural features Glenn Gould who was one of the most famous people to come through the conservatory.
This mural depicts a father fishing with his children in Mimico Creek near the old rail bridge.
This is my personal favourite of all the murals in the collection and that is why it is also featured as the cover photo for this post. It depicts the old swimming hole near the mill. The bathers are dressed in fanciful bathing suits and are climbing on the waterwheel for the mill.
This colourful mural depicts fishing in the creek. The water below the children with their fishing lines depicts several of the species that were common in Mimico Creek a century ago.
The Guelph Radial Line ran through the community on it’s way between Lambton Mills and Guelph. The line opened in 1917 and ran until 1931 when it was closed due to the increase in popularity of the personal automobile which made the trip to Guelph along Highway 7. The radial line ran behind the building with this mural on it.
The Gunn House was also known as Briarly and was built in the 1840’s as a single story regency style cottage. In the 1850’s it was expanded and given Italianate touches that were popular at the time. The house was owned by the Montgomery family from 1870 until 1985. It was demolished in 1989 to make way for some badly needed townhouses. The house originally stood just east of Montgomery’s Inn.
One of the more unique murals is painted on the side of the building that served as the manse for the Weslyan Methodist Church. The building has been painted in a manner that appears to have removed the outer wall and allowed us to view the interior as it may have looked around 1888. The pastor is seated at the table while a committee of women from the church inspect the house with white gloves to ensure that the housekeeping is up to par.
Montgomery’s Inn was built in 1830 by Thomas and Margaret Montgomery. When Margaret died in 1855, Thomas stopped operating the inn and concentrated on farming the property instead. The building was sold in 1945 to the Presbyterian congregation who used it as a church from 1946 until 1962. The building sat abandoned until 1975 when the Etobicoke Historical Society managed to save it from demolition. It has been turned into a museum and remains a valuable example of Georgian style architecture.
The old community of Islington has been swallowed up by the city but through the display of public art it has managed to preserve the historical charm of a previous century. This is just a selection of the beautiful artwork and one only need take a quiet stroll along Dundas Street from Islington to Kipling to appreciate the beauty that has been created here.
Previous posts on Crothers Woods and the Beechwood Wetlands have covered much of the early history of this area but we’ll touch on it briefly as we set the scene for the present story. The valley was a much different place in 1929 than it is today but to understand one of the prominent features of the valley we need to step back nearly a century. At that time most of the tree coverage had been removed from everywhere except the ravine slopes. A saw mill had been in operation in the area shown as Cottonwood Flats on the map below until the local supply of lumber was exhausted in 1858. After that, Cottonwood Flats was home to manufacturing with Domtar operating an insulation factory there until 1965. The area known as Sun Valley had been home to a brick factory since 1900 any by 1929 there was a large strip mine where the clay had been removed. The Don River had become one of the most polluted rivers in Canada by this time but it formed a natural border to the floodplain. The area bounded by the ravine, the large clay mine and the river was chosen as the site for Toronto’s newest sewage treatment plant.
North Toronto was annexed to the city of Toronto in 1912. This led to the rapid infill of an area that had largely been farmland until that time. With the influx of affluent people came an outflow of effluent. Hooking up to the existing city sewer system was impractical because of the Yellow Creek Ravine and so a new sewage system and treatment plant was needed. A site was selected in the industrial area we now call Crothers Woods because it was lower in elevation and no pumping was required to bring the sewage to the plant. The close proximity of the Don River was a deciding factor as was the concept that the discharge was downstream from any agricultural or drinking water uses.
The whole facility sits in the floodplain and at the time was bounded by the ravine, a deep pit and a dirty river. R. C. Harris was the commissioner of public works in 1926 when the project was approved by city council. Harris was a man of foresight and when he built the Bloor Street Viaduct (1918) he installed a lower deck for a subway that wouldn’t use it until 1966. When he built the R. C. Harris Filtration Plant he designed it so that it could be expanded by 50% when the time came. When he commissioned the North Toronto Water Treatment Plant he was decades ahead of his time in ensuring worker safety. An escape route was planned to allow employees to get out of the valley if an emergency occurred. A wooden boardwalk leads to a set of wooden stairs then to the road above. A small section has no hand rails to allow cyclists to enjoy one of 9 kilometers of trails that weave their way through the 52 hectare park. There are two places where the trails cross the stairway.
As the boardwalk approaches the ravine wall it starts a fairly steep climb. This section of the woods is full of birds and the stairs provide an excellent place to find some quiet time when you can sit and watch for them.
In the fall these stairs also provide excellent views of the changing colours in the Don River Valley. About half way to the top is a bench for those who need a rest or just want to sit for awhile.
One hundred ninety-five steps separate the wastewater treatment facility and the road at the top of the ravine. The top of the stairs are almost hidden in the intersection of Millwood Road and Redway Road. The stairs are obviously maintained because the deadwood has been removed and broken boards replaced. Much of the blue paint is peeling from the structure and the new boards are still raw. I wonder if a paint job is scheduled for the near future.
When we visited Crothers Woods in December 2016 the stairway hadn’t seen much recent use. Fresh snow covered the stairs at that time. Today, there was only one other person using the stairs but dozens of others on the trails either hiking or riding their mountain bikes.
It turns out that the set of stairs designed in 1929 to allow the water treatment plant workers to escape functions very well today as a place for personal escape.
Today most people know of Burnhamthorpe Road which, along with Highway 10 forms one of the main intersections in Mississauga. A hundred and fifty years ago Burnhamthorpe was the name of a small farming community at the intersection of today’s Dixie Road and Burnhamthorpe Road. The village was originally called Sand Hill or Sandy Hill but this was easily confused with another community nearby. John Abelson had come from Burnham Thorpe in England and he was instrumental in changing the name . It roughly translates as Stone Hearth.
The old community has been over run by the city and not much is left. Known as the Moore-Stanfield house, this is the only farm house that remains in its original position. Samuel Moore built the house in 1882 on his 200 acre land grant. The house and part of the property was later sold to Joseph Stanfield who was Moore’s brother in law. In 1897 Fred Gill rented the house for $10 per month and used the front as a store and post office. This lasted until 1912 when the house was returned to residential uses.
Behind the house is an old field-stone building that dates to the pioneer days of the village. This may have been an earlier home on the property or perhaps a work shed.
Another board and batten building is attached to the rear of the house and it has an interesting cupola.
The village had a short business section that included a Sons of Temperance Hall, an Orange Lodge and later, a steam grist mill. Several tradesmen called the town home and it eventually had a dance hall that attracted people from nearby villages.
In 1912 Fred Gill moved into two houses on the south east corner and opened Burnhamthorpe’s third store complete with post office. It was run successfully by his son George under the name Gill’s Groceteria. It finally closed in 1973 and today has been removed.
Burnhamthorpe was a Methodist village with the first two buildings standing beside the pioneer cemetery on the south west corner. In 1874 land was purchased on the north west corner to build a new church. The name was changed to the United Church of Canada in 1925 from Burnhamthorpe Methodist Church . The church closed in 1978 after 104 years of service . The building was given an historic designation in 2013 and currently is used by St Apostle Andrew Romanian Orthodox Church.
Applewood was home to the Wordsworth-Shaver house which was relocated to Broadacres Park in 1980. James Shaver Wordsworth was born here in 1874. Wordsworth fought for political reforms including old age pensions, unemployment insurance and other social security measures. In 1932 he became the founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation which he led until 1940. In 1961 the party became the New Democratic Party.
The archive photo below shows the village wagon maker’s shop. The population of Burnhamthorpe reached a peak of about 100 in the 1870’s.
The village cemetery was laid out on the corner of the property belonging to Abram Markle. Just short of an acre of land was deeded to a group of trustees for the building of a Methodist Episcopal Church. The church would include the allocation of ground to be used as a cemetery. A school was built on the land just west of the cemetery (where the Burnhamthorpe library is today). The cemetery was public until 1859 when it was given to the Primitive Methodist Church. This congregation built the 1874 church we saw earlier. Many of the pioneers of the village are buried in this cemetery.
George Savage came to Canada in 1830 from Yorkshire. He was a blacksmith by trade and soon took up residence in Burnhamthorpe. Serving the village as blacksmith he also sat on the town council. George held the position of postmaster for many years and had a locally famous apiary. George and Sarah Savage are two of the early burials in the Burnhamthorpe cemetery.
John and Mary (Mingle) Felker were born in 1758 and 1769 respectively. Johann Friederick Voelkel changed his name to John Frederick Felker when he emigrated from Prussia and purchased two lots in Saltfleet Township in 1820. After taking up their land grant they went on to raise seven children. When John passed away in 1838 the farm went to the oldest son, John Frederick Felker II. The younger Felker also married a lady named Mary (Bently) and they had a family of 13 children who helped to operate the farm. In 1880, following the death of John II, the land was split between the sons, with the part containing the falls going to the youngest son, Hiram A Felker. On the county atlas map below Hiram’s land is seen along with Davis Creek which flows over the escarpment creating Felker’s Falls. Two other properties belonging the the Felker Family can be found, all three of which are outlined in green. Frederick Felker’s property has a small cross that marks the site of the family cemetery.
Hiram Felker was born in 1844 on the farm and lived there until he died in 1911. His son Joseph Benjamin Felker was born there as well and he carried on the family tradition until his death in 1956. His children sold the farm to a developer in 1961 and most of the table land was developed for houses. This has caused Felker’s Falls to be located in a subdivision. Around this time there was a land acquisition program along the Niagara Escarpment in an effort to preserve as much of this UNESCO world biosphere as possible. The Hamilton Conservation Authority currently owns and operates the land.
We parked at Paramount Park and followed a short side trail until we reached the Bruce Trail. It follows the top of the escarpment and provides some great views out toward Stoney Creek and Hamilton Harbour. We turned to the right and headed toward Felker’s Falls. The conservation area is only 74 hectares in size but contains a section of path that it shares with the Bruce Trail. We circled around the top of the falls looking for the best way to the bottom. From the crest of the falls we could see the quickest way down was to follow the water. Being careful not to go over the falls we crossed to the other side. Upstream from the falls is a section of creek that flows through a hole in the escarpment and and runs underground until emerges into the waterfall, part way down. This is known as karst activity and is similar to what can be found at Eromasa Karst.
Felker’s Falls is a terraced ribbon falls. A water fall that is much higher (22 metres) than it is wide (6 metres) is known as a ribbon falls. A terraced falls has an obvious step part way with two distinct drops. Felker’s, like the nearby Devil’s Punch Bowl, exposes many of the layers of the escarpment in a stunning bowl around the falls. These falls reveal a much greater flow of water at the end of the last ice age.
There are a couple of places where experienced hikers can get to the bottom of the ravine. From there it is fairly easy to follow the stream back to the water falls. With caution, it is possible to reach the edge of the falls but there is a lot of loose talus that makes passing behind the falls unsafe.
On the return climb from the falls we made a brief pit stop to check out this small cave created by the erosion of softer limestone from beneath a harder layer of dolomite. It is large enough to have a few little seating areas as well as a fire pit.
Returning to the main trail we made our way back to where we were parked and carried on toward Glendale Falls and the abandoned section of Mount Albion Road. One of the early plants on the forest floor each spring is the Mayapple. Also known as a mandrake or ground lemon, the plant is poisonous. The fruit is ripe when it turns yellow and can be eaten if you remove the seeds. The name is a little misleading because the flower comes in May but the fruit grows in the early summer. The plant has been used by natives and early settlers for various medicinal properties. They were used to control vomiting, help with bowel movements and may also have been used to expel parasites from the intestines. Modern medicine uses a compound from the plant to cure plantar warts.
The trail will lead you to the top of a steep ravine that contains Montgomery Creek. The creek may have changed course somewhat since the Red Hill Parkway was constructed and now contains several small waterfalls listed as Upper, Middle and Lower Glendale. It is possible to reach the bottom of the ravine and follow the creek back toward the waterfalls. Depending where you start and the flow of water, you may be limited on the number of falls you can reach on this creek.
Mount Albion Road is coloured in brown on the county atlas above and provided access from the bottom up to the top of the escarpment near the community of Mount Albion. The road has gone through several stages from a muddy access road to two lanes of pavement. When the Red Hill Parkway was built in the early 2000’s it crossed the former right of way for Mount Albion Road. The section climbing the escarpment has been abandoned and now serves as part of the Bruce Trail.
The Felker Family Cemetery has at least 46 interments of family members including Frederick on whose property it is located. Hiram, who was owner of the falls when the county atlas was printed, is buried by a rose coloured head stone on the right.
This is an area that will need further exploration. There are at least four more waterfalls between Felker’s and The Devil’s Punchbowl if you follow the Bruce Trail in the other direction.
Thank you to Urban Explorer Patrick Lipscombe who graciously allowed me to use his photos for this post.
The Owen Sound jail has been closed since Dec. 4, 2011 and is currently for sale for $99,000. Some parts of the courthouse, including the main courtroom, are protected by the Ontario Heritage Act, but none of the early jail is. The city is looking for a prospective buyer who will come up with a creative way to re-purpose the land. Unfortunately, that could include demolishing the 165 year-old jail. Here’s an idea, perhaps someone should create a real crowbar hotel. It could get fixed up as a bed and breakfast/extended stay hotel for city slickers to experience the thrill of going to jail without getting a real criminal record.
Let’s follow John Smith, a guest at the Owen Sound Crowbar Hotel where he has chosen to spend a week of his summer vacation. Let’s see what the hotel has to offer him. Our customer service people will serve as the guest’s lawyer, booking their day in court and stay at the crowbar hotel. John has selected the full package, including hanging, set in the 1870’s. He’s arriving at the courthouse having been charged with murder.
John will be handcuffed and escorted into the prisoner’s box. A gallery of paying customers will witness the trial and 12 others, who paid a little more, will sit as the jury. The judge is also a customer who wants to experience the thrill of sentencing someone to death hanging. Over the years many former inmates will return to pay well for the experience of sitting on the other side of the bench.
Above the judge is a painting containing the coat of arms to remind you that it is actually all the people of Canada who opposed you today. The French inscription Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense is intended to bring shame on those who disrespect the crown or those with hidden agendas, especially in the court system. This painting is also part of the heritage designation. The courthouse at the crowbar hotel will also be available for business groups to rent. They’ll sit on the jury to learn to solve problems together and have the opportunity try a jail-break scenario where they have to cooperate to escape.
Meanwhile, the jury has found John guilty of murdering a man who had beat him at poker. To the delight of the audience, the judge passed a sentence of death by hanging. From the courthouse John will be brought over to the jail for processing. This will include a cooling off period where he will sit with a few other hotel guests in a cell like this one, wondering what the hell he has gotten himself into. Eventually he’ll be fingerprinted and all his personal belongings confiscated and listed on a form. He’ll sign it before we lock everything up. We want to ensure he get’s everything back when he gets out.
The jail has multiple cell blocks spread over 3 floors. Larger cells are set up for guests who want to spend the night in jail but have the comforts of a four star luxury hotel. Other cell blocks are set up for time periods so we can showcase Ontario Jails over the decades and provide authentic experiences. Those who choose a 20th-century package will be given quick strip search and into the showers. (Never mind that they showered already to impress the judge. It didn’t work or they wouldn’t be here.) They’ll be issued period prison garb when they come out. John has chosen an older time frame and will spend his time in jail in his own clothes. Minus his belt and shoe laces, to ensure he won’t be tempted to commit suicide before we hang him at the end of the week.
John is now ready to move into his range and meet his new friends. They’ll spend hours discussing the crimes that got them there and claiming to be innocent. After days of playing cribbage, poker and rummy they’ll know each other pretty well, perhaps making lasting friendships. The whole day will be spent in the common area and periodically the guard will come by and yell “Jug Up”. This means that if the prisoners stick their plastic mug through the main set of bars they can get a drink of some concoction resembling Kool-Aid but with double the water. Trays of food will be supplied through a horizontal slot on the cell door. Guards will be played by customers who will spend months on a waiting list. This will be our most popular position as former inmates from around the world will come to experience life on the other side of the bars.
Cells are just about an inch wider than the bed that sits in them and only a foot or so longer. A bucket will be kept at the foot of the bed in case any biological needs came up during the night. In the morning these can be dumped in the main toilet but it can’t be flushed. Guests are not allowed to secretly possess or dispose of any items, called contraband. In the morning John will have to take all the blankets off his bed and fold them up. Along with the pillow they will spend the day locked at the head of the cell. There will be no strangling each other with bed sheets or escaping out of the window with them. This means that every night at lock up guests will have to make their bed while kneeling on it. Guests in the luxury cells will, naturally, have full service.
To complete the experience breakfast might consist of hard boiled eggs with blackened yolks, cold toast and mushy oatmeal. Lunch and dinner will be comprised of mystery meat and soupy potatoes with overcooked veggies. A small cash canteen will be allowed so guests with longer stays can order a couple chocolate bars or a magazine to help pass the time. John has paid for the full package, including The Hole and so he will get into a verbal altercation with another inmate and spend a night in solitary confinement before being moved to death row.
John will be allowed visitors but will have to look at them through the windows and talk to them on the telephone. The experience won’t be authentic if it is too easy for guests to get contraband. Day visitors to the hotel will be able to have a tour and get their picture taken in court, a cell or even the hangman’s noose.
From inside the cells prisoners can look out into one of three exercise yards where they will be allowed an hour a day. John will be hanged in one of these yards in a parlor trick that will shock a full house of customers. Paranormal seekers will flock to the crowbar hotel to seek the spirits of the three men who were hanged here while the jail was in service.