GLASGOW – Man Travails Nature Prevails
CARVING OUT THE LANDSCAPE
During the glaciers retreat from the Southern Ontario some 10,000 years ago, torrents of meltwater scoured sweeping meander scars with steep bluffs, creating the impressive Humber River valley we see today. Canyon like relief etched on this 1877 map of farm ownership highlights the impact glacial floodwater erosion had on farmstead adjacent to the river. The block of land that is shaded green and extended to include the adjacent river and valley bluffs, would eventually become the site of Glasgow.
THE FIRST EUROPEAN SETTLER
In 1818 Robert Loring was granted free title to two 100 acre parcels of land, Lot 10 west and east halves, in Albion Township. He received this property, situated between Queen Street (7th Concession Line) and Coleraine Drive (6th Concession Line) for his services to the British Crown. The southern boundary was in part, the pioneer track into Bolton that became Glasgow Road. This 200 acre grant, shown in green, was roughly bisected north to south by the winding Humber River. Loring received his homestead three years before George Bolton purchased his land 1 km (0.5 mile) down river that became the hamlet of Bolton Mill’s. A portion of modern Bolton is shown in red.
Loring’s grant was bought and sold several time between 1818 and 1848, including transactions by several members of the Bolton family. In the early 1850s James Moore purchased the east half of the original 200 acre grant. This would become the most desirable 100 acres as it had road frontage on Queen Street and the Humber River flowing through the back of the farmstead. The prominent rectangle identifies the area represented in the following Plan of Glasgow map.
THE IDEAL MILL SITE
The gradient in the river, falling especially rapidly between Glasgow and Bolton as is evident even today, attracted more than one entrepreneur to the area. Between 1855 and 1863 an industrious Scott named James McIntosh rented the land contained by the wide bend in the river at the back of the Moore property. With wool available from local sheep, trees growing on the hills sides and waterpower created by damming the river, a race was dug and two mills built. The substantial mill pond channeled water to power the new saw mill and the woolen factory, both of which are visible as dark rectangles straddling the mill race. The Buist’s, father then son were the next owners of the woolen mill. Son Alexander had the land surveyor subdivide the property into building lots at the same time as he was laying out lots and streets in Bolton and Nunnville. He named the streets after members of his family as shown on this “Plan of Glasgow”. Only a few homes were ever built here as most mill workers lived in Bolton.
The most lucrative yet turbulent industrial period in Glasgow began in 1882 when Joshua Walshaw purchased the milling business. Fire was a common occurrence due to dry, combustible nature of wool and in 1896 his mill experienced its first major fire. Walshaw quickly rebuilt with a substantial three story brick factory and a brick residence, both of which can be seen in the accompanying photograph.
Another fire followed in 1903 with construction of his new two storey mill illustrated in the advertisement below and completed in the following year. Yet again in 1905 a third fire occurred. The final devastating fire came in 1923 and did $200,000 worth of damage. That marked the end of the J. Walshaw & Son's Bolton Woolen Mills Company. The mill was never rebuilt and 40 local people were left unemployed.
A SUMMER PLACE
Toronto brothers Samuel and Louis Greenspoon bought the former mill property in 1925. Disregarding the prior residential survey plan, they transformed the mill pond into an idyllic setting for swimming, boating and fishing. There was a playground for children, cabins for the councilors, a campground and a dining hall. The old brick Walshaw house was maintained for use by visiting families. However attendance began to drop off in 1945 and a the camp closed permanently in 1950.
THE GREAT FLOOD
In October of 1954 Hurricane Hazel, the most severe storm ever to hit Southern Ontario, dumped 225mm (9 inches) of rain on the Humber River watershed in a matter of hours. Raging waters quickly swelled the river well above its normal banks, submerging Glasgow and trashing everything in its path, including the now abandoned Greenspoon summer camp.
INUNDATION BY DESIGN
In response to this catastrophic event, the Province of Ontario created conservation authorities with a mandate to implement flood control measures throughout their watersheds. The Metro Toronto and Region Conservation Authority was created in 1957 with the power to purchase flood prone lowlands along the Humber River. The MTRCA subsequently drew up plans to create a 29 meter (95foot) high earthen dam across the Humber River at Glasgow, with a reservoir capable of holding a flood water in the river valley for 8 kilometers (5 miles) upstream. A road was to be built atop the dam connecting Glasgow Road with Queen Street N. Over time plans changed and the dam was never built.
RETURN TO RECREATION
In the 1970s the area turned again to recreation and a downhill ski operation, the Edelweiss Ski Club, was built utilizing the floodplain basin and the steep valley slopes to the south. The club installed beginners rope tow on the natural pinnacle hill rising in the middle of the open fields, since removed, and a poma lift to take the more competent skiers to the top of the north facing valley slopes. Two runs are still visible as narrow slashes in the trees. The ski club had a skating rink and a small indoor swimming pool. It failed in less than a decade, and the club house was later consumed by a fire. The Bolton Wonderers Soccer Club moved to Edelweiss Club in 1983 followed by the Bolton Tennis Club facility. The extensive playing fields, parking lot and tennis courts serviced by Glasgow Road are visible in the satellite image. Both clubs are still functioning successfully. The wandering blue line represents the Humber Valley Heritage trail. Only recreational uses are now permitted on these Toronto and Region Conservation Authority managed lands, as they pose no serious threat to life should another major flood occur. The long term plan of the TRCA is to take over and reforest all floodplain land in the Glasgow Edelweiss area.
HUMBER VALLEY HERITAGE TRAIL
The Humber Valley Heritage Trail Association built a 33 meter (110 foot) steel pedestrian bridge spanning the Humber River at Glasgow in 2003, thereby establishing it as a Trail Head to their 30km system of public trails. Remnants of the early mills can be seen along the trail where it traverses the old Glasgow site, the most conspicuous being the mill race channel, visible as a shallow linear depression, defined by a row of old weeping willow trees. Concrete foundations for the saw mill and woolen factory can be found along the mill race. Chips of red brick from the now vanished woolen mill still surface from time to time in the middle of the hiking trail, and a concrete corner foundation of the summer camp dining hall is most obvious. A vestige of the earthen mill dam was incorporated into the western approach to the bridge. In 2004 a volunteer community organization, the Bolton Community Action Site Committee, built the historical display kiosk near the trail head to illustrate the rich cultural history of Glasgow, and a road sign was installed by Heritage Caledon in recognition of its historic importance.
With information from "Glasgow a Hamlet on the Humber" by permission of Heather Broadbent.