GLASGOW – Man Travails Nature Prevails
(A GHOST TOWN)
By Jerry Gorman, November 2015
Revised December 2017
Carving Out the Landscape
During the glaciers retreat from Southern Ontario some 10,000 years ago, torrents of melt water scoured sweeping meanders with steep bluffs in the moraine that covered much of Caledon. The results of this glaciation include the impressive rolling landscape as well as the Humber River valley we see today. The canyon like relief shown etched on this early map of farm ownership, highlights the local impact of glacial floodwater erosion. The site of Glasgow was located in the entrenched river meander at the back of the property registered to W. Moore, immediately north of Bolton.
Illustrated Historical Atlas of County Peel 1877
Showing A Portion Albion Township
The First European Settler
In 1818 Captain Robert Loring was granted free title to 800 hundred acres of land in Albion Township, as a reward for his service to the British Crown during the War of 1812. One of his 200 acre grants, Lot 10 Concession 6, highlighted in green, was situated between the Concession Lines now called Queen Street and Coleraine Drive. This property had access to the Humber River with the potential to generate water power, and a road to the interior of the property using the pioneer track into Bolton that became Glasgow Road. Loring received this grant three years before George Bolton purchased his land 1 km ( ½ mile) down river, that was to become Bolton's Mill. The 1974 street map below, showing a part Bolton shaded in pink, gives an indication of the size of Loring's grant. The rectangle emphasized in black identifies the "Plan of Glasgow." This area was surveyed into lots for the new hamlet in 1854. Loring never occupied his grant.
Loring's 200 acre grant was bought and sold several times between 1818 and 1848, including transactions between several members of the Bolton family. In the early 1850's James Moore purchased the 100 acre east block, a well endowed property with good road access and the Humber River flowing through it.
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 who recognized its potential for water power. Between 1855 and 1863 an industrious Scot 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, mature trees growing on the hillsides and water power 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 visible as dark rectangles straddling the mill race below the dam. The Buist's, William and his son Alexander were the next owners of the woolen mill.. Alexander named his streets after members of his family, as shown on this "Plan of Glasgow." Some homes were built and occupied but most mill workers chose to live in Bolton. Glasgow was incorporated into the Village of Bolton in 1872.n.
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 the dry, combustible nature of wool and in 1896 his mill experienced its first major fire. Walshaw quickly rebuilt with, a 3 story brick factory and a substantial brick residence, both of which can be seen in the accompanying photograph.
Blankets Drying On Racks Beside the Humber River
Another fire followed in 1903. Yet again in 1905, after reconstructing the imposing building illustrated in the poster under the direction of his son Edwin, 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. Among them were weavers W. H. Fells and G. Belchamber, spinners James Cronin and Mumke Fritz, and finisher Fred Wilkinson.
A Summer Place
Toronto brothers Samuel and Louis Greenspoon bought the former mill property in 1925 and turned it into the Greenspoon Summer Resort and Social Club. Discarding the prior residential survey plan, they developed the site into a summer resort and social club for members of the Toronto Jewish community. Refurbishing the old mill dam, they transformed the mill pond into an idyllic setting for swimming, boating and fishing. There was a playground for the children, a dormitory for councillors, a campground and a dining hall. The old brick Walshaw house was maintained for use by visiting families. The camp purchased its fresh produce in town and summer visitors regularly visited Bolton shops. Local people were always welcome. In its heyday the camp entertained hundreds of visitors at a time on sunny summer weekends. Attendance began to drop off in 1945 and the camp closed permanently in 1950.
The Resort Had A Number of Heavy Flat Bottomed Row Boats
"Going For A Paddle"
The Great Flood
In October of 1954 Hurricane Hazel, the most severe storm ever to hit Southern Ontario, dumped 225 mm ( 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 sweeping away everything in its path including the abandoned Greenspoon summer camp. There was no loss of life locally even though flood waters inundated downtown Bolton streets. All land covered by flooding from this hurricane were eventually designated "hazard lands" by the conservation authority with restrictions applied to future developed.
Hurricane Hazel Flooding - October 22, 1954
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 metre ( 95 foot ) high earthen dam across the Humber River at Glasgow. The reservoir extending 8 kilometres ( 5 miles) upstream would be capable of holding back flood water using the river valley as a crude lake. The cottage community of Humber Grove, located at the Duffy's Lane bridge several kilometres upstream, was expropriated by the MTRCA in anticipation of flooding caused by the project. This community of about 40 cottages, established in 1929, ceased to exist in 1962. One dam benefit was to have been a new road that would connect King Street West with Queen Street North, by extending Glasgow Road across the top of the dam. Over time plans changed. The dam was never built.
The Proposed Bolton Dam & Reservoir
Return To Recreation
In the 1970's the area turned again to recreation. A downhill ski operation, the Edelweiss Ski Club, was built in the floodplain basin west of Glasgow by a man remembered only as Gert. The ski club also offered a skating rink, a small indoor swimming pool and an affiliated tennis club. The owner installed a beginner's rope tow on the modest hill rising in the middle of the property, visible in the background of this photograph, but since removed. A poma lift carried the more competent skiers from the river floodplain floor to the top of the north facing valley slope, adjacent to what is now the De Rose Ave. subdivision. The 60's and 70's experienced an unusual period of heavier than normal snowfall but it did not last. Edelweiss failed in less than a decade as did many other start up ski clubs around Southern Ontario. The club house was later consumed by a fire and today the only visible evidence that the ski club ever existed is two narrow slashes through the trees, one for the poma lift up and the other for the ski run down. The Bolton Wanderers Soccer Club founded by Kevin O, Hehir moved to Edelweiss Park in 1983. The Bolton Tennis Club, led by president Ken Hill, followed in 1985. The Humber Valley Heritage Trail Association established an access point to their trail on the site of the early hamlet, in 2003. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority now permits only recreational uses on the lands they manage, since this poses 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.
Edelweiss Ski Club Mid 1970's
Humber Valley Heritage Trail
The Humber Valley Heritage Trail Association secured an Ontario Trillium Fund Grant in 2003 to build a 33 metre (110 foot) steel pedestrian bridge to span the Humber River at Glasgow. This opened up Glasgow as a Trail Head to the 30 km. system of public trails maintained by the Association. Remnants of the early mills can be seen along the trail where it traverses the old hamlet site The most prominent is the mill race channel which is visible as a shallow linear depression defined by a row of old weeping willow trees. A vestige of the old earthen dam was incorporated as part of the western approach to the bridge. In 2004 the Albion BoltonHistorical Society also received an OTF Grant, and commissioned an historical display kiosk at this trail head. It contains text, maps and photographs illustrating the rich cultural history of Glasgow. A road sign was installed by Heritage Caledon in recognition of its historic importance.e.
Glasgow Trail Head And Humber River Pedestrian Bridge
The 1800's Walshaw Mill Dam: Today This Is The Site Of The HVHTA Pedestrian Trail Bridge
SOURCES & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Glasgow A Hamlet On The Humber, Heather G. Broadbent, self published, 2004*
The Physiography of Southern Ontario , Chapman & Putnam, U. of T. Press, 1966
*Information from Glasgow a Hamlet on the Humber is by permission of the author
Maps & Documents
Assessment Roll – Village of Bolton 1914
Flood Plain and Fill Regulation Line Mapping MTRCA 1984
Illustrated Historical Atlas of County Peel 1877