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Fallbrook Farm Heritage Site
Update 13


        I have been assisting Sandy McKay, and the Friends of Fallbrook with an investigation of the early log house and additions on the Silver Creek Property currently owned by the Credit Valley Conservation Authority.

        The CVC had expressed an interest in demolishing the house and "restoring" the landscape (which I believe means removing hundreds of metres of dry laid stone walls) so that it can be presented as a pristine natural habitat. While I am a conservationist of sorts, and my sister is a marine biologist who runs a research station in New Brunswick, the buildings gave up some of their secrets when we conducted a test to date the timber from the original log house, using dendrochronology. The pine log used as the top plate on the south wall gave a firm date of 1855, which was somewhat later than I might have expected, but one can never guess as to the age of the structure, when the trees will tell you unequivocally their own date of cutting.

        The logs were sawn, indicating that a sawmill was present, and after questioning several people who had lived in the house, we met on site, and found a mill race less than 100 yards from the front door. This mill race was a crude, shallow ditch, but meant that someone had constructed a dam across the creek, above the house. Examination of the creek showed that the creek bed had been scaled and quarried for building stone, so it was probably a masonry dam. Sure enough, traces of mortar and stones bedded in both banks of the creek showed where the dam had been situated just downstream from the millrace.

        One of those present indicated that there were foundations for an ice house, downstream. We went looking for this and came across a narrow U-shaped box which I recognized as the wheel pit for a large overshot wheel, not an ice house. This meant that the owners had constructed a dam, undershot saw mill, overshot grist mill and sluice running approximately 200 yards downstream on this beautiful little creek. The log house was the miller's house. With the timber date in hand, I reviewed the land registry from the public archives and determined that the Canada Land Company, who owned vast areas of Ontario and were instrumental in constructing mills, and roads, had sold this property to William McClure early in 1855. He must have had a clear idea about how to proceed since he started with a sawmill which would make the materials needed for the construction of the house and grist mill. He was middle aged when he bought the property, which explains why the attic had no finished floor (as late as 1950) as one would have expected if it had been built by a young scottish immigrant family with many "wee bairns". McClure and his wife were undertaking a massive project at an age when many were expecting grandchildren.

        The land registry demonstrates that after McClure sold the land, it passed through a number of hands, in a temultuous round of lawsuits, claims and counter claims, until the land value dropped by 95%, from nearly $6000 to $306. What happened? Clearly the main asset was no longer present on the 26 acres of rocky wooded land. This suggests that the mill was gone, perhaps destroyed in a fire, so we would like to pursue archaeology of the mill site to see if this is what happened.

        Traces of the dam, millrace, and even a temporary camp near the sawmill have all been identified by walking the site. Using aerial photos we also discovered the outline of a native longhouse just 600 yards upstream from the house. My archaeologist friend scoffed at being able to see these things from the air, but I suggested that she use a newer computer and software so she can make these discoveries for herself, since they are of enormous help when trying to analyze an early pioneer site.

        The regional heritage committee expressed surprize when all of this information came to light.

        Sandy has asked that I send a copy of my preliminary report to you for inclusion in your website. I am happy to do this, but must qualify the report as being preliminary since much work must be done to confirm what has already been observed, and expand upon the details. Things like the surviving stone bridge also need to be studied since it is likely that the McKays who purchased the farm in 1877 were responsible for taking the remains of the mill dam and other structures to be recycled yet again in another useful form.

        The two scanned attachments show the site in 1855 as Wm. McClure was clearing the forest and setting up his first sawmill, and much earlier when the native settlement upstream included gardens scattered along the creek in the vicinity of the house.

        Please feel free to share this on your website, but include copyright notice on the materials, since I would not want these early findings to be taken out of context on this or other sites.

        sincerely

        Tom Murison

        p.s.    The McKays were crofters evicted in the highland enclosures, probably with 50,000 others from Sutherlandshire.

        My paternal Grandfather, Tom, emigrated from Mintlaw near Aberdeen at the age of 15 to farm in Saskatchewan.

Heritage Investigation Report (pdf file)


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