Main Trail Head 2

Grassie Blacksmith Shop     

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The stone walls of the original Grassie family blacksmith shop still stand in this location. Blacksmithing was an essential art in the development of any community as metal tools, weapons and utensils had to be made or repaired. Other structures such as a mill were also important.

An early historian recounts how “two Irishmen were quarrying rock for the wheel pit when one stooped to light his pipe. The match ignited the gas which flared up, singeing his hair, whiskers and clothing.” He was said to be terribly frightened, thinking they had disturbed the Devil himself. The natural gas was used to light the mill over the next century. Natural gas was discovered during construction of the mill. Travelers to the valley also reported seeing seeping bubbles of gas in small ponds of water that could produce a flame two feet high.With the use of water power, natural gas and wood for fuel, the Early Loyalist settlements began to prosper.

Loyalist Settlements

The first non-Indigenous people to settle this area were the Loyalists, who were provided land grants in recognition of their service to the Crown in the American Revolution, and to make up for their wartime losses. The Grassie Blacksmith shop is one of the last remaining structures of the early Loyalist settlements, which were marked by massive land clearance and increased agricultural production. While the Original People practiced farming with simple hand tools, Loyalist settlers introduced farming with the use of plows pulled by animals. The new pattern was to clear small lots within a larger allotment, building of a small log cabin, then the gradual construction of the larger homestead. By 1815, lots as large 160 acres were cleared of trees so that farming and grazing could take place. Wheat replaced wild grasses. Cattle and sheep replaced deer and moose.

Making a Home in the Valley

Both the Original People and the first Loyalist Settlers found this area attractive and productive. However, it is hard for us to imagine today what the landscape looked like to them. The human history of the Red Hill Valley began about 11,000 years ago. The Original People were thought to arrive here after the large meltwater lakes, produced by the melting glaciers, receded. However, little evidence of their lifestyle has been found, so we can only speculate on how they interacted with the Valley. Only a few stone tools have been found to suggest that they hunted large animals in a tundra-like environment. The forest that we see today did not exist back then. Mastadon, moose, elk and caribou were known to migrate through this area, followed by the Original Hunters, who set up camps in the hope of intercepting these herds.

Expressway Stormwater Management Pond

Snowmelt and rainfall runoff of the expressway may contain debris and fine particle contaminants from the hard surface.  To allow for these to settle out of the runoff, series of small holding basins or ponds were integrated in the valley taking advantage of the natural setting and topography. The pond at the escarpment bridge is an example of careful placement to protect the valley from flooding, erosion, and water quality impacts.

The large volume of runoff flowing through the valley comes from over 65sq. kilometers which is more than 70% developed with surfaces that shed water rather than absorb it.  An innovative engineering solution was called for to manage this water and prevent major flooding and erosion which had been a constant occurrence in the valley.  Construction of three strategically located flood control stormwater management systems Dartnall, Greenhill, and Davis, solved the problem by using the natural valley for storage upstream of the QEW.