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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part III: Village of Weston


ABOUT eight miles from Toronto, in a north-westerly direction, is the picturesque and busy Village of Weston, which lies in a va1ley formed by the Humber River. The larger portion of the village is in York Township, that on the west side of the river being in Etobicoke. The village stretches for some distance along the main street, which is a portion of one of the oldest roads of the county, and diverges from the Dundas Road near Carleton. At Weston it runs parallel to and within a stone's throw of the river. The fall in the river at this point is sixteen feet and a-half, the excellent water power being available for the mill and other industries pursued here. The banks are largely composed of thin horizontal layers of limestone, suitable for some of the purposes for which stone is required other than building, with clay interposed, and a surface soil of sandy loam.

Weston has a population of about 1,200. It was incorporated as a village m 1882, when William Tyrrell was elected reeve, and W. J. Conron, clerk and treasurer, which positions they still retain. The other officials for 1884 are as follows:—Councillors, John Barton, Jacob Bull, David Rowntree and James Conron; assessor, John Gram.

The village has a fine public hall, erected in 1883, which occupies a central position on the west side of the main street, and :s a conspicuous feature. It s a handsome building of red brick, two stories m height, surmounted by a tastefully designed mansard roof, with fancy iron work and a dome in front. Here are the council chamber and municipal offices, the library of the Mechanics' Institute, and a large hall for public meetings and entertainments, known as Dufferin Hall. Its erection is justly regarded as a marked improvement, both from the standpoint of practical convenience and architectural taste. There are four churches in or near the village. The Methodist church, a buck building erected in 1840, which has a large and flourishing congregation under the pastoral care of Rev. Peter Campbell; the Presbyterian church, also of brick, built a few years ago; the Catholic church, a capacious frame structure, and the Episcopal church, situated within a short distance from Weston, in Etobicoke. The three latter churches are at present without resident pastors, being supplied from Toronto.

Weston has a High School of noted efficiency, the head master of which is Mr. George Wallace, 13.A., of Dublin University. It is attended by about fifty pupils.

Sixty years ago, on the York side of what is now the Village of Weston, then known as " Parr's Mills,3 there were only three houses, all occupied by farmers. The village was almost entirely on the Etobicoke side of the river, being mainly situated upon a narrow strip of land, containing between two and three acres, bounded on the west by Wadsworth's mill and tail race, and on the east by the Humber. About fifteen houses, besides stores and other business places, constituted the village. It comprised two stores, a tavern, and blacksmith's, weaver's, cooper's, and saddler's shops. This locality was gradually abandoned, owing to the damage caused by spring freshets. Several buildings were greatly injured from tins cause in 1842, and in 1850 the buildings remaining in that part of the village were entirely destroyed. Weston has latterly been almost entirely on the York side of the stream.

In the year 1818, Mr. George Dixon constructed a saw-mill on the Etobicoke side, a short distance below Eagle's Bridge. On the adjoining lot below, his brother, Thomas Dixon, put up a saw-mill in 1823, which afterwards passed into the hands of a man named Keating, being purchased in 1840 by Gibson Brothers. They pulled down the old building, and erected a dour mill in its place. It was afterwards sold to Mr. Somerville, and twice destroyed by lire. Opposite this point, on the York side, where the extensive mills of the Weston Woollen Manufacturing Company now stand, a saw-mill wTas erected in 1827 by Joseph Holley, who two years afterwards sold out to John Chew. The property was successively transferred to James Clifford, J. N. Coons, and James Magee, the latter of whom erected a flax-mill adjoining the saw-mill. In 1833, property carne into the possession of Mr. John Dennis, who put up a woollen factory of brick and stone on the site of the old mill. This was run by John Wardlaw, and afterwards by Messrs. Barren and Miles. About thirteen years since the place was purchased by Messrs. Smith and Wilby, who made extensive improvements, and established the business on a much larger scale. Mr. Smith withdrew from the concern in 1879, leaving Oliver Wilby sole proprietor. The factory was three times destroyed by fire within two years,' but rebuilt owing to the indomitable energy of Mr. Wilby. Latterly it has been turned over to a joint stock company, under the title of the Weston Woollen Manufacturing Company, Mr. Wilby still retaining the management of its affairs.

Further up the river, on the Etobicoke side, just above Eagle's Bridge, a brewery was built about fifty years ago, which ran but a very short time before :t was burned down. Opposite this site, on the York side, an oil refinery was established in 1863 by Messrs. Tyrrell and Noble. Two years later the refinery was consumed, though afterwards rebuilt. Some distance up stream, a saw-mill was put up by Mr. Porter in 1830, which ten years later became the property of Mr. Burr, who added a flour mill and woollen factory under one roof a few rods west of the saw-mill. It was destroyed by fire, and in 1849 Mr. Robert McDougall became the owner of the property, and the year afterwards built a flour mill four stories in height, with three run of stones. This mill is yet in operation, fie pulled down the old saw-mill, and replaced it by a new one, which was worked until 1870. Mr. Gracey erected a brewery a little way above, which was burned down fourteen years since. A tannery business was carried on in this immediate neighbourhood by John Lawrence from 1842 to 1855. On the Etobicoke side, somewhat further up, two brothers, Edward and Thomas Musson, built a small distillery in 1820, which was pulled down in 1842, and a larger one constructed on the site. This was burned down two j-ears later, and immediately rebuilt.

During the latter years of the eighteenth century, a grist mill was built by Mr. Countryman, on a site just above that now occupied by Wadsworth's. It met what appears to be the usual fate of mills—destruction by fire —and was rebuilt by Joseph Holley, who also put up a saw-mill adjoining the first building. In 1815, these mills, together with 150 acres of land, fell into the hands of Mr. James Farr, from whom the locality took the title of "Farr's Mills," by which it was known for a long time. Alexander Milne, of Markham, in partnership with Jacob McKay, of York, subsequently carried on carding and fulling in a portion of the flour mill. The Messrs. Wadsworth purchased the property m 1828, and two _years afterwards put up a new saw-mill, which remained until 1870, when it was pulled down. The firm erected a distillery in 1840, which was in operation for twenty years, having been burned down and rebuilt during that period. In 1856, the Wadsworths erected a new flour mill, five stories in height, and with six run of stones, below the old building. On the east side of the mill-pond a tannery was built, in 1840, by William and Peter Gibson, who carried on the business for a long time. Joseph Holley put up a saw-mill just opposite, in 1841, which the Wadsworths afterwards purchased and worked until about twelve years since.

The industries of the village have done a great deal to advance the progress of the place, and make it one of the most prosperous villages in the "county. Its excellent railway facilities are an important factor of its growth. It is a station on the main line of the Grand Trunk, and on the Toronto, Grey and Bruce line, now a branch of the Canada Pacific. Weston is a noted resort for sleighing parties from the city, being within convenient driving distance, and having first-class hotel accommodation.

One of the most notable of the old-time residents of Weston was Mr Joseph Dennis, who was born in New Brunswick in 1789, his father, John Dennis, having been a U. E. Loyalist refugee. The family removed to Upper Canada in 1792, Mr. John Dennis receiving a grant of land on the Humber as a compensation for his losses. He subsequently removed to Kingston, on his appointment as superintendent of the dock-yard in that city This secured to his son a thorough knowledge of ship-building, but he found sailing a more congenial occupation. Joseph Dennis owned a lake vessel at the outbreak of the war of 1812, which he placed at the disposal of the Government, and which was attached to the Provincial marine. In one of the naval engagements on the lake his vessel was lost, and he was captured by the Americans, and remained a prisoner of war for about fifteen months. Mr. Dennis afterwards commanded the Princess Charlotte, supposed to have been the first steamer on Lake Ontario, which plied between die Bay of Quinte, Kingston and Prescott. On returning from active pursuits he made his home at Weston, where he passed his declining years, dying respected by all who knew him in the year 1867, aged seventy-eight years.


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