The Land We Know Project - Water

Water is an essential part of life for every living thing. In Uxbridge, it goes even further than that as water was key to the Township’s development. But water is also a powerful force, with the ability to do damage. Water has both built up Uxbridge, and tare it down. Let's look at how water has contributed to the history of Uxbridge!


Water for Industry


There used to be 8 ponds in the Northeast part of the Township of Uxbridge, each of which used to power mills. While each of these ponds and the waterpower they provided helped build industry across Uxbridge, there is no better example than Elgin Pond.


This pond powered a number of different types of mills, each of them providing different goods. Joseph Gould built a woolen mill on the pond which produced cloth, tweed, blankets and flannel. This mill was later owned by Sugden, Waterhouse & Co. and by 1879 it was producing 320 yards of yarn everyday.

You may have heard Elgin Pond been called the Oatmeal Pond. That’s because an oatmeal mill operated on the pond in the early 1900s, earning the unique name. The “Oatmeal Mill” was originally built in 1887 and operated as a woolen mill before being converted to grind oats. This mill stood for over 70 years on the north shore of Elgin Pond before collapsing in 1957.



Oatmeal Mill, Uxbridge. Courtesy of the Uxbridge Historical Centre. Permanent Collection, P350.1.

Wool and oatmeal were not the only materials were produced using waterpower. Other pond powered mills around Uxbridge included gristmills, sawmills, chopping mills and even a brewery. The ponds of Uxbridge provided power for Uxbridge’s industry to grow.


Water for Light


Water didn’t just power mills in Uxbridge, it also powered the lights of the town! The name “Electric Light Pond” gives a hint as to what this pond was known for. In 1887 the Gould family installed equipment to generate power and the electricity generating station soon gave this pond its name. The power generated here powered the lights in Uxbridge.


Electric Light Pond powered the lights of Uxbridge.

Photo Source


Destruction


Water may have helped power Uxbridge, but it has also caused destruction. Uxbridge has seen several floods throughout the years: leading to dams breaking, basements flooding and ponds overflowing. One of the worst floods happened in 1965; when heavy rain caused a dam at Brookdale to break. Water flooded the town and damaged many properties


The 1965 flood made headlines in Uxbridge.

Follow this link to see more news clippings from floods in Uxbridge over the years. Previous to this, Uxbridge experienced other floods in 1932, 1953 and in one 1954 from the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel. It was identified that the Brock Street culvert was a huge flood risk if a storm like Hurricane Hazel was to ever hit again. This culvert carried the Uxbridge Brook underneath of downtown Uxbridge, and in the event of hurricane level rains, it could bottleneck and cause a flood. Thus 2018-2021 saw the biggest infrastructure project in the Township of Uxbridge’s history to replace the culvert and remove the flood risk to the downtown.


Sources:


https://discoveruxbridge.ca/trails/historic-trail/


https://digitalarchive.tpl.ca/objects/251854/electric-light-pond--uxbridge-ontario


https://www.uxbridge.ca/en/your-local-government/resources/Documents/Downtown-Flood-Reduction-Appendices/Appendix-A-Historical-Newspaper-Records-of-Flooding.pdf


https://www.uxbridge.ca/en/your-local government/resources/Documents/Downtown-Uxbridge-Flood-Reduction-ESR.pdf


https://www.uxbridge.ca/en/living-here/brock-street-w-culvert-replacement-project.aspx


https://www.durhamregion.com/news-story/3499416-uxbridge-flood-risk-under-the-spotlight/


https://www.durhamregion.com/community-story/3509953-a-10-million-solution-to-reduce-flood-risk-in-uxbridge/


https://scugogheritage.com/history/goodolddays.pdf


Allan McGillivray. Tales from the Uxbridge Valley. The Uxbridge Millennium Committee, 2000.


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