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The Rich History of Downtown Bolton (circa 1818)

History of Bolton Image

Bolton is a bustling village with a rich history in the Town of Caledon.

Its historic core is located in and around the intersection of Regional Highway 50 (Queen Street) and King Street. It is hard to believe that for thousands of years preceding settlement, the hills surrounding Bolton were inhabited by Native Canadians, who frequently passed through the area in their canoes.

With the arrival of James Bolton from Norfolk in 1818, the area was transformed into the settlement of Bolton. George Bolton, nephew to the founding settler, arrived in 1820 and shortly thereafter, a small grist mill site was selected and constructed. The area quickly attracted new settlers and by 1840, the village boasted 14 houses, 2 stores, blacksmiths, a shoemaker, a tailor and a hotel.

Bolton Mill continued to prosper while enduring more than its share of floods and fires throughout its history. In 1872, it was decided that the village of Bolton should become its own entity and it separated from the township of Albion. As such, Bolton’s first village council was elected in January 1873 with Lambert L. Bolton as its head.

In the years that followed, Bolton was home to several prominent businesses including Walshaw Woollen Mills, The Toronto, Grey & Bruce railway station, The Bolton Foundry, The Albert Street School, The Enterprise, various hotels, The Imperial Bank of Canada, and many more.

Today, Bolton continues to attract new residents and businesses, and to forge its identity along the banks of the scenic Humber River.

Historical Milestones for Downtown Bolton

1818 – Settlement First settler, James Bolton, arrives from Norfolk England

1820 – James’ nephew, George Bolton, arrives

June 5, 1821 – George Bolton purchases a 200 acre mill site along the Humber River. See George Bolton’s full biography.

founding of Bolton plaque v2

1823 – Bolton’s Mill Built: The Bolton family relieves many settlers by building a dam and
establishing a small grist mill on Lot 9, concession 7, Albion, the area now occupied by Mill
Street in Downtown Bolton

1832 – Bolton’s First Post Office: George Bolton serves as the first postmaster in Bolton. The position is later held by Samuel Stern, J. Bolton, Samuel Walford. In 1867, Walford located the post office on the north side of King Street West. It was briefly moved to the Queen’s Hotel by George Evants until he retired. Several moves and postmasters later, the post office was moved in 1947 to a new building on the North side of King Street West, roughly where it began. It remains there to this day.

1842 – Bolton’s Mill Moves: George buys the mill property from his uncle and later moves the mill to its hill site (what is now the corner of Humberlea Road and King Street East.)

1845 – Hotels Built: The Exchange Hotel (located at the present-day Tim Horton’s/TD Bank site) is built. After is destroyed by fire in 1881, it is rebuilt and expanded in grandeur with verandas on all sides. The building will be bought and sold several times in the years that followed, until its final demise in 1969 by fire, blamed on careless smoking.

1845 – The Brick-works: The brick-works is established by Matthew Grey on the south end of what is now David Street. It is later sold to David Norton (whom David Street is named for), and becomes Norton’s Brick-works. Examples of bricks produced from Norton’s Brick-works may be found today in St. James Cathedral in Toronto

1850 – Bolton’s Mill Expands: An addition is built on to Bolton’s Mill and the building known as McFall’s cottage (which still stands on King Street East) is erected.

1854 – Drug Store: James C. Stork opens up a drug and seed store on the North East corner of King and Queen Streets. It is bout by Samuel Snell in 1866 and is destroyed by fire in the same year. In later years (1932-33), the property is bought by C.A Leggett and eventually becomes Leggett & Smith drugstore. The property remains a drugstore and eventually becomes Guardian Drugstore, which relocated in 2004 from the site to its present location at the Royal Courtyards, in downtown Bolton.

1855 – The Woollen Mill: John McIntosh purchases land and establishes a woollen mill on Glasgow Road. The woollen mill is eventually bought by Joshua Walshaw in 1882, but catches fire in August of 1896. It is rebuilt promptly in the latter part of 1896, only to catch fire again in March of 1903. The Walshaws rebuild for a second time later in 1903. An additional building is built in 1904, and it too is soon destroyed by fire. Rebuilding happens again, and the mill is destroyed for the last time by a fire on July 4, 1923.

1856 – More Hotels: The Ontario House Hotel is built on Queen Street North (on the site occupied by the old Main Street Station restaurant). The hotel is noted for its extremely good meals. It is owned and run by several individuals including a Mr. McKnee, Richard Beamish, J. Squires, T. Linfoot and W. Tedor Daniel Small, father of Ambrose Small, a Toronto millionaire who mysteriously disappeared, also owned it at one point. The hotel eventually burned down in 1916. The site eventually becomes Egan Hardware and Furniture, after sitting empty for several years.

1857 – The General Store: Jaffary’s General Store opens at the corner of King and Mill streets. Wyatt Jaffary also partners with J. McIlroy to open up a small store at the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets (which at present day remains Your Convenience store). The store boasts a telegraph office with the arrival of the railroad and receives daily weather reports from the central weather office in Toronto. The business is later owned in partnership by several individuals including Dan Fines, Alex Barry, Earl Small, and Teddy Houston.

1865 – Floods: A great flood ravishes the village which itself lies on a flood plain. It came as no surprise following a particularly harsh winter and extremely heavy snowfall.

1869 – More Growth: William Dick builds a large machine shop and foundry called William Dick Agricultural Works, which unfortunately burns down in 1878. Another one is built, but it too burns down. The TA Dick Garage is later founded at 44 Queen Street North (the building currently occupied by Read Marketing and

1870 – The Toronto, Grey & Bruce Railway: The first train runs from Toronto to Bolton at a whopping 25 m.p.h. Though the train made to transport grain and flour much easier and certainly contributed to the growth of Bolton, it was a mixed blessing; it also meant an outflow of business opportunities as commerce that could previously have been accomplished in Bolton was increasingly being done in Toronto. As such, there was a period of economic decline in the 1880s in part due to improved transportation.

1871 – Bolton’s First Newspaper: The Cardwell Observer, is published by J.N. Bolton. In 1886, the paper changes its name to The British Standard. In 1888, the business is sold to H.H. Bolton, who renames it the Bolton Enterprise and relocates to Queen Street North. In 1900, Future owner F.N. Leavens later moved the Bolton Enterprise to 50 Queen Street North. The printing plant has not left the Leavens family hands since 1900 and is today the oldest continuously run family business in Bolton.

1873 – Carriage-making at its Finest: Albert Dodds brings his carriage making trade to Bolton in 1873. The Bolton Carriage Works is located on the southeast corner of King and Eliza streets (now the site of the Royal Courtyards mall). The carriage works produces buggies of the highest quality and wins several prizes at township and country fair exhibits. The business is later bought by Mr. Egan in 1913

1881 – McFall’s Flour Mill: Bolton’s Mill is sold to Andrew McFall and is renamed as McFall’s Flour Mill. It was at that time capable of grinding 150 to 200 barrels of flour daily. McFall’s supplies flour to other towns as well as Bolton itself. In 1894, Andrew McFall dies and the business is taken over by his son, Arthur. The McFall family maintains ownership of the mill for 46 years until 1940 at which time it is bought and sold several times, until its dismantling in 1968. In order to provide practice for local firemen, the mill is intentionally set on fire before dismantling is completed.

1901 – Town Hall: The village purchases the former Primitive Methodist Church at the corner of King and Chapel Streets for its Town Hall. In 1906, a small jail is erected on the premises with two cells to house railway workers who celebrate too heartily on payday. The building serves as the Bolton Red Cross headquarters during WW1. Since then, the premises have operated as a movie house in the 1940’s and 50’s, a live theatre venue, and with many other functions. Town Council moved its chambers in 1967 to Mills Street, and since then the building has served as a sheet metal shop, a bicycle shop, and a fish-and-chip shop.

1905 – Farmers Market: Bolton establishes its first farmers’ market, which took place every Monday on the grounds of the Town Hall. Buyers were known to come from as far away as Toronto for fresh farm produce, poultry, cheeses and eggs. When the Bolton Market ceased to exist in 1927, it was greatly missed by citizens of Bolton and nearby communities. Throughout the years, the concept has been resurrected, and in 2004, a new Bolton Country Market featuring farmers produce, collectibles and craft vendors, is currently now being held at Royal Courtyards parking lot on King Street on Saturday mornings throughout the Summer.

1906 – Bolton’s First Bank: The Imperial Bank of Canada takes over a hotel located on the southeast corner of King and Queen Streets to open Bolton’s first bank. CIBC offices remain at that corner to this day.

1911 – More Floods: Flood follows another harsh winter – Bolton is completely underwater “from the mill to the hill”.

1912 – …And Still More Floods: Flood occurs on April 7 following yet another harsh winter and raised water levels of the Humber River.

1954 – Hurricane Hazel Hits Bolton: Some of the worst floodings ever to hit Bolton occurs in the wake of Hurricane Hazel. It came without warning and left a trail of wreckage and destruction throughout the town.

Read more about Bolton’s history here!