Something that has always intrigued me is exploring old Ontario Ghost Towns. How can one resist a beautiful ruin? So a few years back I purchased a couple of books, rounded up a driver and went out seeking abandoned places.
LOCATION: West Flamborough TWP, Ontario, Canada
There are three distinct areas you will find – the ruins themselves, the area outside the mill were the business’ and houses were located (which also includes the rock wall from the old Welland Canal) and then, of course, the hiking trails.
The history of Crooks Hollow is a tale of the rise of the Industrial Revolution. At one time this place thrived. All that remains are the ruins of the old Mills.
As you are walking around the site today, it is hard not to sense the presence of all those industrious, hard-working souls.
All that is left are shadows of that once glorious time for this little-abandoned town. As the 19th century came to a close, the world had moved forward and the industries that made this little place had been replaced by more efficient innovations.
The great stone wall that looms above Spencer Creek on the Crooks Hollow Road near Dundas, Ontario may be Ontario’s oldest ruin. Built in 1813, it is just one of the remains of the early industrial empire of James Crooks.
For half a century, the little valley clattered and gagged with machinery and smoke of the several factories.
Then, when the railways bypassed Crooks Hollow in favour of other communities such as Dundas and Ancaster, Crooks Hollow faded, although some of its mills and factories survived into the 20th Century.
Ghost Towns of Ontario: a field Guide by Ron Brown,
Polar Bear Press, Toronto C1997
This little place is a bit hard to find. Located “along Crooks Hollow Road, west of old Brock Road and just north of Dundas”. Crooks Hollow Road is this quirky little street. Lovely little place, the road is rather narrow with beautiful homes set back from the tree-lined lane.
The first site west of old Brock Road is the Wentworth Steam Binding Works and its successor, the Cockburn mill, which lasted until 1915. Near it are the foundations of Morden’s saw and grist mills.
The most prominent of the ruins, however, are those of the Darnley grist mill,and behind is the less visible remains of the woolen mill.
The remaining areas are dotted with little location markers for where old houses or business stood. The dirt roads that once bustled with carts laden with goods are all gone. You will find little sign on the surface that anything ever stood in these spots the markers note.
Once leaving the mill ruins, to the right is part of the old abandoned part of the Welland Canal. The ruins are located within the CROOKS HOLLOW CONSERVATION AREA, so if you continue walking you eventually arrive at some trails. This is a beautiful spot, but if you come in the spring bring your welly’s.
This Conservation Area is situated within the most northern part of the Carolinian Zone.
[Southwestern Ontario] lying at a latitude that has more in common with northern California than with Great White North and blessed with a mild climate moderated by the Great Lakes, this region has a long and hospitable growing season. The result is a cornucopia of diversity — the forests of this region, for example, boast 64 native tree species, more than the rainforests of British Columbia.
Only here can you walk through a forest where southern species such as Tulip Trees, Black Oak, Blue Ash and Sassafras are mixed in with more familiar and plentiful tree species such as Sugar Maple and American Beech.
The Hike Ontario Guide To – Walks in Carolinian Canada,
by Brad Cundiff, The Boston Mills Press
For more information about the trail,
see Crook’s Hollow Historical Trail