Norwich, Otterville, Waterford, Caledonia
Old cars, history, rivers, tobacco kilns and
by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz
2008: It was another beautiful day in Ontario and a Saturday as well, so
I took off after a good night’s rest and went off to visit more sights in the
area. My chief goal was to get to Caledonia and Waterford, but I also
figured I could spend a little more time in the Oxford county villages of
Norwich and Otterville so as to continue my digging into all things Oxford.
The map below shows the route I took this day.
My first stop on the road was Norwich. This small township has a
population of little over 10,000 people (including Otterville). It was
predominantly a farming community focused on tobacco and ginseng. As
tobacco farming has decreased in the area, the focus has turned to ginseng, corn
and wheat. The town was one of many in this area of Ontario hat was
originally settled by Quakers. My first stop was at the original Quaker
settlement, which is now an old burial ground. As the historical marker
below indicates, this section of Norwich was originally settled in 1811 by Peter
Lossing from New York along with his brother-in-law Peter De Long.
The burial ground
is where the original Quaker meeting house was.
Old headstones dot
the burial ground. The one in the middle shows a date of 1871.
Many of the folk who
came north were loyalists to the British after the American’s defeated the
British in the Revolutionary War. As they moved north many were granted
large areas of land. The name
United Empire Loyalists came after the fact. Following the British
were many Iroquois, led by Mohawk leader
Thayendenegea, for whom the name Brantford comes from. His group of
pro-British native Americans formed what is now known as the Six Nations (see
Downtown Norwich is
pretty non-descript. However, I did notice a bearded Amish man riding
through town. I followed them and got a nice shot from a distance in front
of Godfather’s Pizza. After they parked I spoke to him and his wife for a
couple of minutes and then got a couple shots of the wagon and the horse.
dot the area around Norwich while Mennonites are in other areas.
through Norwich I came across a “Pig Attack” to celebrate Bruce’s 65th
I have heard of
hear attacks, flamingo attacks, black balloons…but never a pig attack!!
And I couldn’t
resist this sign!! And a
would have done me some good!
The township does
have a museum, but it was closed when I got there. I still can’t
understand why many of the museums in the area are only open on weekdays or on
Saturday afternoons. I can’t ever seem to get in to see them.
Nonetheless, I did get a few shots of some of the items outside.
An old tractor,
windmill and remnants of railroad are on display outside of the museum.
Also next to the
museum is a monument commemorating perhaps the most famous woman to come from
Emily Howard Jennings Stowe. She was the first female physician to
practice medicine in Canada. She was also a strong advocate for women’s
Jennings Stowe, 1831-1903, the first woman physician in Canada
One other item of
note about Norwich…many black families who were freed from slavery made their
way to Norwich in 1829. There they formed the Otterville African Methodist
Episcopal Church. The church and cemetery served the black community until
the 1880s. there are over 200 graves in this cemetery. this is one
of the few preserved black burial grounds in Ontario.
After the cemetery I went into
downtown Otterville. I had hoped to visit the historical Otterville Mill,
but when I arrived there was an antique car show taking place (The
Otterville Mill Classic Car Show). So, I just did both!!
There were over
100 hundred vintage cars at this annual show in Otterville.
Lots of style in
these old cars
An Edsel, a
Studebaker, and an old Chevy
Then there was the
“Rat-powered” vehicle…and be careful, you can’t touch some of these cars
unless you are nude!
The show was held on
the grounds of the
Otterville Mill. The Mill was built in 1845 as a flour
and grist mill. The mill was at one time the oldest continuously operated
grist mill in Canada, but was finally closed down as an operating mill in 1981.
The mill as seen
from an old car
Otterville Mill on
Views on inside of
Old Otterville Mill
Across the street
from the mill is the Otterville Dam and falls on Otter Creek. This is a
nice waterfall created by the dam. Following are a couple of different views of
enjoy themselves at the side of Otter Creek
The museum in
Otterville was closed but I did drive by. They have restored a train
station…I believe there are some displays in the station as well as some
information on the underground railway. I was disappointed it was closed.
station…signs on the Blacksmith shop behind the station
Next to the station
was the Pine Street Burial Ground. I found this interesting as the grave
markers have all been gathered together and put into size order rather than on
top of each persons burial location. I have seen this in a number of
places in Ontario and had never seen this kind of setting before.
markers all gathered in one spot
When I arrived in
Otterville, the entire town was having a yard sale, very similar to what I saw
in Tavistock a couple of weeks ago. I suppose this is a common thing in
many of these small towns….have some sort of event, a Crokinole tournament or
a Car Show, for instance, and keep the townspeople busy with a yard sale in
hopes that the out of town visitors will drop by.
From Otterville I
ventured east towards the town of Waterville. The drive along the
backroads was all farmland, but this was also old tobacco country. One of
the unique sites I have enjoyed on many of my drives are the old tobacco kilns
used for drying the tobacco. These dot the region and can be very
picturesque with their symmetrical setups. Below are a few of those that I
Tobacco kilns dot
More views of
I next made my way
into the quaint village of Waterford. The town has a rustic sense to it.
There is a large warehouse now being used as an antique shop. The museum
(which was also closed) has a nice mural of Waterford in the 1800s on the side
Waterford mural on
the back of the museum
There was a dirt
road along the side of the quilt shop that went along a waterway and so I drove
down the road. There is a large conservation area on the northwest part of
town and it has a number of large ponds in it. This very bumpy dirt road
actually went down in between some of the ponds. I was glad I had a
four-wheel drive to get down the road on!!
Some scenes of
Waterford Conservation area
A family fishes in
one of the ponds while some boys emerged from a pond on the other side of the
Other folks were
fishing from their boat
As always, there
were plenty of wildflowers to be seen. Here are a couple of shots. I
am not sure what these are called and I did try to look them up. I guess I
need to work on my botanical knowledge!
Waterford Conservation area
I also FINALLY got
a photo of the black squirrels
that can be seen
all around the area
I could have spent a
lot more time in Waterford. I liked the little town, but I wanted to also
get on the road to Caledonia, another town that has the Grand River running
through it. Along the way I drove through a small part of the Six Nations
reservation. I decide to hold off on visiting sites in the reservation (or
reserve as it is called here in Canada eh). I did get photos of a couple
of quick things:
Mohawk flag in
upper left and
Six Nations (or Iroquois) flag on right
Nations there is a sign and flags as well as a couple of Teepees
That was the extent
of my visit to Six Nations. I plan on a more extended visit there and to
Brantford in the coming months.
I proceeded on to
Caledonia, just a couple of miles from the Six Nations sign above. My
biggest goal was to see the long arched
bridge that Caledonia is famous for. And here it is….
Bridge: the longest Concrete Bowstring Bridge in Ontario and the only 9 span
bridge in Canada.
It was built on
Nov. 19, 1927. It crosses over the Grand River, Ontario’s largest river
Speaking of the
Grand River, just up river from the Caledonia Bridge is a small dam and on this
day there were many folks in the river fishing:
A man stands on
the shore by all the rapids while others (above and below) are waist high
Some avoid the
falls an choose quieter waters
Caledonia also has a
small museum (that was also closed on this day…such luck I had!).
Following are some of the items there, including an old wooden water tower, only
the second one I have ever seen:
Along the river
there is a large old mill, right close to the dam. Above the dam are the
railroad tracks of the Grand Trunk Railroad (not to be confused with Grand Funk
Mills and the railroad tracks over the river
All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.