Stairway to Highville

Driving north on the Guelph Line from Burlington you will find it is a beautiful and scenic drive. Just north of Dundas Street, you come up a hill to Millar’s Mountain. A little further along, you pass the Nelson Quarry on the west side of the road. It’s not much further along on the east side of the road that you pass Mount Nemo Conservation Area.

You then descend Bradt’s Mountain as you approach the village of Lowville. It was at the north east corner of Guelph Line and Britannia Road, kitty corner to the Lowville United Church that the first school house stood. Barker’s School was also used for the very early religious services.

That school was eventually closed when a new frame, clapboard school was build near the 12 Mile Creek in the Lowville valley on 1 acre of land donated by Joseph Featherston. Joseph was born in County Durham, England and immigrated to Canada when he was a young man. His farm was located where the now Lowville Park stands and up to Highville. A plaque has been erected to commemorate this and reads:

“In Memory of Joseph Featherston, 1805 to 1883, who was born in County Durham, England, emigrated to Canada as a young man. Established the farm where this park is located and provided this acre of land for the first school in the community. Ethel Featherston Hilliker (Granddaughter) Kamloops, B.C. Helen Featherston Cole (Great Granddaughter) Toronto 1969”.

Robert Coates was the school master there. About 1875 he was influential in having plank sidewalks built in the village to ease walking. The 12 Mile Creek also received a new footbridge so that it could be crossed safely.

What many people do not realize is that at the top of the steep “S” incline continuing north on Guelph Line, you arrive at what was once Highville, an extension of Lowville. The names speak for themselves. One of the concerns for the students of Highville was the trek to the school. To help them get to there, a wooden staircase of 104 steps was built as a short cut.

In 1888, a new stone school house replaced the wooden framed school. The school was built with local fieldstone supplied by Mervyn Coulson. The sand was obtained from the mill pond of James Cleaver’s mill. The school was named SS No. 9. The school was closed in the 1990s and is now owned by the City of Burlington. In 1992 it was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

In 1919, James Auckland and Sons replace the wooden stairs with concrete. If you have the opportunity to climb the stairs, count as you go to see if there remain 104 stairs. At the top you will see the concrete ‘corner stone’ with “Built by J. Auckland and Sons” etched in it. A word of caution is necessary as the century plus year old stairs have succumbed to time and are not as sturdy and safe as they once were. On your way up or down, think of the many young students and adults that made that same trek.

Contributing Author: Helen Callaway