Motorists whisk along the newly reconstructed Guelph Line through Lowville, probably oblivious to the fact that they pass 36 historic buildings and two Pioneer Cemeteries that bear silent testimony to a former bustling rural community. By 1868 Lowville had 276 residents, 5 hotels,2 churches, a school, a Temperance Lodge, a foundry, grist and saw mills, a cheese factory, a general store, a telegraph and post office, and blacksmith, harness and furniture shops.
Following the Mississauga Land Purchase of 1805, land surveys in 1808 and 1819 created Crown lots that were distributed by Land Lotteries. A settler’s Location Ticket designated the lot and outlined his 2-year obligation to clear and fence 5 acres, build a house (16 by 20 ft.), and clear one half of the road in front of the lot.
Among those who drew lots were Americans, Daniel Pickett, William McCay and John Cleaver. Englishmen Joseph Colling Joseph Featherston, James Coulson and William Gunby made the arduous sea voyage and the long overland journey from Montreal to claim their lots. Each settler brought a wide variety of skills such as carpentry, farming, harness making, bee keeping, and weaving. Descendants of some of these original settlers still live in Lowville today.
Trees, predators, weather, disease and injury were everyday challenges that farmers encountered. Wheat became a major crop grown in Nelson Township for export to England, until the Crimean War ended in 1856, drastically reducing demand. Lumber was also a major export until the supply of trees ran out. The village of Lowville grew up in the valley, along the banks of 12 Mile Creek, on the corners of the adjoining properties of Thomas Pickett, James Cleaver and Joseph Featherston, and around the grist and flourmill built by Cleaver in 1837. It was glowing testament in the tenacity and dogged determination of the pioneers of this area to create a prosperous, interdependent community.
The possibility of a Credit Valley Railway Line bisecting the village sparked a successful residents’ revolt in 1871, ensuring that Lowville would never become a commercial centre.
In 1875, the village acquired plank sidewalks, and a wooden staircase was built up the steep hillside to the village of Highville providing a pedestrian shortcut between the two villages. In 1919, Jim Auckland and his sons replaced the 104 steps with a concrete staircase and an iron railing that stands today in the northwest corner of Lowville Park.
In 1872/73 Lowville Methodist Church was built and in 1896, the present greystone Anglican Church was erected near the corner of Guelph Line and Derry Road.
Until the Federal Election of 1878, votes were cast orally as “the only bold straight-forward manly way”. The men of Lowville had to travel to Nelson Village to cast their votes. Bribery and drink were used to influence voting so elections were often raucous occasions.
Lowville’s peaceful countryside was shattered on October 8, 1884 by an explosion at the Dakota Powder Mill* killing four workers, leaving 200 men unemployed and reducing Cumminsville and Dakota* villages on Cedar Spring Road to ghost towns.
Barker’s Schoolhouse, a log structure on the northeast corner of Guelph Line and Britannia Road served the Lowville community from some time before 1833. In 1877 it was replaced by S. S. #9, a wooden clapboard school, on an acre of land, donated by Joseph Featherston, on the bank of 12 Mile Creek in what is now Lowville Park. In 1888, the present one-room stone school was constructed on the same site and served the community until 1954, when Fairview School was built on Britannia Road. Today that building is the headquarters of Conservation Halton.
The Nelson Telephone Company established its head office in Lowville in 1907 and, in 1919, rural mail delivery began.
In 1958, Burlington annexed Nelson Township and inherited Lowville Park, which Nelson Reeve, William Robertson, and a group of men had purchased in 1945. This community park, created by local farmers, is extremely popular for day campers and picnickers and is the site of Burlington’s annual Winter Carnival.
The Region of Halton proposed a plan in 1986 for the reconstruction of Guelph Line. Thanks to the input of the Lowville Area Residents Association and the Burlington LACAC, the physical and historical heritage of Lowville was preserved for the residents of the area who cherished the same experience of living life immersed in the unique, natural beauty of the Niagara Escarpment as did the first settlers, who pursued the promise of a new life in a new land.
Editors Note: The powder mill in question was never officially named Dakota. It may have been called that by locals because of its proximity to the Dakota Mill located just west of the powder mill. The mill started its life known as the Gore Powder Mill in 1851, follow by the Canada Powder Mill in 1854 and finally as the Hamilton Powder Mill in 1862. Similarly, the village located near the site was Willbrook, no doubt often referred to as Dakota, again because of its proximity to the Dakota grist and saw mill.
Contributing Author: Lowville Community Calendar Committee