George Bolton Era 1821 – 1845

George Bolton Era, 1821 – 1845

    • In 1819, James Chewett, son of the Deputy Surveyor of Upper Canada, was appointed as surveyor for Albion Township
    • He completed the survey in August that same year and was paid with 2635 acres of land, (approved at 4.79% of the total acreage) which he selected for himself including a particularly valuable 200 acre mill site along the Humber River 1
    • In 1821, George Bolton age 22, purchased that same mill site from James Chewett  LOT 9, Conc 7, Albion Township. It is from this transaction that Bolton has evolved 2
    • One of George’s first tasks was to build himself a house which was later described as a frame, roughcast building 3
    • In 1822, George and his brother James Charles Bolton  (James Sr.) started building a grist mill at the round curve along Mill Street.  James  Sr., 17 years older than George and an experienced millwright, took charge of the construction 4
    • The frame structure which was at least two storeys high had one run of stone and was probably sheltered under a gable roof by exterior board cladding
    • The two also built a wooden dam across the Humber River behind which a large mill pond took shape 5
    • The mill, owned and operated by George was grinding grain for flour by 1824
    • Around 1830, George Bolton provided land and a log structure for use as a school 6
    • In 1831 he built a log store at the corner of King and Mill Streets.  The following year, in 1832, the government appointed George as Postmaster which required him to provide premises which he did by housing the Post Office, named ALBION, in his log store 7
    • The mill operation would have required more than one man but it is not known who assisted George Bolton in the early years. His nephew James Cupper Bolton  (James Jr.) became his assistant in the 1830s 8
    • The early, largely commercial, development of ‘Bolton Mills’ slowly evolved around Mill Street   By 1834, there were 3 or 4 log buildings in the clearing around the mill 9.  George sold the store to Samuel Sterne
The wooden mill dam, as it was rebuilt in 1842, Photo taken before 1912
97 King Street East
  • It is worth noting that the majority of early communities were ‘crossroads’ hamlets where sideroads ‘crossed’ a concession road.  Bolton, however, is an exception where a river, in this case the Humber, was the deciding factor 10
  • George Bolton was generous in allowing skilled workers to set up shop and pay for their property as they worked
  • Such was the case with cooper Francis McDonald.  The grist mill needed barrels to transport flour and whether by chance or design,  Francis found a ready opportunity and in 1836 left Toronto and started up a cooperage 11
  • Such was also the case with tanner Richard Paxman whose tannery was one of the 12 buildings in Bolton with roofs as described in The Story of Albion 12 
  • By the late 1830s, Samuel Sterne was operating a distillery on his property along what was called Distillery Street.  He made use of inferior grades of grain culled out by the mill 13.  The distillery operation, however, was totally separate from the mill
  • In 1842, a major flood destroyed the mill dam 14.  The wooden dam was rebuilt, in the same location, but George signalled that he was ready to pass on control of the mill 15
  • Over the next 3 years, James Jr took over the day-to-day operations of the mill.   Around 1843, he built a frame seasonal cottage which is part of Mill Cottage, Bolton’s oldest residence ,in order to provide housing for  mill workers 16
  • In 1845, after 23 years as miller, George sold the mill, frame house and other property to James Jr. 17 
  • George had already built a plank-on-plank home on mill property to which he retired at the age of 46, now a ‘gentleman’ 18


And the buildings?

  • The original 1822 dam washed out in 1842 and was replaced that same year with a wooden dam.  The 1842 washed out again in a major spring flood in 1912 at which time a concrete dam was built downstream by Arthur McFall.  Vestiges of the 1842 dam were visible in 1982 when the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority upgraded the berm on the south side of the river
  • Most of the original 1822-1823 mill structure was incorporated into the new downstream mill built in 1846 by James Cupper Bolton
  • The circa 1843 seasonal worker cottage is one of two co-joined dwellings that form the heritage designated ‘Mill Cottage’ at 97 King Street, Bolton’s oldest residence
  1. From a paper by Randy W. Widdis, Speculation and the Surveyor, Dept of Geography, Queens University,1982
  2. Abstract Index to Deeds, Albion Township Reels A & B, Region of Peel Archives at PAMA
  3. Samuel A. Walford Autobiography,  Printed in The Story of Albion, Bolton Enterprise 1968 Edition, p.307
  4. Marjorie Bolton, Bolton Family Genealogy, 1979
  6. Murray Hesp, Bolton School Days, published in Bolton by The Bolton Enterprise, 1969, p.7
  7. Library and Archives Canada, Post Offices and Postmasters, Item 7871 BOLTON
  8. McFall Family information 
  9. Samuel A. Walford Autobiography, ibid., p.306
  10. Information detailed by Heather G. Broadbent, Heritage Resource Officer for the Town of Caledon 1985-2000
  11. Francis McDonald Obituary, The Enterprise September 1892
  12. pg.236-238
  13. The Story of Albion, pg. 236-238
  14. MTRCA Post Hurricane Hazel Planning Guide, list of major seasonal storms
  16. Town of Caledon Designation Report for 97 King Street East in Bolton, complied by Heather G. Broadbent 1982
  17. Abstract Index to Deeds, ibid.
  18. The Story of Albion, p.304