Villages of Lowville and Highville
Lowville is so named as it is the lowest point on the road from Guelph to Lake Ontario. In contrast, the ridge above the town was the location of a small hamlet named Highville. In 1875 the two villages were connected by wooden stairs – later replaced with concrete – that scaled the side of the ridge (MacDonald 2011).
The Village centre was carved from the farms of T.E Pickett, Joseph Featherstone and James Cleaver. The rise of the Village is linked to water power as it is located along Twelve Mile Creek. The Village featured a sawmill (owned by John Readhead) and a grist mill (owned by James Cleaver).
By 1869, according to the Province of Ontario Gazetteer, Lowville had a population of 275 as well as commercial establishments, factories, foundries and mills (Lowville United Church 1972). At one time there were six or seven hotels in operation on the road from Guelph to Lake Ontario that catered to the needs of settlers who shipped grain and lumber. One hotel called the Jed Evening, required you to stand while you drank. There, “if you drank so much that you couldn’t walk, they would escort you to your horse and leave you there till you sobered up enough to get on your horse and leave” (Brass Tracks 2979:7). One of the hotels along the road was located in Highville.
Lowville had a General Store built by Andrew Pickett in the 1850s. It burned down and was replaced with a building in the same style which still stands and is used as a restaurant. The General Store served as a central location within the Village. It also served as a telegraph office and post office for the mail stagecoach from Hamilton and Milton (Brass Tracks 1979:9).
The residents of many settlements wanted railways to increase business. Conversely, Lowville residents were not impressed with the suggestion of a railway. In the 1870s Credit Valley Rail Line proposed the bisection of the Village. Residents revolted, “they didn’t want a railway through the village and let it be known to the property authorities” (Lowville United Church 1972:8).
Today Lowville has lost most of its original industries and Highville consists of only residential properties. Both villages do, however, remain as picturesque landmarks along Guelph Line, having retained many of their buildings and historical charm.
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5772 Guelph Line “John Readhead House” - John Readhead settled on the Nelson Township property in 1890. Prior to his purchase the lot was owned by the Colling family. When Readhead acquired the lot he took out a large mortgage ($6000), then another in 1896 ($2000). Part of the funds were likely used to build the current Victorian farmhouse (built circa 1900) or alter the previous house to suit his needs. John Readhead operated a sawmill on Walker’s Line, north of Britannia. The mortgage monies may have also been used to rebuild his sawmill that burned in 1890.
5800 Guelph Line “Lowville United Church” - Joseph Colling was one of the earliest Lowville settlers. He was an Overseer of Highways in Nelson (also called the Pathmaster). He was a devoted Methodist and helped erect a small meeting house called the Collings’ Church. In 1855 the Collings’ Church was renamed the Lowville Wesleyan Methodist Church. It quickly became apparent that the building was too small to hold the expanding membership. The current brick church was constructed on land donated by the Colling family in 1872 at the corner of Britannia Road and Guelph Line.
6006 Guelph Line “The Parsonage” - Between 1880 and 1883 plans were made to raise funds for a new Lowville Wesleyan Methodist Church parsonage. The current brick church was constructed in 1872 at the corner of Britannia Road and Guelph Line. Thomas Colling donated land for the Parsonage. He had already donated land for the brick church. To keep the costs down volunteers hauled bricks, sand and stone. Records show the total cost for the construction of the Parsonage was $2,547.01.
6042 Guelph Line “Thomas Colling House” - The Colling family were Lowville’s most prominent settlers. The Thomas Colling House was built for Thomas Colling and was owned by the Colling family for over 120 years. In 1967 it was identified as a Century farm (in operation for over 100 years). It served as a mixed use farm growing oats and wheat as well as raising beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs and poultry.
6103 Guelph Line “Thomas Pickett Octagonal House”- The Pickett House was built in 1860 in the octagonal style with eight sides and a cupola. Rev. Daniel Pickett is credited as being the first settler in Lowville. In 1822 he was granted the property in Lowville. The Village of Lowville sprang up at the corner of the Pickett farm. Thomas Ebenezer Pickett (1808-1874), son of Daniel and Elizabeth, built the existing house circa 1860 and the family owned it until the 1950s.
6207 Guelph Line “Lowville School” - The one-room schoolhouse was built in 1889 on land donated by Joseph Featherstone. Joseph was an early Lowville settler. This one-room school house, first known as S.S. No. 9, included children from ages 7 to 14. The Lowville School is now part of the Lowville Park. This park was created in 1945 when William Robertson, the Reeve of Nelson Township, arranged for the purchase of part of Featherstone farm.
6247 Guelph Line “Lowville Mill” – James Cleaver choose land on Twelve Mile Creek in Lowville where he used local limestone to build a house and a large flouring mill. At the height of production, the mill ran 24 hours a day. People travelled thirty miles or more to mill their grain at the Cleaver Mill (Brass Tracks 1979). The mill was central to the town’s development. In Lowville, a General Store was built and the first blacksmith shop – erected by Burkholder and Smith – opened to serve the needs of the many horse drawn wagons. Around the same time in Highville, a hotel was built. The mill is now a private residence.