Glen Williams, Ontario
Williamsburg (before 1852)
|Time zone||UTC−05:00 (EST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−04:00 (EDT)|
|Forward sortation area|
|Area code(s)||905 and 289|
Glen Williams is a hamlet in the Credit River valley in the province of Ontario, Canada. It is part of Halton Hills in the Halton Regional Municipality. Glen Williams is home to many visual artists, contains a collection of artist's studios and is a major draw to the area. Glen Williams has a compact community core that includes commercial uses, a restaurant and bakery, a community centre (Town Hall), parks, churches and homes. The character of the hamlet of Glen Williams is largely defined by the heritage buildings, which help give Glen Williams its distinctive look and feel. These buildings help create an environment that is distinctive and lays the foundation for a cohesive community. The Credit River which flow through the village extends over 1,500 km (930 mi) from the Niagara Escarpment, emptying into Lake Ontario at Port Credit, Mississauga. Glen Williams is also home to many species of birds, mammals and fish, with the river providing an exemplary habitat for them.
In the fall of 1824, a grant of 200 acres in the township of Esquesing was made by the crown to John Butler Muirhead, a barrister in the town of Niagara. Muirhead died later that year, and was buried in the Butler burying-ground outside of Niagara-on-the-Lake. He seemed to have known that the end was approaching, for shortly before his death he wrote a will, devising the land to James Muirhead and Thomas Butler. About a year later, on November 9, 1825, the devisees of the will sold the land for £100 to Benajah Williams (1765-1851).
Benajah was then in his sixty-first year. He had been born in the colony of New York, whence his father Roger had emigrated from Wales. But during the rebellion, the family supported the loyalist cause, and by 1786 Benajah had joined the trek to the crown's new colony of Upper Canada. For a number of years he worked at Mr. Burch's mills in the Niagara district, before settling eventually in Gainsboro township, where the town of Stamford grew up. There his third wife, Elizabeth (1797-1851) bore some of his fifteen children, many of whom would live in the Glen: Joel (1806-1871), Lydia (1809 1871), Charles (1811-1889), George (1813-1836), Jacob (1816-1853), Ira (1818-1833), Isaac (1820-1911), Anna, Israel, David, and Ezra.
As in most emerging settlements, the power of the local stream, in this case the Credit River, was used to run saw and flour mills. By 1833, Williams had purchased another 200 acres (81 ha) parcel, giving him the 400 acres (160 ha) that became Glen Williams. The Williams' Mill is where the first industry stood, a saw mill built by Benajah and sons Joel and Charles in 1825. In the years to come, Benajah's son Charles became the leading figure in the community. By the mid-sixties, he was proprietor of the flour, woolen and saw mills, as well as being a justice of the peace in the small community of Williamsburg, as it was then known.
There was a second sawmill in the village, operated from 1856 by Joseph Tweddle, and a third saw mill on "the Mountain," run by steam, erected by Charles Symons of Acton, and leased to and run by Cooper and sons of the Glen. It burned down in the summer of 1876.
For the local farmers, the Williams family were more than just millers. They were blacksmiths (Joel Williams), cabinetmakers (Isaac Williams), leather tanners (David Williams), and general store (Charles Williams). Since Benajah had run a textile mill in the Niagara peninsula before moving to the Credit, it was natural for his son Jacob to open a woollen mill here in 1839.
Glen Woollen Mills
A woollen mill, built of wood, was erected in 1839 by Jacob Williams. When he died in 1853, at the age of 37, his elder brother Charles took over the property.
The building provided space for smaller manufacturers as well. In 1866 it housed Brown's Pump Factory and Bradshaw's Comb Factory. But the following year the old mill was destroyed by fire. By 1877, Charles Williams had· bought the bobbin factory.
After a fire in 1867, Charles Williams proceeded to erect a new, stone mill. The building was finished, but fire struck again in 1875. Charles' son Benajah (B. 1842) now became the proprietor, and rebuilt it on a grander scale: two and a half stories high and powered by a 40 horse power Leffel water-wheel. Not wanting to tempt fate again, the building was heated by steam and equipped with a system of waterworks for quenching fires. Not only did it provide employment for 50 to 60 hands directly; it also used 450 pounds of Canadian wool daily. The mill bought the latest cards, spinning machines, twisters and Knitting machines built by Davis and Furber in Northampton, Massachusetts. The rebuilding and re-equipping was expensive, costing $32,000. By November 1877 it was being reported that Ben Williams had failed and run away. His debts had risen to the cost of rebuilding the factory and more, and in January 1878 the Toronto Globe advertised the sale of the mill. It appeared to stay in the family, with brother Joseph assuming responsibility.
By 1894 the mill was operated by the Sykes and Ainley Manufacturing Company. John Sykes (1833-1909) daughter Clara (1859-1949) had married Norman Ainley, who became a partner in the business. As general manager they bought out another Englishman, Harry Holdroyd (1864-1949), whose wife Evangeline (1870-1952) was a daughter of Joseph Williams, so the family connection continued.
The Glen Woollen Mills Company Limited was organized in 1907 to carry on the business. Most of the partners of this company lived in England, with H. P. Lawson of Georgetown, the Vice-President, and E. Y. Barraclough, as Secretary-Treasurer and General Manager, as the only Canadian directors. E. Y. Barraclough (1874-1936) lived in the big brick house on Mountain Street, above the mill. The mill processed wool from when it left the sheep's back until it was ready for the loom or knitting machine. The looms wove grey blankets, robe linings, fancy buggy rugs, wool horse blankets, kersey (a coarse narrow cloth, woven from the long wool and usually ribbed) and collar check, as well as carpet and knitting yarns.
About the time the Glen Woolen Mills took over, the Melrose Knitting Company Limited was set up as a subsidiary. It produced about 45,000 dozen pairs of men's wool socks and lumberman's socks a year. Sixty to seventy people worked there, and a hundred could have been employed if they could be found. Because of the shortage of labour, twelve English automatic machines were installed; they seemed "to be possessed of almost human intelligence," and with the care of two boys, they knit 60 dozen pairs of socks a day. The mill was run by water power, though a 100-horsepower boiler and engine used for heating and drying could provide emergency power; and their own dynamo produced the electricity to run delicate machinery and lighting." After Barraclough's death, the mill passed through a number of operators, and was destroyed by fire in 1954.
Beaumont Knitting Mill
At the time that Benajah Williams was having financial difficulties, an Irish millwright named James Bradley bought the old Tweedle Saw Mill upstream from Benjah, along with five carding machines and the largest picker. Bradley found he was spending most of his time erecting a mill in Limehouse, so he rented his Glen Williams establishment to George Ross. Ross, however, took sick, and Bradley then rented the mill to Samuel Beaumont. Beaumont was a native of Holmfirth, Yorkshire in the heart of the woollen manufacturing district. He was taught his trade by his father and after working a few years in Scotland, came in 1840 to Canada. Here he worked at Galt and Ancaster; in 1875-1876 he operated the woollen mills at Kilbride, and in 1877 did the same in Norval. The mill there was destroyed by fire in 1878 and as he had no insurance he lost heavily. It was from Norval that he came to the Glen. By 1882, Beaumont was able to purchase the mill. He had not been long established, however, when, in the early 1880s, fire struck again. It had been impossible to insure such inflammable stock, and there was only $750 insurance. But he started again, erected substantial buildings and made three trips to England to purchase the best machinery to outfit them.
As had happened at the Williams woollen mill, the fires seemed to cost too heavy a toll, and Samuel Beaumont also got into financial difficulties. His son Joseph (1863-1943) took over the operation and in 1906 Joseph acquired the Dominion Glove Works which had been operating about a quarter of a century. It was a related business for the machines which knit the socks also knit the mitt cuffs. The mill used mostly New Zealand wool which was judged to be finer and more uniform than Canadian; and the leather was mostly imported from the States. About 200 dozen pair of socks which would sell at 25 to 50 cents a pair were made daily and about 40 dozen pair of mitts and gloves, selling at 50 cents to a dollar. The mill employed eighty to a hundred workers. When Joseph died his son Arthur carried on the business until 1957 making it a three generation family business. The Knitting Mill was carried on by the family until 1957, when it was sold to Grew, Penrice and Graham . The Beaumonts produced socks, blankets and mittens in this mill for over 100 years. In 1982 the mill was sold and closed. Today the building serves as the Beaumont Mill Antiques & Collectibles market. Visitors can see the ongoing restoration work of the mill from the inside as they shop at the market.
The character of the Hamlet of Glen Williams is largely defined by the heritage buildings, which shape the built form of Glen Williams. These buildings help create an environment that is distinctive and lays the foundation for a cohesive community.
One of the first buildings in Glen Williams to be designated a heritage site was the original Williams saw mill. After he lost his flour mill to fire in 1890, Joseph Williams converted his saw mill into a hosiery factory and electric power plant. In 1898 he sold out and moved. In 1901, a local company, the Georgetown Electric Power and Light, built a generating plant on the ruins of the burned-out flour mill. This closed in 1913 with the coming of Ontario Hydro. In 1926 the old saw mill and hydro plant became "Apple Products", a seasonal fruit processing plant run by the Lindner family. Since its closure by Reinhart Vinegars in 1985, Douglas Brock has restored it and it serves as the Williams Mill Arts Centre.
Other designated heritage properties in Glen Williams include the Glen Williams Town Hall at 1 Prince Street, Laidlaw House and the Frazier Shop at 519 and 521 Main Street, the Williams Chair Factory (Williams-Holt House) at 504 Main Street, and the Beaumont Knitting Mill.
Glen Williams Town Hall has been central to the history of the Village. The Good Templars of Royal Oak Temple approached Charles Williams for a piece of land for a community hall which they could also use for their temperance society meetings. Glen Williams Town Hall board first met on 28 March 1870. Charles Williams deeded the land to nine trustees to be held in trust for the community. Built from 1870 to 1871, the Hall was officially opened on 24 May 1871. Glen Williams Town Hall has housed numerous societies, churches, political meetings and acted as a polling station for elections.
In the 20th century the hall provided the stage for dances and Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery who staged many works there with her Union Dramatic Players. For a brief time from 1949 (due to the collapse of the Glen Williams Public School during renovations) school classes opened in the Town Hall, and in 1953 the building was officially leased to the Board of Education. After the school was relocated, the Town Hall was returned to the community. In 1976, the Town Hall was restored and in 1981 it returned to the original system whereby trustees oversaw its administration. Glen Williams Town Hall was incorporated in 1981 and achieved Charitable Status in 1983. Annual elections are currently held to select these nine trustees who are the legal owners of the building during their time of office. Glen Williams Town Hall continues to play an important role in community life.
Glen Williams Town Hall is a good representation of the Colonial Cape Cod style built out of small, hand pressed red clay brick made just north of Glen Williams. The hall's small stature, symmetrical facade with central entrance and multi-paned windows reflect the Colonial Cape Cod style. Also in keeping with the style, the building has little ornamentation.
Around the corner from Williams Mills is Reeve & Clarke Fine & Rare Books, an antiquarian book business which sells second-hand books (most are first editions) and ephemera such as posters and cards, beautifully arranged as if they were in a museum. Reeve & Clarke Fine & Rare Books are located in the storefront of Laidlaw House and the Frazier Shop in which Timothy Eaton first worked in retail. It was the first of January 1847 when Charles Williams sold village lot 49, east of the Credit River to Thomas B. Frazier for £25 sterling. Although there were earlier commercial buildings in the Glen, they were eventually replaced, leaving Reeve & Clarke Books, in this frame roughcast store on the comer of Main and Prince Streets, as the oldest commercial building in the village.
Beyond the designated heritage properties, there are more that 35 other properties in the Glen listed in The Town of Halton Hills Heritage Register.
Culture and economy
The village itself is the subject of Casson's 1938 oil on canvas, "Street in Glen Williams", a leafy, autumnal portrait of a quiet road in the hamlet, which sold at auction in Toronto on June 1, 2010 for a record $542,800, including buyer's premium, the highest such valuation ever accorded a Casson canvas. Casson, who joined the Group of Seven in 1926, "recorded small towns in every season," Canadian art critic and historian Paul Duval wrote in 1980, "and Street in Glen Williams is unquestionably his key autumn portrayal." Other paintings of Casson's time in and around Glen Williams include "Country Road - Glen Williams", "Village Street October", and "Farmhouse near Glen Williams 1938", now in the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art at The Ottawa Art Gallery.
Today Glen Williams is a predominantly residential community that provides housing for residents employed in other areas. Glen Williams is home to many visual artists, contains a collection of artist's studios and is a major draw to the area. Glen Williams has a compact community core that includes commercial uses, a restaurant and bakery, the community centre (Town Hall) and other recreational and community functions. This hamlet core is viewed as an important component of the hamlet character. All commercial and community uses are focused in this area.
The Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre and Glen Williams Glass are both housed in the heritage site of the Williams Mill. The Williams Mill provides studio space for artists of various media including ceramics, drawing, fibre, glass, jewellery, printmaking, sculpture and offers visitors the opportunity to interact directly with the artists, experience their work in progress and purchase a variety of art. The gallery showcases the works of other renowned artists and craftspeople. Art classes, lectures and workshops for all ages offered year-round in the Arts Education Centre. Glen Williams Glass is a collective studio made up of seven independent glass artists and is also part of The Williams Mill. In addition to its function as an artist's co-operative, Glen Williams Glass regularly welcomes non-members to the studio.
The former Beaumont Knitting Mill is now home to Beaumont Mill Antiques & Collectibles, a multi vendor Antique and Collectibles Market offering a broad assortment of collectibles and antiques, including furniture, toys, glassware, cookware, books, decorative items, and vinyl records. Adjacent to the mill is the Kids & Classics Boatshops Museum, a non-profit organization, which focuses on the restoration of classic wood boats, where volunteers learn and teach skills, working with kids-at-risk through a skiff building program for youth. In the space of a weekend, four children build and launch a skiff (the Bevin's skiff), get exposed to the world of boatbuilding and learn to have confidence in themselves and what they can do. Sale of the skiffs built by the youth helps fund the program.
Sheridan Nurseries operates their "Glen Williams Farm & Distribution Centre" along the hamlet's eastern boundary. The 370 ha (910 acres) farm is their main growing facility and produces more than 800 hardy nursery stock varieties, ranging from evergreens, deciduous trees and shrubs. The Distribution Centre supplies its own nine garden centres in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and ships regularly to destinations in Eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest to New England. Sheridan Nurseries has been selected as the Glen Williams Citizen of the Year in 2007, 2010 & 2011.
Hamlet of Glen Williams Residents Association Inc. (HGWRA)
The Hamlet of Glen Williams Residents Association Inc. (HGWRA) (formerly The Glen Williams Community Association (GWCA)) is a non-profit organization and a recognized voice of the community with several hundred local residents as members. The purpose of the organization is to promote, enhance and protect the village atmosphere of Glen Williams and to represent members on matters pertaining to the hamlet of Glen Williams. These matters include safety, heritage, development, environment, facilities and events. 
Annual festivals and events
- Victoria Day - Fireworks and BBQ
- Canada Day (July 1) - Parade, duck race, festival grounds, evening BBQ and fireworks
Glen Williams Public School, located at 512 Main Street, is a Junior Kindergarten to Grade 5 Elementary School, with a school library and gymnasium and a large outdoor play area next to the Credit River. Governed by the Halton District School Board with input from the local Glen Williams Parent Council, it is currently home to approximately 220 children. The first frame (as distinct from log) school in the township was built in Glen Williams 1837, replaced by a large, one-room building in 1852. The present school is now housed in a modern building which has seen many additions since it was first erected in the 1950s. This school replaced the overcrowded two-room brick school on Prince Street, which was built in 1873 and has since been converted into a private residence. The Glen Williams Public School also houses before and after school programs in cooperation with the Halton Hills Glen Williams YMCA Centre, a licensed child care centre.
The Village Montessori & Child Care is located in Glen Williams at 533 Main Street and is locally owned and operated. Offering a true Montessori Toddler program as well as Casa and School Age programs, accepting all children 15 months to 12 years of age, also offering Mommy and Me programs for infants and toddlers.
The Glen Oven Bakery Cafe and The Copper Kettle Pub are also located in the village. The Copper Kettle Pub is particularly known for its authentic and traditional British fare and atmosphere and for its colourful staff. It occupies the former General Store and Post Office, built in 1852 by Charles Williams.
The Glen Fitness Studio is located at 511 Main Street, offering both group fitness exercise programmes and individualized sessions with a personal trainer.
The Glen Tavern, occupying one of the lower floors of the Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre, is located at 515 Main Street, offers seasonal, contemporary food, selected wines and drinks in a convivial setting.
Three churches serve the village. St. Alban the Martyr Anglican Church, and St. John's United Church are historic buildings still used for worship, and are located on either side of the Credit River on Main Street. Despite the bishop's suggestion that the Glen people would be better off continuing to attend church in Georgetown, the cornerstone of St. Alban the Martyr was laid in 1902, and the church opened in June of following year. The architect was F. S. Baker, the son of a woollen miller in Kilbride, and a friend of Joseph Beaumont. F.S. Baker would later become the second President of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada from 1910–1912.
Union Presbyterian Church is located north-east of the village at Winston Churchill.
Glen Williams Park
Glen Williams Park, 509 Main Street, originally built and maintained by village residents, now maintained by Town of Halton Hills staff, the park includes baseball diamonds, park pavilion, and flower gardens. Open for public use to have a picnic, organize a friendly game of baseball or listen to the sounds of Credit River flowing by.
Glen Williams Minor Softball, still played in the park, was established in 1964 by the local hamlet's people. As the need increased for a place to play ball, the land where the park is located today was donated to Glen Minor Ball. The Glen organizers built a major diamond, a concession stand and a minor diamond. The major diamond and booth are still here today. This park is a place created for youth and adult teams to play. Lights were later added on the major diamond so that night games could also be played. Local teams were formed in the Halton area. These local teams included Acton, Limehouse, Hornby, Owma, Lowville, Rockwood, Hillsburg and Glen Williams. These leagues were boys, girls, mens, ladies and senior teams with all age groups from 5 years to 65 years of age. In the 70's on average, you could watch three different age groups play every night of the week and tournaments on weekends. At one point, there were over 300 youth players from Georgetown and Glen Williams.
That was then, now only Glen Williams, Hillsburg and Rockwood remain. To keep travel and playing costs down the local teams have created their own mixed co-ed house league located at Glen Williams Ball Park. League teams range from ages 4 up to 19. The league games are Monday through Thursday and Sunday. At Glen Williams Minor Softball everyone who wants to play is welcomed at any time. Their slogan is "We don’t coach softball, we coach kids".
Youth Divisions currently supported are TBALL for girls and boys ages 4 and 5 years of age, ATOM for girls and boys ages 6 to 8 years of age, SQUIRT, girls and boys ages 9 to 12 years of age, PEE WEE, girls and boys ages 13 and 14 years of age, BANTAM for girls and boys ages 15 and 16 years of age, and MIDGET, for girls and boys ages 17 and 19 years of age.
Glen Williams Cemetery
The 1840 deed to the Methodist Episcopal church in Glen Williams provided a site for "a Church Meeting-House or Chapel and Burying-ground." But the spot down by the river was not an appropriate place for burials, and it does not appear that any took place there.
In the Glen the Williams family chose a spot on the hill, overlooking the village, for use as a family cemetery. The earliest stone marks the resting-place of Ira, Elizabeth and Benajah's son, who died in 1833 just eleven days after his fifteenth birthday. Another son, George, lies nearby; he died in 1836, also at the age of 23. A grandson, Alfred (Joel's boy) died in 1844.
Others besides the family used the cemetery. There is a memorial to Robert Brown, who died in 1834. That is on a stone that was put up in 1876, and it is uncertain whether he is buried there. But near the Williams plot there are stones from 1845, for Latham Stull, and for Margaret, wife of Jacob Stull. Benajah Williams died on November 22, 1851. His son Charles must have felt that the time had come for the cemetery to be established on a more regular basis, and on December 22 he made over the land for a public burying-ground, "in consideration of the sum of one shilling of lawful money of the Province of Canada to him in hand paid." His brother Joel (now described as a carpenter, rather than a blacksmith as in an earlier deed) and another brother Jacob, were among the first trustees. The others were John Cook and John Stull, yeoman, and Thomas B. Frasier, tailor.
The original grant was of one acre, but with the passage of time, more land came to be needed. The oldest section bordered on the road, and is easily distinguished by the old limestone markers in it. In 1905 the Sykes and Ainley mill donated the piece of land between it and the top of the bank of the hill above the river. A further piece was bought for $30 in 1919. It was purchased from John Haines (1870-1932), a native of Somerset, who purchased Fred Cook's orchard and farm next to the cemetery. Then in 1957 Sheridan Nurseries gave a further piece to the cemetery board.
The Glen Williams Cemetery continues today as a community cemetery governed by a volunteer Board Of Directors. They do not receive government funding or maintenance assistance but rely on private donations.
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- John McDonald (2002). Halton Sketches Revisited: Historical Tales of People and Events in North Halton. Boston Mills Press. ISBN 978-1550463750.
- Glen Williams Secondary Plan. Town of Halton Hills (2003).
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- Glen Williams community website sponsored by the Hamlet of Glen Williams Residents Association Inc. (HGWRA)