By Felix Shuster
On a bright sunny, but slightly windy autumn day, our group embarked on a journey to explore beautiful Purple Hills near Creemore village, Blue Mountains and Collingwood.
One Day Ontario Tours – Beautiful Ontario – www.felixtours.com
Creemore, praised by the Harrowsmith magazine as one among ten most beautiful small towns in Canada, is our first goal. We arrived there in less than 1, 5 hours. Picturesque setting of Creemore in the lower valley of Mad River had attracted so many artists, sculptors and craftspeople to move here, that years ago Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society was established, which has now membership of more than 400 permanent and weekend residents. Their studios and galleries exhibit very interesting works of art, so, many tourists frequent this area in warmer part of the year. Besides scenic nature and modern culture Creemore is rich in history. First written mention of the area was recorded by intrepid explorer Samuel Champlain and Jesuit Father Joseph Le Caron, when they visited Indian villages of ‘tobacco’ people in 1612.
Unlike our 90-minutes ride to the Village of Creemore, it was a month-long circuitous boat journey for families of William Nutley and Edward Webster of Gananoque to reach this area in 1842. These first white settlers had to go by Lake Ontario, Welland Canal, Lake Erie, and Lake Huron around Bruce Peninsula to the mouth of Nottawasaga River, and up the river to the place, they would finally call Home. But they persevered, built mills on the Mad River, and soon the village flourished. By the time railroad from Hamilton to Collingwood was built through Creemore in 1872, this place was boasting 3 hotels, 2 general stores, private hospital, hog-slaughtering business and more than 300 residents. In the years prior to WWI progress reached Creemore, when homes of residents had electric lights (from power station on Mad River) and Main Street had 3(!!!) car dealerships.
Events of more recent history created another attraction to Creemore. Entrepreneurial resident of the village, who had natural springs on his property, invited in 1987 semi-retired chief brew-master from Budweiser of Pennsylvania to assess possibility of starting micro-brewery in Creemore. The visitor liked spring water and the surrounding nature so much that decided to retire to Creemore and join the venture. Thus, it was the beginning of Creemore Springs Brewery, which we have visited on the tour. Although giant Molson now owns this micro-brewery but, very wisely they did not interfere with the process and Creemore still produces great unpasterized product, according to the 16th century German Law of Purity and few old recipes. After a generous tasting of their product, we had picked quite a few six-packs to enjoy at home.
We also took on brisk 30-minute walking tour of Mill Street, surrounded by Victorian architecture houses and churches and had a chance to enter a Studio Petitjean, one of many similar in Creemore. John’s works in wrought iron and bronze, shown in the studio were truly great and deserving any praise. In winter months Rene Paul teaches his art to students of colleges in Toronto.
For the venturesome, a fine Curiosity Book Store sells booklet of Walking Tour of Creemore ($2.00), which is smartly published by Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society.
We liked Creemore, which name means ‘Big heart’ in Athabaskan language, but had to leave for our next stop – Collingwood. But about it you can read the Part 2…
By Felix Shuster