Saturday, August 8, 2009

THE COOL SPRING OF CROXTON'S RUN




Back before the practice of bottling water in plastic and associating it with Alps Mountain names was in vogue, people obtained the real thing from the real source and kept the promotion really simple.
From no source was the simplicity and ease of living better exemplified than the Cool Spring that once spurted from a hillside across Croxton's Run just outside Toronto.
"It gushes forth from the hillside and no water in existence is purer and sweeter than this," wrote G.H. Stoll in his book Greater Toronto 1899.  "It's waters are as clear as crystal and as sparkling.  Its source is so situated that there is no suspicion of its contamination.  It never fails to yield water and beyond the memory of the oldest inhabitant never has this spring ceased to flow."
A spring results from groundwater that resides within large permeable sandstone and limestone called aquifers, from which some of the water is drawn through cracks of the rock and then through the surface of the earth by gravity.
No record exists to document who first called this aquifer "Cool Spring."  Indian scout and city patriarch Michael Myers could have well been the first pioneer to discover it.  Given his reputation for simplicity in speech and demeanor, he might have called it "Cool Spring" in passing reference to any of his acquaintances when he patrolled the Ohio River from Yellow Creek to Mingo during the Revolutionary War.
Before Myers, or Abraham Croxton, from whom the nearby creek is named, American Indians undoubtedly stopped to slake their thirst at the bubbling spring.  Shawnees ambushed and scalped several soldiers hunting buffalo near this site.  Four years later, the same tribe abducted Mary and Margaret Castleman while slaying their uncle John Martin.
In his book Fowler suggested that the use of Cool Spring predated the arrival of white man to the region.
"What tales it could talk, of the scenes enacted within the sound of its musical murmurings: tales of tragedy, love and pathos: tales of aboriginal orgies," he wrote.
During his scouting missions, Myers undoubtedly watched for Indian activity at Cool Spring and similar fresh water sources.  Although no reports exist that he encountered any Indians at Cool Spring, he did shoot and slay an Indian at Poplar Spring, which today would be somewhere in the heart of downtown Toronto, and another at the head of Brown's Island near a spring just north of Wellsmar.
After the settlement of the hamlets Newburg, Fosterville and Markle, their merger leading to the eventual incorporation of Toronto in 1881, the use of Cool Spring continued to increase.
"For many miles in all directions," Fowler wrote, "people came to drink of its beautiful waters.  On Sabbaths during summer, the spring is constantly surrounded by crowds.  Toronto people greatly appreciated this natural, eternal, ice cold drinking fountain."
The tradition continued for years, according to longtime Gem City resident Tom McKelvey.  "Before most people owned cars," he said, "people dressed up on Sundays and walked out Croxton's Run and stopped at Cool Spring, and many sat on the decks of Kilgus Country Club drinking the spring water."
Author Walter M. Kestner wrote briefly in The Era of Elegance about such an excursion.  "...the pleasant Sunday walk up Croxton's Run to the Cool Springs where the limpid water gushed forth into a watering trough for the animals and a hand dipper was suspended from the wide spreading willow tree from which the humans drank indiscriminately."
"It was just good cool water," McKelvey said.  The longtime Toronto resident, in fact, when he was nine years of age, toted water in five-gallon cans by a wagon form Cool Spring to the old two-room Lincoln School.  "The school didn't trust river water back then.  It was my first job.  I made five dollars a month."
Toronto had running water pumped by its own electrical power house as early as 1891, but the popularity of the Cool Spring continued for another half century until it finally fell into disuse.
"It hasn't been used since the clay works shut down," McKelvey said.  "It was west of the railroad bridge, down the hill at the bottom on the left."
Fowler believed Cool Spring would never go dry.  "It has doubtless flowed for centuries, slaking the thirst of man and beast alike, and will so continue."
This early Toronto author may well be right, for the Cool Spring still flows, although it is obscured by an elevated highway, invasive Japanese knotweed and discarded tires and bricks.  The once famous aquifer may no longer be used, but its memory will remain preserved with the Gem City's northernmost boundary, which, like its source of origin, is named, simply, Spring Street.