A few days back, we mentioned that Meaford had an interesting link to the environmental movement. Back in the autumn of 1864, the wanderings of 26 year-old John Muir led him along the road from Owen Sound to a magnificient view of Georgian Bay and the tiny village of Meaford nestled below. (Now, theories vary on his actual route, but we’re going with Scott Cameron’s thesis that he hiked from Owen Sound.)
There, Muir met his younger brother Dan, and before long, the two presented themselves at Meaford’s Trout Hollow Mill and handle factory, seeking work and a place to stay for the winter.
John Muir would spend the next 16 months in Meaford at Trout Hollow. Instead of leaving at the spring melt with his brother, he signed a contract to produce 12,000 rakes and 30,000 broom handles for the Trout family business. While Muir’s passion for botany directed his wanders, he’d long had an inventive mind, and he now took a close look at the factory’s production process. Within a few months he’d so refined the process, designing new gizmos and automating tasks, that production doubled.
Like others in the years since who have discovered Meaford a perfect community to settle down in, Muir was captured by its beauty. “We live in a retired and romantic hollow,” he wrote in May of 1865. “Our tall, tall, forest trees are now alive and the mingled ocean of blossom and leaves waves and curls and rises in rounded swells farther and farther away… Freshness and beauty are everywhere — flowers are born every hour — living sunlight is poured over all, and every thing and creature is glad — our world is indeed a beautiful one…”
A couple of groups have helped to ensure Muir’s Meaford legacy remains. The Canadian Friends of John Muir have brought new light to his time in Meaford, and the Bighead River Heritage Association has developed and maintained the Trout Hollow Trail, an 8 kilometer hike along both sides of the Bighead River and through the hollow where Muir lived and worked.
The buds are getting ready to burst, and we’ll head down there soon.