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14.12.2014


Stone collected from fields during land clearance was extensively used for building in Southern Ontario, but mainly in the region along the Grand River, settled by immigrants from Scotland and Germany. Fieldstone is the general term for stone used in construction that was collected from fields or streams, rather than being quarried from bedrock outcrops. Large stones, cleared from the land, along with trees and brush during the early years of settlement, provided a ready source of building materials.
The next two photographs are examples from Stoney Creek and Niagara-on-the-Lake, both regions covered by the Lake Ontario glacial lobe. All of Southern Ontario was covered by ice during the Pleistocene, and the ice deposited debris (glacial till) in great heaps (called "moraines") - so how is it that fieldstone derived from the Shield was commonly used in Paris, Cambridge (Galt), Kitchener-Waterloo, Wellington County, and even in Norfolk County, but not in Hamilton or Niagara? The answer is that the glaciers moving over Southern Ontario flowed in three distinct "lobes," each originating in a different lake basin: The Ontario, Georgian Bay, and Huron lobes. Another factor than may have been important locally (particularly near Galt and Paris) was the presence of the Grand River (and its glacial outwash predecessors), which reworked glacial debris and made access to stone easier for settlers close to the river.
Waterloo Township has been the subject of a particularly thorough historical geographic study by Bloomfield (1995).
The southern part, including Preston and Hespeler in the east, was originally settled beginning in 1800, by pioneers from Pennsylvania (mainly Lancaster and Montgomery counties), with a Scottish component in the east and west.
The northern part was sold a little later to "the German Company," a group headed by the Erb family, and the settlers came from Pennsylvania, the German States (Baden, Bavaria) and Alsace, as well as a minority from England, Wales and Scotland. Before the main wave, a few (perhaps 5,000) were soldiers employed in the Hessian armies who fought for the British, but after the Revolution preferred to remain in America. There was a tradition in eastern Germany of making use of fieldstone to build churches (see Fieldstone Church, and although the last wave of emigrants arrived too late to build most of the fieldstone buildings in Ontario, earlier emigrants were no doubt aware of this tradition. By way of contrast, see the small fieldstone United church, built by Scottish immigrants just north of the border in Manitoba (ManitobaChurch). Fieldstone churches in Ontario were by no means always small: a large example, built in 1857, probably by German masons, is Sacred Heart Church in Paris (Figure 7). Perhaps the finest examples of Scottish masonry using fieldstone, in most cases combined with locally quarried Guelph dolomite, are to be seen in Cambridge (originally Galt). In almost all the buildings, the fieldstone has been as carefully trimmed and selected as the quarried dolomite.
The imaginative use of fieldstone, so well displayed in Galt, was not learned in Scotland, however, but was developed in Ontario by Scottish masons as a response to the resources locally available. Say what you will about the exploitative labour standards and colonial wealth creation systems of the 19th century, but they did leave some handsome buildings behind. Canada's northern climate has always provided a basic economic barrier to the kind of exploitative nature seen in the south.
Tree Planting Festival - April 23, 2016, at Churchill Park, Corner of Dromore Crescent and Marion Ave N. In Southern Ontario its use was most common in the mid-nineteenth century in regions where the bedrock is covered by a thick layer of glacial debris, left behind by the retreating ice sheets, some 10,000 years ago.


Builders preferred to select stones derived from the Canadian Shield (light coloured "granite," or dark amphibolite, but settlers was less discriminating in using stones for basements or barns.
A fieldstone house in Princeton (west of Brantford on the old Governor's Road), built in the Scottish style, in the early 1850s for Henry Clifton Hornor (son of Thomas Hornor, who built the first mill and established the village of Princeton).
The reason is, first, that bedrock outcrops of fresh stone suitable for building were readily available (Whirlpool sandstone, and Eramosa dolomite; and second, that the glacial lobe that covered the Hamilton area advanced up the Lake Ontario basin, and carried relatively few large stones derived from the Canadian Shield. The James McFarland House, at 1436 Concession 2, Niagara-on-the-Lake: built of local fieldstone in 1851 (photo by Bob Watson). Detail of Figure 4a: showing that the stones are mainly Paleozoic sedimentary rocks, with some grey "granites" derived from the Shield (photo by Bob Watson).
The three lobes met in the region near Paris and Cambridge, where the Ontario lobe deposited the Paris and Galt moraines.
Glacial lobes in the region around Lake Erie (part of US Geological Survey, Quaternary Geologic Map I-1420, 1991).
These two lobes followed a much more direct route from the Shield, and therefore delivered many more boulders derived from Precambrian rocks, than the Ontario lobe.
The answer can be traced back to the different traditions of these two groups of immigrants. Much of the area is covered by thick glacial drift, which discouraged the use of stone for building.
It took place in three waves: 1846-1857, 1864-1873, and 1880-1893, reaching peaks of almost a million a year. Later, most of those coming from Germany emigrated for economic reason, though political unrest and religious prejudice were also factors for some groups. A small Catholic church, built south of Shakespeare in 1863 by German immigrants from Alsfeld, east of the Palatinate (Johnston and Johnston, 1967, p.145).
It was settled by Scottish immigrants in early nineteenth century, and largely rebuilt using stone after major fires in 1851 and 1856 (Chapple, 2006, p.63-73).
The front consists of Guelph dolomite and carefully selected gray granite-gneiss derived from fieldstone.
This house in Glen Morris was built in 1860 by the Latshaw family (the date is inscribed on the underside of the keystone above the main doorway).
Most nineteenth century buildings in Scotland were built of sandstone (Edinburgh, Glasgow) or quarried granite (Aberdeen).
A Heritage of Stone: Buildings of the Niagara Peninsula, Fergus and Elora, Guelph, Region of Waterloo, Cambridge, Paris, Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough, Hamilton and St.
Middleton is a retired professor of geology, who taught at McMaster from 1955 to 1996, his field of specialization being sedimentary rocks. Stone-masons are known for their enormously powerful guilds, how much of a role did this play in Ontario? I have no idea about the finer points of the economics or personal freedoms of the British Empire.


They're a nice change from the norm and combine two of my favourite things: architecture and geology. We've evolved into one of the largest and most respected construction and mining organizations in North America. Spacious kitchen overlooking a park-like backyard surrounded by mature trees, main floor laundry, hickory hardwood flooring and a 3-season sunroom. The Scottish were skilled in cutting stone, even the hardest granites; while the Germans preferred to work with wood, and had an ancient tradition of using fieldstone in its natural shapes. The land ("Block 2" of the Haldiman Tract) was sold by Joseph Brant to Richard Beasley, James Wilson and Jean-Baptiste Rousseaux, in 1796-1798. Most emigrants (4 million, or 85% of all emigrants) went to the United States, where many settled in the cities: only about a third were agricultural settlers.
Fieldstone was used, but mainly in modest buildings dating from an earlier period of history. Since 2005 he has been compiling a set of notes on the sources of building stones using in the nineteenth century in southern Ontario. Not that it didn't happen here, but given how much harder it is to sustain a person in Canada than the Caribbean, we never really could have seen slavery on the same scale.
At Kiewit, we build quality projects safely, on time and on budget; no matter how large or small. Brubacher was the grandson of a German Company shareholder, and son of John Brubacher, who settled in Waterloo in 1816.
Note that the fieldstone has been carefully shaped and selected for colour (it is a green-grey gneiss - light coloured granites were not included). The large sills, and lintels (composed of a central keystone and two large lateral voussoirs) are built of sandstone, probably Whirlpool sandstone, which must have been transported some distance, at considerable expense. What the Scottish masons brought with them to Canada were the skills needed to fashion even the hardest stones, such as granites, into regular blocks. Wages may have been low in early Canada, but in many ways the situation improves the farther you look back, since most wage work was supplemental income on top of farming etc. Added to that, sugar doesn't really grow here, and the industries which did suit the colonial regimes (logging, fishing, fur etc) require workers with a lot of autonomy and aren't easy to manage on a plantations. The stone is local fieldstone, mostly Silurian Grimsby sandstone derived from the Niagara escarpment. Some of the stones used to construct this house were unusually large (up to a metre across, but split to a thickness of only about 30 cms). I suspect, as lifestyles went, being an Ontario stone-mason just wasn't that bad by 1850s standards.



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