Tree History

The Black Barn Maple of Eastwood

If trees could talk (*experimental scientific data indicates that they do) our Black Barn Maple, located at the rear of 95 James Street, has witnessed the many trials and tribulations that only a local farm tree could.

When it was a natural sapling in the 1860s, James and Martha Eastwood purchased 200 ha (500 acres) of the Samuel Smith Tract running south of Lake Shore King’s Highway from Etobicoke Creek to about Thirty-First Street.

Included in the sale and just a few hundred meters north of the Black Barn Maple, stood the Colonel Samuel Smith Cabin. The property was vacated when Colonel Sam Smith died in 1826.

Aerial view (Nov., 1949) looking east along Lake Shore Blvd West from near Long Branch Loop, Ontario Archives Acc 16215, ES1-814, Northway Gestalt Collection. The photo shows the Colonel Samuel Smith house at Forty First St. and Lake Shore Blvd. West, originally a log cabin built in 1797, to which extensions and siding were added over the years.

In 1833, the John Skirving Family arrived from Scotland and moved into the empty Colonel Smith Cabin. Only a year later, John Skirving succumbed to malaria. Sadly, the widowed Mrs. Skirving, her six daughters and one son were forced to abandon the cabin in 1834.

The last person to live in the Colonel Samuel Smith Cabin was the Eastwood’s grandson, Robert Christopherson, who was born there in 1880. Christopherson sold it to one of E. P. Taylor’s companies for a Dominion Store site in 1952.

With resources, vision and good ole Canadian pioneer tenacity, James Eastwood resurrected the Colonel Sam Smith Sawmill and forested the rich arboreal land of Oak, Maple and Ash.

The next phase was to seed the newly cleared land and husband an ambitious livestock of horses, chickens, pigs and cattle. The farm was later assumed by James’ son, Robert Eastwood. The Eastwood Park Hotel, was his former farmstead became famous for his Shorthorn Cattle receiving Gold medals at the Royal Winter Fair.

To adequately shelter the Eastwood Farms livestock, three barns were raised. The last and the largest, became a welcoming land mark from the Hamilton Highway. It was the Eastwood Black Barn which stood prominently for decades and well up to the early 1960s.

At that time our beloved Black Barn Silver Maple which was just growing south of the Long Branch Black Barn icon, was already 100 years old!

Photo 2 – View of The Black Barn Maple of Eastwood from 93 James Street. Estimated to be well over 100 years old, this beauty is healthy, vibrant, and full of wildlife. The view of this tree can be enjoyed from James, Forty First, Fortieth and Garden Place.

During the building boom of the 1920s, Eastwood started to sell off his lands for residential development but continued to raise his prized cattle for years later. Luckily, or maybe by fortuitous foresight, our Black Barn Maple was not felled for development but was allowed to mature to be one of Long Branch’s oldest remaining potential Heritage Trees.

With ‘intelligent planning’, the Black Barn Maple can safely remain a beacon of arboreal stewardship for years to come.

Bill Zufelt is a Director of the Long Branch Neighbourhood Association and Chairs the Association’s History and Culture Committee
This article was originally published in The Etobicoke Lakeshore Press © Bill Wallace Zufelt 2019