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Tribute to George Bolton commemorates Bolton’s bicentennial

June 9, 2022   ·   0 Comments

Event at Founders Park formally recognized Bolton’s impact

By Zachary Roman

The official celebration of Bolton’s 200th anniversary is complete.

On June 5, at Founders Park in Bolton, the life and legacy of Village of Bolton founder George Bolton was honoured.

At 1 p.m. that day, Caledon’s town crier Andrew Welch led a procession of the following parties down Mill Street, which was closed for the occasion by police: the Sandhill Pipes and Drums, Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson, Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones, Albion Bolton Historical Society (ABHS) members, Caledon councillors, the Caledon Fire Department Honour Guard and more.

The group paraded to Founders Park to the sound of the pipes and drums, where a podium and microphone were set up. The microphone would not be needed for Welch, however, and he opened the ceremonies with a proclamation to all in attendance.

Historical Society members took turns sharing facts about Bolton’s history, speaking from the podium to the crowd sitting on the chairs set up in the street. Sandhill Pipes and Drums players treated the crowd to several songs during the proceedings. There were numerous people in attendance with direct family ties to George Bolton or his relatives, a fact that received cheers when brought up.

Welch said he thinks the people of Bolton have a strong connection to its history. “It’s more than just a community history or geographical history. You can see from the people that were here, there’s a family history here as well. And that’s very important to people,” said Welch.

Caledon Councillor Annette Groves agreed.

“It really is nice to see so many families that have been here… that’s related to George Bolton,” said Groves.

She said the Bicentennial Committee did an amazing job on the event and thanked them for their hard work.

Thompson spoke to the crowd, remarking as he took the podium that the sun always seems to shine when something special is happening in Caledon.

“Thank you to all the community champions that have all come together to make this weekend possible,” he said. “Why are we here today? Settled in 1821, the Village of Bolton was a community full of promise. Early innovators such as George and James Bolton built the first water-powered gristmill along the banks of the Humber, establishing a local economy that was key to shaping this community. Today, more than 200 years later, Bolton is realizing this promise with our vibrant historic downtown, growing diverse population, engaged and proud citizens, (and) local businesses big and small. We mark this very special occasion; we commit to continue to honour our heritage and embrace the future.”

After Thompson spoke, ABHS member Heather Broadbent talked about the significance of the Humber River. Broadbent was described by the event’s emcee, Greg Sweetnam, as having an encyclopedic knowledge of Caledon, and as being a fixture of the Bolton community since 1969.

In fact, she was a founding member of the ABHS in 1974.

Broadbent said she really appreciated seeing all the smiling faces out celebrating Bolton’s history. She explained the Humber River has been important to humans for far longer than any of those in attendance could remember. She said archaeological evidence proves Indigenous people were fishing in the Humber as early as 7,000 years ago, and that it also shows Indigenous people were living close to what’s now Bolton 10,000 years ago or more.

The pipes and drums played while the crowd was asked to reflect on those facts, and a land acknowledgement was read by Broadbent afterwards.

Sweetnam said from where the crowd was gathered, they would have been able to hear the sounds of people working to clear land and build structures in Bolton’s early days.

ABHS member Valerie Mackie took some time during the presentation to talk about George Bolton himself.

“What strikes me is his youth, [George was] 22 years old when he was persuaded by his older brother to venture into milling in Canada. A phenomenally young man, he was 25 by the time the mill was grinding grain… by 1830 there were fewer than 12 people in a one-kilometre radius of where we are now standing and sitting,” said Mackie. “It must have been a lonely existence, and he must have thoroughly enjoyed visits from farmers when they came to visit him. What incredible resilience he must have had to work alone.”

Sweetnam said Mackie is one of the hardest-working people he knows and that she was instrumental in Bolton’s bicentennial being a success. Mackie has been a member of the ABHS since she moved to Bolton in 1984.

Jones took the microphone for a special presentation, first saying that hearing the Sandhill Pipes and Drums reminded her of how much she missed listening to live music.

She called up Broadbent, and ABHS member Isabelle Bottoms, to present them with a plaque on behalf of the citizens of Dufferin-Caledon.

“It is my pleasure to recognize Bolton on the occasion of your bicentennial celebration,” said Jones. “From a small settlement founded by George Bolton… to a thriving modern town where we live, work, shop and play, the settlement… has developed, prospered, and continues to meet the needs of individuals and families who call Bolton home, 200 years in the making. I am proud to be part of this community and celebrate in its rich history”

Bottoms, who is related to the Bolton family, shared stories of her youth before calling Mackie to the stage for a big thank you. “When I was asked to be co-chair along with Heather, and Heather agrees with me with this, both of us would love to say thank you to everybody who took part — and there were many. But there was one person in particular who kept us on track, kept everybody on track. And Valerie, it couldn’t have been done without you. Thank you so much,” said Bottoms.

When all the speakers were finished, all in attendance were invited to follow the Sandhill Pipes and Drums players down the Founders Park Path towards Queen Street, where a commemorative plaque detailing Bolton’s history was unveiled by Mayor Thompson.

The unveiling completed a successful, weekend-long celebration of Bolton’s 200th anniversary that was years in the making.



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