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ABCD: Accidents, Blazes, Calamities, and Disasters

We welcomed the always very interesting Matthew Wilkinson as our speaker on July 2, 2019.  Matthew is Historian for Heritage Mississauga and his presentation was titled: ABCD: Accidents, Blazes, Calamities, and Disasters from Historic Mississauga.

Of course, there are no barriers between Halton and Peel County and when disaster strikes, the resulting explosions and fires can be heard and seen for miles.  People in Halton saw, heard and helped in more than a few of these Matthew described.


Two major accidents described by Matthew were the Air Canada flight 621 that crashed in Brampton on July 5, 1970 and of course, the Mississauga train derailment and evacuation in November 1979.

Although Matthew described two earlier train crashes, the 1979 train derailment, with its cars filled with chemicals and in particular, a car of chlorine, was the most dangerous.  As a result of an earlier main line CPR Port Credit derailment, Mississauga had a revised emergency plan in place, ensuring the success of the largest peacetime evacuation in Canada (and in North America until Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans).

Heritage Mississauga is currently gathering stories of area people who were involved with the 1979 train derailment in Mississauga. They help commemorate the 40th anniversary of this event on November 10th.  To participate in this project, click here:


The old villages of Derry West and the main street of Erindale were demolished by fire, in 1867 and 1919 respectively.  It was noted that the old farmhouse, that serves as the clubhouse for the Derrydale golf course is the only remnant of Derry West village.  Streetsville saw several devastating fires, one of which was at the T.W. Hard Fireworks in 1942/43 when they were making was munitions on their business property on Cawthra Road.  There was a fire in 1978 at the Texaco Refinery in Port Credit (this Mississauga Road location is presently being developed for residences).


Matthew noted were early epidemics of cholera, diphtheria and in 1918-19, Spanish flu.  These diseases know no borders and we can trace them in Halton as well, by correlating gravestone death dates.


The earliest recorded Disaster Matthew described can be seen on the 1806 Wilmot Survey map.  Fallen trees along the Credit River are drawn as having fallen in the same direction.  This indicates the path of a 1791 hurricane.  Similar information may be available on the Halton 1806 Wilmot Survey.

Terrible flooding occurred in 1875, with Credit River and Port Credit being hit hard.  It is thought that a volcanic eruption in Iceland was behind this.  In 1923 a “cyclone” touched down near Hornby and then travelled east into Peel County.  In 1935, the Erindale dam broke, and in the living memory of a number of us, Hurricane Hazel occurred in 1954.  1969 saw a natural gas pipeline explode at the intersection of Airport and Derry Roads which resulted in the loss of many older Malton village buildings.

This brief recap of Matthew’s presentation does not do justice to his storytelling ability, his enthusiasm and knowledge.  Thank you, Matthew.