Wilket Creek Park, just west of Leslie St. and north of Eglinton Ave., is a favourite today for many Leaside residents who enjoy picnicking and hiking in summer and snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing in winter.
It also boasts a fine history.
By 1963, this park was described as a boys’ paradise where children could build tree-houses and hang from ropes in the water. Then, across Wilket Creek was Toronto’s only suspension bridge into Serena Gundy Park with signs “Please walk on the grass”.
Wilket Creek itself was named for Paul Wilcott, who emigrated from Pennsylvania in 1793. He applied for a tavern license in the Town of York, but was refused, as there were already too many taverns in the town. Instead he was elected overseer of highways and fence viewer of Yonge St. north from Big Creek Bridge (at York Mills) and Steeles Ave., where he built a sawmill on the creek near Cummer Ave.
In 1799, his brother, Jonathan Wilcott, bought land on the east side of Yonge Street from Richard Lippincott. A brook that ran through both lots was called Wilcot, Wilkot or Wilket Creek.
By 1818, Wilket Creek was a fast-flowing stream, capable of running sawmills from the West Don River north to Cummer Ave. These slowly disappeared as the waters receded into the numerous valleys. The last mill was that of Alexander Milne at Lawrence Ave. and Edwards Gardens.
In 1827, Alexander Milne established a woollen mill on the creek near Lawrence Ave. and Leslie St. in what is today Edwards Gardens. But, dwindling water supply forced him to close that mill. Wilket Creek and the park named after the family are now all that remain of this original sawmills.
Jeanne Hopkins spent most of her life in the historic Henry Farm community of North York. She realized her passion for local history in the Canadiana department of the North York Public Library, where she worked for 27 years. She is the author of many articles and five books of local history.