Tales of a Splendid Tavern in a Deep Gully
Just east of Bellamy Road once stood another favourite way station for travellers along Kingston Road, Gates Inn and Tavern. Jonathan Gates settled here in 1815 and built the inn in about 1820. The inn rose to prominence as a rallying point for the Scarborough militia preparing to defend Toronto from William Lyon Mackenzie's rebels in the Upper Canada Rebellion.
In 1849 an English travel-writer named William Brown was very impressed:
"One of the best farms to be seen in this neighbourhood is in the township of Scarborough, belonging to Mr. Gates. He keeps a splendid tavern just ten miles from the City Hall, upon the plank road on Kingston Street, and his house is surrounded on both sides of the street with his farm, which contains about three hundred acres, some of which extend to the borders of the lake.
He takes care that every portion of it is well manured, having a large supply made in his stables, and he grows everything upon his own farm that is consumed in his house except groceries. He catches as much fish as serves his table all year round, and makes as much sugar from his own maple grove as he wants, and kills his own mutton, beef and pork."
Gates GullyBehind the Gates Inn, extending down to Lake Ontario was a ravine that is full of dramatic stories. Its historic name is Gates Gully, although today it is known as Bellamy Ravine. Here the local McCowan family discovered aboriginal spear-points that are 10,000 years old.
There may be other treasures yet unfound in Gates Gully. During the War of 1812 a group of American soldiers were said to have buried money in the ravine that they had looted in the Battle of York. This is a story passed down by Levi Annis, the scion of an early family. He claimed that the soldiers billeted with his ancestors, and that the money was never recovered by the Americans or by any of his family, and may still be there somewhere.
More reliably, the ravine provided an unguarded harbour for smugglers bringing contraband from the United States during the 1830s. The remote location and relatively gradual incline to Kingston Road allowed importers to avoid taxes of three pence a pound on tea, tobacco and other valuable merchandise
The Wreck of the AlexandriaOn August 3, 1915, a wooden steamship called the Alexandria, sailing out of Port Hope, encountered terrible winds and ran aground off the Scarborough Bluffs near Gates Gully. The captain jettisoned about three hundred tonnes of cargo in an effort to stay clear of the shore, but to no avail. The crew were forced to abandon the ship, but then their lifeboat capsized, and they were still over one hundred yards offshore.
Fortunately, local residents and workers on the Kingston Radial railway heard the distress calls and flocked down the ravine to the shoreline. There throughout the night in a raging storm, the locals created a human chain to secure a lifeline to the rocks and pull the bedraggled sailors from the waves.
Much of the cargo was saved and portions of the wreckage were salvaged piece-by-piece by residents and reused as scrap for various purposes on the farms. But the Alexandria's boiler is still at the bottom of the lake and may occasionally be seen just offshore, sticking up from the water.
Ravine and TrailToday the name Gates Gully has been replaced on most maps by Bellamy Ravine. The slope still provides one of the most convenient access points to the shoreline along the Scarborough Bluffs. A well-maintained trail takes hikers and nature-lovers down the slope to the waterfront. It is named the Doris McCarthy Trail for the renowned landscape artist who lived nearby, and it forms part of the Waterfront Trail system. You may explore the Doris McCarthy trail, and add your own stories to the legends of Gates Gully, by following signs at Ravine Drive and Kingston.