Robert Noble Tree Trail
The trees indicated along the Robert Noble Tree Trail are all native to our area. Some are specific to the bioregion in Ontario known as the Carolinian life zone. Willow Park Ecology Centre is close to the northern limit of this zone.
1 - Black Cherry, Prunus serotina
2 - Butternut, Juglans cinerea
3 - Shagbark Hickory, Carya ovata
4 - Silver Maple, Acer saccharinum
5 - White Spruce, Picea glauca
6 - Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
7 - White Ash, Fraxinus americana
8 - Ironwood, Ostrya virginiana
9 - American Beech, Fagus grandifolia
10 - Balsam Fir, Abies balsamea
11 - Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis
12 - Basswood, Tilia americana
13 - American Elm, Ulmus americana
14 - Pussy Willow, Salix discolor
15 - American Chestnut, Castanea dentata
16 - Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus
17 - White Birch, Betula papyrifera
18 - Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum
19 - Eastern White Cedar, Thua occidentalis
20 - Black Maple, Acer nigrum
Robert Noble, Miller of Excellence 1835-1908
Robert Noble was 16 years of age when his family emigrated to Canada in 1851. His parents, John Noble and Ann Warwick, both minors, had eloped to Greta Green, Scotland to be married and settled in Howe Mills, Parish of Hayton, Cumberland, England. His father died when Robert was a year old. His mother married her second husband, William Thompson, who brought the extended family of six to Canada. They set sail from Port Carlisle, near their home in Bowness-on-Solway. After a six week voyage, they arrived in Montreal and then traveled by barge to Dundas, Ontario. One of the children perished before they reached their destination.
Robert Noble was soon apprenticed to the Wentworth Flour Mill in Dundas for three years to learn the milling trade and, subsequently, polished his skills by managing mills in Elora and Freelton. He married Marion Laing of Dundas in 1864, and at the age of 33, with 17 years of milling experience, he purchased the Norval mills.
James McNab, a lieutenant who was at the Battle of Queenston Heights in the War of 1812, had arrived in Norval in 1820. He built the water-powered saw mill, later adding a grist and woollen mill. In 1880, the original mills were removed and the facilities were greatly expanded by Robert Noble. These new mills produced the finest flour in the Dominion of Canada, the flour known as King's Choice. The flour was shipped from Norval by rail across Canada, and by ship to the United Kingdom and the West Indies. The wooden shipping barrels held 200 pounds of flour and were handmade in Norval. Wagon loads of 14 barrels each were hauled by draught horses to Norval Station to travel the Grand Trunk Railway. The red brick horse barn is still visible from the Robert Noble Tree Trail in Willow Park on land that he once owned.
The historic Norval flour mills, a landmark on the Credit River, burned in a great fire in the winter of 1930. However, by an act of providence, the grist mill survived the fire and continued to operate. The fury of Hurricane Hazel in 1954 destroyed the mill's foundation beyond repair. The remaining buildings were demolished during the widening of Highway 7 in 1961. No readily visible trace of the mills remains on the site today.
Robert Noble was devoted to his family and his community - making an indelible imprint on both. He is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery, Norval Ontario.