Saved from development: History of Mississauga’s Rattray Marsh


Published July 28, 2022 at 12:36 pm

rattray marsh trail

The battle to save Rattray Marsh Conservation Area, Mississauga’s ecological gem, started not long after the property owner died and development threatened to take over the conservation area.

Now the City of Mississauga’s Heritage Advisory Committee has approved a plaque outlining the history of the marsh.

Long before bulldozers readied to flatten Rattray Marsh in 1963, the land was part of the Mississauga people of Wendake-Niowentsïo territory. But by the early 1800s, settlers had taken over.

Settler Thomas Slade bought the land, originally known as Cranberry Marsh, in 1851. Later, Harris H. Fudger purchased the estate and finally Major James Rattray took over in 1945. At that time nearby residents visited often. Rattray let residents swim on the beach, walk along the edge of the lake, and also invited his bird-watcher friends to the 148-acre estate.

Fight to save the marsh

But after he died in 1959, the fate of the environmentally significant area came into question. That’s when neighbour Ruth Teverson Hussey stepped in.

Hussey is known as the “guardian angel of Rattray Marsh”, according to Heritage Mississauga, due to her efforts to save the area from development.

She loved nature and animals and worked as a veterinarian and dog breeder. She and her husband lived near the marsh and they held annual games for the local Cubs there with Rattray’s permission.

Hussey took up the fight to save the property in 1963 when developers purchased the land for luxury housing. She led the Rattray Marsh Preservation Committee gathering 2,000 signatures of support to save the marsh.

But by 1967, council approved development on 60 acres of the property and bulldozers moved in, according to a historic account from the Heritage Advisory Committee.

Not all was lost though, Hussey kept fighting. In 1971, the Credit Valley Conservation Authority (CVCA) bought 24 acres, however, 57 acres remained. The Rattray Marsh Preservation Committee and Mississauga council urged the CVCA to purchase the remaining land but they voted against it.

Rattray Marsh stone

A stone pays tribute to Ruth Teverson Hussey. Ashe Planet photo

Marsh saved

In the end, Mississauga council voted to pay the CVCA portion of the cost for the 57 acres. The province paid half the cost and the committee raised funds.

It took 16 years but Rattray Marsh Conservation Area officially opened on Oct. 5, 1975.

A large dedication stone at the Old Poplar Row entrance to Rattray Marsh pays tribute to Hussey — a plaque on the boulder reads “Because of her, Rattray marsh is ours.” Hussey wrote Rattray Marsh Then and Now detailing the history and natural history of the marsh and the struggle to save it. She died in 1984.

Soon the marsh will get a new historical plaque.

Dave Cook, vice chair of the city’s Heritage Advisory Committee, suggested the plaque this summer and the committee members approved.

The plaque would list the council members and citizens involved in the conservation as well as the history and images.

The plaque location and wording are not yet finalized.

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