A brief history
Devil's Punchbowl can be found just east of Highway 20 on Ridge Road in Stoney Creek, Ontario. It took millions of years and many glacial waters to create this natural wonder that drops approximately 108.25 feet.
Many people visit this site every year for the awesome view that can be had from the lookout point. The panoramic view includes such places as Hamilton Harbor, Lake Ontario, Skyway bridge, and Stoney Creek Castle to name a few. But how did this awe inspiring place get its name?
This is where the rumors abound. It is said that moonshiners set up their wares along the tree line near Ridge Road, and thirsty road workers would hike to the top of the escarpment with two gallon pails to get some cold water from the falls. But were both buckets truly filled with water when they returned? There are many that have their doubts. The moonshiners were thought to be doing the devil's work, and hence the name Devil's Punchbowl.
There are also rumors that because the waterfall and surrounding area was so beautiful, some felt it should be named after God. But because of the afore mentioned business dealings, and out of respect for God, it was named Devil's Punchbowl instead.
No matter how the name actually came about, the site is a wonder to behold. High atop the mountain brow, sitting at the edge of the escarpment is the lookout point which hosts a 50 foot high steel cross adorned with 106 lights to light up its edges. Why is it here? What purpose does it serve?
Way back, in approximately 1930, a very tall pine tree stood on a rough and rocky ledge just below the escarpment edge near Ridge Road. Each year this tree was decorated with a balance of red and green lights at Christmas time, then lit, to send forth the message of Christmas greeting to the surrounding neighborhoods. But sadly after many years, the tree began to show the effects of time and it began to sag as it was pulling away from the rocky ridge, so it was deemed unsafe to decorate it.
People had become rather attached to the idea of spreading Christmas spirit through the lighting of the tree. And something occurred to a trio of enthusiastic supporters from Ontario Hydro. Why not put up an experimental set of lights to see how it would be received?
With this in mind William Sinclair, Murray Hyslop and Bert Tyman went to work finding the best location to erect a wooden cross to share the message of "Good Will" with everyone in the surrounding area. The cross was positioned just west of the tree, and very near the edge of the escarpment. The cross would be lit during the Christmas and Easter holidays. For 5 years the wooden cross reigned on top of the hill. By 1966 time again began to take its toll. The wooden cross was falling apart.
An idea from the original trio of Ontario Hydro linesmen was spread through the general community looking for a permanent solution to this problem. They wanted to erect a steel cross that could stand the test of time and bring forth a reminder of the good will of God. With the support for the project spreading, things moved forward and a site just east of the punchbowl was selected as the permanent location for the cross.
A steel hydro tower measuring more than 50 feet tall that was no longer being used was brought over from Birch Ave in Hamilton, Ontario to form the base of the cross. With this acquisition, the cross project got underway. Many local companies and the surrounding communities threw in their money, supplies, and labor to further the cause, and help bring their dream to reality.
On Dec 18, 1966 the cross was dedicated and as night fell, the photo electric cells blazed to life and the cross shone out across the valley far and wide. In April of 1990 the Knights of Columbus donated the sum of $1,300 to cover the cost of lighting the cross each night. The cross now comes to life every night of the year to remind people of the "eternal values" and share the "good will of God" with one and all.
By Emily Lawrence
When evening comes and darkness falls
We see a ray of lights
That forms a cross upon the hill
It is a wonderous sight
It makes us think of another light
That shone on Christmas day
When a child was born in Bethlehem
To hear the angels say
"Peace on Earth, good will to men"
It keeps our heart aglow
To see the cross up on the hill
Its radiance to show
For years there have been legends circulating about Devil's Punchbowl.
It has been said that on dark moonless nights you can still see the fiery eyes of a phantom moonshiner carrying his pails of booze along ridge road.
It has also been said that a group of scouts were visiting Devil's Punchbowl one day. One of the scouts had brought along his dog. And as they were walking along the edge peering into the gorge, the hillside gave away and the boy and his dog fell to their deaths far below. The boy's father was grief struck and mourned for his only son. He felt the loss so deeply that he felt the need to share his grief with the world and he erected the cross in his memory.
Although Devil's Punchbowl is an awe inspiring site, many people visit here for other reasons. Super Dave Osborne used this site as a backdrop for his "atomic yoyo" trick in 1989. There have also been numerous suicides from various points surrounding the punchbowl reported in the Stoney Creek News over the years. In 1991 a 20 year old man apparently jumped to his death from the lookout point. And 5 years prior, a young woman leaped over the edge to her death and was later found by a group of school students out on a field trip. Somewhere around that time a young man hung himself from the railroad tracks that run near the base of the punchbowl. It seems that Devil's Punchbowl has been a focal point for many tragedies over the years.
A special thank you goes to the Hamilton Public Library Special Collections Department, Stoney Creek News, and John W. Pell.