Pond 1 Pond 2
The Township of Gosfield North had purchused 15 gravel pits to be used for the resurfacing of the highways in the township. 7 of them were between North Ridge and Cottam. They soon became depleted of gravel and the government stopped providing funding for all of them by 1935.
The two acre parcel of gravel land in Cottam, originally owned by James White and Gordon Neville, had been purchased in the late 1890's. Oxen and horses were used to haul the gravel. The empty holes left from the gravel pits became eyesores in the community as they soon started filling with garbage. Council received a numerous complaints regarding the condition of these properties along with the concern for the safety of children because at times the water was deep enough for a child to drown. Children were drawn to the water and tried to ride on rafts and would even swim in them.
There was a positive outcome for one of those gravel pits.
Stuart Mossop had a vision so he purchased the property at a tax sale about 1930 and began his private project. As he owned Mossop's Garage and it was the time of the "Great Depression", there was money owed to him by many locals for car repairs, gas and oil. These people didn't have the money to pay him so Mr. Mossop gave them the opportunity to work off the debts by clearing the garbage from the old Cottam Gravel Pit.
It was during this time that it became known as "Mystery Hollow" because the Cottam residents wondered what Stuart Mossop was going to do with it.
Only 7 years later, the "Mystery Hollow" project made the news in a 1937 Article in the Windsor Star -
"Mystery Hollow used to be the town's junk yard, situated on the main street and cluttered up with decaying automobile bodies, old boilers, broken bottles and the like. It was an eyesore to the citizens of the community and drew gasps of horror from tourists who couldn't miss it as they passed through the town."
"Stuart Mossop didn't like it either. He took an extra long look one day and decided to do something about it. So he bought Mystery Hollow at a tax sale and decided to see what he could do. The next time you drive through Cottam, take a look and see what Stuart Mossop did."
The stone lined pond in the centre was considered the crowning point of this beautiful park. The stones had been hauled by Mr. Mossop and his employees. Each time they went out with the wrecking truck they brought back a load of stone. He also stocked the pond with fish. The park was a place enjoyed by all ever since. Skating in the winter, picnics in the summer, and the many hours young boys spent fishing from early spring until the water froze.
Mr. Mossop and members of the community also built the stone and brick building with a stone fireplace at the edge of the pond as a skaters change room.
Mystery Hollow became a tribute to a man who gave to his community even during the darkest days of the Depression.
William Stuart Mossop had married Mildred Anne Trimble in 1917. In 1921 he built Mossop's Garage beside the Town Hall, In 1922 he had also purchased and remodelled the Orange Hall for the benefit of the community.
He was a past master of the South Woodslee IOOF Lodge, Past Master of the Orange Lodge, a Charter member of the Cottam Rotary, and a member of the Gavel Club.
He died on January 1st 1945, at the age of 51 following surgery performed at Grace Hospital. The funeral service held at the Trinity Anglican Church in Cottam. "The many floral tributes and the large number who turned out to pay their last respects, in spite of the road condtions, taxed the Church to capacity."
After his death the Cottam Rotary took on the job of supervising and maintaining the park. They were able to install lights by December 1946 so the community could enjoy evenings of skating on what then was known as the Stuart Mossop Park.
In 1949 the Cottam Rotary purchased the property from Mrs. Mildred Mossop. whose wish it was that her husband's plans be carried on and "the property be made into a Community Park and playground for children of the community and a place that tourists can stop for a rest, in memory of her late husband".
The Rotary installed swings and teeter totters and picnic tables. Plans in 1949 had also been to turn part of the pond into a wading pool and build a bowling green. In 1961 the park obtained lake water service in order to keep water at a suitable level in the summer and flood the ice in the winter.
In February 1961 new lighting was installed and what had been called the Stuart Mossop Park for 25 years was now called the Cottam Rotary Memorial Park, later shorted to Cottam Rotary Park,
...but more commonly known to locals as "The Cottam Pond".
Information obtained from the Gosfield North Centennial History - "A tale of the gravel pits" by Evelyn Garrett; The Essex Free Press Archives,
Photos from Kingsville 1790-2000 A Stroll Through Time; and the University of Windsor Archives.