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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part II: The County of York - Chapter VI

The Retort of the Ontario Agricultural Commission—Statistics Relating to the County of York.—Character of the Soii.— Water. Price of Farms.—Stumps.—Fences.—Farm Builings and Out-buildings.—Drainage.—Farm Machinery.—Fertilizers.—Uncleared Lands. — Acreage and Average Products. — Stock and Stock By-laws.—'Timber Lands.—Market Facilities.—Local Industries.—Mechanics, Farm Labourers and Domestics.

IN the Report of the Ontario Agricultural Commission, compiled and published under the auspices of the Ontario Government about three years since, is to be found a great mass of agricultural and other information respecting .the more important municipalities in this Province. The information collected therein with regard to the County of York is especially comprehensive and valuable, and includes statistical data relating to the soil, climate, topographical features, cultivable area and products, and the general progress and condition of husbandry. The various townships comprised within the County of York, as at present constituted, are represented as having been "entered and largely settled " between the years 1790 and 1815. "The first entered"—so runs the report—"was Markham, and the last Georgina. in the years named." One-third of the latter township is represented as being still unsettled, together with about two thousand acres in East Gwillimbury and one thousand in North Gwillimbury; but some progress has been made since the publication of the report, and the proportion of unsettled lands aie at the present day slightly under the figures therein given. In the remaining townships, we are informed, the process of settlement was completed in, on an average, a little more than 45+ years.

Under appropriate headings, we next find m the report the following useful information :—

Character of the Soil.

Heavy clay, clay loam, and sandy loam, are the predominating soils in this county. Heavy clay exists m the proportion of about twenty-one per cent with a depth of from eight to twenty-four inches, and resting principally on subsoils of clay and marl; clay loam, about thirty-eight per cent depth from eleven to fifteen inches, and resting principally or subsoils of clay and marl; sandy loam, about twenty-two per cent., depth from six to twelve inches, with subsoils of clay and marl; sand, about ten and a-hah our cent depthi not determinable, with subsoils of quicksand and gravel; gravelly, not appreciable; black loam, about eight and half per cent depth from two to eight feet, and resting on clay, sand and quicksand. Except in North Gwillimbury, which reports three thousand acres, there is no land in the county which is too stony or has rock too near the surface to be profitably cultivated. About seven per cent, is so hilly as to be objectionable for the purposes of cultivation, about eleven per cent, is bottom, seven and a-half per cent, is swampy, and rather less than two per cert, wet springy land. About sixty-eight per cent, of the area is reported as rolling and cultivable. About forty-four and a-half per cent, is reported first-class for agricultural purposes, thirty-three per cent, second-class, and the remainder third-class.


The county is reported well watered by creeks, springs and wells; also by the Don, Holland, Humber, Black, and Rouge Rivers; in the south by Lake Ontario, and in the north by Lake Simcoe, and many tributary streams. Water is obtained by digging, at depths varying from four to one hundred feet.

Price of Farms.

The Price of land depends wholly on locality, soil and buildings, and range from $25 to $100 per acre. The latter rate is exceptional, from $73 to $80 per acre may be taken as the average pnce of land within a radius of twenty miles of Toronto. Farms are leased at from $2.50 to $5.00 per acre.


About fifty-four per cent, of the cleared acreage is reported free from stumps. On the stumps remaining a large proportion are pine.


About sixty-nine per cent, of the farms are reported to be under first-class fences, consisting principally of cedar, pine and hemlock rails.

Farm Dwellings and Outbuildings.

About sixty-two per cent, of the farm dwellings are reported to be either of brick, stone, or first-class frame; the remainder are log, or of inferior frame. Of the outbuildings fifty-seven per cent, are reported first-class; the remainder are inferior.


About twelve and a-half per cent, of the farms are reported to have been drained, principally in King, Markham and York townships. Tile has been largely used in the latter township, and -in the others to a limited extent.

Farm Machinery.

About ninety-three per cent, of the farmers use improved machinery for seeding and harvesting.


There are larger quantities of artificial fertilizers employed in this county than in any other county in the Province—the average being forty-two per cent. Plaster and salt are used in the proportion of from one hundred pounds to one hundred and fifty pounds of the former, and three hundred pounds of the latter, on nearly all descriptions of crops—but plaster, principally, on clover and roots, and salt on cereals. Superphosphate is also employed to a small extent on roots.

Uncleared Lands.

About eighty-nine per cent, of the uncleared land is reported suitable for cultivation, if cleared.

Acreage and Average Pproducts.

The township area of York is 540,271½ acres; the cleared area is 392.5I3½. Of the latter, about 12½ per cent, is devoted to fall wheat, which yields, on an average (omiting East Gwillimbury, which does not in any case report the yield), about 20 bushels per acre; spring wheat, about 13 per cent, and 12½ bushels; barley, 11½. per cent, and 25½ bushels; oats, 12½ per cent, and 38½ bushels; rye (hardly any sown), from 15 to 20 bushels; peas, 7 per cent, and 19½ bushels; corn (hardly any grown), from 25 to 40 bushels; buckwheat (in Whitchurch only), 1 per cent, and 15 bushels; potatoes about 1½ per cent, and 103½ bushels; turnips, 1½ per cent, and 383 bushels; other root crops, about 1 per cent, and 457 bushels; hay, about 14 per cent, and 1½ tons. About 16 per cent, is devoted to pasture, and about 2 per cent, to orchards. In King 12½ per cent., in Markham about 9 per cent, and in Vaughan about 14 per cent, is put under summer fallow. The county is well adapted for stock raising, grain growing and dairying. A good deal of attention is being paid to the former in townships specially adapted for grazing and for the growth of clover. Fruit growing and market gardening are also largely followed, especially in Etobicoke and York townships, where are also some extensive nurseries.

Stock and Stock By-Laws.

The townships sustain 27,669 horned cattle, 20,230 horses, 27,984 sheep, and 14,388 hogs. The horses are draught and general-purpose, with Clydesdale blood (some fine thoroughbreds have been introduced, and the number is increasing); cattle—Durham, Ayrshire and Devon grades; sheep—Leicester, Cotswold and Southdown; and hogs—Berkshire, Suffolk and Essex. A great improvement has taken place of late years in all descriptions of farm stock.

Timber Lands.

About twenty-two and a-half per cent, of the area of York is still under timber, consisting of beech, maple, elm, basswood, pine, hemlock, cedar, tamarack and birch; used for building purposes, fencing and firewood.

Market Facilities.

The market facilities of this county are unexceptionable. Toronto, the principal market centre, is easily reached by road and railway. There are also good markets at Newmarket (which has just become a town—the only one in the county outside of Toronto), Sutton, Aurora, Stouffville, and King. Every township has one or more railways passing through it, or is within easy access to railways. Nearly all the farm produce of the county is consumed in Toronto, or is shipped thence to eastern and western markets.

Local Industries.

Omitting the City of Toronto, which has no municipal connection with the County of York, and which has large and varied manufactories, there are, in addition to other local industries dependent upon or providing a market for agricultural products, three flouring mills reported in Etobicoke; two cheese factories, two tanneries, two carding mills, seven saw mills and seven grist mills, in King; milling, farm implements, carriage and wagon and two cheese factories, in Markham; two agricultural implement factones in Vaughan; six grist, one woollen, and three paper mills and three tanneries, in York; and flouring, saw and planing mills, a tannery, a woollen mill, a hat manufactory, and organ, carriage and furniture manufactories in Newmarket. Some lumbering is still carried on in the county. All which matters are more particularly treated of in the respective townships- to which they severally belong.

Mechanics, Farm Labourers and Domestics.

There is no special demand for farm labourers, but good hands can always secure work in summer at high wages, and domestics all the year round. The demand for mechanics is not great.

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