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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part III: Township of Markham

MARKHAM is situated east of Yonge Street, which forms the boundary between it and Vaughan, and north of the Township of Scarborough. It comprises 67,578 acres. It was first settled about the year 1790, some years before any survey was made. It was partially surveyed in 1794, being the third township in the county marked out. In laying out the town-ship; Yonge Street was made the base line. There are ten concessions fronting on Yonge Street, each comprising thirty-five lots, the township being almost a square, excepting the eastern line, which is also the boundary of the county, and does not run parallel with the concession lines. Some of the lots in the 10th concession are consequently deficient in area.

The general character of the soil of the township is argillaceous. About one-fifth of the area lying in the north of the township is heavy clay. A belt of sandy loam, being about one-tenth of the acreage, runs through the centre, and the southern section, being about three-fifths of the whole, is clay loam. Black loam tracts are interspersed in the fiats of the Dun and Rouge Rivers, amounting to one-tenth of the area. The soil is principally undulating in character, and nearly all cultivable, four-fifths of it being considered first-class land, the average price of which is $80 per acre. Second class land is valued at $60. Water is obtainable, by digging, at an average depth of thirty feet.

Though a few scattered pioneers had here and there taken up land before that date, there was no systematic attempt at settlement until 1794, when a number of Germans came over from the United States, under the leaderbhip of William Berczy. Governor Sirncoe, believing that many U. E. Loyalist families still remained in the United States who would be glad of an opportunity to settle in Canada if encouraged to do so by offers of land, held out inducements which were responded to by a good many, who were not actuated so much by the motive of establishing themselves under the rule of King George, as of securing land grants. Among these were sixty-four families of Germans who had but recently arrived from Hamburg, having been brought out by agents to locate on | Captain Williamson's Demesne," or, as it was also called, the Pulteney Settlement, in New York State. Here they would have been in the position of tenants, under the "patroon" system then prevailing ii New York. The prospect of owning their own farms in Canada was more inviting, and, in the face of great difficulties, they made their way to Markham. There were then no roads and no stores; supplies had to be procured from the south of the lakes, some few articles could be got at Niagara, but nearly everything required in the way of tools, farm implements and provisions had to be brought from the settlements in New York State. York was then a mere hamlet. Yonge Street did not exist, though the line had been marked out. But Berczy, the leader of the expedition, was a man of indomitable energy and boundless resource. He had, during his residence in the United States, constructed a wagon road all the way from Philadelphia to Lake Ontario, and under his direction the immigrants cut their way through the unbroken forest, and made a wagon track from York to the southern portion of Markham, which, winding in and out among the trees, marked the beginning of Yonge Street. Over this primitive road they set out on the journey from York with their families and household effects. Their wagons were ingeniously contrived so that they could be used as boats on an emergency. Made of closely fitting boards with the seams caulked, the body of the vehicle being removed from the carriage could be floated across small bodies of water, carrying a considerable load. Thus they crossed the Don and other streams in their journey. Where the banks were steep they lowered their wagons down the declivity by ropes passed round the trunks of saplings, and pulled them up on the opposite side in a similar .manner. They settled on the banks of the Rouge, sometimes known as the Nen River, which they at first supposed to be a tributary of the Don, but on following it to its outlet they discovered that instead of leading to York it entered the lake nearly twenty miles to the eastward. This route afforded them easier access to the front than Yonge Street in its primitive condition, and for many years it was the one mainly in use.

The first saw and grist mills in York County were built by William Berczy in the early days of settlement. They were situated on the River Rouge, on lot No. 4, if# the 3rd concession, and were known as the German Mills. The Gazetteer, in 1799, in referring to the Township of Markham, mentions it as having "good mills, and a thriving settlement of Germans."

It may be mentioned here that the two first white children born in the township were John Stivers and Henry Elson, whose parents came in with Berczy's party.

Berczy became greatly embarrassed in his circumstances, and was discouraged by the treatment he met with at the hands of the Government. The pledges under which the project of settlement was put into execution were not fulfilled as he had expected, and in 1799 he withdrew from the enterprise, and took up his residence in Montreal. His losses in connection with the settlement of Markham were stated at £30,000. Ultimately he returned to the States, and died in New York in 1813. In the year 1805 the mills were advertised in the Gazette for sale. They were purchased by Captain Nolan, of the 70th Regiment, which was then stationed in Canada, but his venture was not successful. In the Gazette of March 19th, 1818, the following advertisement appears: "Notice—The German Mill and Distillery are now in operation. Tor the proprietors, Alexander Patterson, Clerk." The mills were again offered for sale ten years subsequently. The U. E. Loyalist of April 5th, 1828, contains the following advertisement relating to them: "For Sale or to be Leased—All or any part of the property known and described as Nolanville or German Mills, in the 3rd concession of the Township of Markham, consisting of 400 acres of land; upwards of fifty under good fences and improvements, with a good dwelling-house, barn, stable, saw-mill, grist-mill, distillery, brew-house, malt-house, and several other out-buildings. The above premises will be disposed of.. either the whole or in part, by application to the subscriber, William Allan, York, January 26th, 1828. The premises can be viewed at any time by applying to Mr. John Duggan, residing there." The Mills formed for long the nucleus of early settlement, the road lying between this point and Yonge Street being a well-travelled thoroughfare.

Another early pioneer in the industries of Markham was Nicholas Miller, who built the first mill on the Humber. In 1794, 'Mr. Milk: settled on lot 33, concession 1, of Markham, and built a small grist mill on a tributary of the Don. About the year 1828, Penjamin Fish put up a distillery near the township line between York and Markham, on the middle branch of the Don. In 1830, he built a saw-mill at this point and in 1848 a flour mill, which in 1850 he leased to David McDougal. Some years afterwards the flour mill was burned, but it was subsequently rebunt by Mr. Fish. In i860 he built a distillery. The property was purchased by John Parsons in 1866. The distillery business was discontinued, and the flour mill remodelled in accordance with modern improvements. On lot 26, in the 1st concession, Rowland Purr built a saw-mill in 1825, which became the property of the late John Arnold, one of the .pioneers of the township, who lived to the age of eighty-six. It was burned in 1830, but soon afterwards rebuilt, and was in operation until 1870. The Pomona Mills, on lot 30, in the 1st concession, now the Village of Thornhill, occupy the site -which was first utilized by the erection of a saw-mill, in 1820, by Allan MacNab. He afterwards added a grist mill, and after some years sold out to Daniel Brooke, returning to Hamilton to resume his original profession of the law. He subsequently attained a leading position in public life, as Sir Allan MacNab. The mills were rented to George Playter for a term of years. Mr. Playter was well known as the proprietor of a stage line of four-horse coaches, running between York and Holland Landing. After passing through several hands the property was acquired by John Brunskill, who rebuilt the mills on a larger scale, and christened them the Pomona Mills, He ran the mills for twenty-five years. After his death they became the property of Mrs. Harris, and were managed by John Ramsden, who for some time was head miller under Mr. Brunskill.

On the same lot a carding and fulling mill was built by Rowland Burr, in 1839, and worked by Benjamin Williams for some years. On the purchase of the property by Mr. Brunskill, Mr. Williams established the carding mill in a large frame building, which was afterwards burned. Three breweries have been in existence in this neighbourhood, but they have all been short-lived.

A distillery was built on lot 33, on a creek north of Pomona Mills, about 1828, and worked by William Cruikshank for about fifteen years. On the north half of the same lot John Lyons built a distillery, in 1810, and ran it for a long time. To the northward again, on the same creek, Nicholas Miller built the first flour mill in the township, in the year 1793. It was an old-fashioned coffee mill, on a very small scale. Further up the stream, in the year 1856, John Langstaff built a steam saw-mill, shingle factory, and planing mills, which he worked for about twenty years. In 1866 he put up a factory for the manufacture of pails and other wooden-ware driven by steam power.

On the most easterly branch of the Don in the township, in addition to the German Mills, and further to the south, a saw-mill was erected and run by Mr. Hamell, in 1839, on lot 1, concession 3. It was burned down about ten years later. A short distance above the German Mills Mr. Bournan built a carding and fulling mill, in 1832, which, together with the other mills and factories in the neighbourhood, was abandoned in 1835, on account of the damage done by a flood.

Among other mills on this stream were a saw-mill put up on lot 7, concession 2, by Benjamin Fish, about the year 1825; a carding and fulling mill, built in the same year by Benjamin Hoshel, on lot 11, in the same concession; a grist mill, erected by Thomas Shaw in 1848, and burned down almost as soon as completed; a pail factory, put up by John Arnos, and also consumed, and a grist mill, erected on the site of the latter, also by John Amos, and afterwards abandoned when the water-power gave out.

Prominent among the early settlers of Markham were several of the French emigres who obtained grants of land in the Oak Ridges region. Those who obtained patents in this township included Rene Augustin, Cornte de Chalus, Jean Louis, Vicomte de Chains, the Comte de Puisaye, Ouetton St. George, and Ambroise de Farcy. The Comte and Vicomte de Chalus derived their titld from the Castle of Chalus, in Normandy, where Richard Coeur de Lion met his death. The Vicomte had been a Major-General in the Royal army. Ambroise de Farcy bore the rank of General. The most notable of these exiles, however, was the Comte de Puisaye. "This man," remarks Laniartine, speaking of him in his "History of the Girondists," "was at once an orator, a diplomatist and a soldier—a character eminently adapted for civil war, which produces more adventurers than heroes.' And Thiers, in his "History of the French Revolution," observes of Puisaye that "with great intelligence and extraordinary skill in uniting the elements of a party, he confirmed extreme activity of body and mind, and vast ambition." In 1803 Puisaye, who took a conspicuous part in the futile loyalist struggle against the convention, published, in London, a work comprising five octavo volumes of Memoirs in justification of his course. He died near London, England, in 1821. For a time one of the settlements in the Oak Ridges bore the name of "Puisaye's town." The great majority of the emigres were satisfied with a very brief experience of life in the Canadian backwoods, for which they were not at all fitted, and returned to Europe; but a few remained, and some of their descendants are still in the country.

The following is a list of the early patentees of the township, arranged according to the years in which they received their titles:—

1796—John Lyons, Nicholas Miller, Thomas Kinnear.

1797—Samuel Cozens.

1798—Thomas Lyons, John Dexter.

1799—James B. Macauley, John Simcoe Macauley.

1800—Samuel Ewison.

1801 -Ira Bentley, Elizabeth Shiffe, William Johnson, Martin Holder, Samuel Tiphe, Christian Long, James Weiant, Elijah Bentley, Timothy Street, Henry Green, Joshua Millar, jun'r, Lieut. Lunout, Jas. McGregor, James Brown, James Osborne, James Hamilton, Levi Collier, George Boils, Peter DeGeer, Russell Olmstead, Psaac Westcook, Rachel Graham, Oliver Prentice, William Jarvis, Ira Beutley.

1802—Anthony Hollingshead, Baker Munshaw, Hugh Shaw, Andrew Davidson, John Jumon, William Bentley, Jonathan Kuscie, Zachariah Gallway, Nancy Eodus, John Warts, Abraham Gordin, Christian Fred. Krister.

1803—John Leslie, Elizabeth Dennis, Abner Miles, Joshua Sly, John Debrug, Melc.hier Quantz, John Ulsom Francis Schmidt, John George Schultze, Henry Liedo, Henry Schell, Frederick Schell, Mark Rumohr, John Gottlieb Wycheer, Jacob Botger, Peter Stolus, John Cook, Abraham Ortli, Henry Boner, Frederick Ubrick, Jacob de Long, John Klandennin;;, sen'r, Isaac Davis, Alex. Legg, John Macbeath, Abraham Gordin.

1804—Samuel Gardiner, Oliver Butt, Wm. Smith, John Gray, John Schmeltzer, William Berczy, Robert Isaac de Gray, Charles II. Vogel, Ann Kohmann, John Boye, William Weekes, John Bakus, Frederick Hederick, Abraham van Horn, John Haacke, Peter Millar, Elizabeth Fisher, Anna Margaretha Pingel, John Rumohr, George Pingel, John Nicholas Stepens, Samuel Nash, Juhn Campbell, Elisha Dexter, Mar)7 Mclntyre, Colin Drummond, John Hamilton, John Luman.

1805—Samuel Osborn, Thomas Stovel, Powler Arnold, Henry Tebuor, John Arnold, Allhright Spring, Jacob Millar, John Peter Lindeman, James Harrison, William Marsh, sen'r, Samuel Mare, William Long, James Far*. John Button, Philip Weedaman, Joshua Miller, sen'r, John Farr, Andrew Cluhin, Christian Snckley.

1806—Rene Augustin Comte de Chains, Le Chevalier de Marscal, Quetton St. George, John Furon, Ambroise de Farcy, Daniel Cousins, Nathan Terry, John McGill, Nero Fierheller, Colin Drummond, John FeightneT, John Williams, Margaret Pomeroy.

1807—John Pickard, Michael Franchard, Jean Louis Vicomte de Chalus, Lieut.-Col. Augustine Bolton, Neil P. Holm, Peter Pinay, Daniel Sulfer, Anna Overhalt, Peter Anderson, Mary Hollinshead, John Henry Burkinester, Mark Schell, Mary Gray, Norman Millikeu, John P Pingel, John Edgell.

1808—Stilwell Wilson, John Gretman, Nicholas Stover, Peter Ilaldtz, John Wm. Mischultz, Samuel Bentley, Daniel Merrick, John Philip Eck-hardt, Robert Huisborn, George Poet, Frederick Kapke, Julian le Pugle.

1809—John Charles Kdler, Cornelius van Horn, Cornelius Van-ostrand, Philip Beck, William Marr, Mary Malatt, Christopher Hovell.

1810—John Button, John Street, Daniel Furon.

1811—Samuel Mercer, Christian Schroder, Jacob Misener, Watson Playter, Andrew Thompson, Henry Windeeker.

1813—John Henry Langhurst, James Mustard, Samuel Reynolds.

1815—John Sparhain, John Kennedy, Reuben Bentz, Matthias Cline, Jessie Haley, Philip Long.

1816—Peter Godfrey, John Walden Miles, John George Munich, John Stann, John Englehardt Helmke, Wm. Carpenter, Joseph Moer, Leonard Caster.

1817—John Farheller, James Stimort, WiLam Hoggner, Samuel Whitesides, William B. Caldwell, Edward McMahon, Henry Keysinger, George Cutler.

1818—George Backendahl, Francis Schmid.

1819—Nicholas Hagerinan, Absalom Summers.

1820—John Daniel, Frederick Bush.

1821—Polly Marr, Juhn Marr.

1822—Jacob Kowns.

1824—Christian Whidnear.

1825—John Long.

1827—Joachim Lunen.

1829—Joseph Barris.

1830—Philip Bartholomew.

1832—Daniel Tipp.

1833—Christian Reesor, Christopher Vanalen.

1837—John Reesor, jun'r.

W. H. Smith, in his "Canada, Past, Present, and Future," refers to Markham as "long noted for the advanced state of its settlement and agriculture." He states that in 1842 it contained 5,698 inhabitants, and in 1845 there were eleven grist and twenty-four saw-mills in the township. In 1850 the population had increased to 6,868, and there were thirteen grist and twenty-seven saw-mills. The crop of 1849 produced 150,000 bushels of wheat, 11,000 bushels of barley, 7.000 bushels of rye, 145,000 bushels of oats, 45,000 bushels of peas, 55,000 bushels of potatoes, 3,000 bushels of turnips, and 3,000 tons of hay. Education was also well advanced about this period. In 1847 Markham had twenty-seven Common Schools m operation—a larger number than were to be found in any other township in the Home District.

The total production of the principal agricultural staples in 1881 was as follows:—110,050 bushels of wheat, 199,181 bushels of barley, 271,851 bushels of oats, 55,954 bushels of peas and beans, 10,280 bushels of corn, 89,671 bushels of potatoes, 122,312 bushels of turnips, 118,397 bushels of other root crops, and 10,589 tons of hay.

The report of the Ontano Agricultural Commission, issued in 1881, states that 20 per cent, of the acreage of the township is devoted to wheat growing, 15 per cent, to barley, 15 per cent, to oats, 8 per cent, to peas, 15 per cent, to hay, 1 per cent, to turnips, and 2 per cent, each to corn, potatoes and other root crops, 10 per cent, is in pasture land, and 2 per cent, in orchard. The average yield of the leading products per acre is as follows:—Fall wheat, 25 bushels; spring wheat, 15 bushels; barley, 30 bushels; oats, 50 bushels ; peas, 25 bushels ; corn, 40 bushels ; potatoes, 120 bushels; turnips, 500 bushels; other root crops, 600 bushels, and hay, tons. The varieties of stock most extensively raised in the township are Clydesdale horses, Durham cattle, Cotswold sheep, and Berkshire hogs. Imported stock has been largely introduced. The number m 1881 were— .cattle, 3,665; horses, 2,829; sheep, 4,407, and hogs, 1,843.

The Dominion census for 1871 gave the population as 8,152. In 1881 this had fallen to 6,375, the decrease being partly due to a diminution in area owing to the incorporation as separate municipalities of the villages of Markham, Stouffville and Richmond Hill, the first of which lies entirely and the two latter partially within the township lines. Of the population of Markham 1,836 are of German origin, and 2,439 of English extraction. The native Canadians number 5.197. There are 850 occupiers of land, of whom 567 are also owners. The total area in occupation is 66,475 acres, 56.297 acres being improved ; 46,732 acres are devoted to tillage, 7,800 to pasture and 1,765 to gardens and orchards. About 10 per cent, of the area of the township is still in timber, principally beech, maple and basswood, with a few pine in some parts.

The municipal records of the township show that in 1850 Amos Wright was reeve, and David Reesor deputy-reeve. The latter became reeve the following year. He was succeeded in 1852 by George P. Dickson. Henry Miller held the position during the years 1853-5. R. Reesor became reeve in 1856 and retained the office for two years. In 1858 W. Button was elected and the next year R. Reesor again filled the chair. In i860 the reeveship fell to David Reesor, and George Eakin was appointed township clerk and treasurer, a placc which he continued to fill until 1874 when he attained his present position as county clerk. In 1861 W. M. Button was chosen reeve and continued in office for three years. In 1864-5 John Bowman was elected to the reeveship, being succeeded in 1866 by W . M. Button. John Bowman again occupied the for a year. Then James Robinson held the position for the period 1868-72. William Eakin became reeve in 1873, and in 1874 Jarnes Robinson was again elected and retained the position for another period of several years. The township officials for 1884 are: David James, Thornhill, reeve; Robert Bruce, Gormley, first deputy-reeve; F. K. Reesor, Box Grove, second deputy-reeve; A. Forster, Markham, third deputy-reeve; William Lundy, councillor, and John Stephenson, Unionville, township clerk and treasurer. Mr. Stephenson was appointed clerk in 1874, on the resignation of Mr. Eakin.

About a mile and a-half north of the southern limit of the township on Yonge Street, partly in Markham and partly in Yaughan, is the Village of Thoinhill. At this point, a short distance north of the old road to the German Mills, another of the numerous tributaries of the Don crosses Yonge Street, flowing between lofty banks. Here mills and manufactories were established as the country became settled. Thornhill was so named in honour of Mr. B. Thorne, who arrived here from Dorsetshire, England, in 1820, and built a residence on the bluff overlooking the Don. The earl}' settlers of Thornhill were principally English. Among the pioneers was Mr. Parsons, another emigrant from Dorsetshire, who was associated with Air. Thorne in several business enterprises. An English church was organized in Thornhill at an early date. One of the first incumbents was Rev. Isaac Fidler, who attained some celebrity as the author of a book entitled " Observations on Professions, Literature, Manners, and Emigration in the United States and Canada." It was a good deal in the style of Mrs. Trollope, Capt. Basil Hall, and other early British critics of American democracy. Rev. Geo. Mortimer subsequently occupied the pastorate. He was a man of earnest spirituality and energetic temperament ; though not physically strong, his labours for the advancement of the cause of religion were unremitting. He died suddenly in the midst of the active duties of his sacred calling. Another incumbent of this church was Rev. Dominic E. Blake, brother of Mr. Chancellor Blake, and uncle of Hon. Edward Blake, at present leader of the Reform party in the Dominion Parliament. Rev. Mr. Blake came to Canada "n 1832, from the County Mayo, Ireland. Like most of his family he was a man of unusual menial calibre. His death, which was sudden and unexpected, took place ill 1859. His successor was Rev. E. H. Dewar, author of a work published at Oxford, ;n 1844, entitled "German Protestantism and the Right of Private Judgment in the Interpretation of Holy Scripture." His thorough acquaintance with the condition of religious faith in Germany was gained while residing at Hamburg, as chaplain to the British residents in that city. His death occurred at Thornhill in 1862. It will be seen that the English congregation of Thornhill was exceptionally favoured for a village community in the high intellectual standing of its successive clergymen.

An advertisement published in the Gazette of May 16th, 1898, shows that at that time salmon were caught in large numbers in the Don at this point. The announcement offers for sale by auction a valuable farm, situated on Yonge Street, about twelve miles from York, and after expatiating on the richness of the soil and other inducements, adds, "above all it affords an excellent salmon fishery, large enough to support a number of families, which must be conceived a great advantage in this infant country." The present population of Thornhill is upwards of seven hundred.

Three or four miles north of Thornhill, on Yonge Street, is the incorporated village of Richmond Hill, which is partly in the township limits. It will form the subject of a separate notice. A short distance to the north of Richmond Hill in Markham was the residence of Colonel Moodie, who was shot at Montgomery's tavern in the troubles of 1837. Colonel Moodie was a retired officer of the regular army, having been Lieut.-Colonel of the 104th regiment, and having seen service in the Peninsular war and the struggle with the United States in 1812-13.

The Toronto and Nipissing Railway enters the township from the south in the fifth concession, and proceeds in a northerly direction to Unionville, then making a considerable easterly detour to the village of Markham, and from that point it runs north-easterly to Stouffville, in the north-east angle of the township. The latter village is partly embraced within the limits of Whitchurch, and, with Markham Village, will be dealt with separately.

Unionville is the place of meeting of the Township Council, and is pleasantly and picturesquely situated about two miles and a half west of Markham village, on the River Rouge. The population numbers about three hundred. Smith's "Canada," published in 1851, states that it then contained "about two hundred inhabitants, a grist mill with three run of stones and a saw mill, with two churches, Congregational and Wesleyan Methodist." It is a thriving and prosperous community.

Buttonvide is about two and a-half miles west of Unionville. It was named after Major John Button, who came to Canada in 1799, and after a residence of two years at Niagara settled in Markham. He raised and commanded a troop of cavalry, known as the "York Light Dragoons," which did good service in 1812. His sons, William and Francis, were members of the body, the former being lieutenant. In 1837, the family were again to the front, John Button as major and Francis as captain. Col. W. M. Button, at one time reeve of the township, is the son of the latter.

The smaller unincorporated villages of the township include Gormley's Corners, Almira, Victoria Square, Hcadford, Cashel, Milnesville and Mongolia, in the northern portion, and Dollar, Brown's Corners, Hagerman's Corners, Milliken, Box Grove, Cedar Grove and Belford, to the south.

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