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


THERE are three townships bearing the name of Gwillimbury— East and North Gwillimbury in the Count)' of York, and West Gwillimbury in Simcoe. They were named after the wife of Governor Simcoe, whose family name was Gwilmn, and whose father, at that time aide-de-camp to Gen. Wolfe, was killed at the taking of Quebec. She was a lady of marked intellectual capacity and strong artistic tastes, and long survived her husband, as her death did not take place until 1850. East Gwillimbury comprises about 58,000 acres, and is bounded on the north by North Gwillimbury, on the east by Scott, on the south by Whitchurch, and on the west by King. It has nine concessions east of Yonge Street and one west of it, the latter originally forming part of West Gwillimbury. Two of the concessions are defective.

The first settlements in the township were made in 1798, two years before the commencement of the work of survey by Surveyor Stegmann. Other surveyors who from time to time continued the laying out of the. township were Hambly, Wilmot, Kount, Chewett, Eindsay, Haller and Gossage, the latter completing the survey in 1865.

The first patentees are given by the "Domesday Book" as follows:—

1800— Elijah Welch.

1801—John Weddle, Ebenezer Weller, Elijah Robinson.

1802—Reuben Richardson, Joseph Hill, Samuel Ilaight, A. Howard, Daniel Travis, Joel Bigelow, William Anderson.

1803—Josiah Coolige, George Cutter, Edward Taylor Collins, John Eves, George Holinshead, Levy Vanbleck, Thomas Young, Abijah Mack, Esther Frisbee, Jeremiah Moore, jun'r, Jacob Reer, jun'r.

1804 —Nehemiah Hide, Theodore Wine, Nathan Parr, Joseph Pearson, Timothy Rogers, Frederick Harr ck, Jacob Johnson. Adam Eepard, W lliam Iluft, Jacob Lepard, Jesse Bennett, Zebulon Ketchum, Ephraim Talbut.

1805—Obadiah Griffin, Bela Clark, Obadiah Hutt, Elisha Mitchell. Bernard Velie, John Dunham, Henry Proctor, Isaac K-tly, David Willson, Joseph Sutherland, John Hodgson, Peter H. Vanderburgh, Jeremiah Traviss, Philip Chinger, Job Cogsele, Jesse Ketchum, Peter Emery, Richard Banks, Thomas Price, Christian Hershev, jun'r, Henry Huber, Frederick Asbbough, Joseph Dobinger, Aveng Stiles, Augustus House, George Buck, Philip Buck, Anna Connor, Catharine Rouset, Le Chevalier de Marseul, Nathaniel Gager, Bethnel Huntley, William Phillips, Daniel Wilson, Stephen Howard.

1806—Catherine Smith, Mary Parry, Elizabeth Eaughlan, Andrew McGlasham, Mary Adams, Catherine Pallit, Mary Kaeen, Catherine Rood, Elsy Sherrard, Nancy Barnum, Rebecca Chysdale, Ann Hoiks, Elizabeth Hariiss, Sarah Storer, Jane Huffman, Elizabeth Beech, Rachel Woolc.utal, Nancy Black, Samuel Pickel, Catherine Elsworth, Phoebe Cornwall, D. Cox, Mary Robben,. James McCaul, Robert Nichol, James Pettibon, Charles Hill, Benjamin Mosley, Elijah Howley.

1807—Peter Anderson, Conrad Gostman, Calvin Washburne, Henry Eepard, John Johnson, William Coldwell, Hermanus House, Lewis House, John Hall, James Kinsey, Peter Anderson.

1808—Sarah Grant, Ann Tiffany, John Secord, jun'r, Benjamin Dunham, Henry Zufelt, J. Osburn, Mary Brown, Rachel Brown, George Bond, Nathaniel Dermis, Catherine Bisenbery, John Benedick.

1809—Samuel Dean, Humphrey Finch, Jean Louis Vicomte de Chains.

1811—Amos West.

1812—Nathaniel Sherrard, Gideon Veron, Eunice Scorils, Thomas Selby.

1813—John Titus.

1816—Peter Robinson.

1817—Joseph Robinson, Edward Foreman.

1822—Daniel Cox.

1828—R. McCarthy, George McCarthy.

1829—Moses Knight.

1831—-John Doan, sen'r, Ebenezer Doan.

1833—John Weddel, Samuel Hughes, Samuel Johnson.

1835—John McKay, Obadiah Rogers.

1840--J. B. Spragge, Benjamin O. N. Lyster.

1842—Texty Weller.

1843—Thomas Leighton, William II. Wilson.

1845—John Bromer.

1846—Charles Kinsey, William Langton, George Heron.

1847—William Pegg.

1848—William Elmer.

1849—William Hutall, Henry Shuttle worth, John Snarr.

1850—William Hawkins, Robert Culverwell.

1855—H. Proctor, T. J. O'Neill.

The soil of East Gwillimbury is generally of a light character, about two-fifths of the total area being sandy loam, one-fifth sand, three-tenths clay loam, and one-tenth heavy clay. Considerably more than half is rolling land, about 2,000 acres being so hilly as to render cultivation difficult or impossible. About 11,600 acres, principally in the north-east of the township, near the mouth of the Holland River, are low-lying, a good deal of it being swamp land. The amount of first-class land is smaller in proportion to the total area than in any other township except King, one quarter being classed under this head. An equal proportion ranks as second-class, another quarter as third-class, the remainder being considered practically useless for agricultural purposes. The price of land is about $60 per acre for first-class, $40 for second-class, and for third-class land. Two-thirds of the farms are under first-class fences, cedar being the material principally used. About one-third of the dwelling-houses are first-class in construction and materials ; two-thirds being inferior. The outbuildings are about equally divided in point of quality. Under-drainage is not generally practised. About 26.000 acres is still wooded, the leading kinds of timber being maple, hemlock, tamarack, birch, pine and beech. The proportion of the acreage under cultivation devoted to the leading crops is as follows:—Pall wheat, one-tenth; spring wheat, one-tenth; barley, one-twentieth; oats, one-fifth; peas, one-tenth; potatoes, one-hundredth; turnips, one-fiftieth; hay, three-twentieths; pasture lands, three-twentieths and orchards one-half of one per cent.

The agricultural produce of East Gwillimbury in 1849, when the township was somewhat less n area than at present, amounted in round numbers to 50,000 bushels of wheat, 40,000 bushels of oats, 7.4.000 bushels of peas, 34,000 bushels of potatoes, and 27,000 bushels of turnips. According to the Dominion census of 1881, the yield was 100,614 bushels of wheat, 42,111 bushels of barley, 147,537 bushels of oats, 46,394 bushels of peas and beans, 57,708 bushels of potatoes, 218,383 bushels of turnips, 20,434 bushels of other roots and 4,955 tons of hay. The number of live stock in the township in 1881 comprised 2,575 head of cattle, 1,620 horses, 3,006 sheep and 1,103 hogs. The thoroughbred stock wras about one-fifth of the whole.

The population of East Gwillimbury in 1842 was 1,796, which in 1850 had increased to 2,616. In 1871 it was 3.934, and increased during the decade, 1871-81,104,143. The number of native Canadians was 3,390. It is one of the most purely agricultural communities of any in the county— no fewer than Goo being occupiers of land. Of these 385 are also proprietors. The total area of land in occupation is 50,996 acres, of which 36,154 are improved and 29,585 under tillage, 5,773 acres being pasture land, and 796 in gardens and orchards.

According to "the first book of the proceedings of the township commissioners, agreeable to an Act of the Provincial Legislature passed 1835," which is still m preservation, the township officers for 1836 were:— Samuel Hughes, John Ii. Wilson and John Fletcher, commissioners, and John Weddel, town clerk; J. H. Wilson and William Nelson were two of the commissioners the following year. Tn 1838 R. F. Nelson was chairman of the board of commissioners, which comprised Israel Lundy, Findlay McFarlane and John Fletcher; Jarnes Aylwood was assessor, and John H. Wilson, collector. In 1839 William Nelson was chairman, the board being composed of William Sloan, Peter Rowen, and William G. Dunham, Smith Moses Knight as assessor, and John Reed, collector; William Nelson retained the chairmanship of the board for the two following years. In 1842 Hugh D. Wilson and William Nelson were elected district councillors; Wm. Reed, sen'r, being chairman of the township commissioners. In 1843 chairmanship reverted to Mr. William Nelson, who held it until 1849, when Moses Knight held the office for one year. In 1850, when the new system came into operation, Mr. Nelson was the first reeve of the township; Moses Knight and Samuel Harrold were the district commissioners for some years previous to the change. John Weddel continued in the office of town clerk from 1836 until 1846, when he was succeeded by H. D. Wilson, who in 1850 gave place to William Moore. In that year the members of the Council consisted of William Nelson, reeve, John II. Wilson, Thomas Brothers, Jesse Doan and William Millar. In 1851 Joshua Harribon was reeve; councillors, R. T. Wilson, Moses Knight, Henry D. Stiles and Charles Traviss. In 1852 R. J. Wilson was chosen reeve, and Charles Traviss, deputy-reeve ; Henry I). Stiles was elected reeve in 1853, and held .the position continuously for six years. The deputy-reeves during his term were: J. R. Harrison, Moses Knight, R. Powell and \\ . I). McLeod, the latter of whom succeeded to the reeveship in 1859, retaining it for two years. James Panham was chosen reeve in 1861, and continued in office until r868, when J. Doan who had been deputy the previous year was elected to the chair. Among the occupants of the position during later years have been Messrs. Mosier, W. Cane, William H. Rowen, John Ramsdeh and W. W. Pegg. The township officials for 1884 are as follows:

Reeve, W. H. Rowen, Sharon ist deputy-reeve, Charles Traviss, Ilolt; 2nd deputy-reeve, j. Holborn, Ravenshoe; councillors, Mahlon Doan and John A. Ramsden ; clerk and treasurer, John T. Stokes, Sharon ; health commissioners, B. Cody, J. T. Stokes, James Silver, W. H. Rowen, and John Leek, the first named being chairman of the Board. Mr. Stokes has now occupied the position of township clerk for a period of twenty-nine years.

The most considerable village in East Gwillimbury is Holland Landing, situated on Yonge Street, about four miles above Newmarket. It is of sufficient importance to require a separate notice. East of Holland Landing, on the line between the ist and 2nd concessions, is the smaller village of Sharon, formerly known as Hope. It was at one time a more important point than at present, as, before the completion of the northern portion of Yonge Street, the line of travel to the upper part of the country diverged to the east at Holland Landing, and passed through Sharon. The construction of the Northern Railway, which passes within about a mile of it, following the west bank of the Holland River, has considerably decreased the amount of traffic along this thoroughfare. A good deal of local travel still goes northward by the stage route. The great feature of Sharon, however, is the conspicuous temple of the local sect known as the "Children of Peace," founded by David Willson. This remarkable character, whose name is indelibly associated with the early days of Sharon, was an American, of Presbyterian parentage, his native place being Dutchess County, in New York State. In his younger days he was a sailor. In 1801 he settled in Upper Canada, and after a few years became a member of the Hicksite branch of the Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, and adopted the profession of school teacher. On account of some peculiarities of belief or conduct he was disowned by the Quakers, and several others who held similar views withdrew from membership at the same time. The outcome of this secession was the establishment of a new body under the designation of the Children of Peace, of which Willson became the leader. About the year 1825, Willson erected the Sharon Temple, which was designed to symbolize the mystical views held by the sect. This structure, which at once strikes the eye of any one entering the village, s a frame building painted white, and seventy feet n height. It comprises three stories. The first is sixty feet square, with a door in the centre of each side, and three large windows on each side of every door. On two sides of the building the setting sun is depicted, with the word "Armageddon" inscribed beneath it. The second story is twenty-seven feet square, with three windows on each side, and the third nine feet square, with one window looking in each direction, the edifice being crowned by a large gilt ball. At the corners of each of the stories were square lanterns with gilt mountings. The interior of the building was painted fawn-colour, green and white. There was no pulpit or platform from which to speak to the congregation, but in the centre were sixteen pillars surrounding a square cabinet of black walnut. This contained a table covered with black velvet, and hung with crimson merino and fringe, on which was deposited a Bible. The tour central pillars were inscribed with the words "Faith," "Hope," "Charity!* and "Love"; the others bore the names of the twelve apostles.

In constructing this temple, Willson, in imitation of the method of building Solomon's temple, had the framework prepared at a distance, and put up without the use of tools as far as possible. On the first Friday in September in each year the Children of Peace held an annual feast, on which occasion the temple was illumiliated with over a hundred candles.

David Willson was for some time under the impression that he was an object of dislike to the Government, and at the close of the War of 1812 addressed a remonstrance to the British Crown against the intention, which he supposed them to hold, of subjecting him to ex .le or imprisonment. It is needless to say that his apprehensions were entirely unfounded. Periodically the Children of Peace were in the habit of coming to Toronto, driving down Yonge Street in their wagons in procession. Services would be held in some public place as previously announced. Willson's favourite topic was the corruption of public affairs, and his addresses were delivered m instalments, between wdiich hynms of his own composition wrere sung by a company of females dressed in white, who occupied one side of the room, while a band of music on the other rendered an accompaniment. Patrick Swift's Almanac for 1834 contains the following notice of the Children of Peace:—"This society numbers about 280 members in Hope, east of Newmarket. They have also started places of preaching at the old Court House, York, on Yonge Street, and at Markham. Their principal speaker is David Willson, assisted by Murdoch McLeod, Samuel Hughes, and others. Their music, vocal and instrumental, is excellent, and their preachers take no pay from the Governor out of the taxes."

A more comprehensive account of David Willson, and the peculiar sect founded by him, is given in an article entitled, "A Visit to the House of David," published io a recent number of the Rural Canadian. "About the middle of last century," says the writer of this article, " there lived in the City of Carrick Fergus, County Antrim, one Hugh Willson, a merchant and extensive dealer in linen, an occupation followed by his father before him. He had two sons, Hugh and John, who came to America in 1770.

They landed in New York; then proceeded up the Hudson, and afterwards settled m Dutchess County. Here David Willson (son of John) was born in the year 1780 ; here he grew to manhood, and married about the beginning of the century, Phoebe Titus. Soon after marriage he made a trip to Cuba, and on his return came to Canada, where he settled in the year 1801, on the uncleared lands where is now the village of Sharon. We will not dwell upon that trip, a portion of which was by Indian trade, or upon the privations and hardships incident to pioneer life. Out subject, being of a religious turn of mind, became at once, on his arrival in Canada, identified with the Friends, as the most of the settlers in this region at that time were Quakers from Pennsylvania. David Wilson was a ready and an impressive speaker. He advocated opinions that were not in accordance with those held by the Friends, for which he was formally expelled from the Society that gathered at that' time for worship on Yonge Street. He, with three or four other families, then established the Church of the Children of Peace, at Hope. They held their meetings first ie the houses of the settlers, afterwards in the school-house ; but soon after erected what is now known as the old meeting-house, which has long since fallen into disuse. Between the years 1825 and 1830 they erected the Temple, called by them the Upper Meeting-house. This was opened only twice a year, at the first Saturdav in June, called the seeding feast ; and the first Saturday ift September, called the harvest feast. It is a structure of sixty feet square, with a height of main or outside part of about twenty-two feet. This is surmounted by a central second story, or crystal music room ; and this by a dome twelve feet square. At the top of the dome are four central spires, across which are wires, and from these is suspended a large metallic globe; at the corners of each of these a crystal spire or lantern. The Temple is composed largely of windows, and the night before the harvest feast the whole building was illuminated. The belief of David Willson and his followers seems to be one about midway between that of the old Jewish belief and that of the Quakers, and flourished up to about 1840, when, it is thought, nearly 200 souls gathered there for worship. In the year 1843 they built their largest house of worship, called the Town Meeting-house. The building has a frontage of 100 feet, and a depth of fifty feet. It is of much the same style of arch lecture as the one already described, and is surrounded by a colonnade or row of pillars about four feet from the building. They are arched between, forming a sort of balustrade around the entire edifice. The two buildings seem to represent iif a way the Old and New Testament, as inside there 's a central colonnade, and upon each of the pillars is engraved the names of the" principal characters in the Old Testa-inent; and on the corresponding pillars in the temple are the names of the twelve apostles, and the four central ones are made to represent Faith, Hope, Love and Charity. One of the principal points of difference with the Friends was the introduction of music. This was made a principal feature, and there was at one time at this place one of the finest silver bands in the Province. At the time of the harvest feast the people gathered from near and far, assembling in the Lower Meeting-house, where tables were already spread with every dainty the county afforded. They then marched in procession to the Temple, headed by the band, where an especial half-yearly service waS held ; afterwards returning to the Lower House, where feasting and good cheer prevailed. This people have been friends of an honest and economical administration of Government, and were strongly opposed to the Family Compact. Several of thern were with Mr. Mackenzie in 1837. The Patriarch was not; yet he and his two sons were arrested and taken from their homes. The father was soon after released, but the two sons (Hugh I), and John D., who are the only surviving members of the family, and now fourscore years or more) were confined each five months in Toronto jail; and the former was then taken to Kingston, where a further incarceration of seven months was endured. Although styled the Children of Peace, and for many years a most harmonious body, dissensions have at last arisen, and the congregation has diminished from time to time, until scarcely a dozen familial assemble on the Lord's day; yet we deem it not more than justice to this worthy people, many of whom are now departed to the Land of the Children of Peace, to say that a more intelligent, well-to-do and moral people can not be found throughout the length and breadth of the land."

Mr. Willson died in 1866, at the good old age of eighty-nine years and seven months, his son taking his place as head of the sect, the members whereof still retain many of their peculiarities.

East Gwillimbury continued largely towards the rising in 1837. One of the most prominent leaders of the agitation-—the patriotic and ill-fated Samuel Lount—resided near Holland Landing. He was appointed to a command in the insurrectionary force a short time before the outbreak, and one of the principal causes for the miscarriage of the movement was the misunderstanding between Mackenzie, Dr. Rolph and himself as to the day upon which the rising was to take place. He organized the movement in the north-eastern part of the county, and raised about eighty or ninety men, who were the first to begin operations in Upper Canada, and bore the brunt of the fighting in the neighbourhood of Toronto. Mr. Lount was a blacksmith by trade, and many of the pikes which formed the only arms procurable by a large portion of his followers were of his manufacture. He was captured on the 18th of January, 1838, and was sacrificed to the blood-thirsty vindictiveness of the Government, being executed on the 12th of April, 1838.

Other villages in the township, in addition to those already mentioned, are: Queensville, about four miles north of Sharon; Kavenshoe, on the northern boundary, five miles east of Yonge Street; and Hartman, Holt, and Mount Albert, m the south-eastern part of the township. The last named village, which has a population of about 380, is a station on the Toronto and Nipissing Railway, which runs northward within a short distance of the eastern boundary.

Hast Gwillimbury has fourteen school-houses and two unions with other townships.

No. 1 stands on lot 5 (or 100) on Yonge Street, concession 1, west. It is a good frame structure. The average attendance from East Gwillimbury is 20, from the part of King therewith united, 5, The teacher is Robert Irwin Terry.

No. 2 stands on lot 30, in the 3rd concession, two miles north of Queensville. It is an attractive and comfortable frame building. The average attendance is 27. It is in charge of Henry Johnston.

No. 3 is built of brick, on the west end of lot 10, in the 2nd concession. The average attendance is 14. Miss Frances Kelty is the teacher.

No. 4 is situated on the east end of lot 9, in the 2nd concession, on Queen Street, a little south of Sharon. It is a roomy and comfortable, though not modern, frame building, well kept and furnished. The teacher is Ira D. Breals. The average attendance is 40.

No. 5, on lot 20, in the 3rd concession, is in Queensville, a double frame house, comfortable in furnishing and accommodation. Only one teacher, Robert Price, is at present employed. Average, 50.

No. 6, the Eastville School, is situated on the east end of lot 13, in the 6th concession. It is an old frame building, enlarged to meet legal requirements, not well furnished according to later uleas, but fairly comfortable. The teacher is George Welsh. The attendance averages 30.

No. 7 is on the south-west corner of lot 8, in the 4th concession. It is a recent brick structure of good appearance and fa:;r comfort. The teacher is William L. Bond. The average s 23.

No. 8 is also on Union Street, east end of lot 20, in the 3rd concession. It is a fairly preserved frame house, well lighted and ventilated, with good furniture recently introduced. The average is 35. Teacher, Miss Lizzie Ross.

No. 9, on the east end of lot 30, in the 3rd concession, on Union Street, is an oldish frame building, rather poorly furnished and situated. The teacher is Hattie E. Lewis. Her attendance is 15.

No. 10 is located near the centre of lot 29, in the 5th concession, on its south side. The budding is a plain frame house, with only moderately comfortable furnishings. Miss Eliza Sheppard, the teacher, has an average attendance of 32.

No. 11, a recently built frame house, is situated on the west end of lot 14, in the 5th concession, on Silver Street. The attendance averages 25. Teacher, Minnie Steele.

No. 12, a new school in the Ridges, is a frame building on lot 26, in the 8th concession. Miss Jessie Toole is the teacher. The average is 10. Owing to the poor soil and the surrounding swamps this is one of the-weakest sections in the inspectorate.

No. 13, situated on lot 16, in the 8th concession, is directly north of Mount Albert, about three-quarters of a m le. The house is a frame structure, having two apartments. Mr. James A. Breuls and Miss M. Smith are the teachers. The average attendance is Go.

No. 14, a large, but badly kept, frame house, stands on lot 5, in the 8th concession, a mile and a quarter south of Mount Albert. The teacher, Miss McPhail, has an average of 25.


Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast