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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part III: Village of Richmond Hill


EVERYBODY has heard of the beautiful English landscape bearing the name of Richmond Hill, and it is often asserted in offhand conversation that our Canadian village was so named in consequence of its close resemblance to its trans-Atlantic, prototype. As matter of fact, nothing could be much further from the truth. The two places bear about as much resemblance to each other as a hawk bears to a handsaw. But, though our Canadian Richmond Hill has little or nothing beyond .ts elevation m common with the fair Surrey landscape, it has charms peculiar to itself, and is one of the most beautiful villages to be found anywhere throughout the length and breadth of "this Canada of ours." As its name indicates'^ it stands on an eminence, and it overlooks a wide expanse of richly cultivated farm land. Its situation is on Yonge Street, about s ^teen miles north of Toronto, and nine miles south of the Village of Aurora. Yonge Street forms its principal thoroughfare, and divides it into two parts, the portion to the west of the street lying ;n the Township of Vaughan, and that to the east being in Markham. It is a long, straggling place, the houses principally following the one of the great northern thoroughfare, instead of grouping round a centre, so that it extends over a more considerable area of ground than might be expected from its population.

Richmond Hill is referred to hi Smith's "Canada: Past, Present and Future" as a smart little place, the population of which t is difficult to calculate, on account of the houses being so scattered, but which contained at that time (1851) a steam grist-mill, a steam saw-mill a tanner)', and two churches, Presbyterian and Methodist.

But we must go back to a date long anterior to 1851 in order to discover the origin of its name. A settlement seems to have sprung up here during the early years of the present century, and to have received the appropriate name of Mount Pleasant. It made reasonable progress, and in 1819 it became necessary to erect a Presbyterian Church for the accommodation of the professors of that faith resident in the neighbourhood. While the work of construction was in progress a very distinguished personage visited the spot, and his visit proved to be an important historical event in its history, for it was the means of conferring upon it the name which it has borne ever since. The visitor was no less a personage than Charles Gordon Lennox, Fourth Duke of Richmond, who was then Governor-General of Canada. Ilis Grace was engaged in making a tour of both the Provinces, in the course of which he drove from York to Penetan-gushene. The Village of Mount Pleasant being situated midway between the two ends of Yonge Street, was a frequent place of call for travellers, who generally stopped there to rest and bait their horses. The Governor-General and his retinue followed this example, and remained in the village several hours on their upward progress. The Duke inspected the little church which was building, and conversed with the workmen with the utmost affability. The people of the village, impressed by his Grace's pleasant bearing, resolved to commemorate his visit by re-christening the place in his honour, and accordingly bestowed upon it the name of Richmond Hill. The Governor's visit took place in the month of July. 1819. It was not destined to be repeated. He died from hydrofobia, in a little hovel on the banks of the Goodwood River, near its confluence with the Rideau, in the County of Carleton, on the 28th of the following month, and within six weeks after his vice-regal progress up Yonge Street.

Fifty-three years elapsed between the time of the Duke of Richmond's visit and the incorporation of Richmond Hill as a village. The latter event took place in 1872. The first council comprised Abraham Law, reeve; and William Warren, David Hopkins, Jacob Brillinger and William Powell. Matthew Teefy was appointed village clerk and treasurer, and still retains that position. The reeve for the present year is J. Brown. The population of the village, according to the Dominion census of 1881, was 867, and is now about 900. Richmond Hill has no immediate railway connections, but the Northern Railway passes within four miles to the west, and there is a station at this point, known as Richmond Hill station. Stages run regularly to Toronto and other places on Yonge Street.

There are several spots in the village which are of special interest to students of our local history and topography. Not the least interesting of these is the otfice of Mr. Teefy, the village postmaster, which is situated on the west side of the main street, in a central and convenient locality. Mr. Teefy is the gentleman already referred to as the clerk and treasurer of the village corporation. He is an enthusiastic archaeologist and antiquarian, and probably knows more of the history, topography, traditions and folklore of Richmund Hill and its neighbourhood than all the rest of the inhabitants put together. He is a gentleman of upwards of three-score years of age, but his physical and mental vigour are those of one in the prime of life, and he presents the appearance of a man of forty or forty-tive. lie has been postmaster for thirty-four years, having been appointed to that position in 1850. He has also been a magistrate for a period of thirty-one years, and has during all the interval been one of the most popular and useful citizens. His private office is immediately to the rear of the post-office, and is crammed full of objects of interest. In the centre of the room is his desk, from which he dispenses magisterial justice. The wall to the right is lined with volumes of the Dominion and Provincial Statutes, and other law books and works for technical reference. Another side of the room is largely taken up by riles of the Colonial Advocate and other rare old Canadian newspapers which have long since been practically unprocurable. Around, set in suitable frames, are various old documents, the sight of which is eminently calculated to gladden the heart of any one sufficiently versed in Canadian history to know their value. Conspicuous among them is a printed Address from Mr. William Jarvis, dated "York, 11th July, 1800." Mr. Jarvis was for many years Provincial Secretary of Upper Canada, and was the gentleman referred to elsewhere in this volume as having been sharply admonished by Lieutenant-Governor Peter Hunter for neglect of duty. The document now under consideration is addressed "To the Free and Independent Electors of the Counties of Durham, Simcoe, and the East Riding of York." It sets out that Mr. Jarvis will be a candidate for their suffrages at the ensuing elections ; that he has not relinquished his intention of so doing, and that all reports to that effect are utterly unfounded. Next, we find a framed broadside issued as an advertisement by Peter Perry, dated at Whitby, on the 20th of December, 1841. Most readers of these pages doubtless have some knowledge of Mr. Perry. "From forty to fifty years ago," says the author of "The Canadian Portrait Gallery," "there was no name better known throughout the whole of Upper Canada ; and, in Reform Constituencies, there was no name more potent wherewith to con1' ire during an election campaign. Peter Perry was closely identified with the original formation of the Reform Party in Upper Canada, and for more than a quarter of a century he continued to be one of its foremost members. During the last ten or twelve years of his life he was to some extent overshadowed by the figure of Robert Baldwin, whose lofty character, unselfish aims, and high social position combined to place him on a sort of pedestal. But Peter Perry continued to the very last to be an important factor in the ranks of his part"." He died at Saratoga Springs, New York State, on the 24th of August, 1851. At the time when he issued the broadside which hangs framed in Air. Teefy's office, he kept a general store at Whitby, originally named Perry's Corners. The broadside is headed "O yes! O yes! O yes!" and contains a pressing injunction to his debtors to pay up their several liabilities or take the consequences. It is too long for quotation here, but is veiy suggestive throughout to any one who remembers the. man and the times. We next come to a framed Address from the Irish inhabitants of Upper Canada to the Queen, printed in 1838. It deplores the recent rebellion, at, the same time avowing the loyalty of the Irish inhabitants. Mr. Teefy also has a number of volumes of rare and unprocurable Canadian pamphlets, concerning which it is not an exaggeration to say that they are worth their weight in gold. But space fails to describe the multiform out-of-the-way objects which are here exhibited. Any one who feels sufficiently interested in the matter should call on Mr. Teefy and see them for himself.

On the northern outskirts of the village, on the east side of Yonge Street, and about twenty feet from the road, stands the residence of Colonel Moodie, who was shot by the rebels at Montgomery's, while tryir g to force his way southward, in December, 1838. The house is an antiquated looking structure, which has undergone various modifications since the impetuous Colonel's days, but the identical frame is still there, and forms a sort of connecting link between the past and the present. It is the property of the Robinson estate, but is at present occupied by a tenant, and seems to stand in need of repairs.

About two miles further north, on the opposite side of Yonge Street, stands the former residence of Thomas Kmnear, where the frightful murders described in a former portion of this volume were committed in the summer of 1843.

Some of the buildings in Richmond Hill are of a character not often found in country villages. The Methodist church, for instance, is a structure which would do 110 discredit to any street in any city in the Dominion. It stands on the east side of Yonge Street, near the centre of the village, and is conspicuous for miles in every direction by reason of its lofty and imposing spire. The building, which is of white brick, was erected in 1880. Unnecessary to say that the congregation attending worship there is a wealthy and numerous one. The resident ministers are the Rev. William R. Baiker and the Rev. William B. Booth. The Presbyterian church, another large and imposing structure of white brick, stands on the west side of Yonge Street, some distance from the road, and near the southern outskirts of the village. It was erected four years ago, near the site of the little church already referred to as having been in course of erection during the Duke of Richmond's visit in July, 1819. His also has a high massive tower of white brick, which is a conspicuous object from the surrounding country. A few yards further south, and on the same side of Yonge Street, is the Episcopal church, a neat and tasteful structure of white brick. The Roman Catholic church is of frame, and occupies a more northerly situation than those already described.

Among other important public buildings, the village can boast of a Masonic Hall, a Temperance Hall, and an excellent High School. Mr. McBride, the principal of the last-named institution, is a graduate of the University of Toronto, as also is his assistant, Mr. T. H. Redditt. The average attendance at the institution, which was established in 1851, is about eighty pupils. The Public Schools are not well suited to the wants of the place, being crowded together on the front part of a long narrow lot. The Principal, Miss Emma Spragge, and third assistant, Miss Cruickshanks, occupy the more modern and convenient brick building, built originally for High School purposes ; while Mrs. Wiley and Miss Rutherford occupy, one a room in the old High School (a frame building), and the other a room in the brick building, properly the Public School-house. Average attendance, 144.

The village also possesses a Mechanics' Institute, incorporated in 1869, which last year had a membership of 66, and a library comprising 546 volumes. The number of books issued during the year was 547. There are two weekly newspapers published in the village—the Liberal, and the York Herald the first being a Reform journal and the latter Conservative.


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