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


WOODBRIDGE is situated on the Humber River, m the Town-|t ship of Vaughan, about fourteen miles from Toronto. It has a population of about 1,100. It was formerly called Burwick, after Rowland Burr, who settled in the neighbourhood in 1837, having exchanged a hundred-acre farm on Yonge Street for an uncleared lot on the Humber, the property of Washington Peck. A considerable migration of labourers took place at the same time, most of whom obtained building lots in the new village. The irregular manner in which the lots are now divided is accounted for by a tradition of its early settlement, according to whi:.h Air. Burr measured each man's property by the primitive mode of taking so many paces m each direction, the ground being staked oif accordingly. The first mill erected was a Hour-mill put up by Air. Burr in 1837. Other industries rapidly followed, including a saw-mill, a distillery, and a woollen factory, erected the following year. The factory latterly passed into the hands ot Air. Abell, and was utilized by him in the manufacture of shoddy. In 1840 Air. Burr built a considerably larger woollen factory, further down the stream. This factory passed through many changes of ownership. It was first operated by Hart & Burr, and afterwards by Self & Burr, who were succeeded by the firm of Mitchell & McNally. After remaining unworked for a considerable period it, together with the rest of the Burr property, fell into the hands of John W. Gamble. The factory was again operated by Mr. McNally for a time, and subsequently by Duncan Mclntosh and the Roe Brothers, successively. In 1874 the property was purchased by John Abell, who leased the factory to J. Mclntosh, by whose son the business was still carried on at a recent date.

Air. John Abell, whose enterprise has done a great deal for the prosperity of Woodbridge, settled in the village in 1845. His first business venture here was undertaken in partnership with Messrs. Wood & Etheridge, in the wagon and carriage manufacture. The first stage-coach that made regular trips between the city and Woodbridge was constructed at their factory. In 1847 Mr. Abell put up another shop on a small scale for the manufacture of mill-irons and similar articles. Here he made a lathe, by the aid of which he constructed for his own use the first steam engine used in Vaughan Township, which is still preserved. In January, 1862, Mr. Abell opened an agricultural implement factory employing about twenty men. The business rapidly increased, and to meet its growing wants additional buildings were erected; in 1874 the number of men employed was over one hundred. In that year the establishment was visited by burglars, who, after blowing open the safe and stealing a quantity of valuable securities, fired the place, which was destroyed. 1 he loss sustained by Mr. Abell on this occasion was estimated at two hundred thousand dollars. Nothing daunted by this misfortune, however, he set vigorously to work to rebuild, and in two months afterwards the manufactory was m running order, employing a larger number of men than before the fire. About 1831 a saw-mill was built by Samuel Smith on his property, in what is now the northern portion of the village, but, owing to the result of litigation with Mr. Burr respecting the water privileges, the mill was removed to a site higher up the Humber. This mill was worked by Mr. Smith until 1856, when the building, having become unserviceable, was pulled down. A new structure was put up on the same site, which was intended to be used as a foundry by Mr. Abell, but a disagreement arose, and the project was never carried out. It was occupied by Louis de Rouche, and afterwards by William Towers, for the manufacture and repairing of machines. In 1879 it was purchased by William Mackie, who ran it as a shoddy factory for a few months, and then sold out to Hardy & Burkholder, who were succeeded by Keys, Hallett & Rea.

For some years previous to Mr. Burr's advent Washington Peck had been in business as a cooper, which he relinquished on selling out to Burr, and left the place. After his departure a cooper-shop was started by Francis J. Bunt on the 8th concession of Vaughan. A year afterwards he sold out to Nathaniel Wallace, whose son George is st 1 engaged in the business.

The first school was started in Woodbridge about 1830. The present school house is a brick structure, with a frame addition. The average attendance is about 112. The teachers are George Deacon, Maggie Smithers, and Lucy Woolley. The village was incorporated in 1882. Mr John Abell s reeve, for the current year, and Mr. C. J. Agar clerk and treasurer.


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