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Chapter 1
The Road through Richmond Hill
Table of Contents

Title Page
Author's Preface
1 The Road through Richmond Hill
The Spinal Cord of the Community
Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe: The Man Who Planned Yonge Street
Governor Simcoe Plans the Road
Yonge Street's Namesake: Sir George Yonge
Construction Begins
Augustus Jones Finishes the Road
The Yonge Street Settlers
2 First Peoples on the Land
3 The European Settlers Arrive
4 From Miles' Hill to Richmond Hill: The Birth of a Community
5 Tories and Reformers
6 Stagecoach Lines and Railway Tracks
7 The Neighbours at Mid-Century
8 Fire Brigades and Fence Viewers
9 Picture Post Card Village of the 1880s and 1890s
10 Rails through Richmond Hill
11 The Flowering of Richmond Hill
12 The Village Transformed
Epilogue
Appendices
Table of Illustrations
Index

The Yonge Street Settlers

On August 3, 1797, Augustus Jones presented "A Report on the Condition of Yonge Street" to his chief, acting Surveyor General David W. Smith. The report consisted of a "list of settlers on Yonge Street, stating the improvements that have been made." A glance at this apparently routine document gives us insight into early settlement activity in the Richmond Hill area. 19

Jones gathered data for his report by going along Yonge Street and noting activity on the various lots on both the east and the west sides of the route. Crossing today's Langstaff Road and entering the present town limits of Richmond Hill, Jones observed:

Lot 36W Stephen Colby, "sometimes at York," half acre partly cleared.
Lot 36E Abner Miles, half acre partly cleared.
Lot 38E Samuel Cozens, "at York," quarter acre cleared.
Lot 38W Paul Wilcut, "said to be about to move in," half acre cleared.

Between Carrville Road/ 16th Avenue and Major Mackenzie Drive, Jones saw much more activity on the east or Markham Township side of Yonge Street than on the west or Vaughan Township side:

Lot 42E Thomas Lyons, "on the premises," five acres cleared.
Lot 43E John Dexter, "on the premises," twenty acres cleared. [The following year, Jones added "a log house" to his description of Dexter's property.]
Lot 44E Asa Dexter, "went to States last fall," half acre partly cleared.
Lot 45E Henry Mace, "went to States last fall - not returned," four acres cleared.

On the north side of today's Major Mackenzie Drive, Jones noticed that Jacob Wintus had cleared four acres (about one and a half hectares) of Lot 46E, although he was living "at York." But from there all the way north to Stouffville Road,Jones's 1797 report is blank. The following year, however, he described considerably more activity through the core of present-day Richmond Hill, although he made no comments about individual settlers this time:

Lot 46W About one acre cut down.
Lot 48E A small log house, a few trees cut down.
Lot 49E A small log house, a few trees cut down.
Lot 49W A small log barn.

Returning to Jones's first report in 1797, activity resumes north of Stouffville Road:

Lot 62E William Bond, about twelve acres cleared.
Lot 63E William Bond, about twelve acres cleared.
Lot 64E Riley (Niagara Landing), one and a half acres John McKay (Newark), two acres partly cleared.
Lot 66W Capt. Charles Seleck, "master of a sloop on lake," three acres partly cleared. [Next year, Jones noted "a small log house" on this property.]
Lot 66E James Pitney(York), three-quarters of an acre partly cleared.

Walking up Yonge Street with Augustus Jones in the 1790s, then driving the highway in the 1990s, Richmond Hill residents are reminded of the community's history. But in both our imagined eighteenth-century journey and our real twentieth-century drive, an important element of Richmond Hill's history has scarcely been noted - native Indian occupation of the townsite. Prior to European settlement, before the arrival of Governor Simcoe and William Berczy and Augustus Jones, and long before Yonge Street was built, earlier civilizations had thrived for hundreds of years where Richmond Hill now stands.

Now we must leave Yonge Street - the spinal cord of the Europeans' Richmond Hill - for a closer look at the woodland trails and forest clearings so important to the first peoples on the land.

Notes

19. "Simcoe's York and Simcoe's Yonge Street," Robinson Papers, Archives of Ontario, pp. 191-96.

 


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Copyright Richmond Hill Public Library Board, 1991