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:
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:
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.
Copyright © Richmond Hill Public Library Board, 1991