Transportation, communication, commerce, three things which are so
important to our modern economy, were equally important to the early
inhabitants of this area. Thus the river which we call the Holland
played a very important part in the development of East Gwillimbury.
Indian tribes of Iroquois and Hurons recognized the value of the river
and fought to gain control of it, and of the surrounding marsh lands
with their abundance of game. The Iroquois had control when Champlain
reached the lake later known as Simcoe in 1615 and Father Breboeuf
reported the river to be dangerous and unfrequented in 1635.
Trade with the Indians was most important to the French and the Raffeix
Map of 1688 shows the Holland River and surrounding area drawn on a very
accurate scale. The names given the river are uncertain until shortly
after 1700 when the Chippewa tribe gained control and named the river
Escoyondy. Later the Mississaugas renamed it Miciaguean and different
spellings of these names were found by Lord Simcoe when he became
Governor of Upper Canada.
The French introduced sailing boats into Lake Ontario in 1687 and forts
were established at Niagara in 1720 and Rouille (Toronto) in 1729, thus
making the river an important link in the transportation of furs from
the areas around Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay. The fort at Niagara was
captured by the British in 1759 and Fort Rouille was burned by the
French to avoid capture.
Although the British talked about establishing a means of communication
and transportation to the Georgian Bay, little was done until Governor
Simcoe set up a fort at York in 1793. Simcoe was determined to find the
best route north and he set out with his party on September 24 the same
year and by 6:00 p.m. on September 27 he had travelled to the 6th
Concession of King Township. There he found it necessary to cross the
marsh land to reach the west branch of the Escoyondy. He was not happy
with the route but proceeded northward to the lake where an Indian Chief
"Great Sail" told him about an eastern route that was much better.
Simcoe continued into the Georgian Bay and on the return trip, he found
the eastern branch of the river and reached the area known as Soldiers
Bay on October 11. Here the party camped overnight but awakened to find
it raining heavily with the rain continuing for several days. It is
reported that while waiting for dry weather, their rations became so low
that consideration was given to eating Simcoes large dog "Jack Snap" but
fair weather saved the dogís life and the party set out up the river.
They found the east branch of the Humber, arrived at Fort York on
October 14 and Simcoe proceeded to have the Escoyondy renamed Hollandís
River after Major Samuel Holland Surveyor-General of Canada.
The new route suited Simcoe much better and he was eager to have a
survey completed. Augustus Jones was hired to do the survey in February,
1794 and he completed the job to Lot 111, west in East Gwillimbury. His
notes reveal that loaded boats could reach Lake Simcoe from Lot 111, a
distance of 8 miles. The survey completed, Simcoe was impatient to build
a road and the Queens York Rangers were called upon to start the road
building project. A trail was completed to Thornhill when the Rangers
were called to defend Niagara on August 15, 1794 and the following month
William Berezy agreed to complete the road to Lot 111 in exchange for
four lots. He reached Langstaff by November but illness hit his men and
he couldn't complete the contract, so the Rangers were called in again
and finally reached Lot 111 in 1796. Simcoe named the road Yonge Street
after Sir George Yonge, Secretary of War.
The road brought settlers to the area and lots were given to settlers
who in turn agreed to clear the land, build homes and maintain their
portion of the road. However, little road work was done and finally
after repeated warnings they were given until Christmas, 1799, to
improve the road. Traffic was increasing steadily and the lot owners
could not keep the road repaired to the satisfaction of the governing
body. Thus it was declared a Public Highway in 1803 so that funds could
be allocated from the Treasury to maintain it.
The first survey of the Township of East Gwillimbury took place in 1800
by Stegman. Hambley completed a later survey in 1803 and the Holland
Landing Town Plot was surveyed by Wilmot in 1811. The Three Gwillimburys,
East, North and West, were named by Governor Simcoe in honour of his
wife whose maiden name was Gwillim. Her father, Major Gwillim, was an
able soldier, the aide-de-camp for General Wolfe and he gave his life,
as did his General during the battle of the Plains of Abraham. The task
of completing a survey in 1800 was not easy since surveyors travelled on
foot, carrying their equipment. Measuring was done in chains and wet
marshy lands were undertaken during the winter months when water and
soft ground were frozen. Since surveyors walked up one concession and
down the next their measurements varied a few chains at times, thus
sideroads jog one way or another between concessions when the lot
When the survey was completed patentees soon applied for land grants
which in many cases were given free of charge by the Crown to persons
friendly to the Family Compact
Taken from the Domesday Book early Patentees on Township lots were -
Concession 1, Yonge E.- 96 - Nehemiah Hide 1804; 97 - Thomas
Young, 1803; 98 - Obadiah Griffin, 1805; 99 - Theodore Wine, 1804; 100 -
H. Proctor, 1805; 101 - Nathan Farr, 1804; 102 -Bela Clark, 1805; 103 -
Obadiah Huff, 1805; 104 Elisha Mitchell, 1805; 105 - Bernard Velie,
1805; 106 - Joseph Pearson, 1804; 107 - John Dunham, 1805; 108 - Samuel
Dean 1809; 109 - Peter Robinson, 1816; 110 - Joseph Johnson, 1817; 112 -
130 remained Crown land during the early years, being patented between
1865 and 1874.
Concession 2 -1 and 2 - Timothy Rogers, 1804; 3 - Robert
Culverwell, 1850; 3 - Texty Weller, 1842; Charles Kinsey, 1846; 4 -
Obadiah Griffin, 1805; 5 - Hy. Proctor, 1805; 7 - Isaac Willson, 1805; 8
- Jos. Hill. 1802; 9 - Samuel Hughes, 1833; 10 - David Willson - 1801;
11 - Joseph Sutherland, 1805; 13 -Thos. Selby, 1812; 14 - John Weddel,
1801; 15 - Abijah Mack, 1803; 16 - William H. Wilson, 1843; 16 - Benj.
Lyster, 1840; 17 - Ebenezer Weller, 1801; 18 - Joel Bigelow, 1802; 19 -
Ruben Richardson, 1802; 20 Eligah Welsh, 1800; 22 - Elijah Robinson,
1801; 23 - Peter Anderson, 1807; 24 - William Pegg, 1847; 25 - Frederick
Harrick, 1804; 27 - Jno. McKay, 1835; 28 Conrad Gostman, 1807; 35 -
Sarah Grant, 1808.
Concession 3 - 1 - Timothy Rogers,
1804; 2 - Radselar McCarthy 1828; 2 - Moses Knight, 1829; 2 - Geo.
McCarthy, 1828; 3 -Jacob Robinson, 1804; 4 - Adam Lepard, 1804; 6 -
William Howard, 1804; 7 - Wm. Huff, 1804; 8 - John Doan Sr., 1831; 9 -
Humphrey Finch, 1809; 10 ó Abijah Mack, 1803; 12 - Calvin Washburne,
1807; 13 - John Hodgson, 1805; 14 - Peter Vanderburgh, 1805; 15 -
Ebenezer Doan, 1831; 15 - Wm. H. Wilson, 1847; 15 - John Bromer, 1845;
19 - John Fitus, 1B1J; - Esther Frisbee, 1803; 19 - A. Howard, 1802; 20
- Jeremiah Traviss, 1805; 22 - Levy Vaubleck, 1803; 23 - Wm. Pegg; 24
-Josiah Hemingway; 25 - David Ebbins; 25 - George Hobone; 26 -Catherine
St. Clair; 27 - Eliza Arnold; 29 - Eliza Bell; 30 -Simeon Sherman; 31 -
John Ebbins; 32 - Peter Anderson; 33 -Eve Wintermutte; 35 - Jacob
Concession 4 1 and 2 ó Philip Phillips; 3 - Jno. Ebbins & Jas.
Ebbins; 4'"and 5 - Wyant Williams; 7 - Isaac Rogers; 8 - Isaac Pegg; 9 -
Wm. Purdy; 9 - Isaih Rogers; 10 - Benj. Perry; 11 -Matt Mill; 13 - Wm.
Dunham; 14 - Robt. Briggs; 15 - Richard East Gwill. in the 19th Century
Graham; 16 - Arthur Ebbins and Jno. T. Stokes; 17 - Thos. Dunham; 18-
Daniel Ravis, 1802; 21 - Geo. Holinshead, 1803; 22 - Philip Chinger,
1805; 23 - Jno. Ernes, 1803; 25 - Job Cogsele, 1805; 26 - Jacob Lepard,
1804; 28 - Henry Lepard, 1867; 29 - Jessie Bennet, 1804; 31 - Jessie
Ketchum, 1805; 32 - Zebulon Ketchum, 1804; 34 - Peter Emery, 1805; 35 -
Daniel Cox, 1822;
Concession 5 1 - Richard Banks, 1805; 2 - Samuel Johnson, 1832;
2 - Jno. Weddel, 1833; 3 and 4 Jean Louis VI - Comte de Chaleu, 1809; 6
- Catherine Smith, 1806; 7 - Thomas Price, 1805; 8 -William Elmer, 1846;
9 - Christian Hershey Jr., 1805; 10 -Henry Huber, 1805; 12 - Frederick
Ashbough, 1805; 13 - Mary Parry, 1806; 14 - Elizabeth Laughtan, 1806; 16
- Andrew Me Glash-an, 1806; 17 - J. B. Spragge, 1840; 18 - Joseph
Dolinger, 1805; 20 - Avery Stiles, 1805; 22 - Thos. Leighton, 1843; 23 -
Augustus House, 1805; 24 - Geo. Buck, 1805; 25 - Jno. Johnson, 1807;
26 - Philip Buck, 1805; 27 and 28 Daniel Cox, 1822; 29 - Mary Adams,
1806; 32 - Catherine Pallit, 1806; 33 and 34 - D. Cox, 1822.
Concession 6 1 - Anna Connor, 1805; 2 - Mary Kreen, 1806; 1 -
Catherine Rood, 1806; 5 - Catherine Ronset, 1805; 7 - Elsy Sherrard,
1806; 8 - Nancy Barnum, 1806; 10 - Rebecca Chrysdale, 1806; 11 - Ann
Hoiks, 1806; 13 - Elizabeth Harriss, 1806; 15 -Sarah Storer, 1806; 17 -
Jane Huffman, 1806; 19 - Ann Tiffany, 1808; 21 - Elizabeth Beech, 1806;
22 and 23 - Rachael Woolcutal 1806; 25 - Nancy Black, 1806; 26 - Samuel
Pickel, 1806; 28 -Daniel Cox, 1822; 29 - Catherine Elsworth, 1806; 31 -
Phoebe Cornwall, 1806; 32 - D. Cox, 1822; 34 - Mary Robben, 1806; 35 -
D. Cox, 1822;
Concession 7 1 - Jas. McCaul, 1806; 3 and 4 - Wm. Coldwell, 1807;
6 and 7 - Robert Nichol, 1806; 9 - Hermanas House, 1807; 10 - Lewis
House, 1807; 12, 13 and 14 - Le Chevalier de Marcul 1805; 16 - John
Secord Jr., 1808; 17 - Benj. Dunham, 1808; 18 - Henry Zufelt, 1808; 19 -
Nathaniel Sherrard, 1812; 20 -Eunice Scorils, 1812;. 22 - J. Ozburn,
1808; 23 - Mary Brown, 1808; 24 - Rachael Brown, 1808; 26 and 27 - D.
Cox 1822; 29 -J. Ozburn, 1808; 30, 32 and 33 - Geo. Bond, 1808;
Yonge Street West 96 - Obadiah Rogers, 1835; 97 - Nathaniel Goger,
1805; 98 - Bethnel Huntley, 1805; 99 - Wm. Phillips 1805; 100 - Ephraim
Talbut, 1804; 101 - Daniel Wilson, 1805; 102 - Stephen Howard, 1805; 103
- Josiah Coolige, 1803; 104 -Geo. Cutter, 1803; 105 - Jeremiah Moore
Jr., 1803; 106 - Jacob Reer Jr., 1803; 107 - Edward Taylor Collins,
1803; 108 - Jno. Eves, 1803; 109 - Jno. Benedick, 1808; 110 - Thos.
Gibbs, and T. J. OíNeill, 1855; 111 - 114 - Wm. Hawkins, 1850; 117 - Wm.
Laughton, 1846; 118 - 119 - Amos West, 1811.
These patentees were taken from an 1878 Atlas borrowed from William
Burkholder, Queensville. It appears that many of these first land owners
had little intention of developing the land they had patented, but were
making use of their affiliation with the Family Compact for financial
gain. Some names are familiar in the Township today and descendants of
these early patentees are still residents of the Municipality. It is
unfortunate that dates were not listed for some patentees on Concessions
3 and 4, no reason being given for the omission. On Concession 6 it is
interesting to note that 18 out of 22 patentees were women. The lots on
Yonge Street West were first part of the Township of West Gwillimbury
but were transferred to East Gwillimbury in 1852.
No doubt Simcoes decision to build a road to Hollandís Landing, later
known as Holland Landing, was a decisive factor in the early development
of East Gwillimbury and the 1809 Censors shows East Gwillimbury with a
population of 425 in comparison with 577 in York, 140 in Etobicoke, 175
in King and 73 in North Gwillimbury.
When the war of 1812 broke out, the need for supplies for troops
necessitated the improvement of Yonge Street and the road was developed
rapidly. A Naval reserve was used extensively for receiving and
dispatching supplies and armaments at Soldiers Bay, on the east side of
the river north of the Queensville sideroad. The Minnonites, Tunkers and
Quakers were excused from military duty due to their religious beliefs
but compelled to haul supplies from Soldiers Bay to York using oxen and
wagons. They were also forced to feed and house the troops and the need
for food saw more land developed and agriculture boomed. In 1813 York
fell to the Americans and they also came north on Yonge Street for food.
The peace treaty of 1815 ended the war and development dragged for a few
years. A large anchor, forged in England for a shipyard on the Georgian
Bay/was hauled up Yonge Street by 12 yoke of oxen on sleighs. It took 4
days to haul the Anchor from York to East Gwill. in the 19th Century
Soldiers Bay. When the peace treaty was announced the anchor was left on
the sleighs for almost 56 years then taken to Holland Landing Park in
1870 where it remains as a monument of those early times.
The Park was renamed Anchor Park and is at present a part of the Holland
Valley Conservation Authority.
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