NewmarketToday.ca brings you this regular feature about our town's history in partnership with Richard MacLeod, the History Hound, a local historian for more than 40 years. He conducts heritage lectures and walking tours of local interest, as well as leads local oral history interviews. You can contact the History Hound at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Given that the historical property commonly known as the Mulock Estate is currently in the news, I thought it would interesting to look at the history of the property and why it is viewed as one of our local heritage gems.
The property is on the northwest corner of Mulock Drive and Yonge Street, Lot 91 to be precise. It originally consisted of a 200-acre grant of land given to Timothy Rogers, one of our town founders, and farmed by Augustus Rogers and his family. The current home that we now identify as the Mulock home was built in 1870. The property was purchased by Sir William Mulock as a summer retreat in 1880 and the home was enlarged. The oldest part of the home is the section facing west. Over the years, the home has been modernized according to the whims of the owner at the time. A fire destroyed the barns, but the magnificent house still stands proud.
So, who were Timothy Rogers and Sir William Mulock and why should we care about the preservation of the estate and grounds?
Timothy Rogers was an American businessman who, realizing that many British subjects wished to remain loyal to the British Crown after the American Revolution, set out to transport settlers, primarily Quakers from Pennsylvania and Vermont, to Upper Canada and specifically to an area along Yonge Street in what is now called Newmarket.
In 1802, my ancestors came to the area as part of Mr. Roger’s relocation efforts. The property at the corner of Yonge and what is now called Mulock is one of, if not the only, properties remaining along Yonge that made up this original grant of land to Rogers from the Crown.
Mulock, born in 1843, moved to Newmarket as a child from Bond Head, attended the Grammar School on Millard Avenue, and was soon to bring fame to our community in the days when our land was still young. He had purchased the estate as a summer home and as an experimental farm in 1880. At that time, the property was situated in the hamlet of Armitage. In historical terms, Mulock was known as “the grand old man of Canada”, who was a lawyer, businessman, educator, farmer, politician, judge and philanthropist. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King said, “He will be remembered as being among the fundamental architects of Canada.”
When he finished his backwoods education, he went off to the University of Toronto to graduate as a lawyer. Chances are, he never envisioned the spectacular future that lay before him and the important things he would accomplish in his 101 years.
In 1867, he was called to the bar and like many lawyers of the time, became attracted to politics. In 1882, he ran as the Liberal candidate in North York. He was so successful in his riding that he held it for 23 years. For the next 14 years in Parliament, he advanced quickly and when the Liberals came to power under Sir Wilfred Laurier, he became Postmaster General of Canada, introducing our first postage stamp. In 1898, an Imperial conference convened in London, England adopting his proposal for “penny postage”.
His next bold step was a grand plan to lay a publicly owned cable all the way across the Pacific Ocean to connect our country with Australia and New Zealand.
In 1900, he established our first federal Department of Labour and became Canada’s first Minister of Labour.
William Lyon Mackenzie King, who became our prime minister in 1921, was the son of a family friend and he convinced Sir William to establish some sort of labour laws governing the exploitation of poverty-stricken employees working 15 hours a day for less than five cents per hour. He introduced a system of minimum wages, choosing young Mackenzie King as his first Deputy Minister of Labour.
In 1905, Mulock retired from political life and became Chief Justice of the Exchequer Division of the Supreme Court of Canada and then, in 1923, he became the Chief Justice of Ontario. He also accepted a position as chancellor of the University of Toronto, holding that position for the next 20 years of his life. Under his watch, he established the Banting Research Foundation, named after a hometown farm boy from Alliston, Sir Frederick Banting, the co-discoverer of insulin.
The Mulock Estate hosted many of the significant leaders and personalities of the day. Marconi came to Newmarket as Sir William’s guest to demonstrate his new invention, the telegraph. Prime Minister MacKenzie King joined him for breakfast on his 100th birthday to reminisce about the years they had worked together. Mulock was knighted by the British Crown for his many accomplishments over a long, long life of public service. Sir William passed in his 101st year and the prime minister was one of the great men who carried his coffin to the gravesite.
As a child, my grandparents told me Sir William’s death was mourned throughout the district as it was across this nation.
But what of the estate? On almost 400 acres, Mulock established a huge estate and model farm, known for its flowers, black walnut grove, apple orchards, and prize shorthorn cattle and Shetland ponies. In political life, Sir William was often referred to as Farmer Bill. The farm was set up to experiment with new methods and crops, and provided agricultural and leadership training for many students from the Ontario College of Agriculture. Parts of the farm were parcelled off over the years by his ancestors with just over 11 acres remaining.
To summarize, this property has served as the home for one of our very first settlers, the Timothy Rogers family, and has been the home of one of Canada’s greatest citizens. When I was in university and I mentioned in history class that I was from Newmarket, everyone knew that was the home of Sir William Mulock.
We have so few links to our past that to allow this heritage to be developed seems such a travesty.
When it opens to the public, I urge you to take a walk through its grounds, where prime ministers and inventors have strolled, and relive some of our local heritage.