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Newmarket's heritage captured in street names in Ward 6

In this week's Remember This, History Hound Richard MacLeod returns to his series highlighting the people whose legacies are captured in Newmarket street names

In my continuing series on the provenance of Newmarket street names, we’ll move on to Ward 6, which is bordered by Bathurst in the west, St. John’s Sideroad in the south, the CN Rail tracks on the east and McCaffrey Road to the north.

Ward 6 is home to several streets dedicated to the memory of former local politicians. First up we have Surgeoner Crescent named after Tom Surgeoner, a Newmarket councillor from 1964 to 1969 and then mayor from 1968 to 1970.

Peter Hall, who served as a town councillor through the better part of the 1970s is commemorated with Peter Hall Drive. 

Tom Taylor Crescent is named for Tom Taylor, who served as a town councillor, regional councillor and mayor, for a political career that lasted a few decades. Taylor was way out front when it came to green space preservation with the Tom Taylor Trail being named after him.

Seneca Court takes its name from Seneca Cook, a local businessman and councillor from the 1960s through the 1970s. As I go through the town records and newspaper archives doing my research, Cook’s name continues to pop up. Seen as a steady hand on council, I remember he campaigned on financial accountability.

Sometimes streets are named as much for the impact that an individual has had on our community more than whether they were a citizen of the town. The two men responsible for the arrival of the Newmarket Saints Hockey Club, the AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maples Leafs, have had their names immortalized with the naming of Ballard Crescent for Harold Ballard and Stellick Avenue for Gordon Stellick. 

We have been naming streets and parks after families who, through their contributions over the years, have added to the community and its growth.  In Ward 6, there are numerous streets that have been named after extraordinary families.

The Widdifield family has been prominent in our local history from the very beginning and so it was essential that we honour the family with the creation of Widdifield Avenue. Generations of Widdifields have been local merchants, doctors and lawyers with an odd politician thrown into the mix. The family has been intertwined with our community since the early 1800s.

Another of the original families who migrated to the Newmarket area in the early 1800s is the Sisler family (Sisler Avenue). Part of the Quaker influx from Pennsylvania in the years around 1807, one can find their names in the early records of the Quakers in Newmarket and surrounding area.

Many of you will remember Shanahan Ford, located at the former location of Brad Walker on Davis Drive and Bayview Avenue. Mike Shanahan has been honoured with the naming of Shanahan Boulevard in recognition of all his contributions to our community.

Few family names resonate in our local history more than the names Denne and Bosworth. We have spoken of the streets and parks around town that carry the Denne moniker and now we turn to Bosworth Court.  

The Bosworths, early settlers to Newmarket, intermarried with the Denne family and one of the lasting remnants of their history within our town is the grand old house on the northwest corner of Davis Drive and Main Street that belonged to William Denne Bosworth and land previously owned by Vincent Denne, of Pickle Factory fame.

Bathurst Street is named for Henry, the third Earl of Bathurst, Secretary of War, and the Colonies from 1812 to 1827. This street originates in Toronto but continues north past Highway 9.

There are many streets throughout the town named after prominent business families and Ward 6 is no exception. I am sure many of you will remember Burgess Wholesales on Davis Drive, going east toward Highway 404 on the south side. Burgess Crescent honours their years of service to our community.

Remember the small, family owned and operated fruit stands that used to be located around town? In previous articles I have talked about the Bondis and Rustos, but another family that was prominent in town for the sale of fruit and produce was the Caradonna family who operated a store across the way from the Newmarket Plaza on Davis Drive. Their family has been immortalized with the naming of Caradonna Crescent.

The Jelley name has been prominent around town for many years. Our family used to call on Mr. Jelley, who was on Timothy Street just east of Main Street on the north side, for all our plumbing needs when I was a child. The Jelley name has been honoured with Jelley Avenue.

A name that has a long history in Newmarket is that of the Keffers (Keffer Circle).  I remember as a child that Mr. Keffer had a service station in my neighborhood that everyone knew and he also lived across the road from me.  If one looks at the various happenings around town, you are sure to see the Keffer name pop out.

Another business related to the automobile renowned for its community service was Kensit Motors (Kensit Avenue). I remember their involvement with the Newmarket Saints hockey club and other community endeavours.

When you see Joe Persechini Drive, the vision of thousands of people walking for the Easter Seals charity may jump to mind. Persechini owned a fitness club by that name on Davis Drive across from the Newmarket Plaza and was a mainstay of Newmarket’s charity fundraising scene for decades.

The Playter family name (Playter Crescent) has been known throughout the area back to our origins.  One of the early family groups to settle here, they boast doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs among their kin. One of the first stagecoach lines north from the city was owned and operated by the Playter family, dropping passengers at my kin’s hotel, Forsyth House, which is now the King George on Main.   

Savage Road is named after the Savage family who operated mills in the area for years. Included in their family lineage was John Savage who ran a pump works on Main for years and was an early police officer in Newmarket. The Savages are referred to pre-Newmarket incorporation as one of the leading families in the area.   

A street with some real history attached to it is Colter Street. Colonel Cotter was one of the first residents in downtown Newmarket, having been involved in the initial damming of the Holland River to create the mill pond on Water Street, which initially held his name, Cotter’s Pond, before becoming Fairy Lake. He maintained a huge home on the east side of the pond with a dock which protruded out into the pond and a famous gazebo that we are trying to restore.

If you were a budding musician in the 1960s and 1970s, then you likely remember Pontings Music Store (Ponting Place) where you could acquire your instrument of choice and learn how to play it as well.  Many of the people I grew up with purchased their musical equipment from the family store and took their required lessons there. 

Isaac Phillips (Isaac Phillips Way) was part of the original 24 families that Timothy Rogers brought from the U.S. to Yonge Street. His land grant was on the west side of Yonge, just south of Mulock Avenue, where he had a tavern and hotel that found early success. Records show he was a mover and shaker in our early history.

Revell Road is named after Guy Revell, who along with Debbi Wilkes, formed an amazing Olympic ice skating duo.  They would enjoy tremendous success until his untimely death. You can learn more about Mr. Revell in my article on him on Newmarket Today.  

We have also named streets after dentists, if you can believe it. Bartholomew Drive is named after Dr. J. W. Bartholomew, a long-serving local dentist.  

Society Crescent is named after our Quaker roots. Starting in around 1801, Timothy Rogers brought Quakers from New Jersey, Vermont, and Pennsylvania to the Yonge Street area, enticed by 200 acres land grants and the promise of freedom from government influence. They were called the Society of Friends, hence the Society Crescent naming of the street. 

The origin of Sawmill Valley Drive is straightforward, as well. Newmarket was dependent on mills, whether it be for the milling of grains from area farms or wood mills for the lumber needed to build the new homes needed for this growing urban centre. Located in a primeval forest, the area was resplendent with wood mills, hence its name.

Menzcel Crescent carries the name of Norm Menzcel, a teacher and sports coach at Huron Heights Secondary School whose teams excelled, winning awards for the team and him.  

Ward 6 was one of the wards I always wanted to visit and learn more about and this article has given me the opportunity to do just that. Next, we will finish our tour with Ward Seven. I anticipate one more article after Ward Seven, where I will catch up on some of the streets that I have missed along the way.

Sources: The Newmarket Era; The Topic; Newmarket - The Origin of Street Names Volume 1 by George Luesby 1991 and Volume 2 by Robert Terrence Carter 2009; Town of Newmarket planning department; Stories of Newmarket by Robert Terence Carter; The History of Newmarket by Ethel Trewhella 

Newmarket resident Richard MacLeod, the History Hound, has been a local historian for more than 40 years. He writes a weekly feature about our town's history in partnership with Newmarket Today, conducts heritage lectures and walking tours of local interest, and leads local oral history interviews.