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REMEMBER THIS: Fire brigade, plank sidewalks, fairgrounds arrive when Newmarket became a village

In this week's column, History Hound Richard MacLeod highlights the important event in Newmarket history from 1858 to 1881

In part two of my timeline series, I pick up the story in 1858 when Newmarket was incorporated as a village and will proceed through to 1881 when we were incorporated as a town. You can read part one here.

In 1858, our first election took place Jan. 4 to choose a council for the new village. The Act of Incorporation was passed May 27, 1857, to become effective Jan. 1, 1858. Donald Sutherland was elected our first reeve and William Roe, Erastus Jackson, George H. Bache, and William Wallis as village administrators and Edwin Penrose Irwin our first village clerk.

In recognition of our incorporation as a village, a new corporate seal was created. Many of you will likely recognize the famous bee-hive logo with the nine bees. The original insignia read Village of Newmarket and was subsequently changed in 1881 to Town of Newmarket but remained identical otherwise. It was to remain unchanged until 1971 when the regional government appeared.

In 1859, a petition was circulated to establish our first fire brigade and we purchased our first fire engine that year.

In 1860, the first Newmarket Agricultural Fair was proposed and accepted by our new council. It was this year the Mechanics Hall on Lot Street (Millard Avenue) beside Newmarket’s first Grammar School was erected. This building was the location of our early library, town celebrations and historic meetings and the home of Club 14, Max Boag’s soldiers club during the Second World War. This is also the year that Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward VII), the eldest son of Queen Victoria, visited Newmarket.

This was also the year that Isaac Stickwood established his brickyard on Prospect Street, the source of the bricks used for many of our architectural historical gems.

In 1861 we recognized the need to build the Old Town Hall and to extend Timothy Street from Main to Prospect streets. Sadly, both projects were put on hold due to the costs involved.

The year 1862 is best known as the year of the great fire, when most of the east side of Main was destroyed by fire. Robert Simpson (future merchant king), dissolved a business partnership from 1858 and entered another with W.M. Bogart forming Simpson and Bogart on May 14, 1862 on the northwest corner of Timothy.

The extension of Timothy and the bridging of the stream would be deferred to ‘next year’ as the town felt that the gravelling and ditching of Main was a bigger priority.

The initial Registry Office was built on the northwest corner of Main and Millard in 1863. All local land titles were held in Toronto prior to 1863. By 1882 this building was inadequate to hold all the records and a new registry office was built in 1884.

Also in 1863,  the beginning of the reconstruction of Main Street after the fire began, this time using bricks from the Stickwood Brickworks.

In 1864, the 4th Division of the Court Clerk’s Office was moved from Sharon to Newmarket.

We skip ahead to the year 1865, when Newmarket’s first bank, the Royal Canadian British Bank, under John Cawthra opened on the northwest corner of Water and Main streets. Timothy Street finally opened with a six-foot plank walk on wooden posts stretching across the stream. Alas, there was no real road at this point.

Plank sidewalks first appeared on Lot (Millard), Srigley, Gorham, Church, Eagle, Prospect, Cedar and Water street in 1865. The town purchased six acres of land between Gorham and Srigley streets to build the Fairgrounds, fulfilling a plan hatched back in 1860.

In 1865, Reid moved his monument business to the former location of his earlier enterprise, Newmarket Sewing Machine, on the southeast corner of Main and Queen streets. This company would eventually become my family business, Luesby Monuments.

Then the next year, 1866, the Palace was built, an agricultural pavilion used for the annual fair until 1927. A fire hall and council facilities were added beside the registry office.

An Episcopalian Church was erected on Queen across from Raglan Street in 1866, a brick structure that replaced an earlier frame and rough-cast structure. It would be sold to the Society of Friends in 1886 and was the Salvation Army when I was a child.

The year 1867 was a huge year both nationally and locally. The British North American Act was passed by British Parliament July 1, 1867, which was to effectively become our Constitution. To mark the occasion, our first local Dominion Day was celebrated with a parade, picnic and cricket matches at the Fairgrounds. This was the year that our currency changed from the pound to the dollar and Canadian coins were first introduced.

It was also this year that the Newmarket Courier was established, a clearly Conservative paper to rival the Newmarket Era that was Liberal in tone.

In 1868, we began to use coal oil for our lamps, replacing candles. Of interest is the reduction in fires locally that year. There was also a petition to provide kerosene lamps for street lighting.

The year 1869 saw the purchase of 11 acres of land on morth Main for $1,100 and the establishment of a Protestant cemetery board made up of local merchants. This new cemetery would essentially replace the Eagle Street Pioneer Cemetery.

As 1870 arrived, the population was pegged at 2,000. This is also the year that the town purchased a couple of lots on Timothy, west of Main, for a farmers market.

Fire returned in 1871 when the bridge at Water Street and the old Hill Mill (a heritage property) were destroyed. The first farmers market opened on June 1, 1871, with a large wooden shed on the south side, and was an instant success. Later in the year, all the wooden buildings between Botsford and Timothy streets except the brick building (Playters Emporium) were destroyed by fire.

This was also the year that Robert Simpson left Newmarket for the greener pastures of Toronto where he would establish his iconic store at Yonge and Queen.

The year 1872 was an important one for businesses and entrepreneurs. Council was determined to solidify Newmarket’s position as the commercial centre of the county and so they made some interesting pronouncements.

First, they decided that to attract businesses and entrepreneurs to relocate to Newmarket, they would offer free land and exceptions from taxes for a term of years in exchange for guarantees of employment. This idea was hugely successful as three large industries (Davis Leather, the Cane Foundry, and the Office Specialty) relocated here.

William Cane would purchase a half interest in the Sykes and Elvidge foundry and then he proceeded to erect a steam sawmill and planning factory.

In 1873, the original Christian Church was moved from Main to Millard, where it was to become a Temperance building and then the home of the Masonic Lodge. 

In 1874, a new cross was placed on the Catholic Church. Also, the new bell for the new Christian Church arrived, said to have weighed over 1,237 pounds and to cost $550. There was a petition to the town to provide a clock for the Christian Church tower but it never happened. The cornerstone was laid this by Lord Dufferin, Governor-General of Canada, and the first performance of Alexander Muir’s The Maple Leaf Forever was held.

It is also interesting that 1874 also marked the introduction of ballot boxes and an article appeared in the local papers explaining how to use them.

The year 1875 marked the dedication of the new Catholic church on Ontario Street, St. John’s, which would replace St. Mary’s Church and a new, consecrated cemetery was opened on north Main. In 1882, a separate school was erected. Planning began in earnest for the incorporation of our village into a town, which would take place six years later.

Also, in 1875, the ‘old Presbyterian Kirk’ on Timothy was replaced by a new structure on the southwest corner of Water and Eagle streets. Both the St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church on Water and the Christian Baptist Church on Main were re-dedicated this year.

There were three major fires in 1875 starting with the Cane factory in May, in August the Marsden flour mill, and in October a series of houses on Garbitt Street (Prospect).

In 1876, Danford Roche purchased what would later become a major enterprise that dominated Main Street for years from William McMaster.

Then in 1877, J.W. Marsden purchased his mill on Huron Street (Davis Drive) on the west side of the railway tracks.

The year 1878 brought changes to our political system when the village of Newmarket was divided into three wards for election purposes, St. Patrick, St. Andrews, and St. George. Pressure increased on those in power by merchants to incorporate the village into a town. A new census was conducted, showing that our population had risen to 2,021 persons.

A major flood destroyed 10 bridges between Newmarket and Holland Landing and that same year fires destroyed a series of buildings between Timothy and Water on the east side of Main.

Oil lamps and 12 poles were purchased and installed on Main north of Water and a lamplighter was engaged at 15 cents per lamp per week in 1879. Council passed two resolutions of historic importance in 1879, a resolution to incorporate the village to town status and to follow through on the plan to separate the north riding of York to a county named York.

The cornerstone for the Methodist Church on the northwest corner of Main and Park was laid this year. The Methodist Church would soon become known as the United Church.

The year 1880 was a busy year, as reeve Erastus Jackson and clerk David Lloyd petitioned the Lieutenant-Governor to proclaim the incorporation of Newmarket as a town. The official letters of patent were witnessed by the Honorable John Beverly Robinson, the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, and official seals were applied at Government House in Toronto Aug. 7, 1880 and a holiday was declared.

Joseph Cawthra donated $50 to council’s new benevolent fund for relief of the poor in celebration of our pending incorporation.

A huge dinner and celebration were planned to mark the town’s first birthday and a budget of $100 was set aside to cover expenses. By acclamation, William Cane was appointed the first mayor.

In part three, I will continue the story starting in 1881 with our official transition to an incorporated town.

Sources: The Newmarket Era and The Newmarket Courier; The Memorable Merchants and Trades 1930 to 1950 by Eugene McCaffrey and George Luesby; The History of Newmarket by Ethel Trewhella; Stories of Newmarket, An Old Ontario Town by Robert Terence Carter

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.

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About the Author: Richard MacLeod

Newmarket resident Richard MacLeod — the History Hound — has been a local historian for more than 40 years
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