This weekend on Newmarket Today we examine the first hotel in the Newmarket area, located in what once was the first white permanent settlement in King Township, established at the beginning of the nineteenth century at Armitage, located on the West Side of Yonge Street, just southwest of the town of Newmarket and bordering on the town of Aurora at Saint John’s sideroad. Armitage would ultimately be amalgamated into Newmarket when its boundaries were expanded.
Mr. Amos Armitage, after whom the hamlet was named was part of the Quaker migration spawned by Mr. Timothy Rogers along Yonge Street. Mr. Amos Armitage was among the earliest of the Quaker settlers, his grant was located on Lot 92 on Yonge Street. His farm would remain in the family for a full century until it was purchased by a Mr. Roy Shaw. In addition to clearing the land, Amos Armitage established a carpentry shop where he made many of the wooden articles necessary to pioneer life. At the same time, he assisted in the construction of many of the early buildings in the mill center, which would become Newmarket.
Armitage boasted a post-office (1904 to 1971), a schoolhouse built in 1850, and the Hicksite Quaker Meeting House and cemetery.
Union School Section #3, Armitage was initially built in 1850, a frame and brick structure. It was located on the original Clubine family farm, lot 88 on the east side of Yonge Street where the Nature’s Emporium Plaza is now located. When I was a child there was an orchard there and the remnants of the ‘Bucket of Blood’. The school was rebuilt in 1914 and was re-incarnated on Savage Road, not that far from the original school. In the photos section of this article, I have included pictures of the school, the Hicksite cemetery and the location of the post office before it was taken down. I have also included a map of the land grants of the settlement. Unfortunately, I only have one photo of Gambles Inn to offer.
From 1800 to 1811 only one inn license had been issued in all of Whitchurch Township, and that was to a Mr. Nathaniel Gamble who settled on Lot No. 89 on the east side of Yonge Street just north of the Mulock property on the south-west corner. It was also one of the first inns in all of York Region. You will remember from a previous article that there was a Quaker Meeting House called Hicksite, the burial ground which remains tucked behind the Stronach women’s shelter.
Mr. Gamble’s Inn was the primary stopping off point for the settlers emigrating to lots along Yonge Street. Often their last night’s encampment was in the Gamble woods just south of what became the farm of Sir William Mulock, where a trail passed to the west of Yonge Street.
In the early 1800’s, the ‘inn’ was considered an extremely important structure, often ranking ahead of schools, churches and stores. It was the local entertainment center, site of public meetings, trials, and early church services. The village inn was literally the center of any established community.
Nathaniel Gamble was one of the early movers and shakers of Newmarket in the early 1800’s, his name can be found throughout our early records, attached to numerous social and political endeavors. Records indicate that Mr. Gamble was born in 1756 and emigrated to Upper Canada in 1802 along with a group of Vermont Quakers under the auspices of Mr. Timothy Rogers. Mr. Gamble took up a 200-acre lot on which he would establish a farm, and build a hotel called “Gamble’s Inn. He married a Ms. Susannah Mercer in 1803 and had eight children.
The inn is described as having been a two-story, plank-sided structure containing a dozen rooms and a large bar (must for the time). Given that it was the only hotel / inn in the area, you can imagine just how popular the establishment would become. The existence of the bar alone would guarantee its economic place in the thriving local economy.
Weary travelers heading north along Yonge Street between York (Toronto) and the Lake Simcoe port of Holland Landing (see my articles on the stage-coach line which began in the late 1820) would usually stop here for the night or at least for a drink or two. One of the Inn’s claims to fame was the story told of the great artic explorer, Sir John Franklin, staying here at the inn on more than one occasion.
As indicated above, Gable’s Inn was quickly becoming the social center of the community, if not of the Township of King. We know that the first public meeting of the Township of King was held at the Inn on March 6, 1809, and that they would continue to host the meetings until 1839.
The Western Light Lodge, the first Masonic Lodge organized north of Toronto, which was established in 1817, held its first meeting ‘in the home of Mr. Nathaniel Gamble’, located on the First Concession of King Township, about three miles from Newmarket. It appears that the Inn was a common venue for local meetings of every kind for years.
There is a story of Gamble’s Inn playing a part in the story of Mr. William Lyon Mackenzie, who is said to have visited the inn while attempting to escape the authorities post 1837 and the rebellion, when he was on the run. Perhaps he dropped in for a quick drink or two.
Did you know that Mulock Drive was initially known as Gamble Road, such was the prominence of Mr. Gamble and Gamble’s Inn locally?
Nathaniel’s son, Nathaniel Allen would continue to run the Inn for several years after his father’s passing. While we do not know anything about the Inn’s demise, we do know that by 1850 it had disappeared from the listing of area hotels and inns.
Records show that Mr. Gamble and five of his children are buried in the Pioneer Burial
Grounds on Eagle Street but there does not appear to be a corresponding gravestone for us to see.
And so ends my short story of Armitage and the local establishment called Gamble’s Inn. Armitage, as a separate community fell to the expansion of Newmarket’s borders in the 1970’s, another unique community relegated to history. Check out the old Quaker burial ground located behind the Stronach Women’s shelter to take a short trip back to the way it was in the past. Sir William Mulock gave his address as Armitage, not Newmarket.
See you all back here next weekend. Be well.
The History of Newmarket by Ethel Trewhella
Various Articles from The Newmarket Era
Stories of Newmarket – An old Ontario Town by Robert Terence Carter
Gamble’s Inn by Andrew Hind
Oral History Interviews by Richard MacLeod
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.