NewmarketToday.ca brings you this weekly 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 [email protected]
Last weekend, we took a look at William Cane, our first mayor and an early community leader. Today, in the second part of our series on our town's prominent family dynasties and leaders, we will take a look at Henry S. Cane, William’s son and also a mayor and perhaps more of a community leader than his father.
It can be argued Henry Stiles Cane did more to move Newmarket from the horse and buggy days into the progressive 20th century than any other man of his day. Henry S. is credited with bringing a waterworks system and hydro to Newmarket, creating a cutting-edge fire department, connecting us to the outside world with the stringing of telephone lines throughout the town and, of course, bringing two major industries to town that would be the primary employers here for the next 75 years.
Henry S., the oldest son of William Cane, was Newmarket’s chief magistrate, serving three terms (1897 to 1904, 1912 to 1913, and 1915 to 1916). Born in Queensville, he left school at the age of 12 to work at his father’s wood mill in East Gwillimbury. Years later, he and his brothers became partners in William’s wood-working empire on Davis Drive.
In 1885, Henry S. was elected to council and so began his political career. He was to serve on council for 27 years and then became reeve before finally taking over as mayor.
In his first term, he pushed for and eventually succeeded in securing a townwide water system, which would end years of typhoid fever epidemics that plagued Newmarket, and established a professional level firefighting brigade. To this end, he established our first fire hall and set up the volunteer fire fighting service we had until the 1960s.
In 1890, he brought an electrical power plant to Newmarket, paving the way for businesses and homes to have power. This also attracted the radial railway to town. That year, he also established the telephone grid with our first direct line to Toronto and the outside world.
Henry S. Cane was, without doubt, one of the most progressive mayors that we have ever had in this town. His crowning glory was his success in enticing the Office Specialty and Davis Leather to locate here in town, a move that established jobs, financial security and community spirit for the next 75 years.
Next week we will look at Howard Cane, son of Henry S. Cane and grandson of William Cane, who was the third of the Cane mayors.
Sources: Newmarket Centennial 1857-1957 – Mr. Jack Luck; Newmarket Era, Cane Dynasty, June 4, 1980; History of the Town of Newmarket – Ethel TrewhellaHistory of the Cane Family, clippings from the Newmarket Archives; George Luesby archives collection, oral history interviews 2012.