It is often the case where one person is immortalized in our local history while others of equal importance are practically left by the wayside and yet they are most certainly worth remembrance. That’s the case with “the other Lount,”George Lount, who unlike his older brother, Samuel, has fallen through the cracks of our local history when it is re-told.
Samuel Lount of Holland Landing was a central figure in the 1837 Rebellion who was eventually hung for his deeds. Unfortunately, his reputation has overshadowed the enormous contributions of his younger brother, George, whose contributions to our local history are most certainly worthy of review.
George was the second son of Gabriel Lount, a master land surveyor from Catawissa, Pennsylvania who was born on Feb. 25, 1799. Part of a Loyalist family, George and Samuel came to our area when George was just 12. George, under the tutelage of his surveyor father, became a master surveyor in his own right before he reached his 20th birthday.
George was a virtual jack-of-all-trades, a postmaster, farmer, tinsmith, entrepreneur, public servant, land surveyor / developer – all the attributes that a young man would need to be successful in a new and growing country.
George and Samuel jointly acquired land in Holland Landing and established a prosperous farm and blacksmith shop. George would take over his father’s contracts, becoming an official surveyor.
As part of this new calling, George and Samuel surveyed West Gwillimbury, Tecumseth, and Innisfil townships in 1819 and 1820, opening them up for the settlement. Samuel would often assist his younger brother with the surveying.
George was appointed the first Registrar of Land Deeds for the new County of Simcoe in 1826, a position he was to hold for four decades.
Samuel, as the story goes, was to muster an army in December 1837, marching down Yonge Street and attempting to overthrow the government. George did not get involved in any way in the uprising, while Samuel was to be hung for his treason in April 1838. George’s family ties to Samuel never seemed to hinder him or his ambitions in the least.
In fact, George was appointed Justice of the Peace for Simcoe County soon after the rebellion and was the driving force behind the Minesing Road, linking Lake Simcoe to Nottawasaga Bay in 1847. The road was initially named Lount’s Road.
George also served in numerous public capacities throughout the area. In 1830, letters intended for Holland Landing were addressed to Newmarket, which was at the time the only post office this side of Penetang. Afterwards an office was opened on Yonge Street, approximately one mile south of the Landing village with George Lount appointed the first postmaster and Aaron Jakeway his deputy.
The Era tells us that in January 1958, a new board of school trustees for the Common School in the village of Newmarket was formed and George Lount was one of those local businessmen elected.
The first election to choose a representative for the new County of York was held in July 1828 in Holland Landing and the chief returning officer at that famous election was George Lount as he was judged the most trustworthy by both sides.
The first missionary society in Newmarket was organized March 21, 1825, in the Prospect Street Methodist Church. A largely non-denominational society, its purpose was the propagation of the Gospel in these parts conducted chiefly by missionaries or by itinerant preachers.
Its charter read: “We bless the Lord that he has disposed our Sovereign, the King, and the Grand Council of Nations, to favour the religious instruction of people of every colour and description within the extensive dominions under British Government”.
The Society continued to prosper and in 1827 we are told that George Lount was appointed to solicit subscriptions in the King area, along with other notable men such as W.B. Robinson, Eli Gorham, William Huntley, Nathaniel Gamble and Dr. Beswick.
In my article on the history of the Catholic Church in Newmarket, I wrote: “On the first of November 1838, a meeting of Catholics of Newmarket was held at the residence of John Walsh, storekeeper, to take into consideration the advisability of building a church. A grant of half an acre of land was obtained from George Lount, and preparations were made to build the church on Ontario Street, in 1840, to be named St. Mary’s.
The land for the building of the first separate school and the burying ground was purchased from George Lount who conveyed it by deed on Dec. 22, 1854 to the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Toronto.
In my article on the history of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, I quoted from the Newmarket newspaper at the time that on the ninth day of June 1837, Dr. Beswick bequeathed 45 acres to his heir and executor, George Lount, for the use, benefit and on behalf of the Established Church of England in the Province of Upper Canada, to be applied to the use of the said church in such a way and manner as shall be pointed out by any three clergymen doing ecclesiastical duty of the village of Newmarket.
Again, Lount was the primary land agent handling the transfer and development of a large tract of land upon which a couple of historic properties would be built.
You may ask what the connection was between Dr. Beswick and George Lount. Beswick was an army surgeon, who along with George’s father, Gabriel, had emigrated to America where Gabriel had married Philadelphia Hughes, a Quaker from Pennsylvania.
Though they had taken up considerable land in the U.S., they were not satisfied with life in the republic and came north to Upper Canada. Gabriel Lount acquired a considerable amount of property, as surveyors took their payment in land, which was an important article of commerce. Gabriel was the father three sons — George, Gabriel and the martyr, Samuel — along with several daughters.
Along with the 45 acres that Beswick had left to the Anglican Church, in trust with George Lount, he also bequeathed the balance of his considerable estate, which consisted of extensive land holdings, to George, who he had adopted as his child and heir.
Dr. Beswick also left him a tract of land in Catawissa Township, Columbia County, Pennsylvania containing 269 acres, a considerable chunk of land indeed.
With his extensive land holdings and designation as a master surveyor, George became Newmarket’s first land developer / real estate agent. With the coming of the railroad to Newmarket, after the line had been graded, the rails laid, sleepers ballasted, bridges built and several station houses had been built, a Newmarket station was constructed by the railroad on 1.44 acres purchased from George part of Lot No. 95, on the south side of Huron Street, for $2. The transaction was recorded on Aug. 14, 1854.
Lount was one of the prominent local men who always maintained faith in the future of our village. This hope was to be manifested the year the railway was built when he surveyed his farm at the north end into lots of which Ontario Street was the southern boundary between his land and that of Mordecai Millard. He also built the Eagle Hotel on Huron Street near the railway the next summer. The houses on Ontario and Simcoe streets were laid out by Lount on this land.
It is recorded that thanks to the promotional planning of George Lount, the village received a huge push toward its development. It is important to remember that it was assumed that the village would drift along Eagle Street toward Yonge Street. However, this anticipated interest in land to the southwest was not realized and business tended to move toward the north along Main Street. Much of this growth was thanks to Lount’s foresight.
In 1855, George Lount sold Lot No. 13 to Dr. Orrin Ford, on the north side of Huron Street, almost opposite the rail station, on which Ford would build a steam gristmill, with four stores, and a sawmill combined. It stood just north of the Beaver Mills built later and located on the same lot.
In 1855, Robert Murray purchased a lot from Lount on the south side of Simcoe Street approximately three lots west of what was once Dyer’s Furniture.
There were very few sidewalks and it was suggested that a plank walk should be built from the corner of Mill Street (Queen Street) to the railway station. Lount still owned a few vacant building lots along the way and he laid out a sidewalk to service the surrounding area.
If you read my article on the history of the cemetery on Main Street North, you will remember that Lount was instrumental in the laying out of that cemetery.
George Lount would pass on May 8, 1874 at the age of 74, having lived a far less dramatic life than his younger sibling, Samuel. George was nonetheless as prominent in our history as his older brother Samuel and deserved his story told.
It is my hope that with this short article, I have afforded George Lount a chance to emerge from the shadow of his brother and take his rightful place in our historical records.
Sources: The History of Newmarket by Ethel Trewhella; Various Articles from The Newmarket Era; Blast From the Past by Andrew Hind; Stories of Newmarket – An old Ontario Town by Robert Terence Carter; Surveyors of the Past by Peter Mansfield
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.