The Patterson Brothers established the company town known as ‘The Patch’ in 1871, writes Vera Tachtaul
by Vera Tachtaul, Richmond Hill Historical Society
Published in the Richmond Hill Liberal, Thursday, October 28, 2021
Patterson Village once stood by a wooden sidewalk that stretched from Yonge Street, along Vaughan Side Road (known today as Major Mackenzie Drive) to the factory site, where once long ago, many men commuted by foot from Richmond Hill.
Peter Patterson and his brothers, Alfred and Robert, who had moved from New York state to Upper Canada in the late 1840s to market a fanning mill (a machine for screening grain), had done so well in Richmond Hill that they decided to purchase 100 acres of land on the north side of Vaughan Sideroad, west of Bathurst Street, to expand the business.
The Patterson brothers grew their business around a sawmill and a blacksmith shop, and by 1855, an agricultural implement factory known as Patterson and Brothers Agricultural Manufacturers was established.
To accompany this enterprise, the Patterson Brothers established their own “company town.” Patterson Village (which was sometimes referred to as the ‘The Patch’ by many local residents) was a tightly knit town that included about 25 cottages for married employees, a boarding house for single workers, and had a population of about 200 people by 1871.
There was a Methodist Church, a post office, and a school established by 1872 for the convenience of its workers. Wages were exceptional, being based on the day’s labour rather than piecework. Employees of Patterson and Brothers earned an average $39 per month, which was a considerable sum for the time.
Although technically beyond today’s city boundaries, Patterson and Bro. was very closely linked with Richmond Hill because their workers often went into town to shop, which added immensely to the local economy.
At the agricultural plants’ peak, four teams of heavy horses were kept busy hauling the implements they made to the railway station in Richmond Hill. Since they were unable to obtain a spur line from the railroad, and with competition lurking, the plant was moved to Woodstock in 1891.
In 2006, the company This Land Archaeology Inc., under the supervision of William D. Finlayson, PhD., FRSC, worked on the complete excavation of the village.
Over a two-year period, findings included 16 cellars, and 36 privy pits in the subsoil, with excavations producing 291,911 artifacts, as well as an estimated 1,113,097 small artifacts, which helped illustrate the social and economic status of those who once worked there.
The excavation of a stone foundation of a church uncovered the location of the Methodist Church that once stood there, as well as the complete excavation of the boarding house.
Finlayson wrote, “We knew from archival research that there was a boarding house associated with the Village. Early census data revealed that six men lived in a two-story boarding house, and that the numbers of boarders later increased to 20 to 30 men.
“Historical data also indicates,” he continued, “that the boarding house was run by an independent individual, and that (those who lived in boarding houses) were served with very good meals and accommodation,” (Finlayson 2017:104).
As part of the dig at Patterson Village, there were several Indian artifacts uncovered in the subsoil, confirming that a Huron-Wendat village may have occupied the area prior to 1500 A.D.
The most unique find the archeologists noted was that there was no visible evidence of indigenous artifacts on the surface area. It was noted that by the time Peter Patterson bought the 100 acres of land, it was recorded that the lot was covered in large pine trees typical of abandoned agricultural fields of Indigenous peoples.
William D. (Bill) Finlayson, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is the senior archaeologist in Ontario with over 54 years of experience in the field. One of his many noteworthy accomplishments was being voted a Specially-Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada for his innovations in Ontario archaeology. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.
The total excavation of Patterson Village by “This Land Archaeology Inc.” is documented in his book “The Archaeology of Patterson Village: A 19th Century Company Town in the Township of Vaughan, Ontario” – first in the “Our Lands Speak Series” and is available through I C Publishing. The Patterson site is the largest Euro-Canadian excavation to date.
Vera Tachtaul is a member of the Richmond Hill Historical Society