Blog

President’s Message (January 2022)

Well, here it is – 2022 – a year we all hoped would be much better than 2021 or 2020, and a year that might yet meet those hopeful expectations. Experts are telling us that the Omicron variant could soon be peaking and that new cases and hospitalizations could start moving down. We can only hope that they are right and that with more and more people being vaccinated and boosted, we can start to imagine getting back to some form of normal. I certainly have my fingers crossed – I have a real hope that “some form of normal” will be with us soon.

I do hope that you were all able to enjoy the holidays. I know that, in our case, we found ourselves coping with testing and hoping the results were always negative, and cheering the right result that allowed us to spend quality Christmas and New Year’s time with children and grandchildren.I think we appreciate and value that time more, now, when we can’t assume that we can get together whenever we want.

As usual, the main purpose of this message is to remind you that this coming Monday, January 17th, 2022 at 7:30 PM is our regular meeting time, and that this month, it is also our Annual General Meeting. This is an important meeting, as it provides an opportunity for the Executive of your Society to report on the past years’ activities and for our members to vote on a slate of Directors to manage the affairs of your Society for the coming year. I’m sure no one will be surprised to see that our activities over the past year have been really limited, but that makes it even more important that we ready ourselves for a year to come that will hopefully see the Society begin to transition back into its normal robust and face to face self.

After the reporting and the voting, we will again devote some time to a “Bring and Brag” session, when we will have a chance to present and describe some family treasures that we think our colleagues might enjoy. I know that the “Bring and Brag” session last year went really well. We saw some really interesting material and some of us got some new information about our treasures. This year, I thought I would share a couple of items from my Banff days.

So – please join us for our AGM. Any guests wishing to attend this virtual meeting on Zoom is invited to contact us at r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com.

On another subject that I tend to deal with in each of these messages, I am pleased to see that membership fees for 2022 are coming in, mostly by e-transfer. This is certainly the most convenient way for us to receive these funds (no trips to the bank, in particular), and it must be more convenient for our members, as well. So please keep it up. If you haven’t paid for your 2022 membership yet, please consider doing it through an e-transfer to our account with the TD Bank. You will need our email address – r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com, and it would be really helpful to include information about the year the dues are for, as well as your address, email address and telephone number – all information that will help us stay in touch.

Thanks for your attention. I do hope to see you there.

President’s Message (November 2021)

Hi everyone:

The main purpose of this message is to remind you about the Society’s regular meeting coming up soon – on Monday, Nov. 15th, 2021, at 7:30 PM. It will be a Zoom meeting, and our speaker will be one of our members, Chris Robart, who will be talking about some of the Richmond Hill veterans commemorated on our Cenotaph. Anyone wishing to attend this virtual meeting on Zoom is invited to contact us at r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com.

There are a few other items of interest that I wanted to share with you:

I have been hearing from some members about the likelihood of soon getting back to face-to-face meetings. I have also heard from others who are quite hesitant about face-to-face meetings. While there is nothing to report yet, we have been in touch with the Church to inquire about Wallace Hall, and have learned that their long-time custodian has just retired – they won’t be in any position to open the hall up for some time. We agreed to get back in touch with them in the new year. In the meantime, we will also be exploring other options, and we’ll keep you posted. I’m personally hoping that a face-to-face Strawberry Social will be possible in June.

I’m pleased to report that we’ve been making real progress in terms of our memberships for 2022. We’ve received a number of fee renewals through the e-transfer process – I’m really pleased that we seem to have fixed all the difficulties with this process (thanks, Karen!!), so I would like to encourage you to use the e-transfer process if you are considering paying your 2022 membership fees. As a reminder the fee is $25.00 for a single membership and $40.00 for a family. Our account is with the TD Bank, and you will need our Richmond Hill Historical Society email address – r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com.

We have begun planning for our Xmas meeting/party. As usual, we will hold it early – on Monday, Dec. 13th, 2021, so it’s not so close to the 25th. We had a pretty good time last year, and we’re hoping that Santa can fit us into his schedule again. We’ll have more details for you well in advance!

We have also begun planning for the Society’s Annual General Meeting, when we report out about our past year’s activities, and vote in a new Executive Committee for the coming year. Our AGM this year will be on Monday, Jan. 17th, 2022, and in addition to the formalities, we will be having our usual Bring & Brag, that gives us an opportunity to share some of our treasures with the Society’s members.

Finally, I would like to encourage you to regularly check our website. I know there will soon be a posting highlighting Richmond Hill Public Information Sessions dealing with a review of Residential Infill Development and Zoning. I know that many of you have real interest in this subject. I would also like to encourage you to visit the Library’s website. I have highlighted some of their programs in the past, and I know they have some new and interesting programs in the works.

That’s plenty for now. Thanks for your attention.

2022 Annual General Meeting

The Richmond Hill Historical Society’s Annual General Meeting will be held via Zoom on Monday, January 17, 2022 at 7:30 PM. The Zoom link and other AGM details will be provided to members prior to the meeting. Please join us in voting in the 2022 Executive Committee for the new year, and hear how your Society has been coping during 2021 – another very different year.

After the official voting is completed, our favorite Bring & Brag will begin. BRING out your precious treasures that you would like to BRAG about! Any items of interest – if you think we’d be interested, dust them off and share with the members. It might also be an opportunity to learn more about your treasure – we have a very well-informed membership.

Nomination Deadline: December 31, 2021
If you would like to nominate someone (or yourself) for a position on the Executive Committee, please send your nominations to the Society at r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com.

The AGM is an important part of the Richmond Hill Historical Society’s year. We hope to see you there to help the Society begin a new year – hopefully one that will see the return of some normalcy.

Patterson Village Holds a Special Place in Richmond Hill’s History

The Patterson Brothers established the company town known as ‘The Patch’ in 1871, writes Vera Tauchtel

by Vera Tachtaul, Richmond Hill Historical Society

Published in the Richmond Hill Liberal, Thursday, October 28, 2021

Exterior shot of Patterson Church – Ruth Redelmeier

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.

Factory buildings of Patterson Brothers, manufacturers of agricultural implements, located three kilometres west of Richmond Hill, along today’s Major Mackenzie Drive. – Richmond Hill Public Library

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

President’s Message (October 2021)

by Jim Vollmershausen

I’m forever amazed at how fast time slips by. It seems like I just finished a message to you, and here it is, time to write another one. It’s a good thing I enjoy doing them, though I wish I could type faster. My kids laugh at my two-finger style.

The main purpose of this message, as usual, is to remind you about our regular meeting coming up on Monday, October 18th, at 7:30 PM. Kevin Dark has arranged for Richard Fiennes-Clinton to speak to us. Richard has been involved in Toronto’s heritage community for about 30 years and will be speaking to us about Victorian mourning practices – an appropriate topic for October. Anyone wishing to attend this virtual meeting on Zoom is invited to contact us at r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com.

During our last Executive Meeting, we learned a bit about the planning that is going into the renewal of Mill Pond Park, and that the City had launched a consultation process to gather comments and suggestions about the future of the park. I know that this park is highly valued by Society members, and I thought that you might want to weigh in on this planning process. The current stage of this process closes on Friday, Oct. 15th, so I would encourage you to visit Richmond Hill’s Website and find the material on the Mill Pond Park Renewal Project. This material will point you to a presentation and a survey that they will ask you to fill out.

In my last message, I asked you to consider paying your 2022 dues soon, so that, early in the new year, we will be able to sit down and create a comprehensive membership roster after a confusing couple of years. I know that there was some trouble with the e-transfer process at our bank, but Karen Dance and I went there last week and we think we got it straightened out. So keep trying the e-transfer process, using the Society’s email address: r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com. If you prefer to pay by cheque, you can simply make it payable to the Richmond Hill Historical Society and send the cheque to Karen Dance at 52 Roseview Ave., Richmond Hill, Ont., L4C 1C7. As a reminder, the fees are $25.00 for a single membership and $40.00 for a family.

Finally, we began thinking about getting our Newsletter up and running again at our last Executive Meeting, and Peter Wilson, our volunteer editor, will be looking for items of interest. One suggestion was to renew our effort to recount our personal stories about coping with the pandemic. A few of us did this in our last Newsletter. So if you are interested in sharing any of your “coping” stories, please send something to myself or Peter (at rhhsnewsletter at gmail.com), and we’ll see that it makes it into the Newsletter. If there is anything else you think Society members might be interested in, pass that along, as well.

That’s it for now. I’ll send you a reminder about the meeting a day or so in advance.

Thanks for your attention.

Jim

President’s Message (September 2021)

As promised, this is a note to remind you about our upcoming regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 29th, 2021, at 7:30 PM. This is our first meeting since June, and as much as I would have preferred an in-person meeting, our view is that it’s just not time for that yet. We’ll keep you posted about the possibility of in-person meetings, but, in the meantime, I think we’ve learned that Zoom meetings work. We’ve been able to continue to arrange for interesting speakers, and the meeting on Sept. 20th is no exception. Our Programming Director, Kevin Dark, has arranged to have Mr. Wayne Morgan, President of Community Heritage Ontario, speak to us about “Heritage Conservation in York Region – A Personal Journey.” Anyone guests wishing to attend this virtual meeting on Zoom is invited to contact us at r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com.

In my last message, I also referenced the Fall 2021 Richmond Hill Speakers Series. They have a series of 6 excellent speakers lined up beginning with Nina Munteanu on September 23rd, who will be speaking about “….water and what it means to us.” I’d like to encourage you to check the Speaker Series out. You can find more information at Fall 2021 Richmond Hill Speaker Series: OnRichmondHill.

I’m reluctant to raise the issue of Membership dues, but it has been a confusing issue as we’ve been trying to cope with the restrictions Covid-19 has placed on our ability to conduct normal business. As I noted above, I’m pleased that we have been able to take advantage of Zoom technology (many thanks, Marj) to keep our meetings going, even if we have to forgo the pleasures of mingling and refreshments. I also have to note, though, that most of our expenses continue: honoraria for speakers, insurance, P.O. Box rental, website costs, and more. Thankfully, the church has been very helpful by letting us off the hook for rent. We do need Membership revenues, though to keep us going.

It will be really important, then, if members could arrange to pay their 2022 dues, starting now. We’re hoping that, by Jan. 1, 2022, the bulk of our memberships will be up-to-date and we can prepare a new and current membership roster. Just to remind you, our fees have not changed. A single membership is $25.00 and a family membership is $40.00. Payment can be by cash, though we’re not expecting that to happen until we can finally meet face-to-face. Until then, of course you can pay by cheque, and the easiest way is to make the cheque payable to the Richmond Hill Historical Society (see or Membership page). Finally, you can pay by e-transfer directly to our account with TD Bank. You will need our email address to do this – r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com. I know that many of you successfully did this for your 2021 fees.

Finally, I mentioned in my last message that we’re beginning to think about projects that we can undertake to help Richmond Hill celebrate its 150th anniversary. Two projects that I can tell you a bit about are, first – the collection of all of our Liberal articles over the last few years into one digital archive which we would make available through our website and perhaps other digital locations. We are also looking into a series of similar articles that were published some years ago, as well as wondering how we could make a series of seniors’ interviews conducted by Bert Hunt a few years ago more readily available. Secondly, we’ve begun to explore the notion of a Heritage Summit in 2023 that would bring heritage supporters, developers, planners and other officials, homeowners and interested citizens together for a day to discuss the state of heritage resources in Richmond Hill.

We’ll keep you posted on these projects and others that may arise as more planning takes place. As I mentioned in my last message, any thoughts you might have about this celebration would be appreciated.

That’s more than enough for now. I’ll send out a reminder about the Sept. 20th meeting a day in advance.

I hope to see you there.

Many thanks

Jim.

President’s Message (June 2021)

Well, here it is the middle of June, and we should be talking about arrangements for our annual Strawberry Social. I guess we’re in the same boat as we were last year at this time – maybe next year! This time, though, it looks like next year may actually be possible. With the vaccination roll-out working away and more and more people getting their first shot, and even their second shot, and reopening starting to kick in, its actually possible to start thinking about this pandemic being behind us – though I do think some restrictions will be with us for quite awhile yet.. I’m certainly happy to report that both Marion and I got our second shots last week.

Getting back to our June meeting, it is scheduled for Monday, June 21st at 7:30 PM. I’m really looking forward to our speaker this month – it is Mr. Trevor Parkins-Sciberras, and he will be talking to us about “Railcar Restoration,” and I’m sure we will learn a lot about the railcars that were regular visitors to Richmond Hill in years past. Anyone wishing to attend this virtual meeting on Zoom is invited to contact us at r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com.

This meeting will be our last get-together until September, and I just don’t know at this point what position we will be in by then. I’ve heard very little about when large-ish indoor gatherings will be permitted again, and even if that kind of restriction is lifted, I think we’ll be canvassing our membership to see just how comfortable people will be to return to Wallace Hall. We’ll simply have to play things by ear, and be ready to continue with Zoom meetings for a while longer.

I’ve mentioned membership fees several times over the last few months, and I’m pleased that many members have renewed their membership, either by e-transfer or cheque. I also know that others have opted to simply roll their 2020 membership over to 2021, an option that we were happy to offer. I expect that, in September, the Executive will be reviewing the status of our membership, and discussing how to rationalize the situation as we move through the fall of 2021.

Thanks for your attention. I’ll send out a reminder before the meeting – and hope to see you there.

May marks 25 years since Richmond Hill’s final Spring Fair

City’s rapid growth meant interest in agriculture waned, writes Mary Jane Celsie

Mary Jane Celsie
Richmond Hill Liberal

Published in the Richmond Hill Liberal, Thursday, May 6, 2021

A poster for the Richmond Hill Agricultural Society’s Spring Fair in 1852. This month marks the 25th anniversary since the closing of the society, as well as the city’s final spring fair. – Richmond Hill Historical Society

It may be hard to believe now, as we drive up a Yonge Street lined with plazas and highrise condos, but only a few decades ago, Richmond Hill was flanked east of Bayview and west of Bathurst with family farms.

Farms that had been an integral part of the community, well before the village of Richmond Hill itself was incorporated in 1873.

The Yonge Street Agricultural Society was formed in early April of 1849, and by May 2 of that year had organized a one-day agricultural fair, held on a site west of Yonge Street and south of Arnold.

It was a simple beginning, consisting of mostly farm animal exhibits and competitions, but there was added entertainment in the form of a tightrope walker, performing on a rope stretched above Yonge Street between two hotels, and horse races held on the street itself.

Community historian Mary Dawson, writing in the Liberal years later, tells us that “Since there was no public address system available, a man with a loud voice, mounted on horseback, made the rounds of the hotels calling out the list of events, summoning the thirst quenchers to participate.”

It must have been quite the lively scene.

By 1851, the Fair Committee had settled on the date of the fair as Queen Victoria’s birthday, on or about May 24. Still a one-day event, the fair moved from venue to venue (usually a farmer’s land) until 1866, when it was held at the Town Park at Arnold and Church for the first time.

Since council had asked for a fee of $25 for use of the grounds, admission had to be increased to 25 cents for adults, 10 cents for children and 10 cents with each exhibitor’s entry form.

Fortunately, these fees also covered the cost of the Teston Band, which played live during the festivities for $20.

Initial prize lists focused on livestock judging, as well as harness racing, but in later years other sporting events such as human foot races and a football tournament were added.

By the 1960s, the prize lists had been expanded to include domestic sciences such as needlework and flower arranging, and even prizes for schoolchildren, such as essay writing, penmanship and arts and crafts.

Equine events included show jumping and a Western Horse Show held under the lights in the evening. By now, the fair itself was held over an entire weekend and a small midway was added as well.

For both the fair and the Agricultural Society, 1985 was a significant year, with the election of its first female president.

Kathleen “Kay” Smith, who had worked with the Society for 25 years, was elected, finally acknowledging the dedication of the women behind the scenes in organizing, cooking, baking and arranging events.

In the words of Fred Thomas, a former president himself, “Kay’s the best president they’ve had for quite a few years. She works hard.”

This was also the year the fair moved from the constrained conditions of the Town Park to Richmond Green, where exhibitors and attendees could enjoy purpose-built facilities such as the Pig Barn for animal exhibits, as well as an expanded midway.

However, with the rapid growth of Richmond Hill during the 80s and 90s, the family farms were developed into housing, and interest in agriculture waned.

The Richmond Hill Agricultural Society, and its Spring Fair, ended in 1996, after 147 years. This brief history, therefore, marks the 25th anniversary of its passing.

Those of us who grew up in Richmond Hill in the 1960s remember it fondly.

Mary Jane Celsie is a member of the Richmond Hill Historical Society.

President’s Message (May 2021)

Hi everyone,

So we are really into Spring now, though it’s certainly been cooler than we would like. A definite sign is that I mowed the lawn for the first time yesterday – it was very necessary. It’s hard to believe that it’s the second spring of the Covid 19 pandemic, but here we are, still under a lockdown and still trying really hard to stay safe, and watching the vaccination numbers slowly (it seems) rising. I received my first shot at Richmond Green in late March, and was told that my second shot would happen in July. I’m really hoping that vaccine supplies become enough that the July date happens much sooner!

The main purpose of this message, as usual, is to remind you that our regular monthly meeting is coming up on May 17th at 7:30 PM, by Zoom. Anyone wishing to attend this virtual meeting on Zoom is invited to contact us at r.hillhistsoc at hotmail.ca.

Our speaker will be Mr. Don Holmes, whose topic is Canadian-made hand tools: there must be a better way. I expect that we’ll learn some things that we just never knew!

I sent you a special message last week about an opportunity to tell the city that Heritage Matters, as part of a consultation process regarding a new Master Plan for Richmond Hill. A series of virtual workshops have been scheduled, dealing with specific areas in the city, and I know that some of you have been participating. The first two dealt with the Bathurst Street and Highway 7 area and the Yonge Street and 16th Avenue area. The next one is scheduled for tomorrow night (May 11th) at 7:00 PM and deals with the Village and Richmond Hill GO Station area. You can register on the City website for that session.

The last three workshops are the Bayview and Highway 7 area on May 13th, the Oak Ridges Centre Area on May 18th, and the East Beaver Creek and Highway 7 area on May 20th. The link to register can be found at Official Plan Update – City of Richmond Hill. I would encourage you to participate – this is an important opportunity.

I hope many of you spied Mary Jane Celsie’s article in the Liberal last week, describing the history of Richmond Hill’s Spring Fairs. Mary Jane did a great job on this latest in the series of articles – what I call Heritage Vignettes – that the Historical Society has been preparing for the Liberal over the last few years. I hope you are enjoying them – we’re working on the next one as we speak.

At our last Executive Meeting we discussed a suggestion from Cameron Telch that, as we think about getting back to normal and having regular newsletters again, we consider sharing some members’ stories about their pandemic experiences and how they coped. We could include them over a number of newsletters. So please give some thought to what you might be able to contribute – I think we could all benefit from this kind of sharing

Thanks for your attention, everybody. Don’t forget our next meeting – Monday, May 17th, at 7:30 PM.

Please stay safe.

Jim

Richmond Hill Official Plan Update 2041 – Have Your Say

Richmond Hill Official Plan Update 2041

This is your opportunity to say that heritage matters here in Richmond Hill.

Richmond Hill residents are invited to join these City run, on-line workshops to discuss the vision, character, and function we would like to see. At these meetings the staff does present provincial and regional direction or parameters. But there is a real need to share your knowledge about the local context. It is our opportunity to work together to discuss how the different areas can develop over time.

Here is the schedule (use the link below to register):

  • Bathurst Street & Highway 7 Area (May 4, 2021)
  • Yonge Street & 16th Avenue Area (May 6, 2021) – Register here
  • Village & Richmond Hill GO Station Area (May 11, 2021) – Register here
  • Bayview & Highway 7 Area (May 13, 2021) – Register here
  • Oak Ridges Centre Area (May 18, 2021) – Register here
  • East Beaver Creek & Highway 7 Area (May 20, 2021) – Register here

All workshops are scheduled from 7 to 9 pm.

Here is the link to the Official Plan Update – City of Richmond Hill.

There are surveys that we should complete too.

The city has invited us to the table and we should come.

Please invite others.