Society Confirms 2023 Executive

The Richmond Hill Historical Society is pleased to announce the confirmation of their Executive for the 2023 year. They are as follows:

Jim Vollmershausen, President
Andrea Kulesh, Past President
Laura McMullen, Treasurer
Vera Tachtaul, Secretary
Karen Dance, Membership
Kevin Dark, Programming
Barbara Di Mambro, Publicity

External Representatives

Agnes Parr, Heritage Richmond Hill
Cameron Telch, Heritage Centre Advisory Committee

The Society is still looking to fill the vacant position of Social Coordinator. Complete details may be found in our call for volunteer announcement. Anyone interested in this position is invited to contact Society President, Jim Vollmershausen at r.hillhistsoc at

RH150 Flag Raising

A photograph of the Richmond Hill 150 photo booth and flags raised outside Richmond Hill City Hall
The Richmond Hill photo booth at the official raising of the RH150 flag at East Beaver Creek. It will be making stops around Richmond Hill throughout the year.

Mayor David West and a host of dignitaries and special guests gathered at East Beaver Creek at 9:00 am on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 for the official raising of the Richmond Hill 150 flag. This kicks of a full year of activities planned by the City to commemorate Richmond Hill’s milestone 150th Anniversary.

A series of special banners are already on display along Yonge Street in the heart of the original Village of Richmond Hill, which was officially incorporated on January 6, 1873. Abraham Law served as the first Reeve of the village.

The Richmond Hill Historical Society, also celebrating its own 50th Anniversary milestone, will be helping to commemorate this special year. Our biggest project is a partnership with the City – the presentation of a Heritage Summit on Sunday, September 10, 2023 at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.

The afternoon component of the Summit has been dubbed “An Appreciation of Richmond Hill’s Heritage” when a number of City organizations that have been contributing to the City’s heritage over the years will have an opportunity to showcase those contributions and discuss them with what we anticipate will be a good crowd. The evening component will take place in the theatre and has been dubbed “A Celebration of Richmond Hill’s Heritage.”

Throughout the year, we will be sharing information about this special event and all that we have in store. We invite you to join the Society as we celebrate these two special milestones.

Further reading…

City of Richmond Hill’s official flag raising press release.

Visit the City of Richmond Hill’s RH 150 webpage for more information about what is planned for the coming year.

Sheila Wang’s article in the Richmond Hill Liberal on the flag raising event.

Historical Society Volunteer Opportunity: Social Director

This executive position is key to the fellowship of our society. You provide a welcoming atmosphere for members and guests alike. The society provides refreshments through the generous donations of members who are served coffee and tea at each of our meetings. Four or five members are asked to donate and prepare and bring food for each meeting. This is all prepared and ready for the members to enjoy at the conclusion of the evening and provide time to speak with the monthly speaker.

Duties required for 8 months of regular meetings and 2 months for special events from September – June of each year:

  • Purchases supplies-monthly (milk and cream) and as needed (coffee, tea, sugar and napkins). Note: Tote provided for all supplies
  • Sets up table for refreshments and prepares coffee and tea to be served at the conclusion of meetings.
  • Oversees set up of food, napkins etc. for the meeting.
  • Organizes and purchases food and supplies for Strawberry Social in June and the caterers for the Holiday Dinner Party in December.
  • Keeps a record of expenditures and revenue from
  • donations and makes a head count on a monthly basis
  • Attend monthly executive meetings-1st Wednesday of each month. Report record for monthly minutes.

Time required to perform duties:

  • 1 hour for shopping for an regular monthly meeting – more if there are other purchases needed. June is a special event so there is committee support for the purchasing of supplies, if help is required. Executive members help with the set up and take down.
  • Time required for contacting caterers and arranging for the Christmas and Holiday
  • Dinner. This event is organized by the Executive. Set up and take down prepared by Executive members.
  • 6:30 p.m. it is ideal to be on hand early to begin preparations. (meetings begin at 7:30 p.m.) Members that are bringing food will deliver it to the kitchen to be set out. You can organize helpers for each meeting.
  • Once members have left the meeting, everything must be taken down and cleaned up. The table has to be cleared and cleaned. Hand wash any dishes that need to be cleaned and put away. Distribute any leftover food that remains to the member who brought it. Clean up kitchen and put back supplies in the social tote supplied. Remove garbage (Wallace Hall requires us to take our garbage away) and wash tea towels at home.

If this position interests you, please contact the Society at r.hillsoc at


Historical Society Mourns the Passing of the Hon. David C. Onley

The Hon. David C. Onley in the Ontario Legislature, taken November 29, 2007 by the Government of Ontario and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
The Hon. David C. Onley in the Ontario Legislature (November 29, 2007) [photograph courtesy the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (CC BY-SA 2.0; Flickr)

The Richmond Hill Historical Society is saddened to learn of the passing of former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David C. Onley on January 14, 2023. Mr. Onley was a great ambassador of history in the Province of Ontario, as well as a life-long champion of accessibility. He will be missed by so many across our province, our country and around the world. Our deepest condolences go out to Mr. Onley’s family, friends and colleagues.

The Honourable David C. Onley served as the 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from September 5, 2007 to September 23, 2014. Learn more about his incredible legacy by visiting the official site of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario:

Read the Ontario Historical Society’s tribute to Mr. Onley and what he meant to history in our province.

Society Celebrates 50th Anniversary

2023 marks a very special year for the Richmond Hill Historical Society as we celebrate our 50th Anniversary. Throughout the year, we will be looking back at our history and sharing photographs and stories of our past.

The first projects undertaken by the Society were to save and restore two buildings, Burr House and an old church, that was moved to the site from the corner of Carville Road and Bathurst Street.

Burr House was thought to have been built c. mid-1820s by Rowland Burr for his bride. Situated on Carrville Road, formerly Lot 40 Side Road, Vaughan Township. The original structure was plank on plank construction. In 1851, an addition was added to the rear. It was continuously occupied as a residence until sold to property developers, then acquired by the Town of Richmond Hill in 1975. To save the house from demolition the Society undertook the task of restoring it. With the assistance of Hill Potters Guild, the Richmond Hill Spinners and Weavers and WINTARIO Grants, restoration was completed.

In 1974, members of Richmond Hill Council visited Rowland Burr House and are pictured with Historical Society President Janet Fayle, Acting Clerk William Rice, Society member Malcolm Jardine, Chief Librarian Patricia Hart.

Guild Hall was erected in 1857 as a church for the Canadian Conference of the Evangelical Associates in North America. In 1975, the Town of Richmond Hill acquired it from the property developers and moved it from its original location at the north east corner of Carrville Road and Bathurst St. to its present site beside Burr House. The Society and Burr House Spinners and Weavers restored the building. Both buildings are a familiar landmark on Carrville Road.

The former church building arriving on site to be installed as the Guild Hall beside Burr House in September 1978. It would officially open on October 23, 1982

In 2019, Burr House was awarded the Bert Hunt Heritage Award, the Society’s top honour.

The Society’s mission is:

  • to preserve in our present community an awareness of the culture of our forefathers;
  • to hold monthly meetings for the presentation and discussion of historical information relating to the Richmond Hill area;
  • to promote existing historical publications, publish books, articles, and newsletters etc. for the
    advancement of the awareness of local sites, deeds and peoples of interest; and
  • to cooperate with other historical societies and related organizations.

For more information about joining the Society, which meets 10 times per year, please visit our Membership page.

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

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.

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.

Passing of Jack Rumney

It is with sadness that the Richmond Hill Historical Society announce the passing of one of our members John “Jack” Garth, Rumney who passed away January 28, 2021 at the age of 93.

Husband to the late Margaret Rumney (nee Campbell). Father of John and will be missed by Wendy. Dear grandfather to Alicia (Casey) and Rebecca (Niles). Cherished great grandfather to Evan. Jack is remembered by his siblings Connie (late Ken), Phillip (Joyce) and the late George.

Jack sold cars at Wilson Niblett Motors in Richmond Hill from 1965 to 2020, enjoyed curling and was a member of the Richmond Hill Curling Club for over 50 years. He played hockey at an early age, and travelled around Ontario for quite a few years. He donated a beautiful granite stone to the artifact collection for the Sports Hall of Fame.

Jack’s late wife Margaret used to sing at our meetings, and were a great couple.The Society wishes to extend our deepest condolences.

Obituary – Marshall Funeral Home

Message from the President (January 8, 2021)

Hi everyone, and Happy New Year! I hope that you all found a way to celebrate the Holidays in the midst of lockdowns and Covid-19 protocols. I expect that this year was much quieter than usual, and that our wishes for the future were based on the arrival of vaccines and the hope they represent for a return to more normal times. I think we all hope that next year at this time, we’ll be describing festive family gatherings on Christmas Day and New Year’s celebrations with family and friends. From the Society’s point of view, I know that I will be looking forward to our traditional Christmas party complete with good food and great entertainment. Our Zoom event last month was a lot of fun, and Santa Claus was wonderful, but it couldn’t compete with the real thing.

The main purpose of this message is to remind you that our next meeting is coming up on January 18th, and, as usual, it will be our Annual General Meeting. What won’t be usual, of course, is that it will be a Zoom meeting, and the reports from the various Executive members will be much shorter than usual – not much happened, after all. It will still be important that as many of you attend as possible, though, as we will still have to nominate and vote on our 2021 Executive. A big job of the new Executive will be to figure out how to get the Society up and running again when we finally have the opportunity to meet again in person, and we can begin planning for speakers, fund-raising events and simply how to renew connections.

As usual, at our AGM, we will be including a “Bring and Brag” opportunity on the agenda, where members bring items of historical value to them and brag about the item’s origins and its place in their lives. The variety and value of the items never fail to be interesting, so please give some thought to what you would like to brag about, and bring it to the meeting. It’s a Zoom meeting, so you just have to carry it to your computer!

So, please mark your calendar for the Society’s AGM on Monday, January 18th, at 7:30 PM.

We need to know if you will be attending so please let me know if you will be attending by emailing r.hillhistsoc at

One item of Society business that I would like to report on is our successful effort to set up an opportunity for members to use e-transfers. We were particularly interested in making it easier for members to pay their annual membership fee, rather than trying to pay cash as you try and get into the hall at one of our regular meetings. I know that e-transfers won’t work for everyone, but we feel that even if a few can take advantage of it, the process at the entrance to the hall will be eased. We’ll provide more details, later.

In the interest of helping us keep busy through the next few months, I have been able to gather together some information on events that are scheduled in Richmond Hill this winter – all virtual, unfortunately, but I’m really pleased that the organizers have figured out how to carry on with these events in spite of lockdowns.

The first item involves Zoom talks being presented by our Richmond Hill Public Library, that we thought might be of interest. On Jan. 13th at 2:00 PM and 3:00 PM, the Library is presenting Virtual City Tour: Toronto, and on Jan. 16th at 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM, they are presenting British Home Children: Sharing the Stories. You have to register to participate in these presentations, so I am including the links, below:

Virtual City Tour: Toronto | Richmond Hill Public Library

British Home Children: Sharing the Stories | Richmond Hill Public Library

The library also encourages participants to fill out a survey regarding their experience with library activities, so I have included a link for this purpose, as well: Survey

The Village of Richmond Hill Business Improvement Area has developed an event that you might well find interesting, and it will actually get you outdoors. Known as “The 2020 Skillage in the Village Scavenger Hunt,” the BIA has created a virtual scavenger hunt that contains several clues, all regarding unique time periods in the history of Richmond Hill. The event will be available until the end of January, and looks like it would really be worth considering. I have included, below, some material from the BIA on how to play:

Who? Play alone or as part of a small team (physically-distant). All ages.
What & Where? Go back in time, solving over 100+ clues from Richmond Hill’s past & present.
Locations in the vicinity of Yonge Street (Major Mackenzie Dr. to Crosby Ave.)

How? Click the link.
• Register to play. Create a profile.
• Start playing. Once signed up, select an image.
• Each image will have something missing from it.
• Your job is to go to the location, find & fill in the missing answers.
• Correct answers = points.
• Team/person with most points at end of the Scavenger Hunt wins.


FUN! Learn about Downtown Richmond Hill – the Village that became a City.


Winner(s) get 1 of 2 Gift Certificates ($250 each) for a BIA member store of Your Choice (see Business Directory on website)

Taking pics? Tag us #skillageinthevillageRH

Only available until January 31st, 2021. Sign Up Now & Start Playing!

One event that I know is still in the planning stages is Richmond Hill’s Annual Winter Festival. We do know, of course, that the Festival will have to happen in a virtual format this year, so please keep your eye out for details on this event. It has been a fixture in Richmond Hill for many years, so I am sure that the tradition will continue, in spite of Covid-19.

Another event that we have come to associate with the end of winter in Richmond Hill is Councillor David West’s annual Maple Syrup Festival. It too will be in a virtual format this year, and is scheduled for Sunday, March 21st, 2021, so please save the date, and watch for details.

Thanks for your patience – this message is a bit longer than most of my messages, but I was anxious to let you know about a few events that might help make the winter months this year a little more interesting, and I particularly wanted to remind you about our AGM on Jan. 18th at 7:30 PM. We’re keen to get a good turnout, so please keep it in mind, and don’t forget to let me know if you will be able to attend.

I’ll see you on the 18th at 7:30PM. And don’t forget to let me know if you will be attending or not.


A Goodbye and Tribute to Madeline Johnston

October 9, 2020

by Donna Smith

In these transient days of people moving from one place to another, it is refreshing to write about our friend Madeline who has lived in Richmond Hill for 78 years! And in the same house for 76 years!

Madeline Johnston, an only child, came with her parents to live on Carrville Road in 1942 when her Father began working on a large fox farm located between Carrville Road and Major Mackenzie Drive, Yonge and Bathurst Streets. Two years later, the family purchased their home at 99 Mill Street and Madeline has lived there ever since. She married and had a son; he married and had a son who both moved away from Richmond Hill, but Madeline remained in her childhood house. She is moving to Lakefield where her son has bought a house and he has made an ensuite apartment for her.

Madeline has been an active member of our community all these years. She has been a member of Richmond Hill United since arriving, and has been especially active with the United Church Women’s organization. Willing to help wherever needed, Madeline has served on their Executive and for 25+ years has arranged for the food and volunteers for funeral receptions. Her creative skills have been shared making crafts for sales and table centre-pieces for many luncheons. One has to wonder just how many casseroles, cookies, sandwiches, squares, and her famous salmon loaf, she has made and brought to share! And for so many events, she has found her participation willingly washing dishes, saying that being short in stature, she was just the right height for the sinks!

Madeline has been a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society for many years, attending meetings, bringing food to share and helping where she felt able. Her home is on a large lot and she has filled it with gardens, both floral and vegetables, starting plants from seeds and cuttings and nurturing them to beauty and harvest. About ten years ago, Madeline and two volunteers from the “Hort” went out to judge nominated gardens in their assigned area for recipients of a Front Garden Recognition sign, sponsored by the Hort, Royal LePage Realty and the Town of Richmond Hill. After a long, hot day together that July, both friends commiserated how exhausted they felt on their way home, just wanting to put their feet up and rest but not Madeline, who said as she got out of the car, she still had time that afternoon/evening to cut the grass on her large lot…. I hasten to add that the other two ladies were much younger than Madeline!

The Richmond Hill Historical Society has been another interest of Madeline’s for many years, attending meetings and helping with food and events. She has been the “go to” person to ask about Richmond Hill’s past.

These words are a quick snapshot of the person who is loved by many neighbours and friends in her community. Madeline will be missed, her willingness to help causes and people in need, her very positive attitude and happy disposition which she shows in her smile and sense of humour. Many have Madeline as a role model, but it is very hard to keep up with this 97 year old wonderful person and citizen!