History of Richmond Hill

History of Richmond Hill

Early Settlers
It was believed that early settlers of Richmond Hill were the Native Americans, Iroquois. Although they have previously been nomadic, there were archeological evidence of late Iroquoian settlement in the southwestern part of the junction of Yonge Street and Major Mackenzie Drive. It was estimated that the Iroquois lived in Richmond Hill from 1300 to 1550 CE, as there were sites proving their settlement in the area such as the Orion, McGaw, Reuben Heise and Watford sites. However, conflicts arose between the Iroquois of southern Ontario and the Iroquois of New York, causing the tribes to leave the area. After about a hundred years, the Mississauga Indians moved into the area from the north. 

Toronto Purchase

​In 1787, the Toronto Purchase took place after the native Mississauga Indians sold the land to the British Crown. At that time, Richmond Hill was not yet established. Instead, it was divided between Markham township and Vaughan township. The first European settlers of the land were the Munshaws, followed by Stooks. However, they all suffered difficulties living in the said land and left. Soon, the first European settlers who stayed in lands around Yonge street received land grants. 

Settlement in Yonge Street

It was Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe who saw the need to develop Yonge street as a route to Georgian Bay and the upper Great Lakes. His plan didn’t materialize immediately; but it was until 19th century when Abner Miles, and his son, James arrived from York, Upper Canada where the family owned a general store. They opened a potash plant on west side of Yonge street and became prominent settlers of the land. The area was soon known as Miles’ Hill, named after them. Settlement continued, but war broke and gathered men from Mile’s Hill.

Beginnings of Richmond Hill

It was in 1820’s when the name Mile’s Hill was replaced with Richmond Hill. The name came from Governor General of British North America Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond who visited the place. Soon, the small town grew and more houses, stores, tavern, church, and carpenter’s shop were built. It continued to develop into a farming community, which greatly improved Yonge street. The name Richmond Hill was recognized and started appearing in maps.
In 1872, Richmond Hill was successfully incorporated as a village after several failed attempts. The first reeve of the town, Abraham Law, was elected the following year, along with four councilors. The town continued to grow slowly after incorporation. A high school was built, as well as a fire department.

The churches also replaced the taverns as the center of the social gatherings in Richmond Hill. By 1890’s almost four sky-high churches were built. On the contrary, the economy has been bad and some manufacturers closed or moved. Only a few stores remained along Yonge street.

Developments in Richmond Hill

The arrival of the electric train in Richmond Hill immediately changed a lot of things. With the faster transportation of commodities, the economy slowly become stable again. After welcoming industrial developments in 1912, the greenhouse industry in particular, the small town continued to grow. It became popular for its award-winning flowers that grown at William Lawrence’s greenhouse. During the Great War, the town’s crest was made by William Ashford Wright with his motto “Like the Rose, I flourish”, which refers to the beautiful flowers of the town.

After the war, Richmond Hill continued to bloom. Huge parks and trails were built; recreation facilities, more schools and hospitals were established. Until in 1990’s its significant growth was attributed to immigration. More people moved to Richmond Hill as it continues to develop, making it one of the fastest-growing community in Canada. On March 2019, Richmond Hill was recognized as city.

Up Next – My weekend in Richmond Hill

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