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old meadowvale village

Olde Meadowvale Village

Passages from Meadowvale: Mills to Millennium, by Kathleen A. Hicks

From The Beginning

A new province was created and called Upper Canada eight years after the English were defeated in the American Revolution (1775-1783). Following this war, over 10,000 British sympathizers poured into the province of Quebec, with 6,000 settling on the Niagara Peninsula, where in 1784 over three million acres (1,200,000 hectares) were purchased from the Mississauga Indians for the purpose of extending land grants to those loyal to King George III (born 1738, died 1820). These United Empire Loyalists, so named by Governor General Sir Guy Carleton (b.1724, d.1808), who had given up farms, homes, livelihoods, family and friends, settled in to establish a new beginning in a new fertile land.

The province of Quebec was ruled under the Quebec Act of 1774 or French Civil Law, and English resented this. So the Loyalists set about to establish their own laws and thus in 1791, the Constitutional Act was passed. The province was split in two to form Upper and Lower Canada (which would become Canada West and Canada East in 1841 and Ontario and Quebec in 1867.)

With the new province of Upper Canada established, a new government had to be put in place. To head up this undertaking, Lieutenant Colonel John graves Simcoe (1752-1806) was appointed Lieutenant Governor. He, his wife, Elizabeth, and two of their youngest children of six, Sophia and Francis, arrived from Dunkeswell, Devonshire, England, on November 11, 1791.

Following Simcoe's swearing in by Chief Justice William Osgoode at St. George's Church in Kingston on July 8, 1792, he and his family left for the new capital, Niagara which was immediately changed to Newark. (An Act of Legislation in 1798 would reinstate the name Niagara.) They soon settled themselves in marquees on the west bank of the Niagara River, next to Navy Hall that would be renovated for their occupancy.


On August 2, 1815, the Mississauga Indians sold the British Government the Mississauga Tract from the Etobicoke Creek to Burlington Bay, 26 miles of shoreline and five miles inland, consisting of 70,784 acres. The negotiations took place at the Government Inn on the east bank of the credit River under the supervision of superintendent of Indian Affairs, the Honorable William Claus. The host was the operator of the Inn, Thomas Ingersoll. Toronto Township came into being, comprising 29, 569 acres of this transaction with a mile on either side of the Credit River designed as the Mississauga Indian Reserve.

This brought the establishment of small communities in Toronto Township, the Home District, Upper Canada. First came Sydenham (later Dixie) and Harrisville (Cooksville) along the Dundas with Lakeview to the east and Clarkson to the west along the shores of Lake Ontario. Gradually towns and villages were founded throughout the Toronto Township.

The first resident was Thomas Ingersoll, then Philip Cody, the grandfather of the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody, and Daniel Harris. The first children to be born were Sarah Ingersoll, January 10, 1087 and Elijah Cody, November 7, 1807. The first census was taken in 1807-1808 by Deputy Provincial Surveyor, Samuel Street Wilmot, who had surveyed and drawn up the first map in 1805-1806, outlining the 200 acre lots that were designated grants to the incoming settlers. It listed the first families as Philip Cody, Daniel Harris, Joseph Silverthorn, Absalom Willcox, Allen Robinet and William Barber.

Small Communities like Meadowvale and Malton came about when the Mississauga Indians surrendered 648,000 acres of land Wednesday, October 28, 1818, that became the Second Purchase or New Survey. Toronto Township received 34,556 acres of this purchase, which brought its total acreage to 64,125. In 1820, the Indians surrendered their mile on either side of the Credit River, except for an area for their reserve on the west bank of the Credit River between the middle Road and Dundas Street. This allowed for mills to be constructed along this famous waterway that wended its way through Toronto Township from northeast of what would become Orangeville in Mono township to Lake Ontario.

Francis Silverthorn & Olde Meadowvale Village

Francis Silverthorn was born to Aaron and Mary Custead Silverthorn on November 12, 1815, in Etobicoke, Upper Canada, just east of the Toronto Township Mississauga border. His parents had met and married in 1813, during the War of 1812. Aaron was the son of John Silverthorn, who had moved from Niagara in 1810 to take up 400 acres in Etobicoke, where he operated a grist mill on the banks of the Etobicoke Creek.

The progenitor of the Silverthorn family was Oliver, who immigrated to the American state of New Jersey, from Glastonbury, Somerset County, England around 1730. Francis' great grandfather, Thomas, Oliver's second of four sons, had been born in England. He married Johanna Newman in 1745 and they had eight children, John, Aaron's father, being the last in 1762. When John reached his teens, the American Revolution had started (1775-1783). This threw the country into turmoil and three years after its conclusion, Thomas, Johanna, John and his new wife, Esther and baby son, Joseph, made the 300 mile trek to Niagara in the footsteps of thousands of Loyalists who had gone before them. Aaron was born there in 1790.

Francis grew up on his grandfather's farm and learned all there was to know about being a farmer and millwright. He purchased his father's 200 acres, Lot 6, Con. 1, South Dundas Street, in Toronto Township, on October 10, 1837. He established himself there as a prosperous farmer. He had married Susannah Mercer (born 1816) on March 15, 1836, and she died in childbirth in June 1842, leaving a namesake. On February 10, 1845, he bought 7.5 acres in the New Survey, Lot 11, Con. 3, West Hurontario Street from James Crawford for $688. His acreage was located on the banks of the Credit River, northeast of the village of Streetsville, where white pine forests dominated. The area was rightfully called Meadowvale.

By the end of 1845, Francis had a saw and grist mill in operation, which he called "Meadowvale Mills". When establishing the mill race for his mills, he had brought about an island. Francis' businesses created work for many men, who came to the area for employment. Francis became known as the "The Honest Miller".

In January 1846, he sold his Dundas acreage to Robert Craig for $2,000. That same year, he married Mary Hamilton Cheyne, the daughter of Christopher and Jane Anne Cheyne of Derry West.

On May 3, 1847, Francis and his father, Aaron, purchased 100 more acres of Lot 11 and 167 acres of Lot 12, Con. 3, from Crawford for $5313, which had several buildings on them. He and Mary took up residence in a 1.5 storey, white frame plank house set on a river stone foundation that had been built by James Crawford alongside a dirt roadway that would become Derry Road. This same year, Mary presented Francis with a son they named for his father, Aaron. He built two a 1.5 storey, double unit structures for his workers to reside in with their families that were called "Quality Row". Each tenant laborer, who was paid $3 a day, had a cow, pig, hens and geese. The grist mill, know to grind 200 barrels of wheat a day, accommodated farmers from around Canada West, who came from Streetsville, Cooksville, Orangeville, Erindale, Britannia and Mount Forest to grind their wheat. He also added a stave and barrel factory to the saw mill.

Francis purchased 100 acres W1/2 of Lot 12, Con. 2, from Crawford on June 6, 1848, which had been the 1821 land grant of Alexander Burns. The saw mill was operated day and night and cut 10,000 feet a day. With the success of his saw mill, Francis supplied pine planking to be installed on Hurontario Street from the Lakeshore Road through Caledon Township in 1849. The planks were 18 feet long and three inches thick and cost nearly $4.50 per thousand feet. Plank Roads were a new innovation that took Canada West by storm and Francis faired will by this lucrative contract. He also floated pine logs down the Credit River to Lake Ontario where they were loaded aboard schooners and shipped to the United States.

In 1852 Francis took out a mortgage on his farm land and with John Wilmot and built a store east of the mill. His bookkeeper was Robinson Small. He also constructed a one and a half storey cottage on a sandstone foundation behind this homestead to house workers, which was of vernacular classical style with clapboard exterior. It was the only one of its kind in the Village's history. At the turn of the century, it became referred to as the boathouse. A year later, he experienced a dreadful fire at his grist mill; his entire stock of 10,000 bushels of wheat was totally destroyed. In April, 1854, he took out a $7500 mortgage on his mill property with William Gooderham of Gooderham & Worts, a prominent distillery in Toronto, and rebuilt the mill. Francis had met the Gooderhams through his Uncle Thomas, who had supplied lumber to James Worts for the company's windmill in 1831. At this time, 1854, the population of Meadowvale was less than 200.

To Learn More, Read Meadowvale: Mills to Millennium", by Kathleen Hicks

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