History of Markham
When Upper Canada was established in 1791, John Graves Simcoe was appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor of the Province. One of his first acts was to delineate the province into counties and townships. Markham Township was surveyed in 1793-94, and was named by Governor Simcoe in honour of his close friend, William Markham, the Archbishop of York.
The first settlers arrived immediately after the land was surveyed. In 1794, William Berczy led 75 German families from New York State to Markham Township. At the time Yonge Street was little more than a track and Markham was isolated from the luxuries of civilization, so some of the Berczy settlers bowed to the hardships and left after a few years. Those that remained, however, literally founded Markham Township.
From 1803 to 1812, the largest group of settlers to arrive in Markham, were Pennsylvanian Germans, most of whom were Mennonites. These industrious individuals were responsible for establishing most of the communities that today comprise Markham.
They were joined from 1815 onward by numerous Irish, Scottish, and English immigrants.
By 1860, most of the township had been cleared and placed under cultivation. Unionville, Markham Village, and Thornhill were all well established villages by this time, and many industries began to appear. A further boost came in 1871, when the Toronto and Nipissing Railways passed though, bringing rapid development and increased prosperity.
Around the dawn of the 20th century, the villages of Markham Township began to atrophy. Local industries---everything from mills to blacksmiths to wagon works---were no longer able to compete with larger industries and suppliers in Toronto, and began to close. With them, went the villages they served. Markham Township reverted to its quiet, rural roots.
Renewed prosperity arrived in the wake of World War II. With the spread of suburbia beyond Toronto’s borders, Markham began to grow once more. Its rural character began to disappear in the face of tremendous urban growth, replaced by a modern city with bright hopes for the future.
Markham, located just north of Toronto’s east end, is the largest of the nine municipalities in York, both in terms of population and size (211 square kilometres). The four main communities are Markham, Thornhill, Unionville, and Milliken, but there are numerous other historic hamlets in the township as well.
Markham is a rapidly growing community. In 1976, it was home to 56,000, and the population has since quadrupled to 220,000. By 2021, some 370,000 people will live in Markham, with an average 20% increase every five years. The township has grown to keep pace, with new housing developments and businesses, as well as quality schools, numerous parks and recreational areas, and top notch infrastructure.
Industry is being attracted to Markham in increasing numbers, especially technology-related businesses. Not for nothing is Markham considered the “High-Tech Capital of Canada”. In fact, several large corporations maintain head offices here, among them American Express and IBM, suggesting that Markham is beginning to be considered a viable alternative to downtown Toronto by corporate interests. This economic vitality has an obvious impact on the nature of the community, where the average household income is $121,000, the highest in York Region.
Part of the reason for this is the convenience of transportation in the township. Highway 404 provides rapid access into the heart of Toronto, less than 20-minutes away, while Highway 7 and the 407 Toll Route provide handy east-west corridors. The TTC has many bus routes that run through Markham and connect to Toronto’s subway system, while GO Transit offers both bus and rail service to Toronto and the other municipalities of York Region. Finally, Buttonville Airport, a private airport serving small aircraft and located only minutes from Markham’s commercial core, is increasingly being employed by corporate jets.
Despite unprecedented changes over the past 50 years, Markham is determined to maintain its roots and history. As a result, the historic cores of Unionville and Markham Village are among the best preserved and most attractive anywhere in Ontario. They provide a lure to tens of thousands of tourists every year. Other local attractions include the Frederick Horsman Art Gallery, Markham Museum, home of numerous exhibits and a dozen restored heritage buildings, and several premier golf courses.
For Markham Real Estate Services, Please call Super HALL of FAME Top Producer ALBERT LAI
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