Markham Village Heritage Tour
Vinegar Hill Subdistrict
Aboriginal Presence in the Rouge Valley
Archaeological evidence found scattered across farmlands in the Rouge River watershed, including stone arrow points, tools and pottery fragments , confirms that Markham was occupied by Aboriginal people long before the settlement of Europeans. From 900 B.C. to 1650 A.D. (Late Woodland Period), Aboriginal communities migrated across the area in seasonal cycles to hunt, fish and gather food. Eventually, the farming of beans, squash and corn led to the establishment of villages.
Rouge Valley Mills and Vinegar Hill
From the early 19th into the early 20th century, two main grist mills dominated the area south of Highway 7; Markham Mills to the east and Glen Rouge Mill to the west. The construction of these mills resulted in the founding of a community of business owners and trades people, and the services to support them. Glen Rouge Mill was demolished about 1920. Markham Mills, later operated under the name Milne Brothers, continued to grind feed until 1933 when it burned down.
The steep incline of Main Street South, just south of Highway 7, is known locally as Vinegar Hill. There are several theories on the origin of the name. One is that barrel makers would fill barrels with vinegar and roll them down the hill to find out whose barrels would roll in the straightest line. Another theory is the area was named by the Irish settlers to commemorate the Battle of Vinegar Hill, which took place in Ireland in 1798.
Markham Agricultural Fair
Agricultural societies, based on the English model of improving agricultural methods, were established in Upper Canada in 1792. Over the next few decades, hundreds of these societies were founded including one in Markham in the 1840s.
Beginning in the 1850s, each society organized annual fairs to provide marketplaces for produce as well as opportunities to demonstrate innovations and exchange farming information. In 1865, Captain William Armstrong granted permission for an Agricultural Hall, or Crystal Palace, to be built on five acres of his land. The Markham Agricultural Fair was in this location at Main Street Markham South and Highway 7 until it relocated to McCowan Road near Elgin Mills Road in 1977. The then Town of Markham bought the original site in 1975.
Markham Village Subdistrict
In the early 1900s, automobiles began replacing horse-drawn vehicles and there were demands to improve the Ontario highway system. In 1920, the road from Sarnia to Guelph was designated a provincial highway, and Highway 7 began. It had crossed Markham Township and reached Peterborough by 1928, but was not completely finished until the early 1930s. In 1961, the highway reached Ottawa when a portion of Highway 15 was re-designated as Highway 7.
As a community on a provincial highway, Markham Village took advantage of improved access to both eastern and western Ontario. The Village also established services for travellers. The highway, now classified as a regional road, remains an important transportation corridor.
On February 29, 1936, Edwin Stonehouse and his son James surprised three armed men attempting to rob their garage. A fight, gun battle and car chase along Highway 7 resulted, during which the robbers escaped. James survived but Edwin died later in hospital.
The crime was eventually linked to career criminal Norman “Red” Ryan and his accomplices Harry Checkley and Edward McMullen. Ryan and Checkley were killed soon after during a robbery in Sarnia. The manhunt for McMullen continued and he died in a gun battle with border officials while attempting to cross into the United States.