I call this a living history because it is a work in progress as I try to better understand the story of the land on which I live. As I learn more I will continue to add to it.
I refer to Stouffville as a suburban village: it began as its own municipality and overtime has become a suburban community that feeds a larger urban centre. The population remains just under the limit to be considered an urban centre itself.
However, the goal of this project is to look beyond Stouffville as a community and to try and understand the history of the land the town sits on. So I begin with the land:
People who stay in place may come to know that place more deeply. People who know a place may come to care about it more deeply. People who care about a place are more likely to take better care of it. And people who take care of places, one place at a time, are the key to the future of humanity and all living creatures.
-- Robert L. Thayer, LifePlace
The Story of the Land
- 75,000 to 11,000 Years Ago — The Wisconsin Glacial Episode covered most of what we know as Canada by an ice sheet. During this time sea levels were low and the Beringia Land Bridge allowed animals to migrate into what we call North America.
- 12,000 Years Ago (approx) — the geological landform now known as the Oak Ridges Moraine (on which Stouffville now sits) was formed during the final retreats of those glacial movements.
- The moraine is part of the world’s largest permanently protected greenbelt. It’s waters, forests, and land continue to play an important ecological role for the plants, animals, and humans that live on it.
- Pine, maple, beech, and oak forests grew in abundance before European contact.
- This land was lived on by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinabewaki, & Huron-Wendat peoples.
- 900 A.D. — considered to be the the beginning of early Iroquoian presence in south-central Ontario.
- 1587 — The Wendat people (Huron Nation) established a prominant village on the land here (a 5 minute walk from my house) that was made up of 1500-2000 people.
- Although the agricultural potential is low on the moraine due to soils prone to droughts and early frosts, the land was capable of growing corn, something the Huron diet depended on.
- There was a significant amount of deer remains found on the site, suggesting that the animal provided both an important food and clothing source.
- 1620s — It is suggested that they abandoned this village and moved 5km Northwest to another site. Reasons currently unclear, though research seems to indicate that villages were often active for up to 30 years.
- 1604 — The French establish their first colony in “New France,” called Acadia. Four years later they moved further inland and established Quebec. The demand for fur creates a depletion of resources that create a near centry of conflict with the Indigenous peoples. The French continued to move inward and take more territory as their own throughout this time.
- 1639 — A Jesuit mission (Sainte Marie) was established in what is present day Midland. The significance of this is to consider a point of reference for how far West the French were moving and settling.
- 1763 — Following the Seven Years’ War, the territory of New France is handed over to British control.
- 1783 — Treaty of Paris recognizes American independance. Those who are loyal to the Crown are forced out of their homes and settle elsewhere.
- 1788 — Nassau District established.
- 1789 — Land Boards set up to settle the four districts of what would become known as Upper Canada.
- 1791 — Upper Canada officially established.
- 1792 — Nassau district is renamed the Home District.
- 1798 — Reorganized into counties (Simcoe and York established).
- Early 1800s — Road connecting York with Brock township cuts through what is a largely forested area.
- 1805 — Abraham Stouffer purchases the land in two deals from Russel Hoag [^1] and John Williams.
- 1824 — Stouffer builds a saw & grist mill and a hamlet begins to emerge. 55 Mennonite families settle here.
- 1832 — Stouffville Post Office is established.
- 1850s — 300+ residents. Extensive forestry reduced the township to just 35% wooded area. This eroded the soils of the northern part of the village into sand deserts.
- 1864 — 700 residents, new industries beginning to emerge. Milling continues to be a major economic stimulent.
- 1871 — Toronto & Nipissing Railway built, runs through the community. Residents initially resistent to the idea.
- 1876 — Stouffville is incorporated as a village.
- 1877 — Second track to Lake Simcoe added and Stouffville Junction is created, servicing more than 30 trains a day. Lumber and livestock continue to be major exports. The railway creates major development opportunities.
- 1910 — Continued deforestation has lowered the total to just 7% wooded area.
- 1911 — Reforestation Act passed, efforts to save the forests begin.
- 1923 — The land is officially ceded to Canada as a part of the Williams treaty. The details of this treaty have created legal tensions up to 2018.
- 1924 — Vivian Forest is established as a protected conservation area.
- 1971 — Millard Street, created as a sort of by-pass north of Main Street led to population boost as new neighbourhoods are established.
- 1980s — The northern extension of the 404 highway from Steeles to Davis Drive creates new commuter opportunities for the town’s residents.
- 1995 — Hoover Park built south of Main Street brings large population increase. Many new neighbourhoods and schools developed along it’s 5 km spread over the next 2 decades, one of of which I am currently living in.
[^1]: There is an allegation that Hoag was a squatter and Stouffer really purchased this land from the Crown.