Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Place Called Home

A Place Called Home. Carnival of Genealogy #47. It's time for a geography lesson. Pick out a city/town/village where one of your ancestors once lived and tell us all about it. When was it founded? What is it known for? Has is prospered or declined over the years? Have you ever visited it or lived there? To a certain extent, we are all influenced by the environment we live in. How was your ancestor influenced by the area where they lived? Take us on a trip to the place your ancestor called home.

Three of my ancestral lines called Markham Township, Ontario, Canada home for various lengths of time.
STIVER / STOBER / STOEBER The Stiver / Stöber line came to Markham Township in late 1794, having left Germany in 1792 and spending over a year in New York State. The family was part of the Markham Berczy Settlers.
The 200 acre parcel of land that William Berczy allotted to Johann Niclaus Stöber was at Lot 19, Concession 2 of Markham Township. This is south of the present day Major Mackenzie Drive, between Bayview Avenue and Leslie Street [Headford], near the Town of Richmond Hill. On the Ontario Archives Land Record Index, Johann is called Nicholas Stöber. He received the land by free grant and it was issued July 3, 1797. He received the patent for this land in 1808 but Johann immediately sold it to Henry C. Philips. There is also a lease of land at lot 20, concession 6 [east of what was to become Unionville] dated January 5, 1804.

When the family arrived in the recently, partially-surveyed area of Markham Township, few European people would have lived there. The arrival of the Berczy Settlers of about 200 people is considered the first "systematic attempt at settlement" of the area. By November of 1794, the people were on their land living in make-shift homes. The land needed to be cleared. The first few years were very harsh. Some families left. Our Stöber / Stiver ancestors remained and there are still descendants living in the area. There is some indication that some of the family may have returned to the Niagara Region for a short time but returned when the War of 1812 broke out.

When the family arrived, the area was heavily forested with pine, oak, maple and butternut trees. The main rivers of the area were the Don and Rouge and were most likely were the main transportation routes as there were only trails between homes and settlements. Many of the Berczy settler men helped with clearing parts of Yonge Street going north from York, which became Toronto, the capital of the province. "The first saw and grist mills in York County were built by William Berczy in early days of settlement. They were situated on the River Rouge, on lot no. 4, in the 3rd concession, and were known as the German Mills." [History of Toronto and York County, 1885 v1. p. 115]

HEMINGWAY The exact date of the arrival of Josiah Hemingway in Markham Township is not known but would most likely have been by 1800. The area would still be very much in the development stages as noted in the quote below. Josiah settled Lot 4 & 5, Concession 4 of Markham Township.

In The History of Toronto and York County (1885 v.2 p.290): Josiah was described as follows:
After his marriage, he settled on lot 4, concession 4 of that township, his land then being in its primaeval state; but through succeeding years he and his faithful helpmate after the first of the hardships -- the labourious work of clearing -- was accomplished, got together a very comfortable home. Josiah died in the year 1854, at the advanced age of eighty years, leaving a family of three sons and six daughters. Relative to the early history of York County, it may be mentioned that Josiah Hemingway with his seven and a half pound axe cleared the first part of Yonge Street leading north from Toronto.

His date of death is incorrect in the book. [More on that in a future posting.]

JOHNSTON David Johnston came from Annan, Scotland with his parents and siblings in 1833 and lived in Richmond Hill for about a year and a half. In 1834, the family moved to Uxbridge Township, Lot 35, Concession 5. At what point, David left home is not known. The 1846-7 Brown's Directory shows him at Lot 5, Concession 4, which was the same property that was listed for Josiah Hemingway, his father-in-law. The Roswell's Toronto & York directory, 1850-1 shows him living at Lot 1, Concession 6, Markham Township.

In Lovell's Canadian Dominion Directory of 1870-1 David Johnson, shoemaker is listed as living and working in Unionville, which had a population of about 250 at that time.

Markham Township grew as more settlers joined the original German families that settled the area. By 1842, the township had 5,695 people living there. By 1871, the population had grown to 8,152. By the 1881 census, the population of 6,375 is reported with incorporated municipalities of the villages of Markham, Stouffville and Richmond Hill taken out of the count.

Today, Markham Township, no longer exists on the map of Ontario as a municipality. In 1952, part of the township was annexed by Richmond Hill Village. In 1971, part was annexed by Markham Town, part by Richmond Hill Town, rest by the new Whitchurch-Stouffville Town". Markham is part of the Regional Municipality of York.

Within the Town of Markham now can be found the former municipalities of Milliken, Thornhill, Village of Markham and Village of Unionville. The once mainly agricultural area is a fast growing urban area. From the early days with the German Lutherans being joined by the German speaking Mennonites to the arrival of the English speaking people, Markham has become home to 285,000 of many cultures. Thanks to Heritage Markham, the Town is trying to preserve and remember its heritage. The Town's motto is "Leading While Remembering." Unionville is a beautiful area with the early main street buildings maintained. It is a great place to spend the day.

I have never lived in Markham Township. Fortunately, it is only a three-hour drive. Since 1993, I usually visit once a year for the Markham Berczy Settlers meeting. I have seen the growth of the area. New sub-divisions are being added. The agricultural land is disappearing. In 2004, I spent a week there while attending the Markham Berczy Settlers' Research Days.
To help you locate the area, I have now added a map.

View Larger Map

All photos are from Unionville, Ontario taken in 1992.

Dunford, Fraser. Municipal Records in Ontario : History and Guide. Toronto : Ontario Genealogical Society, 2005
The 1846-7 Brown's DirectoryHistory of Toronto and York County, Ontario is now available for reading and searching at Volume 1 contains the history of Toronto and York up to 1885. The Township of Markham in the book format is from p 114 to 124. Volume 2 contains the biographical sketches.
Lovell's Canadian Dominion Directory of 1870-1Markham, 1793-1900. Markham, Ontario :Markham District Historical Society, 1989. 2nd ed. Isabel Champion Editor.The Roswell's Toronto & York directory, 1850-1
A Story of the Markham Berczy Settlers : 210 years in Markham 1794-2004 : a Story of Bravery and Perseverance. Markham, ON : Markham Berczy Settlers Association, 2004


  1. Janet,

    Unfortunately since land is a fixed commodity the farmland around Markham will continue to disappear as people build houses there. Its good to see that the town is taking historic preservation seriously.

    I have Hemingway in my line also. Do you know where Josiah originated from?


  2. Janice
    My understanding is that the Hemingways came from New York State prior to coming to Canada. They were most likely originally from England.

    Josiah and his brother Moses Gage Hemingway both came to Ontario. The information I have is that their father was Samuel Hemingway.

    Information I received from a fellow researcher says

    Children of Samuel Hemingway:
    · Josiah Hemingway, b: 23 July 1772 in NY, d: 14 Sept 1851, m: Anna Stiver, b: 11 June 1784, d: 17 Feb 1859, children: Eleanor, Nancy, John, Peter, Moses, Mary, Anna, Benjamin, Caroline, Elizabeth, Hannah, William
    · Moses Gage Hemingway, b: 17 Nov 1784, d: 1834, m: Hannah Forgason, b: 10 Oct 1787

    We believe that Anna (Stiver) Hemingway went to Michigan in her later years to live with a daughter.

    Children of Moses Gage Hemingway moved to various parts of the United States.

    Do you see any connections Janice?

  3. Janet,

    I'm afraid I do not see an immediate connection, but that doesn't mean there wasn't one.

    My Hemingway line (also spelled Hemmingway, Hemenway, etc.) is through Hannah Hemingway, daughter of John & Mary (Morris) Hemingway, married about 1729 to Samuel Thompson. They were both born in New Haven CT, and resided in New Haven CT and Readsboro, Bennington County Vermont.

    Within a few generations my branch of this family removed to New York state.

    Hannah was a direct descendant of Ralph Hemenway who immigrated from Yorkshire County England by 1633 and resided in Roxbury Massachusetts.


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