Saturday, July 4, 2020
Schomberg sits on the northern edge of the GTA in King Township. The community got its start around 1830 when John R Brown emigrated from Pennsylvania to the area and settled on lot 26 in the 9th concession. Three of his brothers also arrived in the area over the next couple of years, taking up adjacent farms. The earliest name for the town was Brownsville but residents had to go to nearby Lloydtown for their mail so they applied for a post office of their own. That was 1861 and the application was denied because there was already a Brownsville post office in York County. The following year the name was changed to Schomberg, after The Duke of Schomberg, and the post office was finally opened.
An orange grain elevator stands on the side of Highway 9 close to Highway 27 that used to have the Shur-Gain symbol on the side. Shur-Gain was introduced in 1937 as a brand name by Canada Packers. They provided feed for animals and livestock. Today there appears to be renovations going on at the old feed mill.
Schomberg developed a little west of the road that we call Highway 27 today on a small given road. The town retains many of its historical buildings and so I parked and went for a walk. Although the Shur-Gain feed mill on Highway 9 might be better known to people who pass by on the highway there is an older feed mill in town. In 1884 Anderson Tegart built the Schomberg Feed Mill on Main Street where it had direct access to the railway. It operated until 1927 before it shut down. Since that time it has housed a variety of businesses including The Scruffy Duck Restaurant which is still in business. The cover photo shows the feed mill from the south view in contrast to the view from the north presented below.
Beside the old feed mill is a small house built in the year of Confederation that belonged to one of the town doctors. Harry E. Vaux would have served the community out of his home rather than some office in a clinic when he wasn’t visiting the homes of those who were too sick to come to him.
Schomberg has done a great job of identifying their historic buildings. Most of the buildings on Main Street and along Church Street have little plaques attached giving the date and historical uses.
In 1905 you would have been able to walk into this building with the false front and purchase your family meat from Adam J. Smart who was the butcher at that time.
The first commercial bank in Schomberg didn’t arrive until 1902. That was the year that the Trader’s Bank of Canada opened a branch in town. The bank was headquartered on Yonge Street in downtown Toronto and would later become part of the Royal Bank of Canada. The Traders bank opened in the left half of the building featured below. The right side of the building had a grocer and general merchant in it, Wm. Leeson McGowan was proprietor of the store in 1924.
The Schomberg Agricultural Society had been meeting since 1851 and was very active in the lives of the local farmers who were served by the town. Schomberg was well known for its produce and drew people from miles around for its farmers market. In 1907 the Market Association was formed and they built a community hall which was used as a market. In 1922 they added a second story to serve as a full time community hall. The hall is currently being upgraded to make the second floor accessible and restore some of the worn out infrastructure in the building.
At one time Schomberg had its own railway line, the Schomberg and Aurora Railway which was intended to open the successful produce markets up to a larger customer base from Toronto. It connected to the Toronto & York Radial Railway with construction beginning in 1899 at Bond Lake. The railway operated from 1902 to 1927 bringing people to town who would have visited the markets in the community hall. A little pathway beside the community hall building leads into the fair grounds where I found a clever use for a repurposed shipping container. By taking the ends out it has quickly become a covered bridge over a small waterway.
It’s hard to say what will happen to the fall fairs across Ontario in 2020 with the threat of an ongoing pandemic but it might be fun to visit the one in Schomberg sometime. The fairgrounds were pretty deserted on this hot morning.
The Baptist church in Schomberg had stopped using their building and left it vacant on Main Street. Meanwhile, about three and a half miles away a Presbyterian congregation had been meeting since 1891 without a building of their own. In 1907 it was decided to purchase the old church and dedicate it for their use. They held their first services in June 1907 and continue to meet there at the present.
The archive picture below shows the old Baptist Church (now Presbyterian) and the community hall at the time before the second floor was added to the hall. This is apparently from a postcard from the 1910’s.
Fred and Emma Sparling ran a bakery and confectionery on Main Street in the 1890’s in this building with the cute little quarter round gable windows.
Levi Denis was the town miller in 1875 and lived in this two story home. The ground floor has five bays while the second story has only three sets of windows. This lack of symmetry suggests that the second floor may have been added at a later date.
Just around the corner on Church Street is the old home of one of the town blacksmiths. This story and a half house was built in 1891 for James A. Kitchen and has some interesting patterns in the brickwork. James and Elmira had a son named Percy who served in the First World War and then returned to live with his parents in Schomberg where he also took up the blacksmith trade.
Garrett Brown was one of the four founding brothers who started Brownsville and he built this house on Church Street in 1871. He owned several businesses and opened the first bank on Main Street in 1885. His bank didn’t face competition from the larger chartered banks until 1907 when the Traders Bank arrived.
Church street continues out of Schomberg and into Lloydtown which is another interesting little rural community with a unique heritage.
Here’s the link to our story on the Toronto & York Radial Railway. and the one about Bond Lake.
Google Maps Link: Schomberg
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I’m 52 and I remember when the old feed mill on Main St. was still in business as a Co-Op. My family were farmers and we used to go there for supplies all the time. For a few years my father and one of my uncles owned the building after the Co-Op closed and they rented it out to some small shops. My parents lived in the apartment on the second floor of the grey building with the false front when I was born. By that time the store downstairs was Doves meat market. The owner was Russel Dove. The small building behind it where there are now two apartments used to be his slaughterhouse. My father worked for him and eventually took over the slaughterhouse/butcher shop and it became Doug’s Meats. He did custom slaughtering and butchering for many of the local farmers and had customers coming from as far away as Toronto for meat orders. As a kid, I used to work on the kill floor during summer vacation. He eventually moved his operation to a bigger and better facility that he built on our farm just outside of town. He has since retired but the slaughterhouse is still in operation.
Just wanted to leave a reply to say that I discovered your blog this afternoon while looking for information about waterfalls in the GTA, and I love how interesting your content is!
I live in Mississauga along Burnhamthorpe, yet I never knew that the old houses near Dixie were the last remnants of a 19th century community, or that there’s a scenic waterfall (Wahoosh Falls) about 15 minutes from my home. I look forward to more of your fascinating posts!
Love this, wish there was a book of the same. I still call it my hometown. Lorna Campbell (Reynolds)
Hey Steve- I’ve commented a few times over the years. Here’s another to say that I enjoy your blog and FB posts and that I appreciate the work you do.
I’d actually like to take one of these hikes with you and your friends some day, it’d be a fascinating experience.
Hi Steve, My family lived across from Dove’s Meat Market on Main St. and my dad worked at the feed mill which was owned by Hayhoe Brothers and then United Co-Op when he retired in 1965.We were a family of 17 and I am the youngest of 15. 9 girls and 6 boys. We bought the house from Dr. Kay’s estate when he passed away and we inherited all of his Apothecary and his dog ‘Jock’ in 1954. We moved in the summer before Hurricane Hazel and I watched a boat go north on main street and pick up Ab Graham on his front porch. Some of your information is not accurate but for the most part fairly close to what I remember. Thanks for your interesting article.
Thanks for your comments. I am always happy to correct any inaccuracies that occurred in my research or crept into the text. If you can be more specific with the correct information that would be very helpful.
Thanks for the response Steve. I’ll read it over again and pick out the items I know the facts of personally.