Cashel – Ghost Towns of the GTA

April 2, 2023

The township of Markham was once dotted with small communities at many of the crossroads. One of these was the hamlet of Cashel which was a little north of the town of Markham. Originally called Crosby’s Corners and then later Fenwick Corners, it took on the name Cashel in 1851 when it got its first post office. In 1866 it was a thriving community of about 100 people that included a sawmill, tavern, shoemaker, tailer, blacksmith, broom maker, 2 inns and a Masonic Temple. One of these inns still stands at the intersection of modern Kennedy Road and Elgin Mills Road but most of the other businesses have disappeared. There are still a number of houses that survive from this era but most are empty, waiting while the farm land around them is developed for housing. One of the most prominent sites in the former community is now home to the Markham Fairgrounds, across the street from the Peach United Church featured below.

The 1877 County Atlas shows the location of some of the remaining buildings, including the ones featured in the story below. Just north of the intersection is a green star which marks the location of the Presbyterian cemetery. By the time of the atlas below, the church was no longer there.

St. Helen’s Presbyterian Church developed a graveyard in 1827 behind the building. The church operated until about 1865 and then was left without a congregation. The cemetery is now known as Cashel Cemetery and since the church has been demolished the cemetery is maintained by the City of Markham. Many of the township’s earliest settlers were buried in this cemetery.

The original school house was built in 1837 and by 1850 there were about 40 students in attendance in the one room building. School Section 11 of Markham was replaced in 1862 with a new brick building with two front doors. One for the boys and one for the girls. At some point a veranda was added to the front and one of the doors was sealed off. The building was restored when the surrounding land was developed for a plaza and the veranda was removed.

The school still has the bell that once called students into classes but it appears to be stuck in an unusual position. It looks as if it is in permanent action, calling students who never actually show up anymore.

One of the two inns in town is still standing but is now a private residence. The inn was constructed in 1835 and was initially named Llandon Plains Hotel. For awhile it served as the Cashel store and post office and in recent years was Bates Roadhouse Antiques.

The original settlers named Pingle sold their farm in 1881 to Samuel and Mary Wilson. Their son Homer took over running the farm in 1890 and became the owner in 1894. Around 1900 he had a new brick farmhouse built on the property where he lived until he sold to John Preston “JP” Carr in 1926. The Carrs had a son Albert who took over the farm in 1950.

When JP Carr retired from farming in 1950 he had a small cottage built in the front yard of the earlier farm house. He lived here with his wife Florence.

Located near the end of the driveway is a single stone marker which indicates the grave site of Joachim and Anna Marie Pingle and their daughter. They were original members of the Berczy Settlers who came to Markham in 1794. None of the Pingle family buildings remain on the lot but the cemetery is a reminder of the family. It’s likely that the current marker replaced three individual ones from earlier.

This regency style house was built in 1856 by George Henry Summerfeldt Sr., the son of John Henry Summerfeldt, one of the Berczy settlers. The house remained in the family for three generations and is now listed as part of Markham’s heritage inventory. Like the other houses shown in this post, it sits on farm land which is being developed for housing. The homes appear to be in the process of being salvaged and hopefully restored.

The Wegg farm was originally patented to Jacob Pingle but was sold to John Wegg in 1874. When Arthur Wegg, son of John, passed the farm on to his son in 1922 he had a four-square Edwardian home built for his retirement. The house was later owned by a restauranteur and then operated as a country market. Since 2013 it has been waiting for the development of the property into residential uses.

William Bergen lived in Cashel at the time of the 1861 census. He was employed as a general labourer but also had his own broom and basket making business. The simple house he built for his family was originally a single story in 1863 when it was built. Some time later in the 19th century it had a second story added to it.

Peach’s United Church started as a Methodist Church and was constructed in 1890 on land donated by Thomas Peach. The brick building currently on the site replaced a wooden structure which was erected in 1847. The Methodists formed the United Church in 1925 along with some of the Presbyterian churches and some Congregationalists. Peach’s United Church stopped holding services about 50 years ago but the cemetery is still active. The Peach house was built in 1845 and is circled on the map just south of the church and it is still occupied. Unfortunately, there are a lot of trees in front of the house and I couldn’t get a decent picture of it.

The George Haacke house was built in 1955 and was used by three generations of the family until it was sold to John Wilmot Warriner in 1902. The property was farmed until 2014 although it has been owned by a developer since 2011. The two story, five bay house was quite large compared to contemporary cottages of the same era. A nail board along the front wall indicates that the house used to have a much larger front veranda which was replaced with the smaller one at some point in time.

Markham seems to have done a very good job of designating, and then protecting, their historic buildings. One of the most unique things is the creation of Markham Heritage Estates where historic buildings can be relocated and lived in. At least one home from Cashel has been moved to this site near the Markham Museum.

Related stories: Markham Heritage Estates, Markham Museum

Google Maps Link: Cashel

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2 thoughts on “Cashel – Ghost Towns of the GTA

  1. Leslie Kuretzky

    That last photo is a house that always gets me everytime I drive by on McCowan just north of Major Mack. I truly hope that it as well as the other houses can be saved and re-purposed.

  2. Stephanie Boissonneault

    I visited Markham several years ago and saw the Markham Estates project. Wonderful to see a town take pride in what was left by founders of the area. I always find it sad to see these beautiful homes boarded up and left to ruin. There must be many wonderful stories within their walls. Good read.


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