Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Ghost Canal of The Town of Newmarket that contributed to the defeat of the Liberal Government in 1911

The First Railroad in Upper Canada On the first Saturday of June 1853, the first train came into Newmarket this was the first railroad built in Upper Canada. Called the Ontario, Huron & Simcoe Railway, it eventually linked Toronto to Collingwood on Georgian Bay, but that June day the tracks ended here.

1905-1906 Farmers and businessmen from all over the Newmarket district, angry at skyrocketing railroad freight rates, met in the Town Hall on Market Square to look for cheaper ways to get their products to market.
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Their Member of Parliament, Sir William Mulock, convinced them a canal was the answer and so the Newmarket Canal was born. 
Newmarket’s civic leaders went to Ottawa to lobby for a canal linking to Lake Simcoe and the Trent Waterway. 

With Mulock as its chief advocate in Cabinet, the canal was approved and construction started in 1906. It was almost complete in the summer of 1912 – three lift locks, three swing bridges and a turning basin – when the new government of Robert Borden cancelled the project. 

The attempt to build a canal linking Lake Simcoe to the Holland River during the years 1906 to 1911 was one of the fore most topics of controversy on Parliament Hill. 

This  project was apparently entered into with an amazing lack of foresight, there being insufficient water to operate it, thus totally impractical. 

The scandal brought about as a result of this project and the wasteful expenditure of a large sum of government money contributed significantly to the defeat of the Liberal Government in 1911.
History of Newmarket

In June, 1800, Timothy Rogers, a Vermont Quaker, explored the area  around the Holland River and up to Lake Simcoe to find a suitable location for a contemplated Quaker settlement. The Quakers were disturbed as a result of difficulties encountered when this peaceful sect refused to take part in the rioting and bloodshed of the American Revolutionists. In 1801, Rogers, leading several Quaker families, left their homes in Vermont and Pennsylvania and secured land grants of 8,000 acres located at the east end of lots 93, 94, and 95 along Yonge Street in the former Townships of Whitchurch and King. It was easy for them to see the potential in these fertile rolling lands, through which flowed the Holland River, an important trading artery for both aboriginals and fur traders.

Having arrived in the spring, these first Quaker settlers immediately began the arduous task of clearing the land for their homes and farms. Indeed, By Christmas of 1801, Joseph Hill had constructed a mill on the Holland River at what is now Fairy Lake, around which the settlement to be known as Newmarket sprouted.
 It is possible that at that time the river to have been larger.

In its first 50 years, the community grew and prospered. Farmers’ markets were held regularly on Saturdays and were well-attended because purchasers were spared the long journey to York. Although it was essentially an agricultural community, it provided a busy centre for commerce and small industry. It is believed that the name Newmarket evolved as a result of the trading that took place, while York (not Toronto) was the ‘old market’, this new centre of commerce became the "New Market".

Many factors helped to shape this growing community. One which had a significant impact was the Rebellion of 1837. Newmarket was a focal point of discontent against the manipulations of the governing Family Compact, of whom it was said "were robbing the country". This anger grew to the explosive point with the general election in 1836. 
When the new "Constitutional Reform Party of Upper Canada" was defeated, and grievances of the settlers were not addressed, there was no holding back the tide of rebellion. 

The rebellion was quickly crushed and William Lyon MacKenzie fled to asylum in the United States. Two participants in the uprising were hung, one of whom, Samuel Lount, was from the Newmarket area. The death warrant was signed by Sir John Beverly Robinson. 

By the mid-1800s the fur trade had come to an end and the aboriginals were no longer trading along the Holland River.  

A local news paper, the "New Era", was started in 1852 and in 1853, with Erastus Jackson as its editor, was renamed the "Newmarket Era". 
With the coming of the steam railway the same year, Newmarket experienced another surge of prosperity and growth making it the
most important village north of Toronto.

Newmarket was incorporated as a village in 1857 with a population of 700. Schools we re built, many small industries were started, dry goods and grocery stores flourished. In 1880, with a population of 2,000, Newmarket became a Town and William Cane was elected as its first
Mayor.

Newmarket benefited from technology with the advent of the Electric Railway in 1902. The railway ran from Toronto to 
Newmarket and in 1906 was extended north to the trendy summer resort of Jackson’s Point. 

Newmarket was experiencing a boom, which was to last until the onset of the Great Depression in 1930. 
The coming of the railroad also cinched Newmarket’s role as the business center of the vast and wealthy hinterland north of Toronto. Communities missed by the tracks withered and disappeared, those with stations grew and prospered. 

Businesses moved here, mills and factories were built and the population grew. It has never stopped growing. The railway station was replaced with a larger building twice in the first half century. Today’s railway station was built in 1899 and has been restored by the Chamber of Commerce as a symbol of our business success.

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