A HISTORY OF MARKLAND WOOD – BY UNCLE MURRAY
From the Marklander 2007
During the next few issues of the Marklander, I am going to tell you some of the history of this area.
I am directing my history to the preteens, as I was a preteen when I grew up near Mill Road .
I was born in a farmhouse on Old Burnhamthorpe Road in 1929.
Let us start on an imaginary bike ride in the summer of 1939. We head westward on Burnhamthorpe Road into Peel County — now called Mississauga . We wave to Mr. Dunn who is delivering mail from his old Ford car to the many mail boxes scattered along the side of the road in Etobicoke.
While we are only 10 years of age, it is safe to travel on the gravel road, as we will only see about a dozen cars on our ride to Dixie Road and back.
After close to half an hour, uphill peddling most of the way, we finally arrive at the nearest store at Dixie Road . Gill's store is located in Burnhamthorpe Village . Mr. and Mrs. Gill, as well as their son and daughter, serve us at a counter. "Self serve" is yet uncommon. We purchase a "Wildfire" chocolate bar for the grand sum of ten cents and start back the way we came. It is much easier traveling downhill to Etobicoke and to the old steel and wooden bridge, which crosses Etobicoke Creek.
As we cross the bridge, we stop and watch our friends in the old swimming hole. Downstream we see a farmer's cattle having a drink in the river; little knowing that someday the area would be a part of the Markland Wood Golf Club. We walk our bikes to the top of the hill and turn southward to our right on an old dusty trail, which is passable by car only in the summer and the fall, as in spring it is too swampy and in winter they do not remove the snow from the trail. This is the beginning of Mill Road . To our left are the future 299 Mill Condo and the future Silverthorn Collegiate.
Just below the future collegiate location we enter the dense Silverthorn bush and pass the future location of Millwood Public School . We eventually pass a point where someday will be the Guardian Drug store. We travel southward and finally come out of the bush and we stop to have our lunch near a wooded bridge, which crosses the river. As we eat our lunch on the riverbank we watch Mr. Moor, at his saw mill cutting logs into lumber. Again we watch some more of our friends swimming in the river. There was a railway bridge, which crossed this point for the electric train which ran from Toronto to Guelph . When the bridge was demolished, it left a deep depression in the river leaving an excellent swimming hole. It is our aim to be first in the river on Victoria Day in May. Fish are abundant in the river. After lunch we continue to Dundas (No. 5) Highway. Had we traveled westward, we would not have seen any significant number of stores until we reached the town of Cooksville at No. 10 Hwy. (Hurontario). We cross Dundas and ride to our left for less than a minute until we arrive at Michie's grocery store, which houses the Summerville Post Office. Someday Muddy Duck's restaurant will be near this location. In the store we buy a soft drink for 10 cents. My favourite is "Wishing Well" cream soda. We leave the store and cross the highway to see Mr. Partin, the local blacksmith, who is putting some shoes on a local farmer's horse. The blacksmith and the grocery store are the only places of business in the area. We continue eastward and walk our bikes up to Brown's Line. It will later be called Highway 27. We travel north from the intersection that has the only gas station in the area until we reach Bloor Street . At this point we would end up on the steps of the only local public school in the area. We can't go westward as Bloor Street is nothing more than a dusty trail to the west and so we must go north until we reach Burnhamthorpe Road and continue back home.
In the last issue of the "Marklander" we took an imaginary bicycle ride through the area in 1939. We stopped briefly at the only public school in the region, which was at the future location of the West Mall and Bloor. Our previous story was directed toward the pre-teens, as I was one of them in 1939. Let us continue as a pre-teen as we visit the school. The school is called Eatonville. It has just over 100 students. Immediately north of the school on either side of Brown's Line (427) there are two farms owned by the T. Eaton Company. It supplies dairy products to their downtown Toronto store. It is a three room school. Two of the rooms were added to the original single room school, which was originally referred to as "Swamp" school. We have no inside bathrooms. The outside unheated bathrooms, or as we call them "shanties", one for girls, one for boys are quite cold in the winter. On Halloween night the older boys delight in climbing to the top of the school and cutting the rope to the school bell so that we cannot be called to class by the bell on the next school day. There are no Catholic schools in the area and most Catholic students attend Eatonville School . Most of us are children of farmers, market gardeners and working class parents. Most of the pupils live some distance from the school, so we have to bring our lunch. The Women's Institute raises money to help keep the cost of milk for our lunch as low as possible. For the grand sum of 38 cents we may have half a pint of white or chocolate milk with our lunch. In winter, at about 11 a.m. a mixture of half chocolate milk and half water is put on to heat in urns on two pot belly coal stoves at the front of the original school. At noon, we bring our cups to the urns to fill up with "scum"-covered hot chocolate.
Let's pretend as pre-teens it is a warm spring day in May called Arbour Day. We clean up the debris from the school yard and start to turn the soil to make a vegetable garden. After we complete our clean-up of the school yard and plant some trees, Mr. Jim Dodd, the principal, allows us, after lunch, to leave our classrooms to visit Silverthorn bush - the future Markland Wood.
We walk a dirt trail westward from school, which someday will be the continuation of Bloor St . We cross the creek just west of where they will some day build Bloordale United Church . There is very little water in the creek, so we cross it into the bush in search of blue violets, dog-tooth violets, and jacks-in-the-pulpit. We are not permitted to pick trilliums. There is little chance that we will get lost in Silverthorn bush, for if we travel westward we will eventually come upon a dirt trail, which is the beginning of Mill Rd. It is becoming late in the afternoon and we return to our school to retrieve our bikes and rush home in time to listen to our favourite stories on late afternoon radio. My favourites are Jimmy Alien, Jack Armstrong and Lil Orphan Annie. Ask your grandparents if they remember such radio programs before TV came into our homes.
In previous Marklander issues, we spoke to you pre-teens about the Markland area before it was known by that name. Today we are going to tell you about travel, communication and shopping in his area in the 1930's.
Firstly, there are no passable streets between Burnhamthorpe and Dundas , west of Brown's Line (427) to Etobicoke Creek; except for the one trail which will become Mill Road . The only Toronto buses in the area come no further than Islington Village (Burnhamthorpe & Dundas). As taxi cabs are relatively unknown in this area, you hitch a ride with some of your friends, if they have a car, to go to the nearest shopping area, which is Islington Village . It contains three grocery/meat stores, namely Claytons, Lee's and Jantzi’s. There is also Evans’ combined dry goods store and Islington Post Office, as well as Hank Davis’ IDA drugstore, Gordon's Dairy, a blacksmith shop, and Kirby’s Hardware.
The nearest movie theatres are located east of Jane Street . In the "Junction" area (Keele & Dundas) we can attend a Saturday matinee at the Beaver theatre for 15 cents. One other local theatre is the Runnymede at Bloor and Runnymede . Shopping for clothing is done mostly east of Jane, as the Kingsway area on Bloor St. is yet to be developed. Cloverdale and Sherway Gardens are still farmland.
As bicycles are a common mode of travel, some commercial salesmen travel from house to house on their bikes to sell Watkins' or Raleighs’ ointments, etc. A man on a bike sells radio licenses, which are required if you have a radio. Television has not yet become available. Telephones are on a "party-line" of six or more homes and if one person sees the radio license man approaching on his bike, they get on the party-line to alert their local neighbours to hide until he has gone by, so that they will not have to buy a radio license. Telephones in the home consist of a large wall-mounted wooden box with a crank on the side. By turning the crank a full revolution (a long) or a partial revolution (a short) one can "ring" your local neighbours, whose telephones sound in their homes in a combination of long and short rings. To reach our home you ring one long and three shorts. If you want to reach a firm or person in Toronto , you call the "operator". Either Jean Burton, who lives on Old Burnhamthorpe Road or "Singing Sue" Barnes, both of whom are located on the second floor of a telephone office building in Islington. They receive your ring and patch you into many exchanges in Toronto , such as Hyland, Waverly, Junction, etc. or to other places in Canada or the U.S. A call to Eaton's or Simpson's catalogue department will bring you next-day delivery of your C.O.D. order.
Mom and Dad listen to the early evening news read by Jim Hunter on CFRB. Late evening has such radio programs as Jack Benny, Burns & Allen and Kate Smith, but in mid to late morning they listened to Kate Aiken, or "The Happy Gang".
Communication by mail is quite simple and inexpensive. As Mr. Dunn delivers mail from his car along Rural Route No. 2 on Burnhamthorpe Rd. , he will pick up any mail that you want to send, at the mail box at the road. One simply puts a 3 cent stamp on the letter, places it in the mailbox and turns the box facing the road, so that Mr. Dunn knows you have a letter to send. Unsealed Christmas cards are sent for 2 cents. As there is no air mail delivery in the 1930's in Canada , a letter to Western or Eastern Canada may take two or three weeks to arrive there.
In previous chapters, I mentioned Eatonville public school as we as pre-teens explored this area in 1939, years before Markland Wood came into being.
In 1939, one of the trustees of our school is Gideon Silverthorn Sr. He and his wife Nell have three children, Margaret, Gideon Jr. and Don. In 1939, Gideon Sr. has a farm on what would be the future home of the A&P warehouse (East Mall, south of Dundas ).
The Silverthorn family came to this area from the U.S.A. as United Empire Loyalists, who remained loyal to England when America became independent in the late 1700s. Mississauga Indians lived in this area, which they called "WAH-DO-BE-KAUGH", or a variation thereof, and from that the name
"ETOBICOKE" was created.
One of the early settlers was John Silverthorn who, with his sons, built a cabin and the area known as “The Mill Farm”, was immediately east of the Etobicoke creek, south of Dundas.
And, as they say in the Bible,
John (1762-1846) begat
Arron (1790-1872), who begat
Newman (1829-1918), who begat
Charles (1872-1917), who begat
Gideon Sr. (1896-1990)
In 1812, John and his sons, Philip Cody (uncle of Buffalo Bill Cody) and others petitioned the government of York to make Dundas a corduroy road (lined with logs) to provide a firm roadbed, upon which horse and buggies could travel much more easily.
One of the disaster years for the Silverthorns and others in this area was 1816, when snow fell in June and destroyed their crops. Thus, John and his sons had to resort to shooting game such as moose, rabbit, fox, and wild fowl to get through the following winter. 1832 to 1834 was also a disastrous period, when several of the Silverthorns died in a cholera epidemic.
In previous Marklander articles I spoke of a radial (electric) train, which ran from Toronto to Guelph . It was owned and operated by Canadian National Electric Railways. In 1917, Charles Silverthorn was crossing the train tracks, when an unscheduled train hit his model T Ford and he was killed. The train was in operation from 1917 to 1931. Stop #20, which is "Summerville", was immediately south of Markland Wood, where the line crossed Dundas highway at Etobicoke Creek.
As I mentioned, Gideon Sr. was a trustee of Eatonville School , built in 1925, but his grandfather, Newman, became a trustee of the school in 1872, when it was known as " Swamp School ", built in 1845.
Cousins of the Silverthorns occupied a house called "Cherry Hill House”, which was originally built in the early 1800s, and was moved to the Cawthra and Dundas area in the 1970s, where one can now enjoy an excellent meal.
As we bring to a close the history of Markland, I want to thank Don Silverthorn for his help in telling you about their family history. Silverthorn Collegiate Institute will long be a memorial to the Silverthorn name.
For you young folks in Markland Wood, who want to learn more about this area and Etobicoke, there are excellent materials available, including a publication called the "Villages of Etobicoke". If I can be help in directing you to books etc. covering this area, please give me a call. Uncle Murray (HIRONS).
It has been a pleasure to inform you pre-teens of my pre-teen memories of 1939.
Your Friend, Uncle Murray