By: Donald J. Davidson
[Note: There have been many changes in the City of
Brampton since 1964, but the
The first people to inhabit the area around where Brampton is located were doubtlessly Indians. These were probably Iroquois, but by 1753 were replaced by the Mississugas. The Indian hunters used the Credit River to the west or the Humber River to the east, because even 200 years ago the Etobicoke River was undependable, boats being the means of transportation.
The French gave way to Britain, but the lands which were to become Peel County still belonged to the Indians. United Empire Loyalists took refuge in these northern forests, and the British government legalized their position by buying land from the Indians and organizing the new province of Upper Canada. Not until the Queen’s Rangers had cut the first line of Dundas Street and a Lakeshore Road, was there any hope of settlement between the mouth of the Etobicoke and the former Etobicoke Purchase of 1788. Early travel was still mostly by canoe or small boat.
Immigrants from the British Isles caused the Old Survey of 1805-6 and the New Survey of 1818-9 to become settled. The Old Survey opened up the lower part of Toronto Township and the New Survey opened up the northern part of Peel County. Lots were laid out east and west of present Hurontario Street (Centre Road), opening up the balance of Toronto Township. It included also the townships of Albion and Caledon, also Erin in Wellington County, names being chosen from the motherlands of the immigrants.
Chinguacousy was named for the famous Chippewa Indian chief “Shinguacouse”, halfbreed son of a Scottish army officer, thus uniting the traditions of the old and the new masters of the county.
Richard Bristol received the first grant of land, Lot 5, Concession 2 West, in Chinguacousy on January 20, 1820, now the property of the Ontario Reformatory. Another assistant in the survey was Thomas Grafton, great-grandfather of Russ Grafton, R.R. 5, Brampton. The compass used by Thomas Grafton has been lost, but had been in the family for many years.
The first settler of Brampton was John Elliott, in 1823 from Brampton, Cumberland, England. The actual beginnings of the town seem to be a tavern on Lot 8, 1st Concession East, on the property of Archibald Pickard. Here one Martin Salisbury operated an inn and a market fair, at which most of the business of the area was done.
Lot 5, 1st East, now is the property on the banks of the Etobicoke where the McClure [Ward’s} Funeral Home now stands. It was here that John Elliott built his home. His religion was Primitive Methodist, and no doubt his strict beliefs were upset when William Buffy set up a tavern close to the corner of Hurontario Street and Number Five Sideroad.
This is now the corner of Main and Queen Streets, and people began calling the place Buffy’s Corners. Mrs. John Birss, 117 Main Street South, now deceased, was a descendant of John Elliott, and a grandniece of John Haggart, later to become the first mayor of Brampton, mentioned later in the story.
The second founder of Brampton, working with John Elliott, was William Lawson. He was a merchant, of Primitive Methodist religion, also from Brampton, England. In the Primitive Methodist church in Brampton, England, are identical tablets giving the credit of the founding of Brampton, Canada, jointly to John Elliott and William Lawson.
Other names are worthy of remembering.
The John Lynch home is still in good condition, at 84 Queen Street East, owned by W. J. Foster.
The first industry in Brampton was an ashery, started by John Scott. By this time Brampton had been named by John Elliott and William Lawson. There were bridges across the Etobicoke by the 1830s, but they were constantly in need of repairs due to floods, according to records. Around the time 1840-50 mention is made of the Plank Road Company and the Port Credit and Hurontario Plank Road, then the latest improvement. This road ran from Port Credit to Edmonton (Snelgrove). The Provincial Guarantee Act of 1849 started a railway boom, and the leading businessmen of Brampton saw their chance.
In 1852 John Lynch was reeve of the township. After discussions as to whether the railway depot should be built on John Elliott’s property or George Wright’s property, by 1853 the decision had been made. The depot was built on George Wright’s property, and is now the Canadian National Railway, then the Toronto and Guelph Railway, later the Canada Grand Trunk Railway Company.
Brampton, after its incorporation in 1853, still kept many roots, in government, industry, churches, etc. Today, Brampton is the site of many new industries and more being built all the time. This is due to the fact that Brampton started as a focal point of county trade and history, and kept that position. Now Brampton is in the centre of the Ontario market with access to all the latest methods of transportation.
The present Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in 1856, then known as theCredit Valley Railroad, opened in 1859, and absorbed by the CPR in 1884. The first “horseless carriage” appeared in 1900 when Lord and Lady Minto visited the Dale Estate greenhouses, but one was later built by W. Emerson Downs and his father at their machine shop on Queen Street East, now where Maple Leaf Cleaners have their business. Today, “horseless carriages” are built, or manufactured in great numbers in the modern plant of American Motors on Kennedy Road South. This plant was first opened in 1961, and recently new additions have been built. This has been the change in one aspect of industry and transportation of then and now.
Some other changes are very interesting. The names of the founders, or their descendants, are very well known today.
John Scott had the first industry, an ashery, chopping mill and distillery. Later, there appeared a grist and lumber mill operated by steam. As the Etobicoke was unpredictable, this type of operation was generally carried on on the Credit River. Kenneth Chisholm and the Elliotts were connected with the Eldorado Mills just north of Churchville, but had a store-house in Brampton.
The Brampton Foundry was established in 1849 by John Haggart, under the name of Haggart Brothers. Eight or ten people were employed, and actual horsepowerwas used to move the machinery. In 1851 steam power was introduced. By the late 1870s the plant occupied four sides of a square, the main building was four storeys high, of brick and stone, with much yard room in the centre.
This building, or part of the plant, is at the corner of Main Street North and Nelson Street West, now owned by H. L. McMurchy, Main Street South. In this building are the Winston Apartments and various retail stores, including Virginia Dare Ltd., ladies clothing store. By 1877 there were 140 employees, engaged in building threshers and various other businesses, much like a chamber of commerce.
Some other items manufactured were steam engines and boilers, stoves, the Brampton Triple Harvester, Single Reaper, Beaver Mower, Sowing Machines, etc. Haggartlea, residence of John Haggart, now owned by A. Morrison, is the apartment building at the corner of Elizabeth Street North and Nelson Street West. In front of Haggartlea and the foundry and its buildings, was the first bowling green of Brampton. Haggart’s liquidated in 1891, later bought by Richard Blain and John McMurchy, resold to J. M. Ross Company. Financial difficulties ceased operation in this foundry, as well as in the one belonging to Young Bros. Foundry, founded in 1890.
The Pease Foundry started in 1912 with a new invention – furnaces. At present the Pease Foundry is no longer in operation, as it was started, now a storehouse for the past several years for a large firm.
When the Young Foundry went out of business, the Williams Shoe Company took over the building, and in this business are the familiar names of Williams, McMurchys and the Johnstons. The Hewetson Shoe Company started about the time of the beginning of World War I. The Brampton Knitting Mills started in the McCulla Planing building, Queen Street East, and is familiar to many.
Copeland-Chatterson came to Brampton in 1905, and the present president, C. W. West, started as office-boy then.
Brampton Brick Company was started also in 1905, operated now by a Toronto concern. Gummed Papers Limited is another older firm, built on land sold by Mr. McMurchy, father of H. L. McMurchy. This firm was started in 1914.
Many firms and industries have been added since then: Dixie Cup, Moore Dry Kiln, Imperial Optical, Charters Publishing, and in the more recent years, firm after firm have located here. Some of these are American Motors, C-I-L, Chubb-Mosler & Taylor Safes Ltd., Strippitt Tools, IKO, G. D. Searle & Co. of Canada Ltd., and many, many more.
New industries are being added all the time with the greatest congestion being in the Orenda Road area, bounded by Kennedy Road South and Queen Street East. Many of these companies are branches with parent companies elsewhere. Railway spurs have provided easy transportation for those companies needing this.
Easy access to the airport at Malton, also to the St. Lawrence Seaway, make Brampton a highly industrialized center at this time.
Industry and transportation have not been the only changes in Brampton. There have been many others – as population increased with newcomers from many areas.
The first Brampton school was kept by Dame Wright, on what is now the Times and Conservator site. From this school, children went to the John Street Primary School, where the Armouries now stand. A central school, now demolished, was then built. In early 1880s a two-room school was built on Queen Street West, now the rural hydro office. Later a building was erected which was used until a few years ago as the primary department at Central School. The Act of 1871 established free schools and made attendance compulsory for at least four months of the year for children between the ages of seven and twelve.
Secondary education was also developing. The first grammar school was established in 1853, the first teacher, Mr. Thompson, was succeeded by Rev. Thos. Hall. John Seath took charge in 1862. Classes were held where Central School stands, which was renovated and additions built. McHugh School was later built near the Brampton Fairgrounds.
The old Brampton High School was destroyed by fire in 1917, and replaced by what was then a modern building. Additions have been made, and John R. Willis is the present principal. W. J. Fenton was one of the very popular principals, serving from 1892 to 1927. The addition of the W. J. Fenton Memorial wing in 1952 was made to the Brampton Public Library, made possible by a grant of $12,500 from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation in 1905.
Today the education facilities have greatly increased in the town of Brampton, which changed from village status in 1873. Built over the last few years, the total of schools is at present: seven public schools, for grades 1 to 8, with kindergarten facilities; three more public schools to be opened this fall; Central Peel Composite School, as well as Brampton High School; two separate schools (Roman Catholic); John Knox Christian School, plus facilities for retarded and emotionally handicapped children. School sites are already chosen for more public, high school and separate schools.
The first weekly newspaper was started prior to 1850 by a Reformer named Judd, who named it the Mercury. In 1855 the Brampton Times took over. Also in 1851 the Brampton Weekly Standard was the second weekly newspaper, later taken over by the Peel Banner and General Advertiser. The Times changed owners several times, continuing as The Conservator for 63 years in the Charters family, and sold to the Thomson Publications on July 1, 1953 (a daily in 1965). The Charters Publishing Company Limited concentrated on commercial printing in their plant on Henderson Avenue in the former Evangeline Beverage plant.
We could not mention growth of industry in Brampton and not mention the names of those who are responsible for Brampton being known as the Flower Town of Canada. The original greenhouse, very unlike those of today, was started by Edward Dale in 1860 to raise market garden produce. In 1870 Harry Dale joined his father and flowers were added, and even in the early days concentration was on roses.
Family names familiar to Brampton residents are Duggan, Algie, Brydon, Dickson, Cooper, and many others who have been connected with this industry. Calvert’s is the second largest, concentrating on chrysanthemums. Other greenhouses include Fendley’s, Lagerquist’s, and many other small concerns.
In 1963, the very appropriate Festival of Flowers was held for the first time, the idea brought from Portland, Oregon. The success of this venture gives promise of more than one Festival of Flowers, although it may not be held at the same time each year. It was enjoyed by all – many float and band entries added to the Festival of Flowers.
The Peel Music Festival has now been held for 39 years, and creates a great deal of interest in musical talent. The Brampton Citizens Band was organized originally as the Mechanics, organized in the 1880s by James Crawford. Most of the original members were workers of Haggart’s Foundry. The band was part of the Peel and Dufferin Regiment and moved into the Armouries until 1937, when it resumed its civilian status. Many honours have been won by this band over the years, and presently under the latest director, Capt. W. T. Atkins, A.R.C.M.
The number of churches and denominations have increased as the town has grown in population and size. The first religious denomination was Methodist, first brought by the circuit riders. An ordained minister, travelling by horseback, would go from place to place, and in the meantime the people would be served by laymen. William Lawson brought Methodism to Brampton in 1831, and with John Elliott’s help, Brampton became the head of the third Primitive Methodist circuit in Canada
They were joined by the Wesleyan Methodists in 1833 and later by the Episcopal Methodists, this batter one taken over by the Church of England in 1884. The other Methodist congregations never united. In 1885 the Primitive Methodist congregation moved to the church we know as St. Paul’s on Main Street South; the Wesleyan Methodists built Grace United Church in 1853, remodelled it in 1888, and it has recently been enlarged with more renovations.
The Presbyterian church history started in 1847 when a United Presbyterian church, known as Mr. Pringle’s, was built. In 1853 the Free Church put up a church. In 1875 the two churches united, after Mr. Pringle’s death, and in 1880 a new church was built, now St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. This congregation stayed apart from the inter-denominational union in 1925, which joined St. Paul’s and Grace Churches into the United Church of Canada.
The Anglican history started about 1855, and in 1884 the old Methodist Episcopal Church was purchased. A chancel was built, and changes made to make the present Christ Church suitable for Church of England worship. Since that date, in the last few years, St. James the Apostle (Anglican) and St. Bartholomew’s United Church have been added in the present Peel Village area of Brampton. It is believed the first Anglican Church was located on present Thomas Street, now a private home.
The Catholic church had its beginning in 1865 with the Guardian Angel’s Church. The present church, St. Mary’s, was opened in 1910 at its John Street location, and with a resident priest in 1919. [The new St. Mary’s Church is located south of John Street].
The Baptist church had its beginning in 1856, but later was dropped due to lack of interest. The present First Baptist Church on Main Street South was built in 1876.
The Salvation Army’s work has been carried on in Brampton for 79 years. Army records show that Captain Minnie Laidy came here alone at first with her commission from headquarters. The population of Brampton at that time, in 1884, was 3,000. The first Army meetings were held in a building where the present Orange Hall now stands. The outdoor meetings were conducted on the old site called the Market Square where the Carnegie Library is now located. At present the Salvation Army is carrying on in their fine tradition, and the beautiful new citadel on Queen Street West is dignified in its simplicity.
Today other denominations have started their churches, some of which are the Pentecostal group, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutheran, Calvary Baptist, etc.
Brampton’s growth has been evident in population, as well as in various ways. In the Centennial Year of 1953, the population was approximately 8,000 – now the latest records show more than 23,000 inhabitants. New subdivisions have been built: Eldomar Heights, Treleaven Gardens, Eden Park, Northwood Park, Woodview Estates, Ridgehill Manor, Kimberly Heights, and the fast-growing, enormous Peel Village, to name a few.
To keep pace with this sudden growth in population, many changes have been made. Shopping centres have been built, the existing ones modernized and enlarged. The oldest retail business in Brampton, Boyle’s Drug Store, has also been included among those being modernized. This store began in 1840 under the ownership of David Truman, succeeded by his son-in-law, Christopher Stork, continued after 1880 by Edwin Truman Stork, his son. The business was continued under the name of “C. Stork & Son” until 1915.
In the early 1880s Edgar Walker Boyle served his apprenticeship under the tuition of Ed Stork, receiving his diploma in 1885 from the newly-formed Ontario College of Pharmacy. In 1915 E. W. Boyle, in partnership with his son, Robert Dawson Boyle, purchased the business. After the death of his father in 1920, R. Boyle continued in business. “Boyle Book Store” is not as old, being started in the 1880s as a fancy goods store, management being taken over in 1945 by Ed Boyle and his assistant, Miss Ruth Gammell.
The Masons started Peel Ionic Lodge No. 229 in 1870 in the building opposite to their present meeting place, which was dedicated in 1913. [Main Street South]
The Wigley tannery occupied the site where the Independent Order of Odd Fellows hall now stands. Golden Star Lodge, No. 101, I.O.O.F., was instituted October 10, 1872, with organization on the third floor of the Blain Hardware building. Later, they occupied the third floor of the Beck building, later the A. & P. Store. In 1925 they erected their own hall on Queen Street West. The women’s branch of the Order, Floral Rebekah Lodge No. 369 was instituted on March 8, 1954, with two previous lodges, Peerless and Silver Star. Many new worthy, needed organizations began to be known: Lions, Kiwanis, Kinsmen, Civitan and others to form the service club background of a town.
A history of Brampton, however brief, would have to include mention of sports. Lacrosse was started here in 1871 by George Lee, the name Excelsiors being prominent in sport circles since the beginning, winning the Mann Cup in 1931, some of the players being Bill O’Hearn (recently deceased), Pete Ella, Elgin Core and others, including George Sproule who was the most sportsmanlike player. Rosalea Park has been the home of the Excelsiors for many years, but games in the senior class are now played at the Brampton Memorial Arena – although there is still a lacrosse bowl at Rosalea.
Baseball was started in Brampton by George Kidd in the 1880s, before lacrosse, and industrial teams were formed. Today many of the young boys engage in a lively sports program in baseball and lacrosse, as well as in hockey, started here in the period between 1876 and 1890, when the Ontario Hockey Association was formed.
Curling, lawn bowling have an active history here, as does tennis, golf and others, more recently track and field with Jim Irons and Nancy McCredie. Since the opening of the Rosalea Pool, donated by the Lions Club, and its recent addition, swimming seems to be one of the latest competitive sports.
In health and welfare care Brampton has always been very conscientious. Sanitary inspections have been made for years, compulsory vaccination of school children started in 1895. In 1920 a plant for chlorination of the water supply was built, and in 1924 medical and dental inspection of school children started.
In 1925 the Peel Memorial Hospital was opened with six private rooms, two public wards of six beds each, and a nursery for three infants. Additions have been made in 1938, 1949, and in 1952 additions to the nurse’s residence. In the last few years additions have been made until the hospital now boasts psychiatric, pediatric, intensive care units, recovery room, facilities for emergency care and a total capacity of 255 beds. A training program has been adopted for the last three years for nursing assistants. Prominent among the doctors who served the town of Brampton is the late Dr. W. H. Brydon, whose portrait hangs in the lobby. The hospital was dedicated in memory of those who served from Peel County in World War One and Two.
Peel Manor began as the Peel-Halton House of Refuge in 1897-8 by Peel County alone, joined by Halton County in 1909. An addition was made in 1926. Some years ago Halton County built its own home in Milton and the name was changed to Peel Manor, with Peel County operating it alone.
Brampton post office was built in 1889, and has since, due to the construction of a fine new building on the corner of Queen Street East and Union Street, the old post office has been used as a police station, plus other groups.
Postal service began with the incorporation of Brampton as a village in 1853. The first postmaster was Peleg Howland, the present one is Earl Holmes.
The first jail-keeper was Michael Crawford.
The first military unit was the Volunteer Militia Rifle Company, which was formed in 1855, under the command of Capt. George Wright. Major John Lynch became Lieutenant-Colonel of the 6th Peel Battalion. In 1865, during the Fenian Raids, Brampton had two militia units, an Infantry Company under Capt. Stork, and a Rifle Company under Major Wright. In 1869 the 36th Battalion was set up with headquarters in Brampton.
Brampton sacrificed greatly in both World War I and II. The municipality’s Book of Remembrance is deposited in the Cenotaph, corner of Main Street South and Wellington Street. This monument, together with a monument erected the last few years in recognition of the contribution the Haggart Brothers made to the town in industry, provide a pleasing, restful corner near Gage Park.
In 1936 the Lorne Scots, Peel-Dufferin Regiment, was amalgamated with the Halton Rifles. At present the Commanding Officer is Lt. Col. R. Hardie, and the former C.O., Col. Sam Charters, is commanding 17 Militia, of which the Lorne Scots are a part. In 1960 the Lorne Scots Pipe Band was invited to take part in the Edinburgh Tattoo – the only pipe band in Canada to receive this honour.
William Johnston was the first township clerk, and great-grandfather of the mayor of Brampton in 1953, Harper Bull. The present mayor is Russell Prouse, while the mayor of the first town council in 1874 was John Haggart.
The Brampton Fall Fair had its beginning in 1853 at the corner of Main Street South and Queen Street West. Somewhere records have been lost for about four years, or else the fair was not held. In September 1965, the 106th fair will be held, in the ideal location now on Elliott Street, where there is ample room for exhibits, racing and all displays of a country fair.
Several important features of life in Brampton need to be added:- Gage Park, located at intersection of Main Street South and Wellington Street West, was started with 2.4 acres purchased by the Town of Brampton. The front lawn of Alderlea, built by Kenneth Chisholm about 1864, is part of Gage Park. It was purchased from Mary Anne Chisholm – whose husband had been a Dominion Land Surveyor.
In 1903 William James Gage, later Sir William James Gage and his wife Ida Burnside Gage donated an adjoining parcel of 1.7 acres, creating the present land area of 4.1 acres.
The existing bandshell was erected in 1950, and the earlier wooden one was relocated to Rosalea Park. The wading pool was presented to the Town of Brampton by the Kinsmen Club of Brampton in 1955.
The Brampton branch of the Canadian Legion came into being in 1926. Dr. William Dwight Sharpe was dominion president in 1925 of the Great War Veterans’ Association. It was felt it would be suitable that the Brampton Branch be named as a tribute to him. Early meetings were held in the Armouries, then later in rooms over Charters Publishing Co. on Queen Street West. The next location was in the former Excelsior skating rink, then occupied by Brampton Optical Company. After purchase of the curling club on Byng Avenue, the membership in Branch 15, Royal Canadian Legion increased. Present location is in the former Chisholm home, Alderlea at 40 Elizabeth Street South.
I have saved this personal entry to the last one – Boy Scouts and Girl Guides!
Scouts and Guides have been a part of Brampton since formation in 1908 by the Chief Scout, Lord Robert Baden-Powell. The first Guide in Brampton was Minnie Brightwell, as her family settled here in 1910. The first Guide camping trip was held near Streetsville about 1912.
Boy Scouts held informal meetings soon after 1908, but it was not until April 1925 that the Optimists Club of Brampton sponsored the 1st Brampton Scout Troop. Meetings were held in the Armouries, with present troop meetings at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. I am proud to be a member of 1st Brampton Scout Troop!
In all ways, even taming the Etobicoke River by building a diversion channel, officially opened July 3, 1952, thus controlling the flooding, Brampton has forged ahead to become the most rapidly growing industrial centre in southern Ontario. From village status in 1853, town status in 1873, city status is probably but a thing of the future. Regardless of the small “Horse-And-Buggy” settlement, to one that has grown beyond the wildest expectations in 1853, the neighbourliness remains – the small town feeling of a nice place to live.
The above was written in 1964 – as of 2003, there
have been many changes.
Muriel M. Davidson firstname.lastname@example.org