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Georgina marks 200th milestone with good old-fashioned time

Event offers amazing '1-stop, crash course' of Georgina’s history

July 4, 2018
Heidi Riedner

The Township of Georgina was named and declared open for settlement on Aug. 28, 1818 and the town marked the milestone of 200 proud years during Canada Day festivities at The ROC.

Opening remarks from a red-and-white dressed York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney and her federal counterpart, Peter Van Loan, dressed in Tory blue, kicked off a plethora of activities under the Georgina200 Homecoming Tent on Pioneer Village grounds from 2 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 1.

“It’s a big deal, because while Georgina is made up of so many little communities that have their own identity, this is an opportunity to celebrate one anniversary and one another’s shared history,” the town’s cultural services manager and Georgina200 organizing committee member Melissa Matt said.

“It’s also a one-stop, crash course of Georgina’s history for new residents to the area," she added.

That’s because all sorts of reference material from the town’s extensive archives were on display for people to flip through, including family histories, transcribed diaries and old photos.

"This is something really great to do," said Allan Morton as he and his wife, Marie, flipped through some old maps of the area.

Morton's family has been in Georgina since October of 1818, when Silas Morton left Massachusetts to settle in the township.

Gavin Morton Lane in pioneer village is named for Morton's dad, who was one of its founders.

Homecoming visitors were treated to lemonade, music, an old-fashioned pie auction, games for the kiddies, a special lumberjack show and axe throwing.

They could also take a selfie with a life-size, and appropriately sepia-toned, cutout of James O’Brien Bourchier -- one of Georgina’s founding fathers.

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Bourchier, who had unsuccessfully attempted to get land in Upper Canada prior to 1818, eventually got special permission from Britain and successfully petitioned the executive council of the time.

Lieutenant governor Peregrine Maitland immediately granted Bourchier 1,200 acres, with most of that in the Township of Georgina, located east of present-day Hwy. 48.

“It was at Bourchier’s urging that they opened up this land in 1818,” Matt said, adding it was later amalgamated with North Gwillimbury Township, which had been opened to settlement about 16 years prior to that.

“We are still acknowledging North Gwillimbury Township and its settlers, but 1818 is the milestone that we are recognizing here today,” she added.

A hilarious highlight of the homecoming's activities included a dramatic reading of excerpts from one of Georgina’s earliest recorded town council meetings in 1854.

‘Held’ at the Morning Glory hotel, Burnie’s Tavern, tavern keeper James Burnie narrated the events, since council meetings were held in local taverns back in the day, Matt explained.

The first order of business was how much councillors were going to get paid, although an amount is never mentioned.

Just how council is going to take care of pigs running at large throughout the town is also raised.

Late for the meeting, Dr. Noble -- a very familiar and important name in Georgina’s history -- arrives in bloodied clothing since, also the town’s coroner and department of health representative, he had been dealing with the body of an indigent person discovered “dead in Sedore’s back field”.

Noble appeals for help burying the body, which no one offers, and money for the burial, since council took care of any welfare and social work of the day, Matt explained.

“Council would pay for it all back in the day,” she added.

The Gwillimburys (East, West and North) were under order of survey in 1800, with patents issued after this date – though settlers were ‘squatting’ here before this time. North Gwillimbury Township and the Village of Sutton were amalgamated with Georgina Township in 1971. Georgina was granted Town status in 1986.