Latlng: (43.8105, -79.374933)

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German Mills (ghost town)

Discovered by clay70
Created Mar 11 2010
Recent status Active
Category Ghost Town
City Markham, Ontario
Location # 1174

German Mills was a very important village founded in 1794 as an industrial centre alongside the burgeoning Town of Muddy York (Toronto). Located in Markham Township, it was founded by William Berczy. It was partly planned by John Graves Simcoe in co-ordination with a plan to thwart an American invasion. For indepth study read this:,_Ontario

William Berczy, his family and other German settlers had settled in New York State. Simcoe had heard of their unhappiness there and got them to come to Upper Canada. These German families came with William and became known as the Berczy families. Of the 64 families that came with Berczy, these ones lasted in Markham Township well into the 1800(a)s: Buckendahl, Eckhardt, Haacke, Hagerman, Helmke, Henricks, Lunau, Phillipsen, Pingle, Quantz, Schmidt, Sommefeldt, Stiver and Petersen. 190 in total had joined Berczy and suffered hardship in this new land, especially after the severe first winters experienced in the forest. Some died from starvation.

They floated a raft with equipment from York up the Don River and settled at lot 4, concession 3 where they established German Mills. A primitive dam and grist mill were built on the Don River. Eventually, as they painstakingly cleared the land, the village could boast: a sawmill, a tannery, a blacksmith, a copperage, a brewery and a malt house.

William also hired carpenters and built a warehouse east of German Mills on the Rouge River. They cleared the river of beaver dams and log jams for a distance of 24 miles in hopes that it would increase the fur trade and to open Markham Township to more business.

Some of these German settlers also helped open Markham Township by clearing and building roads. All together 6 of them had done much of the backbreaking work. Berczy offered even more man-power than this when help was needed to build the "single-most" important north-running road in Canadian history--Yonge Street.

Meanwhile, back at German Mills- little did the locals know that the Don River(a)s flowage was not strong enough to continue powering the mill. This, coupled with the fact that in 1805 Berczy had suffered financial ruin, caused things to look bleak for the community(a)s future. Then, a man named Captain Nolan bought the area out and German Mills became known as Nolanville for a short period. But, in reality, the village(a)s demise was on the horizon.

Berczy struggled financially for many years to pay his debts and look after his family. He also was a writer, artist and an architect. He moved around a lot: York (Toronto), England, Montreal and New York. He died in New York in 1813.

German Mills School: Hearsay tells of a log school on east side of German Mills at the Cummer farm, but the 1860 Tremane Map shows one on the west side. Another map from 1850 shows SS#2 on lot 3 concession 3. A loss of records for 50 yrs. means that little is known of this period. In 1874 a meeting took place about a new school.

Arabella Hemingway was the 1st teacher. When she died in 1937 one of her former students was a pallbearer who had received many strappings from her in the 1870(a)s.

To get into high school students had to write an exam. In 1874 only one student wrote this exam- Caroline Cross.

In 1897 Leonard Klinck, aged 20, became the teacher. He would walk 7 miles from Victoria Square to the school to be there for the week and then walk back on Fridays. He got the kids to help plant spruce trees around the school to improve its appearance. He later became Dean of Agriculture at UBC in 1914.

In 1900, Miss Wheadon was reprimanded for getting a pupil to help assist her in maintaining the school, which was often solely the teacher(a)s job. Her salary was $280 a year.

In 1912 the 1st Xmas concerts began, which was the biggest event of the year.

By 1960 the school was so overcrowded that senior grades were moved elsewhere, and in 1962 the school was closed forever. It then became a school board office. In 1974 former students had a centenary reunion for the school.

Latlng: (43.8105, -79.374933)


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avatar of vitalfilms
vitalfilms Nice, this is some really good history you got here. I've once heard of William Berczy before but here there is some detailed info.
Jan 13 2011