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History of Buttonville 421
History of Buttonville
How a Village Grows
The first European settlers arrived in 1794. What is now Buttonville was a small part of the land granted by the British crown to William Berczy and the German Settlers. Many of the descendents of the families who settled here remain in the Buttonville area today.
In the same way people today buy and sell property, land changed hands over time. After the Berczy settlers, two main families bought most of the land - the Buttons and the Baldwins. John Button had more than 200 acres of land.  That is equal to about 200 soccer fields! But the area was not a village until the 1840s, when both families sold off small plots of their land, bringing more people to the area.
Atlas of York Region.jpg
Button organized the First Regiment of the York Militia in 1811, known as Captain Button’s Troop of Markham Dragoons.


It is important to note that up until this time Buttonville was known as Millbrook. In 1851, when establishing a local post office, it was discovered that another ‘Millbrook’ already existed and the hamlet was renamed Buttonville after Captain Button.


Milling, Agriculture and Development

“The erection of a sawmill is always the first marked event in the formation of a settlement in the Bush…This induces many to come into the neighbourhood, from the facility it offers for building. Then as the settlement increases, some bold man is persuaded to erect a grist or flour mill, which again serves as an attraction; a growing population requires the necessaries of life at hand; stores are opened,… and in a few years a thriving village…springs up in the heart of the forest.” 

-Thomas Need, Six Years in the Bush

Buttonville General Store001.jpg 
Thomson general store and post office, built c.1854, postcard (above) early 1900s (?), photograph (below) 2014.

If you wanted to get in touch with someone, you did not have the quick communication methods we have today. Buttonville was quite isolated until the arrival of the post office, set up in the general store in 1851. The general store was the community’s grocery and dry goods shopping hub, similar to the modern day mall.  
Baldwin Grist Mill Buttonville.jpg 
The Venice Grist Mill located on Robert Baldwin's property, postcard early 1900s (?).
The saw mill both generated and ran on water power from the river. It also created a large pond often used as a swimming hole. Flour was ground at the grist mill which both fed people and processed food for livestock.
Settler Living: What was life like?
Life was hard for early settlers as demonstrated by Buttonville born John Stiver :

“My parents were natives of the Duchy of Hannover and immigrated to America in 1792 and were settled in Markham Township in the Co. of York in 1794. In 1795 I was born, the first white child in the township. The poverty and suffering at that time was so great that my mother had no sustenance for me and I was taken by an elder sister when I was six months old, who resided at Niagara. My uncle carried me all that way on his back. There I was fed on cow’s milk and cornmeal. When I grew up to be able to work I and an older brother chopped in the woods all day, day after day and all the clothing we had on was a linen shirt and pants. I was barefooted until I was twelve, even during the winter months. I was 17 when the war of 1812 broke out and I volunteered in the artillery under Capt. Powell.”


Stiver returned to Buttonville, where he married and lived out the rest of his life. He had 12 children and died in 1879. He is buried at St John’s Lutheran Church.

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