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Chapter 11
The Flowering of Richmond Hill
Table of Contents

Title Page
Author's Preface
1 The Road through Richmond Hill
2 First Peoples on the Land
3 The European Settlers Arrive
4 From Miles' Hill to Richmond Hill: The Birth of a Community
5 Tories and Reformers
6 Stagecoach Lines and Railway Tracks
7 The Neighbours at Mid-Century
8 Fire Brigades and Fence Viewers
9 Picture Post Card Village of the 1880s and 1890s
10 Rails through Richmond Hill
11 The Flowering of Richmond Hill
The Village That Was
"On the Green of Richmond Hill"
The Village that Was
Roses Bloom in Richmond Hill
Mrs. P.L. Grant Urges That "Local Option" Be Retained
The Women's Institute and the Library
The Women of Richmond Hill
War Comes to Richmond Hill
Richmond Hill Men Who Served in the First World War 1914-1918
South on Yonge Street
North on Yonge Street
East on Centre Street
The Langstaff Jail Farm
War and Remembrance
12 The Village Transformed
Table of Illustrations

War and Remembrance

Home Guards' church parade, June 13, 1915.
In Richmond Hill as in communities throughout the country, women's rise to a more prominent role in public affairs accelerated as a result of the First World War. As young men enlisted in the armed forces and older men devoted increasing amounts of time to patriotic causes, women of all ages moved into the workforce, the volunteer agencies, and the broader public arena.

Within days of the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, the Women's Institute became a focus for community war work. On August 12, the Richmond Hill branch purchased a bolt of cloth to be rolled into bandages to help equip a Women's Hospital Ship. In December, it sent five boxes of clothing and groceries to needy soldiers' wives in Toronto. In June 1915 and again in January 1916, it sent 108 jars of jam and jelly to Canadian Army hospitals. It collected money for relief efforts in Belgium and Greece, China, and Armenia.

Red Cross fund-raising dance at Bond Lake Park, August 23, 1916.
Village council followed the women's lead by spearheading a public drive to raise money for the British Red Cross Society. Council also authorized the use of the municipal park for recruiting and drilling purposes, and imposed a war tax on skating fees at the rink. It recommended that local churches "employ strict economy in the use of coal" and appointed Clerk A.J. Hume as Fuel Commissioner to ensure a fair distribution of coal throughout the village. 14

A.J. Hume 1858-1943 Clerk of the Village of Richmond Hill
But the war's greatest impact was, of course, the loss of young men. A total of eighty-nine Richmond Hill residents served with the Canadian armed forces during the First World War. Six of these young men were killed in action; others were so wounded physically or psychologically that they were unable to play full community roles in later years. Still others found that their glimpse of the wider world had alienated them from village life, and so they moved away from Richmond Hill to seek fame and fortune elsewhere.

In February 1918, Reeve William Pugsley raised the idea of erecting a memorial to Richmond Hill men killed in the war. Community residents debated whether a monument or a memorial hall would be most appropriate. Council authorized Pugsley and Clerk A.J. Hume to obtain prices and descriptive data for a possible monument. By March, Hume had letters and sketches from several marble dealers, and Council chose the Thomson Monument Company of Toronto. Money would be raised by popular subscription, and a fund-raising campaign was launched at a December meeting in the Masonic Hall.15

Meanwhile, Council had invited the Board of Education to work co-operatively on the memorial question. The board had recently built a new public school on the west side of Yonge Street in the core of the village - an ideal spot for a war monument that would help impart such attributes as duty, sacrifice, and honour to youthful as well as adult minds.

The new Richmond Hill Public School was designed and built during 1914 by two local men, John Innes and William Graham. It stood on the site donated by James Miles a century earlier, and has been in continual use for educational purposes ever since. With its three-part facade with central projection, semi-circular fanlights over the doors, and numerous other architectural details, the Richmond Hill Public School of 1914 "displayed a return to classical architecture following the exuberance of the Victorian period." 16 Most prominent of all, however, is the cenotaph in front of the building, honouring those who served - and fell - in war. This memorial arch was unveiled at the Grand Re-Union of 1923.


14. Richmond Hill Village Council, "Minutes,"October 18, 1915; December 1, 1915; January 10, 1917; August 20, 1918.

15. Ibid., February 12, 1918; March 13, 1918; December 16, 1918.

16. "McConaghy Centre," Richmond Hill Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee,June 1988.


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Copyright Richmond Hill Public Library Board, 1991