An Historic Perspective of East Gwillimbury

October 17, 2018

The town of East Gwillimbury has deep roots in the very founding and colonization of Ontario. The town was named in the late 18th Century for Elizabeth Simcoe (maiden name Gwillim), wife to Sir John Graves Simcoe, who is most notable for introducing an anti-slavery act in Canada, founding Toronto, and shaping the nation itself. Simcoe named Gwillimbury in honour of his beloved wife, and also in honour of the parents she never knew, as both her parents passed away when she was only an infant.

Sir Simcoe is credited with a great many accomplishments within Canada, not least of which is the creation of Yonge Street. Under his order, Yonge Street was built from the shores of Lake Ontario, all the way up to the hamlet of Holland Landing. Originally built to facilitate the transport of soldier and supplies to-and-from Toronto (then called York) in case of an American attack, now Yonge Street is a major artery into the heart of the GTA, and still extends up to Holland Landing to this day.

The Township of East Gwillimbury has since amalgamated with all of the previously incorporated villages of Holland Landing, Mount Albert, Sharon, and Queensville, as well as the hamlets of Holt, and Brown Hill. What was once a colony of a few hundred people, is now a thriving community 23,000 strong. To date, several notable people have come out of East Gwillimbury such as Curtis Joseph (the famed NHL Goalie), actor and legendary funnyman John Candy, as well as NHL Calgary Flames player Sam Bennett.

Highway 404 is now the most accessible way of reaching the area, and provides an easy avenue for visitors to check out attractions like the Sharon Temple (constructed in 1832 by the “Children of Peace” a Quaker sect led by David Willson), and the Stardust Drive-In Theatre in Mount Albert, one of the few remaining drive-in theatres in Canada.

The Civic Centre is situated on Leslie Street in Sharon. The township lines now extend north to Ravenshoe Road, and south to Davis Drive. The township is host to year-round cultural events such as music festivals, automotive shows, sporting events, and art exhibits.

East Gwillimbury has developed into a bustling community since the early days of colonization, and its namesake stands as a testament to the intrepid couple that worked to shape Canada into the nation it is today. In more ways than one, the community of Gwillimbury will always be an intricate part of the GTA.

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