Markham Fair 1911

Rain and Reciprocity.

By T. Rogers Gardham (Past President 1977)

The Markham Agricultural Society’s annual meeting was held Friday afternoon Jan. 21st, 1911 at 2 PM in the Town Hall and according the Markham Economist (ME) “the attendance was the largest in years and the competition for the directorate was of the keenest”. The 1910 President James Armstrong called the meeting to order and, J. B. Gould, Finance Chairman, read from the Treasurer’s report. Income totaling $6, 238.10 was comprised mainly of Gate Receipts $1607.90, Grants $900. Stalls and Pens rentals $ 860.70, Donations $1,566.50, membership fees 1911- $171 and a balance in the bank of $678.85. Expenditures totaled $5,788.10 comprised of $3,199 for Prizes, mortgage payment $575, Printing and postage $406.64, Salaries $250 and Misc. $652.56.The paper also reported “The assets and liabilities show that the society is in a very satisfactory condition financially. The principal assets are the grounds and buildings which are valued at $21,400 against which there is a mortgage $1, 010.”

What later might appear as a prophetic element was the reading of a new proposal for Rain Insurance read by the Fair Secretary: “In the case of loss sustained by an Agricultural Society through rainy weather or snow storms, the Department of Agriculture may, on satisfactory proof, pay the Society so affected an additional grant equal to 50% of the loss sustained, which shall be payable out of the annual grant to Agricultural Societies, and such sum shall not exceed $10,000 in any one year. The loss shall be based on the average gate receipts for the previous years, but in no case shall the grant to a Society for this purpose exceed the sum of $500, and it will not be paid until affidavit of the president, Secretary and Treasurer has been received by me as Superintendent, showing that gate receipts had fallen below the average on account of such bad weather and that the rain or snow had fallen previous to 3 PM on one or any day of the Fair.” After the reading of the letter the paper reported: “Mr. J.B. Gould, after moving that the delegates to the Fair’s Association be instructed to support the proposition, made a speech condemning the same. He was afraid that it might take away a part of the government grant to Markham Fair. Messrs. Milne and Wales spoke in favour of the scheme and argued that it could not possibly affect our grant as they understood it while in case of a bad year it provided for a portion of the loss in gate receipts. The majority of those present however could not grasp the meaning of the proposition and when the question was put voted it down.”

The next item on the annual meeting agenda was the election of officers with the paper reporting that the President, Vice-President and Directors for Scarboro were elected by acclamation, but there was a “warm contest” for the rest of the seats. Those elected were President – Robert B. Ormerod of Brown’s Corners; 1st Vice President – William C. Ormerod of Amber; 2nd Vice President – H.S. Adam of Markham. Directors: Scarboro – George Scott and Thomas Maxwell; Stouffville – O.A. Elliott; Pickering – Alph Hoover and Walter Milne; Markham Village – James Torrance, T.H. Hassard, John Isaac, John Thomas and W.J Harper; Markham Township – J.M. Armstrong, Thomas Hargrave, H.J. Davidson, Ed Kirk, George Tran, J.B. Gould, Alex Pringle, Robert Canning, Fred E. Reesor and R.J. Cunningham.. Appointments: auditors – T.B.Reive and W.A Robinson. Delegates to Fairs Association: – A.W. Milne and J.B. Gould.

To indicate democracy in action the report adds that the new directors elected were: T.H. Hassard, F.E. Reesor, O.A. Elliott and Robert Canning and old directors not elected: F.A. Reesor and W.H. Todd (retired) and James Malcolm and A.G. Gormley who were deseated on a close vote. “At the conclusion of the election the retiring president called on president elect Ormerod to take the chair, who briefly returned his thanks for the high honour conferred on him and spoke hopefully of the prospects of a bigger and better fair next fall”. A motion was also passed that the Fair be held Wed, Thurs, and Fri October 4th, 5th, and 6th, 1911. The following Committees were appointed: – Finance – Gould, Isaac, Thomas and Torrance. Grounds and Building: Isaac, Torrance, Thomas, Hassard, Harper, Gould and F. H .Reesor. Permits: – Thomas, F.H. Reesor and Adam. Printing: Isaac, P. H. Reesor and Adam. Refreshments: – Gould and Torrance. Soliciting Markham Village: – Adam, Isaac, and Harper, Stouffville – Elliott, without recompense. Toronto: – Gould and Torrance, on a 20% commission basis. For other sections every member of the Board in his municipality on a 10% commission basis. A resolution was also passed that the Fairgrounds be rented to James Torrance for $50 for his use except when required by the Society.

There was also a federal election just before the 1911 Fair (Sept. 21st) which was fought over the issues of reciprocity (free trade) with the United States and the creation of a Canadian Navy. The debate was over the naval arms race between the British Empire and Germany, already indications of the coming World War I, which began in 1914. The Liberals, who by ideology and history were strongly in favour of free trade, decided to make the issue the central plank of their re-election strategy, and negotiated a free trade agreement in natural products with the United States.

Reciprocity had been promoted since Confederation for it meant there would be no protective tariffs on all natural resources traded between Canada and the United States. This would allow prairie grain farmers access to the larger American market, and allow them to make more money on their exports. It also meant they could obtain access to cheaper American farm machinery and manufactured goods, which otherwise had to be obtained at higher prices from central Canada. Although the Liberals still had two years left in their term, they decided to call an election to settle the issue after it aroused controversy.Many English-Canadians in the East and West felt the Liberals were abandoning Canada’s traditional links with the UK on both issues. The powerful manufacturing interests of Toronto and Montreal switched their allegiance and financing to the Conservatives, who argued that free trade would undermine Canadian sovereignty and lead to a slow annexation of Canada by the U.S.The election ended fifteen years of Liberal government and the Conservatives formed a majority government.

One of the other big news events for the Markham area was the announcement in January that the coronation of King George V was to take place in Westminster Abbey in June (he was the father of “Bertie” who became George VI featured in the movie “The King’s Speech” for which Colin Firth won an Oscar 2011).

There was a major train wreck in Bolton and an editorial complained about the need for improvements in Main Street Markham including scraping the roads and not putting the “scrapping” back to make a “sea of mud” later, as well as not filling holes with “cinders”, but “good clean gravel or broken field stone”. The 140 Acre Byer farm( pt Lots 22 &23) was sold by auctioneer Prentice for $8,000. A new covered skating rink was opened in Locust Hill and radial railways were said to be planned for connecting to Markham. There was a full day of blizzard in February, the first of the winter, winds reported at 40 miles an hour, and blinding snow, with trains delayed up to 3 hours in the Markham area.

Italy declared war on Turkey. There were floods in Europe and Australia said to be caused by changes in the sun and the deforestation of America and reports of Bubonic Plague in China The Grande Prairie – Peace River district (Alberta) was opened to thousands of prospective homesteaders and a major hockey tournament involving Brougham, North Toronto, Broadview and Markham had to be replayed due to timekeeping irregularities (prizes of 7 gold watches awarded to the winners). The largest dirigible yet built, 510 feet long, was constructed for the British Navy and personal savings in Canadian Banks totalled $575,740,000 or $82/person.

Another interesting note on the agricultural front appeared in late January when it was reported that the students of the Ontario Agricultural College and the MacDonald Institute in Guelph had petitioned the Minister of Agriculture to remove the ban on dancing.

A report from the Fairs Association meetings held in Toronto in February stated that the “insurance against bad weather scheme” presented by the Department of Agriculture was endorsed. This is the scheme voted down at the annual meeting on the basis it might cut down their government grant.

It seems that even in 1911 mother nature and the elements pay little heed to the motions of the Agricultural Society and the October 19th edition of the (ME) bore the sombre headline Markham Fair Hard Hit By The Rain. A good show in the Hall – The Ring attractions Had to Be Cancelled. Gate Receipts Fall off $1600 – Will Pay Prizes in Full.

“Cold, bleak weather on Thursday and a heavy rain on Friday was what Markham Fair was up against this year. Naturally the attendance fell off heavily – about two-thirds. The only wonder was that anyone went on Friday. But they did. The Grand Trunk (railway) brought in over 1200 people, fully half of whom did not go to the grounds, but sought shelter in the cars, at hotels or with friends. The gate receipts were $600 or $1,600 less than last year. But some of this will be made up. The directors expect to get about $300 from the Fairs Association – rain insurance. True the resolution for this insurance was voted down at the annual meeting last winter, but the Fairs Association to which Markham belongs, showed more wisdom than our members did and it was adopted in spite of them. Then again, considerable prize money will be saved as several races and most of the harness classes had to be called off on account of the downpour of rain on Friday. Secretary Milne thinks that after all this year’s liabilities have been met the deficit will not amount to more than $200.

As to the exhibits. There was a perceptible fall off in entries. In cattle and sheep there was a grand exhibit. Poultry was fully up to the mark as in most of the swine classes. The ladies work and fine arts many thought the show broke all records, and the splendid exhibits made by the Markham, Highland Creek and Box Grove branches of the East York Women’s Institute was always surrounded by an admiring crowd. Considering this was an off year the show of fruits and vegetables was remarkably good.”

The report goes on to describe the notable personalities, mainly political officials, that attended and closed with notes that the exhibit of the latest equipment for growing potatoes attracted great attention with a gratifying number of sales; the Attractions Committee were criticized for passing up the home band for one from Scarboro Beach and “the wet weather was no doubt responsible in large measure for the number of drunken men on the streets.”

Like the proverbial postman who rain, snow, sleet and hail cannot keep from his appointed rounds, so Markham Fair marches on through fair and foul weather bringing the best in agricultural entertainment and education and keeps re-inventing itself to new generation after new generation.

Once again our (Myra and Rogers) sincere thank you to Cathy Molloy, Heather McKeown, Janet Reid and the staff at Markham Museum, which is about to officially open its new and improved home to the advancement of history through its irreplaceable archives of Markham and surrounding communities. How lucky we are to have such dedication. Visit and take the time to go back in time.

Markham Fair President 1911

Robert Blair Ormerod

By Myra Chepack

Robert Blair OrmerodRobert Blair Ormerod was one of fifteen children, all of whom but one, survived to adulthood. Born on August 20th, l86l, he was the grandson of Thomas Ormerod (born 1793) and Isabella Blair from whom he acquired his middle name, a common Scottish custom. Thomas is shown to have been born in Cumberland England, but immigrated to Canada from Bowness, Scotland in 1836, along with eight children, the eldest, James, being seventeen and the youngest, William only one year. Two more daughters were born in Canada, Isabella, named for her Mother on June 20th, 1840 and Mary in July of 1841. They married John Hutchinson (Michigan) and George Empringham of Coleman, respectively. Thomas and Isabella are buried in St. Margaret’s Cemetery, in West Hill, Ontario.

Robert’s father was also named Thomas, born in 1827 and passing on his 51st wedding anniversary of March 29th, l909, his wife was Elizabeth Keeler, who died May 15th, 192l. Thomas’ obituary did not mention his wife’s name, other than the above reference to his anniversary. The names of his surviving children and their location was however, noted. At the time of his death the two sisters who had been born in Canada and his eldest brother James were his only surviving siblings. He left fifty-one grandchildren and one great grandchild. He and Elizabeth rest as well in St. Margaret’s Cemetery in West Hill, Ontario.

Robert’s uncle, James, who had been 17 when he arrived in Canada, married Hannah Secord. They lost 4 of 6 granchildren, in a five day period in 1866, the offspring of their daughter Hannah and Wm. Sellers. A memorial stone at St. Andrew’s Bendale, Presbyterian Church records this sad story.

The obituary of Robert Blair Ormerod stated the date of his death, May 15th, 1921 and his name along with a lengthy passage of scripture. His birthdate, as recorded on the memorial stone at St. Andrew’s Bendale Presbyterian Church was August 20th, 186l, where he rests with his wife Lillie Purdie born November 28th, 1864. Lillie was the tenth child of William Purdie and Janet Rae, she died January 2nd, 1950, at the age of 86, her older sister Rachel Elizabeth, lived to 93. The Ormerod ‘home farm’ was a 100 acre parcel on Lot 18, Conc. 3, which to-day is the east side of Markham Road between Sheppard Avenue and Finch Avenue. A street named in honour of the family runs east from Markham Road and was, quite probably, on their farm. The area was known as Brown’s Corners but with the closing of the post office there, it eventually became part of Malvern (Markham Road and Sheppard Ave.). Both the Ormerod and Purdie families were extensive and several parcels of land are recorded in these two family names on a Scarborough map of 1910. The Purdie family farmed Lot 18. Conc. 2, (Tapscott Rd.), which adjoined the Ormerod farm. They appear to have been civic minded residents with Lillie (Purdie) Ormerod serving as a member of the Women’s Missionary Society of the Presbyterian Church in 1916. Robert was an active member of Scarborough Town Council, holding the position of Councillor in 1911, the same year he was President of Markham Fair. His brother Wm.C. Ormerod of Amber was a Fair director in 1910 and Vice President in 1911. Wm. C. was also a Scarborough Councillor in 1909.

Robert and Lillie had one daughter, Jean Rae, (again the Mother’s maiden name used as a child’s middle name) born April 30th, 1894. Jean married David Arnold Thomson born 1893, a direct descendent of David and Mary Thomson, the first settlers of Scarborough. They had one son, born in 1925 who did not survive. Jean outlived David by four years, passing in 1986.

Many of the Ormerod family’s marriages were to families whose names are still familiar to us to-day. A few of these are the John Taylor family of Scarboro, Forfar, Lowrey. Secord, Sellers, Gates and Empringham. The volunteers who so selflessly give their time and energy to ensuring Markham Fair continues to thrive in an ever growing urban setting, come from, in many instances families who were also committed to this same ideal. The Archives Committee thank Richard Schoefield, curator of the Scarborough Archives and the curatorial staff at Markham Museum, specifically Heather McEwan and Janet Reid. It takes many ‘bits’ of information to create a picture of our former Presidents. We are grateful for the great care they take in preserving and sharing this.



Donald Robert Miller Markham Fair President 2011

Rob MillerMr. Miller, referred to as Rob was born June 2nd, 1958, the fifth generation of Millers to reside at Ashlane Farms, since the family acquired the land in 1869. The farm is located just north of the current Fair grounds on the west side of McCowan Rd. During the Depression of the 1930’s, Henry Miller built an incubator and raised baby chicks to support his family. In 1942 the family turned to milking, with some Jersey cattle and Holsteins. To-day, Ashlane Farms is a Holstein operation. Rob is the third of 4 children having two older sisters and a younger brother. The Fair is not unlike a community quilt, containing many different pieces pulled together with a common theme. Many family’s contributions are numerous and their involvement is the very fibre of the cloth. The Millers are such a family, Harry Warriner, the Fair President of 1961 was father Don’s Uncle and Don Miller, Rob’s Dad, was Fair President in 1991. Rob Miller is pleased to bring the Miller name once again to the title of Fair President, in 2011. Rob’s Mother is Dee (Barkey), a lady well acquainted with the operation of the Fair and an active volunteer. As children, Rob and his siblings showed cattle at the old Fair grounds at Markham Road and Hwy. 7. Rob also participated in the calf scramble and the greased pig scramble. He recalls, one year when he won the “chicken scramble” and brought home his somewhat bedraggled prize! Rob became involved in marketing and advertising at the age of fourteen. A neighbour had fashioned from fiberglass, a small, motorized vehicle similar to the Corvette car, which was to be called a Mini-Veep. Rob and a buddy were to be dressed in red racing outfits and gold crash helmets to drive these around the racetrack at the Fairgrounds, during the Fair, to create awareness and interest in this marvellous new machine! Unfortunately the front axle of Rob’s unit snapped in half before the demonstration got off the ground – scuttling the prospects of his first career! Rob’s academic education took place in several local elementary schools and Stouffville High School, where in his senior year Rob was captain of the wrestling team. He also participated in rugby, baseball and cross-country running. It was through his high school friend, who is now Rob’s brother-in-law, that he met Debbie Blizzard, one of six children in the well known, Stouffville Blizzard family. They married in 1980 and welcomed their first daughter Michelle (Santos) in 1982. Michelle was involved with Old MacDonalds barn as soon as she was able and became a Fair Princess in 2000. Their second daughter, Melissa (LaDuca) arrived in 1985 and has been involved with Old MacDonalds Barn and presently the Information booth, alongside her Grandmother Dee Miller and mother Debbie, who has just received her 15 year committee pin. Kristen, born in 1989 is a part of Old MacDonalds Barn and is the 2010-2011 Lead Ambassador of the Fair, accompanying and assisting her parents and grandparents in representing the Fair at a number of events throughout the Province. Old MacDonalds barn is a very major attraction at the Fair and is always under the watchful eye of at least one Miller family member. Rob and Debbie are blessed with two grandsons, Antonio age three and Joseph, now 7 months. No doubt these little men will be the youngest Millers enjoying the live animals along with the senior three generations.

After graduation from high school, Rob worked beside his father on the family farm for three years. In 1977 when the Markham Fair moved just down the road from the family farm Rob worked part-time alongside grounds keeper, Trevor Watson, at the new Fairgrounds assisting with the Livestock barn and Old MacDonalds barn during the fair. He became an apprentice linesman with North York Hydro in 1979, which is now part of Toronto Hydro. He worked his way through the ranks and has been a management line supervisor for the past 17 years. Rob and his young family lived in the second house at Ashlane Farms for ten years and then moved into Stouffville in 1990, where they reside to-day.

Rob is a brother in Richardson Masonic Lodge in Stouffville, he has coached girls baseball, in house leagues as well as a rep team and continues to play on a men’s team locally. Rob & Debbie’s daughters pursued baseball, soccer, dance, figure skating and Tae Kwan Do – a tribute to Rob and Debbie as inspirational, goal setting parents. Rob, as well as his Dad Don, serve, on the Board for Melville United Church and Cemetery. The graveyard is the resting place of the Miller clan and will provide, for current and future members of the family.

Rob was elected to a three year term as a Director in 1999, but has been a member of the Fair for more than 25 years. He has served as co-chair of Old Macdonald’s Barn, worked on grounds, personnel, the pedal pull and utilized his hydro skills where required as well as pitching in wherever the need arose, including setting up for the Banquet.

Rob is a humble, team player whose energy is contagious. He is committed to promoting the implementation of the Strategic Plan, which provides specific parameters for the operation of the Fair. He is also passionate about retaining the agricultural focus of the Fair and investigating and developing ways to interest and excite visitors in a predominantly urban setting. He minimizes his impact, viewing his role as that of a figure head and giving the bulk of the credit to the many, many volunteers and members, who work unselfishly to ensure the Fairs’ continuing success. Rob faces organizational and management challenges which he is embracing with good humour and a positive attitude. His contribution to the “Fair quilt” is greeted with gratitude and admiration.