Main Street Markham is the original Main Street of the City of Markham. It is one of Ontario’s oldest communities. Many districts are located along with Main Street Markham in downtown Markham. That street serves as a connecting street between these districts. Main St. has become a lively area of business and living thanks to the construction of more modern buildings in recent years.
Markham Township was surveyed in 1793-1794 by John Graves Simcoe, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, and was named after Archbishop William Markham of York, England. However, Markham never visited the place he was named after.
Joseph Reesor, one of a large number of Pennsylvania-Germans who settled in the township in the early 1800s, acquired Lot 11 (Conc.8) on the east corner of Highway 48 and 7. This corner was occupied by several homes a few years later. Reesorville was the name of the small community. Mannheim (German for ‘man’s home’) was the name later given to it.
With the opening of the post office (53 Main St.) in 1828, the township’s name was adopted by the hamlet.
Markham became an incorporated village in 1872. Several buildings on Main Street were destroyed by fire in May of that year. Because of this, many were of the opinion that taxes should be imposed on everyone to protect the village. This was accomplished through incorporation. The Village of Markham had 954 residents nine years after incorporation.
Vinegar Hill is the name given to Main Street Markham south of Hwy 7. Vinegar Hill’s name, according to Myra Chepak, an elderly resident of Princess Street. Several theories exist about how this name came to be.
Markham Village historian John Lunau, the late Reeve of Markham Village, told Alma Walker, former Reeve of Markham, the first story. Vinegar Hill was named after their home in Ireland by a local Irish family named Baker.
As an old duffer over sixty years ago when the story was told, Mort Selleck, the local gravedigger, told the story to the same Mrs. Walker in a more colourful manner. In his colourful description of the Coopers (barrel-makers), he emphasized Good Friday was the only time they held a competition.
Keep in mind that the area did not look like it does now. Princess Street turned north from the tree-lined, dirt road known as Hwy 48 and curled back north of the Rouge River. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel washed out the last bridge and left Fisher Court as a reminder of where the roads reconnected. West of the river, the Milne family owned and operated a woolen mill. To the east, the Valley Land area owned and operated a grist mill.
It was the barrel-makers of these two mills that instigated the competition. They each filled barrels with vinegar and rolled them from a point just south of Mill Street down the steep, dirt track to determine whose barrels would run in the straightest line, thereby crediting one or the other with building the truest and best barrel. Thus, the name Vinegar Hill.