York’s Founding Fathers – Wesley Corners

When you drive down the road and you see a sign stating the name of the little hamlet you are in, do you wonder who the founder was?  Some little hamlets have changed their name, some many times. Such is Wesley Corners, located at Aurora Sideroad and Woodbine Ave.  A crossroad from times past. Yet, the name has three times. Named for the first settler, then a local family and finally to an English 18th century Theologian and cleric.  I have the pleasure of introducing you to Reverend James Hacking, one of the first settlers at Wesley’s Corners.

 James Hacking was born on September 16, 1759 in Leeds, Yorkshire England. He was the 4th child of James Hacking Senior and his wife Sarah Holland.  James Jr.  was born in a time that had many changes.  The Industrial revolution was evident. Public opinion was beginning to criticize the government.  Leeds was a working-class town.  Taxation was a discord with much of the population.  As well, England had been in dispute with the United States, France, Spain and The Netherlands.  In 1783, The Treaty of Versailles, or Peace of Paris, was signed by all parties.

 James had met a young lady by the name of Mary Sykes.  She was the daughter of John and Hannah Ellison Sykes.  The couple fell in love. The couple announced by banns that they intended to marry.  On December 10th, 1787, the pair married at Bradford Cathedral in Yorkshire.  James occupation was listed as a weaver on the marriage licence.  On July 6th, 1788, the couple had their first child, a daughter named Ann.

 A son by the name of John was born the following year on December 22nd.   The couple would have 5 more children. Daughter Sarah was born 1793. Daughter Mary was born on April 13th, 1795 and daughter Hannah was born on September 3rd, 1797.  A son James III was born on February 29th, 1808 and son William Henry on November 17, 1810.

 A time after 1811, James and his large family had immigrated to Upper Canada.  The family stayed for a period in the Town of York, now Toronto, Ontario.

 In 1817, James and his family settled in Whitchurch Township, northeast of the town of York.  He settled on lots 21 and 22 on the 4th Concession East. It was August 12th, 1817 that James’ granddaughter Hannah died at the age of 3.

 James was now Reverend Hacking.  He had become a congregational preacher.  He began preaching in his home. In time he also became a “saddlebag” preacher.   Since the region was so large, ministers worked a circuit, travelling by horse to different churches and homes.  His son recalls the “lengthy expeditions” his father took as a missionary.

 James stay at the homestead was short.  He and some members of his family would move to Peel Region.  His son John would remain on the homestead and continue to farm and start a family.   John would open a little general store on the corners. 

Of the family that stayed in Hacking’s Corner, son John Hacking would marry Hannah Dennison, son James Jr would marry Frances Briggs in Whitby, Ontario and William Henry would marry Margaret Tracy in Newmarket.  His daughter Mary would marry Richard Machell of Aurora. Another daughter would marry George Snider.  Reverend James Hacking died from old age on February 4th, 1847 in Bolton, Ontario.

John Hacking would have a daughter named Emma.  Emma would marry a neighbour Isaac Petch.  Hacking’s Corners was now know by the name of Petchville, after the Petchs.   Isaac’s father Richard was from Whitby, England. Richard’s family immigrated in 1816 and had the land across the road.   The land was clergy reserve so the Petchs did not own the land.  It was not until 1840 when the land was purchased by Richard Petch.

 In 1847, Richard deeded a half acre on the southeast corner of his property to build a church.  A log church was then built. The building was named Petch’s Chapel.  It was replaced in 1881 by the current stone church there.  By the time the stone church was built, the name of the hamlet had changed to its current name; Wesley Corners.  The hamlet was named after the 18th century theologian and cleric; John Wesley.   Along with his brother, Wesley was instrumental in bringing forth the Methodist movement.

 Except for the church and the graves under the trees, Wesley Corners does not have much.  But it has a history.  From a man who came to preach  to a man who farms to a theologian who never even came to the hamlet. Yet, the tiny hamlet did attempt to flourish but the crossroad now sits silent.



One comment

  1. James Pogue · · Reply

    As the present chair of Wesley United Church I found your article fascinating. Would you kindly contact me at pogue_ james@hotmail.com ?

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