York’s Founding Fathers – Stouffville

Ever wondered if you had only gone that little bit further? What would have happened if you had? One fellow did and ended up having a town named after him. Not just a small town, but a large important area full of agriculture. I am pleased to introduce to you the Founding Father of Stouffville, Abraham Stouffer.

Abraham Hershey Stouffer (Stauffer) was born on January 9th, 1780 in Chambersburg, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Abraham Hess Stouffer and Barbara Hershey. Abraham Hess was a miller and a farmer. He would teach his young son how to mill and to farm.

Abraham grew up to be a man of great physical size and strength. He was 225 pounds, 6’ 1” tall. He had hazel eyes and brown hair. He had fallen in love with a local girl by the name of Elizabeth Reesor. Elizabeth was older than Abraham yet the couple married on April 7th, 1798. Their first child Christian was born the following year.

Strife was happening within the area of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as well as across the United States. Being Mennonite, Abraham could not pledge allegiance to the United States. Neither could Elizabeth’s parents. Eventually they had their land taken away from them. They would lose their homes. They still wanted the ruling to come from Britain.

In October 1804, the young family began their emigration journey to Upper Canada. They would travel in a group, along with Elizabeth’s parents and family. Abraham and Elizabeth had three children by now; Christian, son Jacob born in 1802 and daughter Elizabeth born February 21, 1803. The group had to cut their way through dense wilderness since there were no roads that they could travel on. The four covered wagons and a few cows trekked slowly on the cleared roads. The trek took 6 weeks to arrive in Markham Township in Upper Canada. Technically, the group were not United Empire Loyalists.

Abraham and Elizabeth then travelled about 8 kilometres north and they found a clearing. The clearing was about 2 acres in size and sat near a small creek. Abraham went to find the owner. He found that the owner, Russell Hoag, was actually a squatter. Abraham then went to petition the Crown for the land. He got possession of lot 1, Concession 1 in Whitchurch on March 11, 1805.

Later that year he would purchase 400 acres, consisting of lots 1 and 2 on the 9th concession. On July 9th, 1805, he bought 200 acres at lot 35 on the Markham side of the road from John Williams. Abraham paid ₤ 62. 10 shillings.

Before long, Abraham began building a home. Clearing of the woods was hard work. He built a saw and grist mills on the Whitchurch property. He could use the lumber made by his mills to build his house.

On May 13th, 1806, a son named Abraham III was born to the couple. He was the first child born to the couple since coming to Canada. The couple would go on to have 5 more children; John in 1808, Fanny in 1811, Jacob in 1813, David in 1819 and Lydia in 1825.

1806 was also the year that Abraham had his grist mill in operation. A few years later, the grist mill was struck by lightning. The mill burned to the ground. This did not dissuade Abraham. He began to build another one. This brought a miller and a millwright to the hamlet. Interest in the village began to grow. This brought more farmers, tradesmen and merchants to the now growing town. By 1817, the sawmill was fully operational. The gristmill also was operational by 1825. The town was unofficially named Staufferville, or Stoufferville.

During this time, Abraham’s son Christian began to help his father with the gristmill.

1825 was also a busy year for Abraham. He became the director of the Farmer’s Storehouse Company. This was the first farmer’s co-operative in Toronto that was founded the year before.
Abraham and his family were Mennonites. They would use another Meeting house in the Markham area to get their religion. It is uncertain when the Altona Meeting House was built, but Abraham was one of the first trustees of the church.

In 1832, Stoufferville was officially named Stouffville when a post office opened. The government changed the name in perpetuating the office. The first Postmaster was C. D. Sheldon. The post office made the growing town into a village.

Sadly, on April 7, 1835, Abraham’s beloved wife Elizabeth dies. She was buried at the Altona Mennonite House cemetery.

The widow continued to work his mills. At one point, Abraham loses the use of his hand in an accident. This is when he gives the mills to his son Christian. Christian would sell the property to Edward Wheeler in 1848.

Abraham spent much time with his son Abraham II. He would reside at his son’s home after the land was sold. On September 27, 1851, Abraham Sr. suddenly passes away while at his son’s home. He died of apoplexy. Abraham was to be buried alongside his wife Elizabeth in the Altona Mennonite cemetery.

Abraham took many steps in his lifetime. It turned out that his greatest steps were to take him a little further than many men. He also left behind a great legacy with his children. Many became farmers in the area. The Stouffers married into the local families, carrying on the name to this very day.

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