holland marsh

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Holland Marsh

The Holland Marsh, located 50 kms or 30 miles north of Toronto has often been referred to as "the salad bowl of Ontario". The Holland Marsh covers an area in the northeastern part of King Township and part of West Gwillimbury as well as bordering two sides of the town of Bradford. This huge marsh, through which the Holland River flows is named after Major J.S. Holland, an early surveyor of Upper Canada.

The story of the Holland marsh as an agricultural area is a relatively new one. Early explorers found the journey through the marsh difficult. Early pioneers found the land too wet to farm and the only crop grown prior to the 1920's was marsh hay which was used for the stuffing of mattresses. In order to cut the hay in the marshy conditions the horses were fitted with snow-shoe like boards on their hooves in order to pull the mowers that cut the hay.

Around 1910 a professor of physics at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph named William H. Day took a keen interest in the marsh. With the outbreak of WW1 his plans were put on hold but after the war Mr. Day attempted to interest local municipal councils of the possibility of draining the marsh for agricultural purposes. In 1925 the councils of Bradford and West Gwillimbury and King Townships signed an agreement to drain the marsh.

Draining the marsh consisted of creating ditches and canals that drained into the old river bed. The water level was controlled using large pumps. This method would serve two purposes; irrigation and drainage. During periods of heavy rain the water could be pumped from the river bed into the canals and during periods of drought water from the canal could be let into the ditches to irrigate the crops.

The first crops were harvested on the newly drained marsh in 1927 and by 1930 Professor Day reported that $27,000.00 had been earned from the sale of produce from thirty-seven acres of newly reclaimed marsh land. The Holland Marsh was well on it's way to becoming a major producer of garden vegetables such as onions, lettuce, carrots and celery, however the area was scarcely populated.

holland marsh old houseIn the fall of 1934 eighteen families from the Netherlands became the area's first year round settlers. The name of this settlement of new immigrants was named Ansnorveld and was merely a row of houses. The first few years were extremely difficult for the newcomers and the settlement was quite isolated. the only heating fuel was wood and the farmers had to travel to Bradford for supplies.

Despite the hardships the tiny settlement continued to thrive and in 1935 a school, SS No. 16 was constructed as well as a church. With the construction of Hwy 400 in the 1950's farmers were able to quickly access the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto and their markets continued to expand.

Places to Explore

Cheltenham Badlands
Holland Marsh
McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Ontario Towns and Cities

Kleinburg, Ontario
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