The area occupied by the present day Town of Aurora has seen human activity for the past 9,500 years or so. By the time of European contact, the Late Woodland aboriginal culture had already been established in the area for some 600 years.
It was not until the late 18th century however, that European settlement in the area began. This was due to the creation of Yonge Street. In 1793 Lieutenant‐Governor John Graves Simcoe ordered the extension of Yonge Street from Toronto to Holland Landing as a military road to secure trade and communication routes. To encourage settlement, Simcoe offered generous land grants – the first in the area were granted in 1797 to William McClellan, Thomas Phillips, Charles Fathers, and Frederick Smith. A small hamlet soon developed centred on the corner of Yonge and Wellington Streets. In 1834 Richard Machell purchased an acre of land on the south-east corner and established a store. Over the next few years Machell bought up surrounding land, primarily to the north, and the area became known as Machell’s Corners.
The 1850s saw further expansion with the arrival of the railway in 1853. Farmlands were subdivided into building lots, with Richard Machell filing the first plan for “Matchville” in May of that year. In 1859 Joseph Fleury arrived and partnered with Thomas Pearson in an agricultural implement manufacturing operation where they developed a cast‐beam plough. The plough was to be perfected over the years by Fleury, and The Aurora Agricultural Works (later J. Fleury`s Sons) became a central part of Aurora’s economy as its largest employer.
In 1863, Aurora was incorporated as a village having been named by Charles Doan who became the first reeve. In 1888 the Village of Aurora became a Town, officially incorporated on January 1st.
By the turn of the century the Town of Aurora was flourishing with a population of 1590 according to the 1901 census. An impressive Public School on Church Street had been built and the Town was home to numerous businesses and industries including the T. Sisman Shoe Company, Collis Leather, Cousins Dairy, Caruso’s Fruit Store, Scanlon Bakery and the Wilkinson Plough Company among others.
Further development and steady growth in the Town occurred particularly after World War II which continues to this day. New industries have replaced the old including Magna International and the Canadian headquarters for State Farm Insurance. Today Aurora has a population of over 55,000, a number that has doubled since 1986. A skilled, professional workforce has replaced the farmer, merchant and factory worker of the past. Aurora is a young, family-centred community that is growing and ever changing.
The present-day Town of Aurora is situated on land governed by Treaty #13 (The Toronto Purchase) and The Williams Treaties. We respect the rich history of this land and the people who have called it home for thousands of years.
In 1787, representatives of the Crown met with Mississaugas of the Credit where land was purportedly ceded to the Crown. While dubious at best, the supposed deed covering the sale was not resolved until 1805 when Treaty #13 was signed. In 1998, the Mississaugas of the Credit filed a claim against the Canadian Government regarding the 1805 treaty.
First Land Grants
This land grant for 210 acres (63.1.1a), dated December 2, 1802, was given to Henry Harman for lot 77, 1st Concession King Township.
In 1832, Richard Machell purchased the lot on the southeast corner of Yonge and Wellington Streets where he would later build and operate a general store. By the mid-1800s Machell owned the southeast, southwest, and northeast corners so it is not surprising that this area became known as “Machell’s Corners”. In 1853 he filed a subdivision plan offering lots for sale in "Match-Ville".
Upper Canada Rebellion
This fine box (989.25.1) was crafted by Charles Doan while held in Toronto Jail for his part in the Rebellion. It is inscribed with the date April 13, 1838, the day after fellow rebels Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews were hung at the jail in front of 10,000 spectators including Doan.
Arrival of the Train
On May 16, 1853 the first steam train in Canada West made its inaugural journey from Toronto to Machell’s Corners (Aurora). This two hour journey marked a turning point for the small village and the beginning of a profound era of expansion in British North America.
Aurora Agricultural Works Established
Established by Joseph Fleury, the Aurora Agricultural Works (later J.Fleury's Sons) manufactured plows and agricultural equipment from its factory on Wellington Street from 1859 until 1940.
Aurora Incorporated as a Village
First Issue of Aurora Banner Published
The Aurora Mechanics Institute and Library Association opened this building in 1870. At a time when most libraries entailed expensive subscription fees, the Mechanics Institute allowed Aurora's poorer farmers and factory tradesmen to access books. The Hall was also used for lectures and concerts.
Drill Shed Constructed in Town Park
Aurora's "New" Town Hall Opens at the Corner of Yonge and Mosley Streets
Church Street School Opens
Aurora Incorporated as a Town
First Aurora High School Built on Wells Street
The Radial Railway Connects Aurora to Toronto via Yonge Street
Underhill & Sisman Shoes Move from Markham to Aurora
Collis Leather Opens on Tyler Street
Indoor Skating Rink Opens on Gurnett Street. Collapses Under the Weight of Snow in 1929
New Post Office Built on Yonge Street
De La Salle Training Centre Opens at Yonge and Bloomington
First Aurora Horse Show Held July 1st in Town Park
In Aurora, lands to the east of Yonge Street had never been formally surrendered. This of course was a problem as settlers had already been living on land that they had no clear, legal title to. In 1923 representatives of the Crown and the Chippewas of Christian Island, Georgina Island, and Rama signed what is known as the Williams Treaties. Legal disputes over the rights to fish and hunt on the land were not formally resolved until 2018.
Aurora War Memorial Unveiled
St. Andrew's College Opens in Aurora
Cousins Dairy Opens at Yonge and Mosley Streets
New Arena Constructed on Gurnett Street. Destroyed by Fire in 1965
Aurora Dairy Opens at Yonge and Catherine Streets
Aurora District High School Opens on Dunning Avenue
Public Library Opens on Victoria Street
Aurora Community Centre Opens
Aurora Officially Declared Canada's Birthday Town
Aurora Museum Opens in the Former Waterworks Building on Yonge Street South of Church
Aurora Family Leisure Complex Opens
New Public Library Opens on Yonge Street
Stronach Aurora Recreation Complex Opens
Church Street School Cultural Centre Opens
Aurora Museum & Archives Officially Opens as a Town-run Entity
Construction Begins on Library Square
May 16, 1853
October 31, 1923
June 9, 1969
We will be adding to this section as our research into the complex and robust history of the Town of Aurora in an ongoing project. If there is a particular topic you are interested in please feel free to reach out to museum staff!
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July 25, 2021
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