History of East Gwillimbury
East Gwillimbury was settled in the early 1800s, by two groups of people: United Empire Loyalists were given free land grants in gratitude for their service to the Crown. Quaker families migrating from the United States, were also given favourable terms and conditions to settle here. In the 1820s, East Gwillimbury’s pioneer families established ‘The Temple Of The Children Of Peace at Sharon’. The Sharon Temple located at 18974 Leslie Street, is now a national historic site and a museum.
The Children of Peace had an unparalleled musical tradition. They formed the first civilian band in Canada, and commissioned the first organ built in Ontario. Their leader David Willson died in 1866, and the congregation met for the last time in 1889. The York Pioneer Historical Society has been instrumental in the preservation and restoration of the Sharon Temple.
The bulk of the early settlement in East Gwillimbury was concentrated in the communities of: Sharon, Mt. Albert and Queensville. By 1850, East Gwillimbury’s population had grown to the extent that it was incorporated as a town. East Gwillimbury is named in honour of Elizabeth Simcoe, who was the wife of John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant- Governor of Upper Canada. Elizabeth Simcoe’s maiden name was Gwillim.