Opened in 1960 by the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority as a living tribute to the Toronto area’s pioneering roots, Black Creek Pioneer Village boasts a telling history of its own.
Native settlers introduce farming to the area
Although there is no firm evidence of Native settlements at Black Creek, we do know the first settlers in the vicinity were Native North Americans. Around 900 AD nomadic ancestors of the Iroquois, who had been traversing the region as hunters began to establish their own villages. These agricultural groups cultivated corn, squash, beans, and pumpkins. They also raised tobacco. Depletion of the soil and the need for firewood meant the settlements were moved three to six miles every 10 years or so.
European farmers give new shape to the land
The first European pioneers on the land were Daniel and Elizabeth Stong who, in 1816 began their married life together here in rural York County. The original land grant had been issued to Elizabeth’s parents, Catharine and John Fisher in 1796. John died before the land was cleared and their son Jacob inherited the property. He, in turn, died of camp fever during the War of 1812 and the land grant passed to his sisters.
100 acres of land in the wilderness, clothed in majestic white pine, oak and elm trees, faced Daniel and Elizabeth as they started their life’s farming work together. They knew it took hard work to build a productive farm and they prospered. Clearing the land, they built their first home, a small log house. A large grain barn, piggery, smoke house and finally a larger home were added over the next few years. Their family grew, and with six sons and two daughters the Stongs prospered and established their place in the future.
Today smoke still curls from the chimneys and the homes still welcome visitors. Built between 1816 and 1832, the Stong farm buildings now form the heart of Black Creek Pioneer Village.
Hurricane Hazel sets the stage
On October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel hit the city of Toronto, taking with her 81 lives and leaving millions of dollars worth of damage. Most of the devastation occurred along the banks of the rivers which ran through built up areas of the city. In an effort to prevent this ever happening again laws were passed to prevent building in the river flats, and land began to be acquired for conservation and parkland.
The Humber Valley Conservation Authority owned land on the northeast corner of Jane Street and Steeles Avenue on which stood the Dalziel Barn a magnificent Pennsylvania German log barn dated 1809. It was decided to restore this barn and use it to tell the story of early Ontario agriculture. In the next few years local farmers donated agricultural artifacts and a museum was created.
The birth of Black Creek Pioneer Village – Where History Lives!
In 1957 the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority was formed to incorporate the many smaller Conservation Authorities in the city watersheds. The MTRCA operated the Dalziel Museum in 1957 and in 1958 expanded to include lands on the southwest corner of Jane and Steeles - the Stong farm, in the Stong family from 1816 to 1958. This property was to become the nucleus of Black Creek Pioneer Village.
The MTRCA recognized the long history of the Stong farm complex and decided to preserve it and enhance the story told by creating a typical 19th century village around the farm buildings. In just the same way that many communities grew in early Ontario, the Village began to develop around the crossroads with the farm on one corner, a blacksmith shop, a store, a home and a church. In 1960 Black Creek Pioneer Village opened to the public. Over the next 2 decades the MTRCA continued to save other historical buildings and the Village grew.
Today many of the buildings are staffed with costumed interpreters who help guide visitors through history. Many visitors remark that the moment they step onto the boardwalk they feel like they are stepping back in time. Maybe it’s the ring of the blacksmith’s anvil, the soft clop of a Clydesdale’s hooves, the combination of wood smoke, freshly baked bread and apple cider in the air, or the friendly ‘hello’ from the storekeeper - whatever the charm, the magic of the past is still alive at Black Creek Pioneer Village.