Post Offices & General Stores

Learn From Home Activity

Background Information

Post offices and general stores were two businesses that made up part of the central hub within early communities. Oftentimes, these two businesses were combined and functioned out of the same location.

These essential businesses not only supplied members of the Village with a place to obtain general goods, they offered the opportunity for socialization - sending and receiving letters, postcards and news, chatting with the shopkeeper and post master and sharing news with fellow shoppers and neighbours.

Early East Gwillimbury saw a number of general stores and post offices (both combined and separate) that served the communities of Sharon, Holland Landing, Queensville, Mount Albert, Franklin, Hartman, Holt, Ravenshoe, Mount Zion and Brown Hill. 

Within the Village of Hope (now Sharon) the first post office was established on February 6, 1841. Ethel Willson Trewhella's twenty-third installment of "The Story of Sharon" from November 15, 1951 includes a list of postmasters and the dates of their roles. Postmasters in Sharon were as follows: J.C. Hogaboom, Feb. 6, 1841 to May 15, 1866; John T. Stokes, July 1, 1868 to November 6, 1884; John Kavanagh, Feb. 1, 1885 to Sept. 28,  1903; R. H.  Kenyon, Oct. 14, 1903 to July 14, 1906; Thomas Watson, Aug. 4, 1906 to Jan. 12, 1921; Wm. Arthur Hall, Jan. 13, 1921 to Sept. 3, 1923; Percy Browning, Oct. 1, 1923 to Oct. 1, 1928; Elmer R. Fry, Nov. 22, 1928 to April 1943; Mrs. Edith Laura Vernon, July 7, 1943…”. John T. Stokes conducted his postmaster role out of a small building attached to his residence (below left), while Kavanagh's office was housed in a building constructed with lumber salvaged from the First Meeting House used by the Children of Peace (below right). 

The early post office of Sharon was located on the route serviced by a daily stage coach running from Newmarket to Sutton. Beginning in 1864 this coach was responsible for delivering newspapers, letters and seed catalogues to residents. 

General stores, meanwhile were scattered throughout the area and provided residents with access to goods that were not readily available on their farms or through the services of their neighbours. These items included hardware, household goods, spirits, medicines, clothing, cloth, sewing supplies, foodstuffs, spices, tea, coffee, soaps, flour and more. While many used cash to pay for their goods, others utilized the bartering system, exchanging meat, butter, wheat and other products to obtain their items. 

Within Sharon alone four separate general stores can be identified. The first, located on Concession 3, Lot 16 was run by John Reid in the 1830s. Reid was the husband of Sarah Willson, daughter of David Willson. At the same time another general store, located on Concession 3, Lot 7 was run by Charles Doan. Doan was the son of John Doan, builder of the Ark that sits in the middle of the Sharon Temple. He was also married to Mary Willson, another daughter of David Willson. Doan ran this store until the 1850s when he moved to nearby Aurora and worked as both a shopkeeper and postmaster (see advertisement from the Newmarket Era, dated Nov. 10, 1864) and later, was the first Reeve of that community. In the 1830s another store was run by Eli Beman, the only non-member of the Children of Peace in this group of merchants. However, as revealed in the account books from Charles Doan's store, he received business from members and non-members of the Children of Peace with about half of his business coming from members. 

David Willson Hughes operated another general store on present-day Leslie Street until the 1870s. Hughes was married to Jerusha Doan, daughter of Jesse Doan. When they moved to Bolton, his brother-in-law Jessie Doan took over operating the general store. 

Curriculum Connections

Social Studies - Grade 1: Strand B. People and Environments: The Local Community (B1.1, B1.2, B2.4, B3.1, B3.2, B3.7)

Social Studies - Grade 2: Strand B. People and Environments: Global Communities (B2.2, B3.6)

Social Studies - Grade 3: Strand A. Heritage & Identity: Communities in Canada, 1780-1850 (A1.1, A1.2, A2.1, A3.2, A3.3, A3.4, A3.5); Strand B. People and Environments: Living and Working in Ontario (B3.5)

Language - Grade 2 & 3: Writing - 1. Developing and Organizing Content (1.1, 1.2), 2. Using Knowledge of Form and Style in Writing (2.1, 2.2, 2.5)

Activity

Post offices and general stores provided a vital resource for communities in East Gwillimbury. They offered essential goods and facilitated communication with friends and loved ones while keeping others informed of local, national and even international news events. 

Do you write letters or send postcards while on vacation? Take this time to share a message with a friend or family member using one of the postcards below. 

Instructions

1. Download and print both sides of your selected postcard design. Try using thick paper like cardstock. 

2. Cut the postcard to size.

3. Write a special message and fill out the information for your recipient with their name and address.

4. Place a stamp in the top right corner and place it in the mailbox.

5. Don't forget to tell your recipient about this #STLearnFromHome program in your message!

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905-478-2389

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18974 Leslie Street, Sharon, ON L0G 1V0