History Timeline

Navigate through BWG's history timeline below to discover our roots.


Major Samuel Holland, the first Surveyor-General of British North America, laid out a settlement of log cabins at the east branch of the river that was later named after him.


Settlers, mostly of Irish origin, came to West Gwillimbury, north of what would later become Bradford.

Auld Kirk building


The largest settlement in Simcoe County was established west of Bradford by families originally from Scotland, disillusioned by the conflicts in the Red River Settlement of what is now Manitoba. The area became known as the Scotch Settlement. A church (the Auld Kirk) was built in 1823 and held services in Gaelic.

sawmill at Scanlon Creek


Six sawmills were operating on Scanlon Creek (named after mill owner Mark Scanlon) in the Irish settlement north of Bradford. With a grant from the government of Upper Canada, the first corduroy plank road was built across Holland Marsh and the river and as far north as Churchill in Innisfil.


Bradford was born when William Milloy built a log tavern at the fork of the road that branched west towards the Scotch Settlement (in the area of what is now Nelson Street and Scanlon Avenue). A few years later, a surveyor officially laid out the streets of Bradford (Holland, Barrie, John and Colborne - known as the "four corners"), effectively isolating Milloy's tavern. He later built another tavern in the Marsh near the bridge, nicknamed "The Bullfrog" by soldiers quartered there during the 1837 rebellion.


Miss Letitia Magee obtained from the Crown a large block of land, bounded by Holland and Barrie Streets, which extended north to the next concession. Newcomers ​purchased land from her.


John Edmanson built a tavern at Barrie Street and the Scotch Line (Holland Street), which later became the Bingham Hotel.


Daily stage service was established between Holland Landing and York (Toronto). The plank road continued to be extended and by the early 1850s it went all the way from Bradford to Bond Head (now Highway 88)​ and Holland Landing (a section of what is now Highway 11).

Passengers, mail and freight to points around Lake Simcoe travelled by steamboat like the one shown here.

Photo of steamboat

1835 & 1837

First post offices established in Bradford and Bond Head, respectively​.


The Township of West Gwillimbury was incorporated on January 1, 1850. Steamboat dock moved to the Bradford bridge, and stage service extended to Bradford.

Steam train


The first railway built in Upper Canada reached Bradford on June 15, using trains such as the one pictured here, which was built by the National Railway in 1853. Records show that 7,800 passengers boarded the train at Bradford in the year 1866 alone. The railway brought to Bradford an era of boom prosperity and became the focal point for South Simcoe trade.


Bradford was incorporated as a village. Thomas Driffill, a blacksmith and shop owner, became the first Reeve on January 1, 1858. The population was about 1,000 persons. The settlement was named after Bradford, England, as many of the pioneers (including Driffill) came from the vicinity of that Yorkshire town.

Thomas Driffill


On May 23, the main core of Bradford was devastated by fire that originated in Edmanson's bake house and travelled east down Holland St. It left 130 homes and businesses in ashes, stopping just before reaching Town Hall, and losses of an astronomical half-million dollars. From the ashes a new and improved Bradford arose, with buildings made of brick.


Bradford prospered with businesses such as lumber and mattress-making using Holland Marsh hay. Horses used in the harvesting of the hay used wooden snowshoes like clogs strapped to their front feet to prevent them from sinking into the marsh.

Hay harvest in the Holland Marsh


The earliest records of a library date from 1879, with reports of about 1,800 volumes by the end of the Century.


Lacrosse, learned from the Native Canadians, was the sport of the time and the whole town closed down when a home game was scheduled. In 1905, the Bradford team won the Ontario Lacrosse Championships.

1905 Bradford Lacrosse team

Holland Marsh Drainage


Professor William H. Day's idea to drain the Holland Marsh and prepare it for cultivation got underway. His plan involved burying old cars to form dykes and planting​ willows on top to anchor them. This kept the drainage canals from overflowing into the fields. This paved the way for the Holland Marsh to become the heart of Canada's vegetable industry, with thousands of acres yielding millions of dollars​ in crops.


A waterworks system, with water supplied from drilled wells, was installed in Bradford.


A row of houses was built for residents of the Holland Marsh's first year-round settlement, forming the village of Ansnorveld.


Hurricane Hazel struck the area. The pumps on the Marsh were unable to control the water and the entire Marsh was flooded. About three thousand persons were made homeless. The Bradford Rotary Club set up a trailer camp at the Community Centre.

Hurricane Hazel damage at the Holland Marsh

Bradford District Memorial Community Centre from 1956


The Bradford District Memorial Community Centre was built at a cost of approximately $100,000. The facilities were built debt-free thanks to donations from residents and local businesses. At the same time the Curling Rink was built at a cost of $50,000, paid for my member shareholders.


On February 11, the main section of Bradford was again destroyed by fire, north west of the main intersection.


Bradford was incorporated from a Village to a Town. The same year the first sanitary sewer system was installed.


Go Transit had its inaugural run of the Go Train service on September 7.

Bradford Go Station in 1982


Bradford Library opened at its new location at 100 Holland Court.


On January 1, the Town of Bradford and the Township of West Gwillimbury were amalgamated and became the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury.


Bradford celebrates 150 years. First annual Civic Awards competition and ceremony held.


On June 3, the BWG Public Library and Cultural Centre opened at its current location at 425 Holland Street W.​

BWG Leisure Centre


The new BWG Leisure Centre opened at 471 West Park Avenue.​


On May 1, the municipality's first public transit system was launched when BWG Transit rolled out its first two transit buses.​

BWG Transit bus

Address: Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, 100 Dissette St., Unit 7&8, Bradford, ON, L3Z 2A7

Phone: 905-775-5366, Send an Email

By GHD Digital