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  • Writer's pictureThe Jennifer Jones Team

The History of Georgina

Georgina dates back to the late 1790's, when Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe named the eastern portion of the modern-town Georgina in honour of King George III, and the eastern portion North Gwillimbury, for his wife’s maiden name, Gwillim. It wasn’t until 1986 that the Townships of North Gwillimbury and Georgina amalgamated as the Town of Georgina.

John Graves Simcoe was born at Cotterstock, England in 1752. He was educated at Oxford and entered the army as an ensign of the 35 Foot in 1770.

Settlement began after the first land grants were issued to retired military officers and veterans of the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. This had a powerful impact on the area’s development and character. Whereas most communities in York Region were founded by hard-working, modest folk, Georgina was created by aristocratic families, in addition to military officers, wealthy merchants and English landholders

who built stately manors and manicured estates that resembled those found in Britain. In fact, most of Georgina’s communities are named for these individuals (Jackson, Roche, Sibbald, Mossington) or their home towns or estates in Britain. Because of the social standing of its settlers, Georgina became known for its culture and refinement, attributes that later transformed it into an urban playground for wealthy urbanites. By the late 19th century, tourists had discovered the allure of the lake and flocked to its south shore in droves. Hotels and dance halls catering to this seasonal clientele dotted the lakeshore, and numerous cottages were built.

Georgina also became a literary sanctuary, where the likes of Stephen Leacock, Mazo de la Roche, Peter Gzowski, and Lucy Maud Montgomery could find inspiration on the placid waters of the lake. It’s interesting to note that Keswick, today by far the largest community in Georgina, was far removed from all of this action. Originally called Medina, it was even overshadowed by neighbouring Roche’s Point, which at one time was destined to be the capital of Ontario! In 1879, Keswick stole the post office away from its rival, but remained a small, agricultural village well into the 20th century.

Keswick was founded by Chris Armstrong. It may have been named after Keswick, Cumbria in England.

Written By Michelle Francis-Turcotte (

References: History of Georgina |, Newmarket Era Banner, March 7, 2007

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