Orangeville, Ontario, incorporated as a town in 1864, population 30,167 (2021 census), 28,900 (2016 census), is a town just north of the western end of the Greater Toronto Area. Located at the southern border of Dufferin County, it is surrounded by the townships of Amaranth and East Garafraxa, and the towns of Caledon and Mono.
Throughout history, the Caledon area has been home to different Indigenous groups, namely the Wendat (Huron), Tionontati (Petun), Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabeg, including the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. The land is part of Treaty 18 (Lake Simcoe-Nottawasaga Treaty) and Treaty 19 (Ajetance Purchase).
Indigenous peoples have lived in the Orangeville area for thousands of years. From the mid-15th century to the mid-17th century, the area was home to the Wendat (Huron) and Tionontati (Petun). During the Iroquois Wars of the mid-1600s, the Haudenosaunee, who at the time lived in what is now northern New York State, dispersed the Wendat and Tionontati. In the late 1600s, the Anishinaabeg (a cultural group that includes the Mississauga) moved from land north of Lakes Huron and Superior into Southern Ontario, pushing most of the Haudenosaunee back to New York State. The Mississaugas established their homes on the flats of rivers and creeks flowing south into Lake Ontario. One group, who are now known as the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, claimed approximately 4 million acres of territory at the western end of Lake Ontario. This territory includes what is now Orangeville. According to the 2021 census, Indigenous peoples make up 2.5 per cent of Orangeville’s population.
The northern portion of Orangeville is part of Treaty 18. In 1818, four Chippewa leaders, Musquakie, Kaqueticum, Maskigonce and Manitonobe, signed the agreement, also known as the Lake Simcoe-Nottawasaga Treaty. The treaty surrendered 1,592,000 acres (6,443 km²) of land south of Georgian Bay and west of Lake Simcoe.
The southern portion of the town is part of Treaty 19, or the Ajetance Purchase. Signed the same year as Treaty 18, the Ajetance Purchase is named for James Ajetance, chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit. The purchase surrendered 648,000 acres (2,622 km2) of Mississauga land to the Crown. In exchange, the Mississaugas of the Credit were to receive £522 and 10 shillings in goods every year. (See also Upper Canada Land Surrenders.) In 1847, most members of the Mississaugas of the Credit moved to their present-day location near Hagersville, Ontario, adjacent to the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve.
Settlement and Development
Both Treaty 18 and Treaty 19 grounds were split into smaller townships, and then into individual lots. The land that would become Orangeville was split between two townships, divided by a street that would later be named Broadway. The southern portion was originally part of Garafraxa Township, and northern portion part of Mono Township.
A Toronto man named Seneca Ketchum began buying land in Mono Township in 1820, moving to the area around 1830. An Anglican lay preacher, Ketchum built a log church on his property. Ketchum’s log parish was the first iteration of St. Mark’s Anglican church, which still stands today. In 1837, George Grigg purchased land in Garafraxa Township to establish a mill. The community of Grigg’s Mill formed around it.
Around 1844, Orange Lawrence purchased the Grigg’s Mill land, creating a plan for the southeast portion of what would become Orangeville’s downtown. Creating additional businesses and a school, he became the community’s first postmaster in 1847. The community was named Orangeville in Lawrence’s honour.
Orangeville received permission to incorporate in December 1863, doing so in January 1864, after they elected a town council. The town included parts of Garafraxa Township in Wellington County and Mono Township in Simcoe County. Orangeville became part of Dufferin County in 1874 and was named the County seat in 1881.
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In 1884, Orange Jull, an Orangeville mill owner, patented a rotary snowplough meant to clear railway tracks. Jull’s design improved on one created by a Toronto dentist named J.W. Elliot. (Elliot patented his design in 1870 but it was never manufactured.) The machine designed by Jull featured a cutting blade in front of the fan, with each spinning in opposite directions. The blade chopped up the snow, which was expelled through a chute. Jull sold his patent to Dufferin County brothers Edward and John S. Leslie. The machine was commercially available in the late-1880s. (See also Snow Blower.)
After the Second World War, Orangeville grew outward, adding subdivisions and suburban retail areas. Montgomery Village was intended as a New Urbanist-designed community, promising a traditional grid pattern over the cul-de-sacs of modern suburbs, as well as other features. It was also billed as Canada’s first “tele-community,” with Internet speeds to allow for home businesses and remote work. While a portion was built with this design in the mid-1990s, the majority of the neighbourhood is typically suburban.
According to the 2021 census, prominent ethnic groups in Orangeville include English (27.2 per cent), Irish (22.4 per cent), Scottish (22.1 per cent), Canadian (17.9 per cent), and German (9.7 per cent). Common countries of origin for immigrants living in Orangeville include the United Kingdom, India, the Philippines, Portugal and Jamaica.
While not considered part of the Greater Toronto Area, Orangeville is still part of Statistics Canada’s Toronto Census Metropolitan Area.
Economy and Labour Force
Industries employing significant numbers of Orangeville residents include retail, manufacturing, health care and social assistance, and construction. Manufacturing in the town is dominated by plastics and rubber manufacturing.
Until 2021, some factories were served by a rail line which ran south to Mississauga. Previously a Canadian Pacific Railway line, it was purchased by the Town of Orangeville in 2000 after service on the line ended. On weekends, a tourist train ran on the line. Much of the land was sold to neighbouring Region of Peel with the intention of being used as a walking trail.
Government and Politics
Orangeville is divided into five wards, each with a local councillor. Residents also elect a mayor and deputy mayor.
Dufferin County council includes 15 representatives from eight municipalities. Orangeville’s mayor and deputy mayor represent the town.
Orangeville’s cultural scene flourished in the 1990s, as a wave of creators moved to the community. The town’s Opera House (1875) was renovated and re-opened in 1993, thanks to a residents’ group. Its professional summer theatre began the following year, as did the magazine In The Hills and an intermunicipal tourism body. Success of the Headwaters Arts Festival, begun in 1996, led to a year-round organization. The Museum of Dufferin opened in its current location in 1994, in nearby Mulmur.
Broadway was named 2015’s Great Street of Canada by the Canadian Institute of Planners. The win cited its streetscape and community use for festivals.
Dead trees on public boulevards are turned into sculptures. The program was started in 2003, inspired by then-mayor Drew Brown’s visit to Truro, Nova Scotia where a similar program existed.
Athlete Institute, in nearby Mono Township, is known as “Orangeville Prep.” Its output of top level college and NBA players is considered the most productive in the world, and was the subject of a CBC documentary series. Alumni include Jamal Murray.