Modern Mississauga and Heritage Mississauga have come together to present an ongoing series called “Way Back Wednesdays."
We’ll share information about the history of Mississauga here and answer your questions.
Today’s topic is the history of Parkerhill Road.
Cooksville is known as the birthplace of Canada’s first commercial winery – Clair House. Sir William Parker purchased Johann Schiller’s original lot in 1841, and William rapidly expanded his holdings by purchasing an additional 30 acres in 1853. Sons Albert, Henry and Melville Parker all had local commercial interests as well, and the family prospered. The family built an extensive home in 1864, which they dubbed “Clair House”. The Parker family was also instrumental in the formation of the Canadian Vine Growers Association, a first in Canada. Of the Parker sons, it was Sir Melville Parker (1824-1903) who shone the brightest. He served as Reeve of Toronto Township, director of the Credit Valley Railway, and a justice of the peace, amongst other appointments. Sir Melville Parker built another house on the property, dubbed “Knoyle”, which was located on a hill at the end of a laneway. That laneway is now Parkerhill Road, and “Knoyle” was located at the top of the hill.
Under the direction of J.M. DeCourtenay, the Canadian Vine Growers Association was organized in 1864 and obtained a charter by a Special Act of Parliament in 1866, by which it was granted certain exemptions and privileges in order to encourage the vine growing interest of Canada, and the production of native wines. The company grew and maintained thirty acres of grapes from which they manufactured 50,000 gallons of wine each year.
Solomon White purchased this extensive estate in 1871 – he was regarded as an odd man “who put on airs” and was nicknamed the “Squire”. The Vineyards remained in production until 1929 when the house and property were purchased by Alfred de Lautels, who operated the “Elmwood Rabbit Ranch” on the property. Clair House burned down in 1932 and the property was subdivided into lots.
One of the only reference to our connection with early wine production today, other than the “Welcome to Cooksville” signs, is the name of Parkerhill Road and the memory of Sir Melville Parker.