Wayback Wednesday - The history of Mississauga's Cedar Park Farm

Modern Mississauga and Heritage Mississauga have come together to present an ongoing series called “Way Back Wednesday’s."
We’ll share information about the history of Mississauga here and answer your questions.

Today’s topic is the history of Mississauga's Cedar Park Farm.

In honour of Black History Month in February, we will explore some of our place name connections – both current and former - to early black settlement in historic Mississauga.

Crop of 1877 Historical Atlas of Peel County showing Cedar Park Farm location, 1877.jpg

The Ross family was perhaps the most well-to-do of the early Black settling families who established roots here in historic Mississauga. The Ross’ “Cedar Park Farm” was located near the modern intersection of Cawthra and Burnhamthorpe roads. Cedar Park Farm was home to George Woodford Ross (1797-1878) and his wife Didamia (nee Paul) Ross. George Woodford Ross was born a slave in 1796 in Urbanna, Virginia. Didamia’s father, Benjamin Paul, came from Cincinnati, Ohio in 1830 and helped to established the Wilberforce settlement, and early Black community in historic Ontario. George and Didamia were married in 1834, in Wilberforce, and moved to Toronto Township in 1835, buying their own 200-acre farm here in 1836. They raised 10 children: Benjamin Paul, Elizabeth Adelaide, Corbin Levi, Charles Warburton, James Woodford, Alexander Campbell, Mityluu Eliza, Didamia Anne, Sarah Celestine, Rebecca Evangeline, and Lucie Anne. The family first appeared in the 1851 Census for Toronto Township (historic Mississauga). Cedar Park Farm remained in the Ross family until 1911.

Several members of the Ross family, including son Benjamin Paul Ross, are buried in Springcreek Cemetery in Clarkson. Elizabeth and Corbin are buried in the Erindale Cosmopolitan Cemetery. According to one source, patriarch George Woodford Ross, and his wife Didamie, were laid to rest on their farm.

But what about the name “Cedar Park Farm”? Cedar Park Farm was the name of the James Ross plantation in Urbanna, Virginia, which was established circa 1810. James Ross emancipated and set free George Woodford Ross (who was also possibly his son):

I, James Ross of Town of Urbanna in the County of Middlesex, considering that my mulatto slave, Mary Woodford (now deceased) and her daughter, Nancy Woodford, were the gifts of my two good friends, the late Clement Nicholson and Annie his wife as by their Deed recorded, and knowing that the donors had the welfare of the said Mary so much at heart and also for divers other causes and consideration me thereupon  moving DO EMANCIPATE and SET FREE all the children of the said Mary, to wit, Nancy Woodford, Frances Woodford, William Woodford, David Woodford, and George Woodford …”

2015 aerial image showing outline of Cedar Park Farm on modern city.jpg

In Ross’ will in 1825, the entire Cedar Park Farm plantation was to be divided among the Woodford children. It is likely that the capital from this allowed George Woodford Ross, to come to Canada and eventually purchase his own farm here in historic Mississauga, which he called “Cedar Park Farm” in recognition of his own roots.

The name “Cedar Park” continued in use after the Ross family sold the property and moved west in 1911. In 1935 the “Cedar Park” was still used in reference to the former nearby hamlet of “Burnhamthorpe”.

There are no known images of the Ross family in historic Mississauga.