History of Boxgrove
The village was originally called Sparta but the name was changed when the village acquired its first post office in 1867, the year of Confederation. Prior to the name change, the village was also referred to as "Sparty Wharf", as its location marked the head of navigation of the Rouge River. The village was the site of a sawmill, a woolen mill, and a shoddy mill. Theses mills were established on land owned by the Tomlinson family that was purchased in 1815. Along with William Beebe, a respected village toolmaker, the Tomlinsons created several village lots registering the Tomlinson – Beebe plan in 1850 at the York Country Registry Office. Village lots 100 and 250 feet wide by 250 feet deep were created for the homes and businesses of the burgeoning settlement.
Boxgrove developed a reputation as a rough, working man’s village, being home to no less than three taverns. Paul Burkholder, a long time local resident, wrote in 1966 that, “The Demon Rum had a toe hold in Sparta, in fact at one time you could say he had both feet firmly planted there, for there were three hotels in operation at once!” He went on to recall that it was said that Peter Reesor had a very pessimistic view of Sparta, for when he was forced to travel through, he always put the whip to the horse to get out quickly and escape the wrath of God, which he felt was imminent.
One of the hotels referred to by Paul Burkholder was The White Rose Hotel and Tavern owned and operated by James Thomas. Gradually, the mills that powered the economy of Boxgrove disappeared and the village diminished in importance. By the turn of the last century, the White Rose Hotel was the last to operate in Box Grove. The hotel eventually was bought by Joe Pagnello who emigrated from Italy to Toronto in the early 1900’s. In a shameful and sad footnote to Markham’s history, the Pagnello house was burned down around 1910, by some locals who were opposed to foreigners moving into their community. A very modest house was rebuilt on part of the foundation of the old hotel in 1910 and the current owner Roccie Pagnello claims that he was born in the barn at the rear of the lot in 1926 or 1927. The current address of the building is 6788 14th Avenue.