North York based entrepreneur Aggie Hogg was ahead of her time

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Susan Goldenberg is the director and chairman of the North York Historical Society, which preserves North York’s heritage.
  • Aggie Hogg's Store and Don Library, circa 1925, on Don Mills Road.

Aggie Hogg Gardens, a short inner street off the green space amid the Shops at Don Mills at Lawrence Avenue and Don Mills Road, is named for a remarkable 19th century North York woman who was way ahead of her time.

According to Patricia W. Hart’s Pioneering in North York, published in 1968, Aggie Hogg bravely entered the male-dominated business world rather than the female housewife role that was common at the time. She never got married.

Aggie was born in 1834 to John Hogg, a Scottish immigrant who owned a farm and sawmill where the shops are now. He gave some of his property to Don Mills’ first school, a log cabin built in 1837. He had a general store and was Don Mills’ first postmaster.

Aggie lived separately in a brick house on her father’s property; his house had been a frame house. Since her father was retired, she decided to copy him and start her own combined general store-post office.

Her house was quite big; she used the first floor for her business. It made room for a lending library, the first in Don Mills, with books provided by the local Literacy Society. She has placed teachers upstairs. It was generous because underpaid teachers could only afford low rents. In her own way, like her father, she provided pioneers in North York with formal education.

Customers of all ages were more likely to call her “Aggie” than Miss Hogg, and according to Hart’s storyline, she spoke in a Scottish brogue and greeted children with “Well, aye, aye, how are you today?” and mothers with “How are the little ones?”

Strangely, she often wore her two glasses on top of each other. The shop had a bell to call her when she was in the back garden.

Children flocked to Aggie’s for candy. One penny was enough for numerous caramels with vanilla cream inside, so-called “Bull’s Eyes”, or candy canes in different colors.

Naughty children stole powdered sugar from an open box. To prevent this, Aggie replaced similar Epson salts. Eating Epsom salts caused diarrhea. Aggie no longer had any problems with the children.

Susan Goldenberg is the director and chairman of the North York Historical Society, which preserves North York’s heritage. For more information, visit www.nyhs.ca.


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