Wandering the Market
We are surprised still to meet people in St. Thomas who do not know where the Horton Farmers’ Market is located. For the record, the Market is located on Manitoba Street, just north of Talbot. This does not mean that the Market is quiet on Saturday mornings … not at all!
Open from 8am to noon every Saturday from Mother’s Day well into the fall, the Market attracts hundreds and hundreds of guests every week. Often it is a challenge to find a parking spot, which is a rare problem to have in St. Thomas. The Market is a lively and lovely place, embedded in our local history and a significant part of our downtown culture.
Our young & free press team have had a wonderful time highlighting customers and vendors every week as part of our Instagram show, Wandering the Market. Initially we thought we would call the show ‘Market Crossing’, just to hint at the way members of the community cross paths there on Saturday mornings. We gave this some thought, though, and decided that what we really love about the Market is how everyone can just wander for a while, check out familiar and new vendors, and meet friends and acquaintances randomly. With smart phones in our lives, perhaps we plan too much … calendar reminders, texting, and social media. The Market provides the setting to let all that go for a little while, and just wander.
Some quick history: the earliest ‘Market Square’ in St. Thomas was located at the corner of Talbot and Stanley Streets near the original Town Hall. Eventually, a larger location was established nearby on the east side of Stanley Street, and this was called ‘St. Andrew’s Market’. After the construction of the CASO Station in the early 1870s, a community called Millersburg grew up around the Station and acted as a rival of sorts to St. Thomas to the west. Both communities grew, and eventually a controversy arose regarding the ideal location of the Farm Market. People in Millersburg did not want to travel all the way to St. Andrew’s Market among the ‘aristocrats’; by contrast, people in St. Thomas considered the Millersburg contingent to be ‘east-end paupers’, essentially upstarts who were trying to alter the settled order. This built up into what is known in our local history as the ‘Market Controversy’, and apparently this was the main election issue of 1883! Edward Horton, a lawyer, provided the land to the City to establish the new Market, although he may have been motivated mostly by his desire to develop some neighbouring properties and felt that having the Market nearby would be helpful. Regardless, both Markets coexisted for many years until the St. Andrew’s Market shut down in the 1920s.
As St. Thomas grows, one wonders how the Horton Market will evolve. There are lots of economic, cultural, and environmental benefits to having a bustling place that acts as the intersection of rural and urban, allowing farmers and specialty food entrepreneurs to provide locally-sourced food direct to consumers.
Come out to the Market on Saturday mornings and wander, meet the vendors and your neighbours, and enjoy this distinctive place in our community. We love being there every Saturday!