The modern history of the Town of Markham began in 1791 when John Graves Simcoe was appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. During his term as Lieutenant Governor, Simcoe's actions impacted directly on Markham. His concern for improving the military security of the new territory led to the clearing of Yonge Street and a system of free land grants, both of which greatly influenced the establishment and growth of what became the Township of Markham. Simcoe was also responsible for giving the Township its name, after his friend, William Markham, the Archbishop of York at the time.
The first European settlement in Markham occurred when William Moll Berczy, a German artist and developer led a group of approximately sixty-four German families to North America. Arriving in Philadelphia in 1792, they had originally intended to settle on land in the Genessee area of New York State.