The Durham Ox, the neighbourhood’s first real hotel

1840Yonge Lawrence Village – the business improvement area stretching up Yonge Street, from Lawrence to Yonge Boulevard – boasts more than 300 merchants and businesses. In the early 1800s, the same stretch of real estate never had more than one or two businesses.

It was a rural area devoted to farming, not commerce. Any business that did turn up was usually a sideline activity for the farmer owning the property. In 1799, Duke William Kendrick operated a shortlived potash business on his farm near present-day Cranbrooke. Soon after, Seneca Ketchum had more success when he opened a small store to the north of Kendrick’s property. It was the pioneer version of a convenience store, offering settlers boots, woven goods, meat and a myriad of other items.

When James Nightingale bought the old Duke William farm in the mid-1830s, he served as a butcher for his neighbors. It was the same butchery that was used by the Reformers who drove area cattle to the spot during the Rebellion of 1837.

A few years after the rebellion he bought about three acres at the south end of his property on Yonge Street, just north of today’s Woburn Avenue for 400 pounds. Here he built the first major business in the area: a two-storey whitewashed tavern which he named The Durham Ox.

Nightingale’s hotel — a name that seemed to find more common use than the official name — was the most substantial watering hole north of Eglinton before travelers descended to Anderson’s Tavern in Hogg’s Hollow. There was food and drink on the main floor and beds to rent on the second. A pump out front was popular with travellers and their horses. Attached to the north end of the building were sheds offering protection for carriages and wagons.

Thomas Nightingale was the inn’s landlord and it’s not certain if James took any active role in its operation. Within four years, James had actually sold his farm to Joseph Beckett, but Nightingales continued to own property in the area. Ignatius Nightingale bought the farm stretching from St. Germaine to the crest of Hogg’s Hollow in 1853. In the 1870s there were still Nightingales farming along Yonge.

John Miller took over The Durham Ox in 1857, but he probably didn’t take an active interest in it for long, because within a year he was managing Charles McBride’s new Prospect House, built on the site of the old Montgomery Tavern near Eglinton.

Perhaps it was just as well; the community’s first substantial hotel burned to the ground not long after.

Photo: This view of the Durham Ox Hotel was sketched in the early 1900s (long after the disappearance of the building) by Bernard Gloster. ©Toronto Public Library.

This article, written by Gary Schlee, originally appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of Community Life.

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Published in: on February 17, 2008 at 11:08 pm  Comments (3)  
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Yonge Street never popular as a toll road

1837As angry farmers trudged out of Hogg’s Hollow on their way to Montgomery’s Tavern for the primary battle of Upper Canada’s Rebellion of 1837, it’s unlikely they were stopped at the toll-gate on the hill’s crest.The toll-gate, located near today’s Loblaws, was a tiny two-storey building on the west side of Yonge with a roof stretched over the roadway to a support on the far side.

Pedestrians were exempt from paying the toll, but the gatekeeper usually collected a few pence for a horse-drawn carriage by extending a bowl out the window in rougher weather. Some keepers may have extended half a coconut shell, although it’s doubtful coconuts were an easy commodity to come by. If the keeper was on duty in winter, sleighs were charged a similar toll.

The gatekeeper was usually a local landowner who had won the bid for the government contract. He was typically poorly paid, but one keeper — a local chicken farmer — complemented the wage by selling eggs to travelers and locals. Another keeper, Charles McBride, later became the owner of the local Bedford Park Hotel.

Initially, the tolls were used to help pay for the transformation of Yonge Street from mud to crushed stone. The street’s first toll-gate was erected at Yorkville in 1820, and 10 years later the second one, in our neighbourhood, was built. Three more turned up later, at Gallow’s Hill (just south of St. Clair), and at Langstaff and Elgin Mills roads.

But the income collected never came close to matching the construction costs — not surprising since travellers weren’t keen on paying to use a road that wasn’t yet fixed. In 1837 it was necessary for the government to kick in an extra £100,000 to keep the construction moving.

West Rouge tollboothBy 1845, the government cut off further funds and construction stopped. As a result, fewer people used the road north of Toronto and it became necessary for the government to compensate the gatekeepers who often didn’t collect enough to make it feasible.

To get out of the financial quagmire, the government sold Yonge Street (along with Dundas Street and Kingston Road) to a private company. But the resurfacing continued to absorb cash until the company defaulted on its interest payments, passing the roads back to the government. In 1865, the gates were sold to York County — for a quarter of the price they were worth 20 years earlier.

Over the next 30 years, opposition to the gates continued to mount because the collected tolls were no longer being used to maintain the roads. So, the government abolished them in the 1890s. Toll-roads disappeared for the next 100 years. With the advent of tolls on Highway 407 in 1999, coconut shells were replaced by transponders.

The Kingston Road toll-gate was very similar in design to the one that stood at the top of Hogg’s Holllow near today’s Loblaws.

This article, written by Gary Schlee, originally appeared in the Fall 2006 issue of Community Life.

Published in: on January 28, 2008 at 3:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Rebellion of 1837

1837In the first week of December 1837, community residents watched as a growing number of rebels streamed down Yonge Street — recently paved with crush stone — for an inevitable conflict with the government.

Some residents, like James Nightingale the butcher (at Brookdale Avenue) sympathized with the rebels’ frustration with the Family Compact that was tightly controlled by the colony’s wealthy families. Others, like farmer Peter Lawrence (at Lawrence Avenue), were appalled that citizens would resort to violence in opposing the crown and the Lieutenant-Governor.

Rebellion marchersThere were more than a hundred of them on the Sunday — rebels armed with pikes, pitchforks, clubs or rifles — coming from the townships to the north. They were seizing Tory sympathsizers as prisoners along the way. Their destination was Montgomery Tavern on the site of today’s post office at Yonge and Montgomery, just north of Eglinton. The impressive inn boasted 27 rooms on the main floor and 19 on the second.

But as big as the inn was, there was a problem. Rebel leader William Lyon Mackenzie wasn’t expecting his supporters to gather until Thursday. He was unaware that some of the rebel leaders had advanced the order to march by three days to maintain the element of surprise. So, Montgomery Tavern had neither the space nor the food for the growing crowd.

By Tuesday, small groups of rebels were sent out into the neighbourhood to track down more food. Some of them made their way back up Yonge Street. One brigade seized meat from Nightingale’s slaughterhouse. Another group took cattle from the Ketchum family farm north of today’s Blythwood Road and herded them up to Nightingale’s.

Over the next few days there were several military skirmishes to the south in Toronto, incidents that were usually followed by hasty retreats back to the inn. By Thursday, government troops and Tory supporters arrived just south of today’s Eglinton Avenue and set up their cannon.

A direct hit into the wall of the tavern sent the rebels scattering. The Tory prisoners still being held in the tavern’s ballroom were brought outside by David Gibson and Leonard Watson to be marched back up Yonge. Gibson, a local politician and surveyor, was a one of the rebel leaders. Watson was the contractor who had just that year turned Yonge Street from a mud road into one with a hard surface.

They used that hard surface to take the prisoners about a kilometre north, hiding them behind Samuel Huson’s impressive new farmhouse in Lawrence Park. Once it was clear that troops were continuing to move north, the decision was made to release the Tories.

But the situation remained tense. One of the rebels, 21-year-old William Alves who had been an employee at Montgomery Tavern, aimed his gun at prisoner Archibald Macdonell, a Toronto wharf owner who had been captured Monday night. Macdonell grabbed another guard’s gun, forcing a standoff. He told Alves he regreted that he and others had taken up arms against the government. “It is a glorious cause,” replied Alves. “and I will die for it.”

However, Alves, Gibson and the other rebels took off, heading north past Lawrence’s farm and Nightingale’s slaughterhouse. Alves was captured and ordered transported from the Canadas for 14 years. Gibson escaped to the U.S. after his home was burned by the troops. He returned in 1849 and built a new house on his property which is now the Gibson House museum a block north of Mel Lastman Square.

Sketch (about 1921): The March of the Rebels upon Toronto in December, 1837, by C. W. Jefferys, from the Government of Ontario Art Collection

This article, written by Gary Schlee, originally appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of Community Life.

The Lawrences

1829For nearly 100 years, various members of the Lawrence family played prominent roles as farmers and merchants at the corner of Yonge Street and the Fourth Concession. So, it’s not surprising that the concession sideroad eventually came to be known as Lawrence Avenue.

But long before that, the route went by a variety of names. When the first Lawrence — Peter — turned up in the neighbourhood in 1812, the pathway was often referred to as Hale’s road. Jonathan Hale owned an impressive 400-acre farm on the southwest corner of the intersection (now Lawrence Park). It was certainly much more impressive than the half-acre Peter occupied on the west side Yonge, facing Hale’s. Peter lived there with his new wife, Elizabeth Cummer (her Willowdale family would evenually have a street named after them as well!). By the 1820s he was operating a small tannery.

John Lawrence farmIt wasn’t until 1829 that Peter had the means to buy his own farm, 95 acres on the northeast corner of today’s Yonge and Lawrence. Seven years later he bought the farm across the street on the northwest corner and was the local justice of the peace. He also played a key role in building the first Methodist church in the area, at the top of the hill south of his farm (at Yonge & Glengrove).

Jacob Lawrence, possibly a son, built a sawmill in the Don Valley (at today’s Glendon College) and eventually operated the tannery on the southwest corner of Yonge and Lawrence. Still another Lawrence — George — later ran a general store and post office on Yonge; likely on the Peter’s property.

William Lawrence, who was born the year his father Peter bought his first large farm, ended up marrying the granddaughter of Jesse Ketcham, an original setller in the area who went on to become one of Toronto’s first successful industrialists.

In 1865, William bought the north half of the old Hale estate for $8,400. It included the stately ‘Kingsland’ home on the crest of a hill, built by the previous owner, Samuel Huson. His wife eventually inherited The old Ketcham property next door (the south half of the original Hale farm) was eventually inherited by William’s wife.

He expanded the ‘Kingsland’ house and outlying buildings until they encompassed the entire inner circle of today’s Lawrence Crescent. An expansive treelined drive ran from Yonge Street up to the house. Today it is Lympstone Avenue.

His son, John, sold their estate in 1907 for $47,000 to Joseph Montgomery who, interestingly, flipped the property a year later to Erie Realty for $1 and “an unidsclosed consideration.” Soon after, it was pruchased by Wilfred Dinnick to form the centrepiece of his ambitious suburb development: Lawrence Park.

Even as elegant new homes began to dot the Lawrence Park enclave, the road along the northern boundary of the subdivision (Lawrence) was still a dirt road with meadow grass growing down the centre. It remained that way until the 1920s.

Photo: Harvest time at the John Lawrence farm on the northwest corner of Yonge and Lawrence about 1895. ©Toronto Public Library.

This article, written by Gary Schlee, originally appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of Community Life.

Published in: on December 24, 2007 at 6:09 am  Comments (4)  
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“When I was your age, we had to walk miles to school!”

1816The Bedford Park neighbourhood didn’t acquire its first public school until 1911 — conveniently enough, called Bedford Park School. So, what exactly did not-so-eager young minds do about getting a formal education in the 100 years before that?

They walked or rode long distances to get to schools in other communities.

The first opportunity to go to school within trekking distance came in 1807 when the area’s merchant — Seneca Ketcham — along other members of the Church of England, opened a school in Hogg’s Hollow. The one-room log cabin was located near the river behind today’s Miller Restaurant.

It was an opportunity that didn’t last long. In less than a decade it was an abandonned, derelict building.

However, another school opened in 1816, this time on the east side of today’s Bayview Avenue, just north of Eglinton. It doesn’t seem to have had a name, but may very well have had a number — the usual way of identifying schools in the 1800s. This academic initiative survived much longer, eventually being purchased by York District Council in 1847 and replaced with a brick building three years later.

This second school was the site of many heated debates about the merits of Egerton Ryerson’s concept of free schooling. Toronto businessman Jesse Ketcham (Seneca’s brother) probably visited the school on a number of occasions to champion the idea of accessible education funded by government. Many local farmers banded together to loudly protest such a radical idea.

In 1817, the walk to school was somewhat reduced for those choosing to attend a school that opened in the Lawrence-Bathurst area. Like the first school, it doesn’t seem to have been around for long.

The fourth school worth the hike was opened on Yonge Street at St. Clemens Avenue in 1842. Actually, it wasn’t worth the hike to most folks in the area. There was nothing wrong with the school. Farmers still didn’t put much stock in schooling that prevented farm chores from getting done. One year of schooling was considered more than enough.

A large brick building, called Eglinton School, was built on Erskine Avenue in the 1880s to replace the St. Clemens location. The school is now known as John Fisher.

Catholic and high school students had to wait to 20th century to find schools within arduous walking distance. North Toronto Collegiate opened in 1910, while St. Monica’s in the same area opened six years later. Lawrence Park and Blessed Sacrament wouldn’t arrive until decades later.

When Bedford Park School opened in 1911, it was the pride of the neighbourhood with its imposing facade and large hallways. (Those same lofty hallways became the bane of the school 85 years later when the Harris government’s space use formula forced the Toronto school board to consider shutting the building down.)

As the community grew, so did the school. In 1927, students attending class in portables transferred to the new John Wanless School west of Yonge. The portables were moved to Strathgowan Avenue to house still more Bedford Park students who waited five more years for the opening of Blythwood School.

It was a surge in enrolment caused by a community that was now more urban than rural. Universal education meant all children were attending school, not just a few who evaded helping with the crops.

This article, written by Gary Schlee, originally appeared in the Winter 2005 issue of Community Life.

The War of 1812

1813For nearly 20 years, the settlers around the town of York expected an invasion by the Americans. Yonge Street had been conceived in 1793 as a way for British troops to avoid the Great Lakes and the American border.

The War of 1812 made it official. Many farmers along the Yonge Street corridor headed down to Fort York to join the militia. And there they waited – 300 militia along with 300 soldiers and 100 Indians. By the winter of 1813, there still had been no invasion.

A growing number of grew impatient with the waiting, threatening to return to their farms. Even though they’d seen no action, some their neighbours had. Duke Kendrick, one of the original settlers near Yonge and Lawrence, was killed in battle in the Niagara Peninsula. Thomas Humberstone, who farmed at Yonge and Shepard, fought as a lieutenant in the Battle of Queenston Heights and helped carry General Brock’s body from the field. He was captured by the Americans and was a prisoner until the war ended. A son of Cornelius Von Nostrand, who farmed down in the Yonge Street hollow, was killed in the same battle.

Fort York, 1804Then, on April 26, 1813, 14 American ships appeared off the Lake Ontario shore. The Fort York garrison failed to stop a U.S. landing near the CNE grounds. After a gunner’s match accidentally ignited a powder box near the fort, killing a dozen men, the militia began to flee. Some headed straight back up Yonge to their farms. Others followed the soldiers, already in retreat, to the town of York. There they set fire to a large British ship in the harbour, to keep it out of American hands.

As part of the evacuation, the British soldiers blew up the fort’s powder magazine that showered the area with boulders, killing about 250 men, mostly Americans. In all, about 10 militia died in the battle at York.

The Americans, no doubt angered by their losses, looted the town of York and were likely the ones who set fire to the legislative building. Despite the loss and the carnage, the Americans soon left, their victory leaving little impact on the day-to-day activities in the region.

However, the battle did leave scars. Those who fought in the militia were regarded as heroes. Those who rooted for the Americans – and there were many – were labeled traitors. Henry Mulholland, a farmer on Bathurst north of Lawrence, was a veteran of the Stoney Creek and Lundy’s Lane battles.

Shortly after returning home from the York battle, Mulholland ran into John Finch (yes, the farmer whose name is on the avenue in North York) who was lugging ploughshares home that were given to him by the Americans. Finch castigated Mulholland for fighting the Americans, telling him he hoped the U.S. would now put an end to tyrannical British rule.

After the American soldiers left, Mulholland informed on Finch who was formally accused of aiding the enemy.

The painting of Fort York in 1804 is part of the Library and Archives Canada collection # C-014905.

This article, written by Gary Schlee, originally appeared in the Fall 2005 issue of Community Life.

Published in: on December 8, 2007 at 4:13 pm  Comments (1)  
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Hill’s tavern reflects an imbibing society

1811Thomas Hill opened the neighbourhood’s first tavern – near today’s Toyota dealership on Yonge south of Lawrence – in 1811. It was the latest in a string of inns that now peppered the Yonge Street route up to Newmarket and beyond.

There was already a tavern almost within sight of Hill’s to the south, operated by John McDougall. And the widow Valliere had recently opened one down in the hollow to the north (Hogg’s).

Muddy Yonge already had more drinking holes than any other road in Upper Canada. The stump-infested character of the road no doubt contributed to the need to stop for a drink, then stop for another.

Hill originally settled (probably squatted) on the property in 1797. But when the lot was formally granted to someone else, he uprooted his family and headed up Yonge Street to what is now Sheppard Avenue. Hill opened a tavern there, but two years later bought the property he’d left and returned to this area. It was only a matter of time before he decided to open another tavern.

The enterprise was likely little more than a log cabin with a water trough out front for washing and for the horses. Inside, the air was heavy with the smell of stale alcohol and smoke. Whiskey could be purchased for a penny a glass, or five cents for a grunt (the amount a person could drink without taking a breath). Adjoining the barroom was a tiny kitchen.

Most taverns were also inns, so there were likely a few beds in a small loft on the second floor. Travellers would often have to share a bed that boasted planks instead of a mattress. In the summer, there were mosquitoes to contend with. In the winter, the challenge was the sopping wet floor from the snow tracked in on people’s boots.

Drinking wasn’t limited to establishments like Hill’s. It was a rampant reality in many aspects of pioneer life. There was usually a jug of it on the table at every meal. Children grew up drinking whiskey. The men took it with them to the fields. A visitor at the time suggested that those who couldn’t hold their liquor should avoid Canada altogether.

Whiskey, the preferred drink of the working class and farmers, was cheap (25 cents a gallon), readily available and often lethal. Amateurs could – and did – make it at home. It was the octane that ignited building bees – these gatherings were eventually abandoned because the cost of drink and food exceeded the cost of simply bringing in efficient craftsmen.

Alcohol also fueled fights. Many of the assault charges in the early years had their roots in drunken behaviour. A positive side to this was the Stump Act of 1800 that required a convicted drunk to remove a stump from the road. As the drinking got worse, Yonge Street became smoother.

This article, written by Gary Schlee, originally appeared in the Summer 2005 issue of Community Life.

Published in: on December 1, 2007 at 1:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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The area gets its first sawmill

1804As the pioneer farmers continued to push the treeline back from Yonge Street, they were faced with a persistent problem: how to turn the fallen trees into lumber.

Without any nearby mills, the best option was ‘pit-sawing’. It meant digging a trench and placing a platform at the top. A two-handled whipsaw — taller than a man – was used to cut the log. One unlucky farmer took his position in the pit at one end of the saw. When the work began, he would be covered in sawdust. The other farmer, on the platform, had to be skilled enough to keep the saw-cut aligned to a chalk mark on the log.

It was hot, sticky, back-breaking work. If they were lucky, the farmers might be able to cut 25 boards before sunset.

One can imagine the neighbourhood elation when the first sawmill was built down in the hollow to the north. The spot where Yonge Street crossed Big Creek (now the West Don River at Donino Avenue and Mill Street, behind the Miller Restaurant) was an ideal spot for such a mill. It boasted a flat area near the creek that could be excavated to create a millpond; perfect for creating water pressure and for storing logs.

Samuel Heron, a Toronto merchant, had owned the property and planned to build a mill. Financial problems forced him to sell his 200 acres, but he managed to strike an arrangement with the new owner to build the mill.

Now there was somebody else to do the sawing. However, hauling the logs to the mill was no easy task. Yonge Street was still infested with tree stumps and muck. Oxen dragging their load down the hill to the valley (winding down Donwood Avenue to Donino) had to tread carefully.

As usually happened at sawmill sites, Heron took advantage of the water pressure and the readily available timber to build a grist mill. Farmers could now bring their grain to Heron who would grind it into flour.

In 1811, Heron added a still to his collection of buildings at Heron’s Bridge. That meant farmers could exchange their poor quality grain for whiskey. Mill owners were always on the lookout for distillers who could coax the most alcohol from a bag of grain.

Over time, the Heron mills fell into disrepair. A newer grist mill was built to the north. It was later purchased by James Hogg, who called the area York Mills. That may have been his official name for it — many locals referred to it as Hogg’s Hollow.

Grist mills were part of the York Mills landscape until 1959 when the last one – vacant for 23 years – was torn down. Hurricane Hazel wiped out the millpond in the 1954. Only a large millstone remains, wedged in the grass near the river at Donino and Mill.

This article, written by Gary Schlee, originally appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of Community Life.

Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 6:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The neighbourhood 200 years ago

1804Attempting to describe what most Bedford Park area properties looked like exactly 200 years ago isn’t too difficult. Trees. And more trees.

Most of the land was still forest, covered with beech trees and some pine. The golden-bronze carpet of beech leaves on the forest floor was steadily turning brown in November 1804. The only break in the canopy of branches and pine needles was a single muddy road (Yonge Street) and a few paths, like the one along the Fourth Concession Line (Lawrence Avenue).

Clinging to Yonge Street were a handful of farms. The west side, north of Lawrence, had been the domain of the four Kendrick brothers. But most of them had left. Joseph had just sold his corner farm (northwest Yonge and Lawrence) to Duncan Cameron, a fur trader. His brother Duke still owned the next farm, but since the failure of his potash business (near Cranbrooke), he spent most of his time at his home in the Town of York.

The next farm was Kendrick property in name only. Hiram never occupied the site, instead renting it to Seneca Ketchum, who ran a thriving general store/tannery/cobblery/agricultural rental business. In fact, if the area farmers needed something, chances are Ketchum arranged to make it available.

Only John, the oldest Kendrick brother, still lived at his Yonge Street farm at the top of the hill overlooking what would later become Hogg’s Hollow. Just this month (200 year ago, that is), his daughter Mary married blacksmith Leonard Marsh who likely lived with his brother William on the north side of the hollow.

The east side of Yonge was an even quieter scene. The farm on the northeast corner at Lawrence had belonged to Bernard Carey, a United Empire Loyalist. But in 1803 he sold it to his son-in-law Jonathon Hale who would later buy the 200-acre farm south of Lawrence as well.

All the remaining land on the east side – from present-day Ranleigh to Loblaws – was still Crown land, waiting for the first settlers to hack a dent into the leafy canopy.

The season for farming was over for the settlers. As they headed into the winter, they used the time removed more trees and stumps, build bigger dwellings and out-buildings, and take on tasks, like weaving, to supplement the family income.

Yonge Street was everybody’s lifeline. There were plenty of farms to the north and south, so traffic wasn’t unusual. But it was excruciating. The road was nothing more than a morass of mud, ornery tree stumps, and potholes, all churned up by fall rains.

Settlers heading south to the Town York, or north to the new mills on the Don River, usually made the trip on horseback. The thought of slogging along Yonge in carriages and wagons wasn’t a welcome one. But, soon there would freezing temperatures and snow – and, once again, travelling on Upper Canada’s first ‘street’ would become easier, for riders and sleighs.

This article, written by Gary Schlee, originally appeared in the Fall 2004 issue of Community Life.

Published in: on November 17, 2007 at 3:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Seneca Ketchum: the neighbourhood’s first merchant

1800When Seneca Ketchum arrived in the village of York in 1796, he really wasn’t in any position to buy land or qualify for free land being given out by the British.

Nor could the 23-year-old immigrant afford to rent property in town. Along with several members, he had walked from the Catkills in New York State to Lake Ontario, then taken a boat from Kingston to York. There wasn’t much money left over.

However, he was able to lease land on the new Yonge Street – north of present-day Lawrence – from Hiram Kendrick. The four Kendrick brothers owned all the land on the west side of Yonge from Lawrence to Hogg’s Hollow, but Hiram was the only one who never actually lived on his property: a government requirement if he wanted to keep it.

So, Seneca built a log cabin on the site (just north of Fairlawn Avenue) and as more settlers moved into the area, he opened its first store. He sold woven goods made by women in the area (and, in the winter, made by men as well). He built a tannery and cobblery so he could sell boots. Farmers could rent a team of oxen or hire someone to help chop firewood. Salmon from the Don River and deer meat was also available.

“He was trusted throughout the district,” notes Don Ritchie in his book North Toronto. “If you wanted to trade apples for butchered hogs, Seneca’s judgment was trusted.”

Jesse KetchumSeneca began to prosper. His younger brother Jesse joined him. He bought Kendrick’s property in 1804, then sold the north half to Jesse. He hosted Sunday morning services of the Church of England in his home and later played a major financial role in launching St. John’s Anglican Church, which now stands on Old Yonge Street north of York Mills Road. He helped found the first – if short-lived – school in the area, behind today’s Miller’s restaurant in the hollow.

And, he hired a housekeeper for himself and Jesse. Nancy Love, a young widow with a baby daughter, was soon seen as more than a servant to the young bachelors. Both men were keen to marry Nancy. To solve the dilemma, Seneca and Jesse agreed to draw lots to see who should have her for a wife – Nancy apparently didn’t have much say in the matter. Jesse won, married Nancy, and went on to become one of Toronto’s first successful businessmen. Jesse Ketchum Public School at Davenport and Bay is named after him.

It was a setback for Seneca, but not for long. He married a neighbour, Anne Mercer, and bought land from his father-in-law in Hogg’s Hollow to build the school that could also hold church services. He also bought the lot directly across the street from his.

Becoming an Anglican missionary, Seneca moved his family, and others, to Orangeville in the 1830s to found the first church in the area (it was behind the Toyota dealership now located on Highway 9). He tirelessly trekked the wilderness counties of Dufferin and Grey to bring the church’s message to setllers and died there in 1850.

When they left North Toronto, Seneca and Anne Ketchum left their Yonge Street property to the British Crown so that the proceeds of the sales could be used to build Toronto’s first mental asylum.

The illustration of Jesse Ketchum can be found on the Knox Presbyterian Church website, Toronto.

This article, written by Gary Schlee, originally appeared in the Summer 2004 issue of Community Life.

Published in: on November 10, 2007 at 5:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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