Thursday July 29, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Toronto
On this Day:
In 1793, John Graves Simcoe decided to build a fort and settlement at Toronto, having sailed into the bay.
John Graves Simcoe (25 February 1752 – 26 October 1806) was a British Army general and the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada from 1791 until 1796 in southern Ontario and the watersheds of Georgian Bay and Lake Superior. He founded York (now Toronto) and was instrumental in introducing institutions such as courts of law, trial by jury, English common law, and freehold land tenure, and also in the abolition of slavery in Canada.
His long-term goal was the development of Upper Canada (Ontario) as a model community built on aristocratic and conservative principles, designed to demonstrate the superiority of those principles to the republicanism and democracy of the United States. His energetic efforts were only partially successful in establishing a local gentry, a thriving Church of England, and an anti-American coalition with select Indigenous nations. He is seen by many Canadians as a founding figure in Canadian history, especially by those in Southern Ontario. He is commemorated in Toronto with Simcoe Day.
York was a town and second capital of the colony of Upper Canada. It is the predecessor to the old city of Toronto (1834–1998). It was established in 1793 by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe as a “temporary” location for the capital of Upper Canada, while he made plans to build a capital near today’s London, Ontario. Simcoe renamed the location York after Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, George III’s second son. Simcoe gave up his plan to build a capital at London, and York became the permanent capital of Upper Canada on February 1, 1796. That year Simcoe returned to Britain and was temporarily replaced by Peter Russell.
The original townsite was a compact ten blocks near the mouth of the Don River and a garrison was built at the channel to Toronto Harbour. Government buildings and a law court were established. Yonge Street was built, connecting York to the Holland River to the north. To the east, Kingston Road was built to the mouth of the Trent River. In 1797, the town site was expanded to the west to allow for public buildings and expansion. One of the new area’s public functions, a public market, was started in 1803. It continues today as St. Lawrence Market.
The garrison was attacked during the War of 1812. As the British Army retreated, it blew up the garrison, leading to the death of numerous American soldiers and the American general commanding the attack. The victorious Americans sacked the town and burned down the government buildings. The Americans chose not to occupy the town and the British eventually returned without conflict. A retribution attack was made on the American capital of Washington.
After the war was over, the town continued to grow, expanding to the west, leaving the original town site, a less desirable location, somewhat undeveloped. A new parliament building was erected, near the original location, but this burned down and a new building was built in the new lands to the west. A permanent fort, Fort York, was built on the site of the garrison. Dundas Street was built to connect York to towns to the west. In the 1820s, the town experienced a surge of immigrants, expanding from 1,000 residents to over 9,000 by the time the town was incorporated as the City of Toronto in 1834. During its existence, the town did not have its own government; it was governed by the province of Upper Canada, with a mix of elected officials and an aristocracy known as the Family Compact controlling the government. By 1830, this led to an ongoing political conflict, which would later lead to the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion.
When Europeans first arrived at the site of York, the vicinity was inhabited by the Iroquoian Seneca tribe (from the Five Nations Iroquois of New York State), who by then had displaced the Wyandot (Huron) tribes that had occupied the region for centuries before c. 1600. By 1701, the Iroquoian villages that had been established along the north shore of Lake Ontario during the sixteenth century had been abandoned. The Algonkian Mississaugas then moved into the York region, created alliances with the former Iroquoian residents, and established their own settlements; one near the former Seneca village of Teiaiagon on the Humber River.
The name Toronto is derived from indigenous sources. A portage route from Lake Ontario to Lake Huron running through this point, the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail, led to widespread use of the name. The word “toronto”, meaning “plenty” appears in a French lexicon of the Huron language in 1632, and it appeared on French maps referring to various locations, including Georgian Bay, Lake Simcoe, and several rivers. In Mohawk, the word tkaronto, meant “place where trees stand in the water”. It refers to the northern end of what is now Lake Simcoe, where the Huron and preceding inhabitants had planted tree saplings to corral fish.
The shoreline was likely sandy and parts sloping down to Lake Ontario (see Geography of Toronto). The original shoreline followed what is now Front Street. Everything now south of Front Street is the result of land fill. The Toronto Islands were still connected to the mainland. It was wooded, with marshes in what is now Ashbridge’s Bay and the then natural mouth of the Don (Keating Channel did not exist yet). Other than Lake Ontario, other waterways into old town included the Don and several other small creeks, such as Garrison Creek, Russell Creek and Taddle Creek.
Between 1710 and 1750, French traders established two trading posts on the Humber River, Magasin Royale, and Fort Toronto. The success of Fort Toronto led the French to build Fort Rouillé on the current Exhibition grounds in 1750. It only lasted until 1759, abandoned after the fall of Fort Niagara, when the French retreated to Montreal. The British arrived the next year with an army to secure the location. The British claimed all of New France after the 1763 Treaty of Paris, and extended the Province of Quebec to present-day Ontario.
After the American Revolutionary War, the region saw an influx of British settlers as United Empire Loyalists arrived in numbers north of Lake Ontario, as the British offered free land to many. As plans were being made to create the new province of Upper Canada, British North America Governor-General Lord Dorchester selected the area north of Toronto Bay for a new capital. Dorchester arranged for the Toronto Purchase with the Mississaugas of New Credit, thereby securing more than a 250,000 acres (1,000 km2) of land. The purchase was disputed in 1788, and a further agreement was made in 1805, but a final settlement of the purchase would only come 200 years later in 2010, for a total of CA$145 million.
In 1791, Upper Canada was established, with Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) its first capital. The first Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe arrived in 1792 and first visited the Toronto Purchase site in May 1793. Impressed by the site and harbour, he moved the capital to Toronto, on a “temporary” basis, while he worked on plans to build a capital in the vicinity of London, Ontario. Simcoe renamed the townsite York, rejecting the aboriginal name. The name of York was chosen to please King George, as a compliment to the Duke of York, his son. Simcoe founded York on August 27, 1793.
Simcoe and his family took residence in July 1793. They found the location to be an isolated wilderness, with dense forest right to the shore. A few families of Mississaugas were the only residents and “immense coveys of fowl.” They lived in a tent that once belonged to Captain James Cook the explorer, at the foot of today’s Bathurst Street. It would be the temporary capital until 1796, when Simcoe abandoned his plans to make London the capital. The first parliament of Upper Canada convened in June 1797 in York, after Simcoe had returned to England and Peter Russell was named administrator of Upper Canada.
The townsite was first surveyed in 1788, but Simcoe developed a new town plan. The Town of York was laid out in ten original blocks between today’s Adelaide and Front streets (the latter following the shoreline) with the first church (St James Anglican), Town Hall and Wharf (named St Lawrence after the river) on the west and the first parliament buildings, blockhouse and windmill on the east. Taddle Creek lay on the eastern boundary, the Don River and its wetland further to the east. Two main roads were laid out: Lot Street (today’s Queen Street) and Yonge Street, which was built as far north as the Holland River. In 1797, a garrison was built east of modern-day Bathurst Street, on the east bank of Garrison Creek.
In August 1796, Charles McCuen, a soldier in the Queen’s Rangers, murdered Wabakinine, a Mississauga chief and one of the signers of the Toronto Purchase, on the waterfront. The murder of Wabakinine and his wife threatened to derail the peace between the British and the Mississaugas. The Mississaugas, already frustrated by the failed promises of the Toronto Purchase, considered a counterattack, either on the capital itself or on nearby pioneer farms. The York authorities brought McCuen to trial for murder but he was ultimately acquitted due to lack of evidence. An uprising was averted through the efforts of Joseph Brant, a First Nations interpreter, guide and diplomat.
All land south of Lot Street was reserved for expansion of the Town or Fort by the government as ‘the Commons’. North of Lot Street was the “Liberties”, the eventual rural Township of York. It was divided into large ‘park lots’ where the city’s moneyed elite built their estates, such as ‘the Grange’ and ‘Moss park.’ With time, some of these estate lots were subdivided, like the Macaulay family estate between Yonge St and Osgoode Hall (now Toronto City Hall), which became a working-class neighbourhood known as Macaulaytown. The original townsite area is today known as the “Old Town”.
On June 1, 1807, on the south east corner of King and George, a priest named Dr. G. Okill Stuart opened the Home District School, the first public school in York. The school taught both boys and girls and ran out of a little stone structure beside his home. Dr. Stuart’s lectures were “curious, marked as it was with unexpected elevations, and depressions of the voice and long closings of the eyes”. In that same year, the first brick house in York was constructed, the home and store of Quetton St. George at King and Frederick. St. George imported the bricks from New York state.
The Battle of York was fought on April 27, 1813. An American force supported by a squadron consisting of a ship-rigged corvette, a brig and twelve schooners landed on the lake shore to the west of the garrison, defeating the British and capturing the fort, town and dockyard. The Americans suffered heavy casualties, including Brigadier General Zebulon Pike who was leading the troops when the retreating British blew up the fort’s magazine. The American forces carried out several acts of arson and looting in the town before withdrawing. Although the Americans won a clear victory, it did not have decisive strategic results as York was a less important objective in military terms than Kingston, where the British armed vessels on Lake Ontario were based.
The Town of York did not fill the small original blocks, instead development spread to the west; the area west to Peter Street had been annexed in 1797 on the order of the province. The town grid was extended west and plots of land near New (Jarvis) and Church streets were set aside for public buildings. St. Lawrence Market, St. James’ Cathedral and the Courthouse and Jail on King would be built on the public reserves. The Town was also extended in the east along King Street (then a part of Kingston Road) to the Don River. There, Angell’s Bridge stretched across the Don. A path led from Angell’s Bridge south to the peninsula and the lighthouse.
The chief business part of the town was King and Front streets, the western limit being Yonge street, and the eastern limit the Don bridge. There were, however, many private residences west of York on Yonge, Front and Lot Streets, and as far west as the garrison. In comparison, the original town site itself was not fully developed by the time of incorporation. The Parliament buildings, destroyed in 1813 by war and later by fire, were moved to the west, helping to draw people to the west. The town became fully developed as far west as York Street, with some built-up areas west to Peter. North of Lot Street, Spadina Avenue was already laid out to the north, and the two north-south roadways that would become University Avenue. 150 acres (61 ha) of land had been purchased in 1825 to be the campus of King’s College, today’s University of Toronto, at the north end of the roads.
Rougher conditions existed in several area. “Macaulaytown”, (named after the Queen’s Ranger who had been given the park lot) basically a shanty town, and the site of many poor immigrants, was north of Lot and west of Yonge. Squatters lived a meager existence along the Don River and the lakefront. Conditions were poor on both sides of Church Street in back lanes. The worst was reputed to be Henrietta Lane, off King, west of Church, south to Market (Wellington today), which in 1832 was a center of a cholera epidemic. Pearson recalls the muddy and filthy lane as being the site of a few shanties inhabited by widows, who kept cows. The cows would be led to the garrison common each day to graze. Two stables were also nearby, making the neighbourhood “odiferous” in his opinion. The area around Henrietta would eventually be cleared of the slum, its north end on King closed off first, and the area redeveloped around the new Colborne Street. March Street (Lombard today) was also noted as being rough and having a red-light district.
As the town grew, fire prevention became more important. Starting in 1820, homes were required to have two leather buckets on the front of their houses. If a fire alarm was raised, a line of citizens from the bay to the burning building passed the buckets. In 1826, the first fire company was inaugurated and a fire hall was built on Church Street. Soldiers at nearby Fort York also assisted in fire fighting when needed.
There was no official police force. Able-bodied male citizens were required to report for night duty as special constables for a fixed number of nights a year under the penalty of fine or imprisonment in a system known as “watch and ward”. The first police office was opened in 1826, only open from 11 a.m to 2 p.m daily except Sunday, Christmas Day and Good Friday. The number of constables was eleven in 1810, twenty in 1820 and twelve in 1830.
There was a major cholera epidemic in Upper Canada from 1832–1834. There were two outbreaks in York, in 1832 and 1834. About 1,000 persons died in the two outbreaks. The disease, poorly understood at the time and caused by contaminated food or water, was acutely infectious. The number of patients overwhelmed the hospital and special sheds had to be built adjacent to house the patients. (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
When I was little, my family and I, who were from Texas, went to Toronto for a visit. My mother told me we were going to go to the Eaton Centre. After about an hour there, I got frustrated and yelled “If this is the eatin’ centre, when are we gonna eat?!”
Second, a Song:
“The Six” (also written as “The 6” or “The 6ix”) and popularized in 2015 by Toronto-born musician Drake with his mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and 2016 album Views. Drake himself credits Toronto rapper Jimmy Prime with inventing the term but it was used by other Toronto rappers in the early 2000s, in songs such as Baby Blue Soundcrew’s “Love ‘Em All”. The usage of the nickname in many of Drake’s songs has since brought it to global attention. While the meaning of the term was initially unclear, Drake clarified in a 2016 interview by Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show that it derived from the shared digits of the 416 and 647 telephone area codes and the six municipalities that amalgamated into the current Toronto city proper in 1998. It has since influenced numerous works within the Canadian Hip Hop community, including the formation of 6ixBuzz and the release of the documentary 6IX RISING. The name has also been noted for having transcended the hip hop community, crossing into mainstream usage by March 2016; having been adopted by the media at a level unseen by Toronto’s other hip hop-based nicknames like T-dot. The adoption of the nickname by some media outlets has been named as a contributing factor for its entry into the public’s consciousness. Culture critics note the nomenclature is an example of a organically grown “city brand”, having originated from the hip hop community as opposed to Toronto City Hall, or an advertising agency (per Wikipedia).
Here is Toronto`s new anthem! Britney Davis, winner of CBC’s (The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Toronto’s Song in the 6ix, performs. Featuring notable Torontonians like Mayor Tory, Cameron Bailey, Sursur Lee, Councillor Norm Kelly, Peter Mansbridge and many more. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“The fact that over 50 per cent of the residents of Toronto are not from Canada, that is always a good thing, creatively, and for food especially. That is easily a city’s biggest strength, and it is Toronto’s unique strength.” – Anthony Bourdain
Further to the First Solo Circumnavigation of the globe Smile, Pete Roberts of Seattle, Washington, USA, writes:
“What a guy! No internet or video gaming to distract such an audacious young man in his teenaged prime!”
Further to the Bugs Bunny Smile, Frank Fowlie of Richmond, BC, Canada writes:
“Elmer also channels his inner Wagner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weHNnsMY82A“
And Ian Roote of West Vancouver, BC, Canada writes:
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky