Grocery Store from Mud Roads & Plank Sidewalks Part 11


In 1889, my father and mother died within the year, and the executor of the small estate invited me to live with him.


Recreation of an advertisement based on similar ads in Toronto directories of the same decade.

He kept a grocery store at the north-east corner of Queen and Pape, and had a thriving business.


Looking west on Queen Street from east of Pape Avenue. On the left is the fence around George Leslie’s arboretum and nursery. The Dulmage store was at 1048 Queen Street East – the north east corner of Queen and Pape. Fonds 1231, Item 1206 Queen Street east of Pape Avenue November 12, 1913 City of Toronto Archives

The store was up to date in every way for that period. I would say that about sixty per cent of the business was on a credit basis, not the kind of iron clad credit as carried on to-day, but more of a “we trust you” idea and what dire results sometimes followed for the grocer. A customer would run up a bill of fifteen or twenty dollars, and then pay a few dollars on account, and then order groceries for the family for another week or so. When payment was requested the customer might be quite insulted, and pay a few dollars on account for a week or so and then quit altogether.

4I think the grocer could have papered a room with the unpaid bills on his books.  The hours were long, in the summer from about six thirty in the morning until 9 or 9.30 at night.


Woodgreen Methodist (United) Church, Queen St. E., s.w. corner Strange St. Photographer unknown Picture, 188-, Toronto Public Library

The grocer was a good living man, attended the Methodist Church, and Sunday was really Sunday. He held family worship once a day, and while I did not realize it at the time, this had an effect on my life in later years.


City of Toronto Archives Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 984 Man in horse drawn buggy Date unknown

We lived at the back and above the store. The horse stable was in the yard almost adjoining the house. The grocer always had a good horse for delivery, and gave it the best of care. Taking it all in all, it was a good wholesome home to live in.


In the winter deliveries were often done by sleigh. This is the proverbial “one horse open sleigh”. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 989 Man on horse drawn sleigh Date unknown

He had a good country trade, and once a week would go over the rounds with a horse and buggy, soliciting orders, and once when the roads were very bad he travelled on horseback. He had about thirty customers on this route. That evening was a busy time for everyone in the store filling the orders, re-checking them and packing the boxes. They would be delivered the following day.


William Dulmage and his wife and son would have worked in a store like this along with Sam Herbert. This was not self serve but counter service. The Interior of grocery store Archives of Ontario Cobourg, Ontario 1910

On certain clays of the week, farmers and small country store keepers came to the city selling butter, eggs, and other farm products. One person, a storekeeper, came from Frenchman’s Bay. He kept a general store and Post Office, and generally brought one or two Sugar barrels containing different churnings of butter, some almost white, others richly coloured, and some almost normal. These rolls would weigh from about seven pounds to nineteen or twenty pounds each, and wrapped separately in cheese cloth.  Some had the regular 1 oz. of salt to the pound, and others less.  This was inserted in the butter, turned around and drawn out. Then passed under the nose at a respectful distance, and the quality and texture of the butter could be determined. The borer with the butter was then replaced, and the butter smoothed over. The same method was employed for testing tub butter.


As time passed women became less and less satisfied with having their minds “made up for them”. Canadian Grocer, Vol. XXXII, No. 14, April 5, 1918

A general valuation would be placed on the contents of the barrel, perhaps fifteen or sixteen cents a pound, then the bargaining commenced. Finally, an agreement was reached, and the deal closed. The butter would then be weighed. Later on it would be graded, some as cooking butter at about sixteen cents a pound, and the better quality perhaps at twenty-two cents a pound. Sometimes a roll would be cut to oblige a customer, and again with the larger rolls of good quality one would be cut up and packed in small wooden moulds containing about a pound. When the butter was pushed out of the mould it was of the same size and shape as the pound block sold to-day. This was then wrapped in fancy paper and sold for perhaps twenty-five cents a pound.


The interior of another Ontario grocery store. Guillet and Son, Archives of Ontario 2 King Street East, Cobourg 1910

Tubs of butter came in about fifty-pound wooden containers, and cheesecloth placed on top, and about a half inch of coarse salt spread over it. When the tub was to be used, the salt was taken off the top and the tub upended, small end at the top, and tapped all round until the butter loosened from the tub, and the tub lifted off. A three-foot length of steel wire with the ends secured around two pieces of broom handle about four inches long gave the means for cutting the butter evenly. This was place d in a “U” position on the outside of the butter and pulled through. The butter could then be cut in any desired quantity. Often in the cold weather, one end of the ”butter counter” would have two or three tubs of butter which had been cut in half and quarter rounds, and looked very attractive.


Library and Archives Canada 1880 First Butter from Australia. 1926-1934 London, Dunstable and Watford, England


Blocks of butter ready for wrapping on a table on a Canadian farm, early 20th century.


Candling eggs, from The Lady’s Friend, 1865

Eggs brought from the country were always “candled.” An opening the size of a large egg was cut in a piece of tin, and the tin boxed round, the top covered, and the back of the box had hinges. A lighted candle was placed inside. The only light in the room would be that coming through the hole in the box. The egg candler would then seat himself facing the light and have a full crate of eggs on one side and an empty crate on the other. He was trained so that he could tell at a glance by holding the egg against the light whether it was good, bad, or indifferent. It was a kind of x-ray operation.

Farmers had been known in those days, when gathering eggs for the market to include a setting of eggs if one were found, even though partly hatched, hence the necessity of candling.


The Canadian Grocer and General Storekeeper, Vol. IV, No. 1, January 3, 1890

White and brown sugar was purchased by the barrel, and when needed was rolled into place behind the counter, and opened. Flour was handled much the same way, but later it came already packed in stone and half stone bags.

Black and green tea were purchased in large square lead-lined chests. Orange Pekoe came in a much smaller package, also Gun Powder tea, the leaves rolled quite small. Blending tea was the grocer’s harvest. The retail price might start at twenty-five cents a pound, and go in progressive steps up as high as sixty-five or seventy cents a pound, sometimes, according to the customer. I think P.C. Larkin was the first firm to introduce package tea in Toronto – their still famous “Salada” Tea. Gradually, packaged tea took the place of the old tea chests, and the grocer’s special blend of tea.


Canadian Grocer, Vol. XXXII, No. 14, April 5, 1918

During the winter months dried salt codfish and an oblong box of Finnan Haddie were usually placed outside the store entrance, and there was often a covered bucket of oysters there as well. The oysters were sold by the pint or quart. A bundle of a dozen brooms, tied securely, and placed handle ends down, outside the door, was also quite common, and there might also be a sign outside announcing, “Granulated Sugar, 22 pounds for a dollar.” Of course this was a cost price “come along” item.

After school one afternoon, I was in the store parcelling up sugar, when the little girl who used to visit us when Mother was alive, walked into the store.  Of course, we were both older, and she was prettier than ever. She said they were living near the store, and we had quite a long chat. I met her quite often after that.

Now, coming back to the store, let me describe the interior. Broken sweet biscuits came in large wooden boxes, and were a staple article, they sold at, I think, twelve cents a pound. They were the better kind of Christies biscuits, Jams Jams, Sultanas, and others that I can’t just recall. The three-pound blue carton of Christies Soda Biscuits sold for twenty-five cents a carton. Sunlight Soap came in large wire-bound wooden boxes direct from Port Sunlight in England, there were three twin bars to a carton.

Tilted on the floor were boxes of soap, such brands as “Morse’s Mottled” “Surprise”, Morton’s N.P. in large bars, a photo of Sir John Macdonald was on the wrapper, and the N.P. stood for National Policy. It was a reputed three-pound bar, and the thrifty housewife would cut it in thick slices and let it dry out. It lasted longer that way. Also, tilted on the floor would be a box of “Pyles Pearline” in packages, the forerunner of the many detergents we have to-day. There would also be a keg of washing soda, sold by the pound.


The Canadian Grocer and General Storekeeper, Vol. IV, No. 1, January 3, 1890

Hanging on the wall at the rear of the store were wooden wash tubs of various sizes, and a half dozen zinc-faced wooden wash boards.

Behind the counter were two rows of square drawers, containing Allspice, Cloves, Ground Cloves, W. Pepper, B. Pepper, Nutmegs, Mustard, Cinnamon, etc.


The Canadian Grocer and General Storekeeper, Vol. IV, No. 1, January 3, 1890

On the counter was a two-wheel coffee mill. As a rule, coffee was ground fresh for the customers. Along the counter was the Cheese container– a large square screened box with a door. The cheese was also cut with a wire.


It looked like the cheddar cheese industry of Ontario would go the way of the passenger pigeon as large multinationals flooded the market in the 1970s with bland, flavourless cheeses and “processed cheese products” that many of us used to dump in the high school cafeteria garbage pail. The revolting products may have helped engender a taste for true cheddar and other true craft cheeses. The old cheese maker of Plum Hollow; Claude Flood; 73; warns the end of small cheese factories will mean the end to first-quality Canadian cheddar. Ontario’s small cheese factories are being strangled into extinction by new regulations and dwindling milk supplies. Barkley, Harold Picture, 1971 Toronto Star License Toronto Public Library

The large barrels of Molasses and Syrup were on a small platform about ten inches above the floor in order for the measures to be placed under the taps, and. the saying “as slow as Molasses in January” carried out a meaning not known to-day.


Canadian Grocer, Vol. XXXII, No. 14, April 5, 1918 In the First World War the Allies needed lead for bullets and so other metals were substituted for lead for bottle caps and jar lids. Canadian Grocer, Vol. XXXII, No. 14, April 5, 1918

Near the window was a large curved glass, walnut show case, which was the “Notion” section of the store.

Inside the case at the back were mirrors in the sliding doors which reflected the goods at the back. The case contained celluloid collars, paper collars, in round boxes, papers of pins, small packages of needles, cough candies in packages, small rolls of lace, spools of thread, hair oil in fancy bottles, round boxes of caps for toy pistols, knitting needles, combs, bottles of ink, collar buttons, etc.


Even a decade or more after Loblaw’s introduced the “Groceteria” or self-service grocery store, most of its competitors still onlyoffered counter service. City of Toronto Archives Fonds 1266, Item 16198 Dominion store, 213 Wellesley St, grocery section April 15, 1929

On the wooden ledge on top of the show case would be displayed glass jars containing candy barley sticks, “Bulls eyes” candy balls, Rock candy, conversation lozenges, and a cardboard box of “grab bags” each filled with assorted candy, and containing a “prize” – price, one cent. There was a smaller box of chocolate cigars, with some sparkling red material at the end, to imitate a lighted cigar.

Then some round popcorn balls with an elastic cord attached, and I must not forget the box of licorice imitation plugs of chewing tobacco, complete with a tin stamp in the centre.


Shows cart of James Matthews, Toronto Steam Power Soda Water Factory. Soda pop was extremely popular and offered a “soft” drink as opposed to “hard liquor”. In background: Wesley Methodist (United) Church, Dundas St. W., n.w. corner Ossington Ave. Unknown Picture, 1875, English Notes Library has (image not reversed) ½ plate glass copy negative (E 9-86) and copy photo (E 4-42f). Shows cart of James Matthews, Toronto Steam Power Soda Water Factory. TEC 125 Toronto Public Library

A local character used to saunter into the store about four thirty every afternoon, just about the time I would be returning from school. He would pass the time of day to us all, and then go over to the broken biscuit box, take out a handful of biscuits and stand eating them.  When the biscuits were eaten he would go to the Refrigerator, take a bottle of sarsaparilla, open it and when finished return the empty bottle, bid us good-day and walk out–never offering [to pay].


Jalap was a powerful plant-based purgative (Ipomoea purga) and could be slipped into a bottle like these without the prospective buyer knowing … until a bit later. Toronto Public Library Touch of antiquity: The Bottles And Crowns exhibit; devoted to the history of the soft drink industry will feature some of the 1;000 different bottle stoppers patented in the last century and older-style soft drinks bottles. Innell, Reg Picture, 1981, English Rights and Licenses Toronto Star License

The storekeeper did not comment on it very much, but one or two the others thought it had gone far enough, so ways and means were discussed. As all pop bottles at that time were of the spring cap variety, a bottle could be opened and sealed up again and no one would know. Someone came up with the idea of “doctoring” the sarsaparilla. This was carried unanimously. Some jalap was secured, and parts of the contents of the bottle taken out, and the jalap put in to take its place.  The contents well shaken in order to mix it up. The next day it was placed in the ice box right at the front, each one notified not to sell that particular bottle. Everything ”went according to plan”, at the usual time our friend appeared, helped himself to the biscuits and sarsaparilla. He did not co me into the store for several days, but he came back and had some biscuits. He was asked if he had been away, his answer was “No” but he had an upset stomach, and a touch of “the summer complaint.” His visits were not quite so frequent and finally they stopped altogether.


During the Christmas season the store windows were really a picture. The centre piece was usually a barrel of dried currants with the side staves and top removed. This would be decorated with holly, mistletoe, coloured paper and flanked with raisins in boxes of various sizes. Candied orange, citron, and lemon peel in halves would add to the decoration. Striped candy walking sticks were hung wherever possible, and a “Merry Christmas” sign would be stretched across the window. It was not until years after with a growing population that the “Xmas” signs began to appear.

Background: More about Christmas back in the day


A store decorated with hanging coloured paper, Christmas 1902 Toronto Public Library


Special trains hauled Christmas trees into the city where grocers sold them to the neighbourhood. Train with Christmas trees, date unknown, Library and Archives Canada


Eating was a huge part of the Victorian Christmas. The Canadian Illustrated Mews [Vol. 24, no. 27 (Dec. 31, 1881)] Good Housekeeping, Vol. 6, No. 3, December, 10, 1887


The home cook book compiled from recipes contributed by ladies of Toronto and other cities and towns. Toronto : Belford Brothers, 1877. At head of title: Tried, tested, proved. “Published for the benefit of the Hospital for Sick Children”. 1910 Making Christmas Pudding, City of Toronto Archives

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Eaton’s and Simpson’s Department Stores were the first real competition to the local grocery store. Illustrated Toronto, the Queen city of Canada: its past, present and future, its growth, its resources, its commerce, its manufactures, its financial interests, its public institutions, and its prospects, 1890. Toronto : Acme Pub. and Engraving Co.


One of the first Loblaw’s stores was at the corner of Logan and Queen. It offered the liberated woman of the 1920’s the option of choosing her own purchases, paying for them in cash and taking them home herself rather than having a grocer pick out products, pack them and deliver them later that day.


Detail from City of Toronto Archives, Series 71, s0071-lt10221 Queen St. at Logan Ave. looking east April. 5/1934 A Dominion Store Branch on the north side of Queen East of Logan Avenue facing a Loblaw’s Groceteria on the south side of the same street.

The Great War brought death but also accelerated change, bringing new technology & new ways of doing things. Chain stores began to replace small stores. Self-serve began to replace counter services for groceries, dry goods & even hardware. It was no longer men behind the counters serving women, but women serving themselves. In 1919 Dominion Stores incorporated. That year a new Loblaw’s Store opened at Queen & Logan. Loblaw’s with its experimental “We Sell For Less” cash-and-carry format, quickly became popular.  After the War to End All Wars. Canada saw itself differently. The men who returned were not the same and the women they returned to had  also changed in unexpected ways.


Grocery shopping is increasingly done on line as is Christmas shopping, spelling a big challenge for grocery chains.


1881-1886 Snowshoeing Christmas Card, Library and Archives Canada



PIGEON AND SPARROW SHOOTS From Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks Part 10

live pigeons


From Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks Part 10

By Samuel Herbert (1876-1866)

The Stanley Gun Club held regular Pigeon and Sparrow shoot in Stark’s Athletic Grounds, about opposite McGee Street, south of Eastern Avenue where commercial industries are now located.

19001123GL Stark Athletic Grounds shooting match

The old Stark Athletic Grounds Globe, Nov. 23, 1900


Detail Goad’s Atlas 1899 Added “Stark’s Athletic Grounds”

Its members came from different parts of the city, mostly from the east end, and the sport was very popular. Old residents who were ardent shooters have passed on years ago and many keen matches were shot out with money wagered on both sides.


One match that stands out clearly in my memory was between two well known prominent residents of the east end. There was light snow on the ground, and the match was “miss and out”.

Forest and Stream. v.36 Feb. 19, 1891

Forest and Stream. v. 36 Feb. 19, 1891


Twenty-four birds had been killed by each of the contestants.


Pigeon Match – Trap Shooting by Henry Downes Miles. The Book of Field Sports. London, Henry Lea, c. 1870

It was getting late in the afternoon and a little snow on the ground. Visibility was poor. A white pigeon was placed surreptitiously in one of the traps, and when the word “pull” was given, the pigeon was just faintly discernable.

White pigeonThe contestant fired and knocked it down. The other side demanded he “gather his bird inside the line”, this he did and went back to his position on the firing line making a twenty-five straight. The other contestant fired, and missed his bird, my relative winning the match.

There was hilarity in the winner’s home that evening, and the winner later on had the white pigeon stuffed and mounted in a glass case which hung on the wall of his living room. He always relished telling how the pigeon won him the match and a challenge cup as well.


The cost of pigeons for shooting purposes was twenty-five cents. Each of the contestants kept all the birds they shot. Many a pigeon pie was the reward from these matches in Stark’s grounds.

18921205 Toronto Daily Mail Shooting Grounds HP Davies

Toronto Daily Mail, December 5, 1892

Sometimes in the early evening one could see persons going stealthily with a long bamboo fishing rod which had a small net attached to the end. They were snaring sparrows from the eaves and other parts of the house and buildings.


The sparrows were later sold to the gun club for sparrow shoots. Light snow on the ground was always a help, and if I remember correctly, the traps were placed about ten yards from the firing line.  Number ten shot was generally used. Sparrow shoots were less expensive than for pigeons, and were well patronized.


18930227 GL Sparrows Stark's

53 birds without a miss Globe, Feb. 27, 1893

redwinged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phœniceus). From New York Public Library Digital Collections

Forest and Stream. v. 39, Aug. 4, 1892 Aug 4

Forest and Stream, v. 39, Aug. 4, 1892

18651118 GL Pigeon shoot

‘Tis good sport, we presume: but is it right? Globe, November 18, 1865







Mystery of the Hanging Cat of Greenwood & Queen

Cartoon by Charles Jameson Grant, 1833

Mystery of the Hanging Cat of Greenwood & Queen

Once long ago, above the door of a tavern at the northwest corner of Kingston Road and Greenwood’s lane, there hung a sign. Now, most taverns had signs but this one was different. Forty years after the tavern closed people still remembered the sign described below.

19230817 GL Puritan Tavern sign hanged cat

Globe, August 17, 1923

rectoWhy would the innkeeper have such a macabre image outside the Puritan tavern? That is the mystery I set out to solve.

First I had to find the back story of the Greenwoods who owned the Puritan Tavern.

John Greenwood was born in 1822 in England. He married Anna or Anne Lowe and they had three children together. Their son Joseph (1845-1933) was born on December 7, 1845, in Leicester, Leicestershire, England. They lived in Hinckley, just outside Leicester, where John Greenwood was a carriage maker, but not just any kind of carriage maker. He made Hansom cabs. Joseph Hansom, invented the hansom cab in Hinckley in 1834.


Hansom Cab

Not long after the Greenwoods moved to Derby. Derby became an important centre as the Derby Carriage and Wagon Works, founded in 1840, hired wagon makers to make rolling stock for the railways.  Another major carriage maker was the firm of Herbert and Arthur Holmes, Coach and Harness Makers of Derby, Lichfield and London (Journal of the Society of Arts, July 11, 1856, p. 592).

The Greenwood’s son William was born in 1847 in Derby. Their daughter Elizabeth (1849-1932) was born on October 23, 1849, also in Derby. Their daughter Susanna (1850-1867) was born there in 1850. His wife Anna Lowe (1817–1852) passed away in 1852 back in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England, at the age of 35.

John Greenwood married Catharine Dwyer (1822-1897) in 1857 when he was 38 years old. She was known as Kate. The next year John Greenwood bought Lot 24 from the Estate of Henry William Savage.

1860 Tremaine North Shore Ashbridges Bay

County of York map by Tremaine 1860. The Greenwoods bought lots at the northwest corner of the sideroad in the centre of the map. Capt. Neville, married to the daughter of Mayor Munro, owned the east side of Greenwood Avenue. The creeks in the map are, from left to right, Hastings Creek, Ashbridge’s Creek, and Small’s Creek.

In 1862, someone reported the Greenwoods for keeping a disorderly house, usually a euphemism for a brothel, although they may only have been selling liquor without a tavern license as the meaning of the term expanded to include gambling and drinking. Today, Canada’s Criminal Code, at §197, defines it this way:

Disorderly house means a common bawdy-house, a common betting house or a common gaming house.

It was fairly clear even at the time that John Greenwood was a “sporting man” who liked betting and the manly sports usually associated with bars.

The eleventh meeting of the York Township Council was held on the 6th inst. Present – The Reeve, and Councillors Bull, Maglan and Playter.

Communications received and read, —
From G. James, Esq., complaining of John Greenwood, for keeping a disorderly house.” Globe, October 11, 1862


Memorial to John Greenwood, martyr, Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Globe, Nov. 8, 1862

Globe, Nov. 8, 1862

Son John continued the family betting tradition at Greenwood and Queen later.

Globe, Aug. 14, 1909

Globe, Aug. 14, 1909, John Greenwood, bookie, 1340 Queen Street East

John and Kate Greenwood opened the Puritan Tavern in 1864 at their home at the northwest corner of Kingston Road (now Queen Street East) though it is fairly obvious thay they were selling liquor without a license before that. The Puritan Hotel was not a temperance hotel as the name might lead one to believe, but was named after the famous Puritan martyr, John Greenwood. The Puritan was licensed to sell liquor.

“Mrs. Catherine Greenwood, Kingston Road, ice dealer and hotel proprietor, established in 1864 by John Greenwood, who was also a carriage maker and painter.”  History of Toronto and County of York Ontario.  Vol. I. Toronto: C. Blackett Robinson, Publisher, 1885, 491.

The lane next to the inn became known as “Greenwood’s Lane” and later, “Greenwood Avenue”. It was not an easy time for the Greenwoods. William Greenwood, who worked for George Leslie and may have been a relative, was arrested in a shocking crime involving infanticide and the murder of beautiful young women. This Greenwood was luckier than the cat, one supposes, and only escaped hanging by committing suicide in his cell the night before his scheduled execution.

Greenwood the murderer

Life and times of William Greenwood: the murderer, who committed suicide in Toronto jail, on the night of the 22nd Feb., 1864, a few hours prior to the time appointed for his execution, published 1864.

Leslieville 1868 - Copy - Copy

Detail from the 1868 Gehle, Fawkes & Hassard Reconnaissance Sketches of the Toronto Area

This map shows the location of the Puritan, the inn owned by John and Catharine (Kate) Greenwood. It is at the north-west corner of Greenwood Lane (now Greenwood Avenue), and Kingston Road (now Queen Street East, where the Greenwood Variety store is today). If you look between the two creeks at the right-hand side of the map, the T-junction between Greenwood Lane and Kingston Rd is clear. Greenwood Lane was beginning to be developed by brickmakers. Greenwood Lane led to the couple’s market garden. Their ice business was just to the west of the inn.


Wood cut from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

John Greenwood

An imaginative rendering of a Puritan Tavern sign, but not the sign that hung outside John Greenwood’s Puritan Tavern

The name of the tavern was a kind of pun that would have been understood by their neighbours. John Greenwood was a Puritan preacher who was hung as a martyr. The Greenwood family were unlikely to have been active church goers, although they were surrounded by the devout. The Leslieville Methodist Church, at Ashport (now Vancouver Avenue) and the Kingston Road (Queen Street East) was only a few hundred yards away. Martyr books were very common in Protestant homes of the day and excerpts read on Sunday afternoons as entertainment and education. Though very pious, they were also very gory. The very sign on the Puritan was both a reference to John Greenwood and the Puritans, making fun of their religious neighbours perhaps!

Map for overlays

Detail from an 1878 County Atlas. The solid dark block on the north side of Kingston Road between Hastings Creek and Greenwood Avenue indicates that this was built up with a continuous row of stores and other buildings. The lower part of Greenwood Avenue on the west side is all brickyards. The Ashbridges purchased Captain Brett Neville’s 65 acres. Brick yard work was thirsty work.

Kate and John Greenwood had six children together.  Their son William John (1857–1882) was born on September 3, 1857 in Leslieville, York, Ontario. Their son Frederick (1859-1943) was born on January 15, 1859 in Leslieville. The Greenwoods are in the 1861 Census on John Greenwood King Street E., north side [now Queen Street East]. Their son Samuel (1862-1921) was born on March 30, 1862 and son Charles (1864-1907) was born on at their home in the inn on Kingston Road on June 8, 1864. Another innkeeper, William Vine of the Butcher’s Arms (on Mill Road, later known as Broadview Avenue) got several lots from John Greenwood in 1864. He may have won them betting with Greenwood.

18651107GL Greenwoods shooting grounds' - Copy

Globe, November 7, 1865

The Greenwood’s daughter Susanna passed away on October 18, 1867, at the age of 17. John Greenwood’s died four months later, on February 17, 1868, at the age of 48. He and Susanna may have died of tuberculosis. Some time after his death, “The Puritan Hotel” became known as “Greenwood’s Hotel”.

Greenwood John

Gravestone, John Greenwood, Catherine, William, Charles and Elizabeth, St. John of Norway Cemetery

In 1869, after her father’s death, another Susanna was born. Kate was 47 with a new-born and a handful of young children to feed, clothe and educate.

To make life as a single mother even more difficult, Kate could not read or write according to the 1871 Census. She took over the complete running of the inn, the ice business and a market garden.

Leslieville Directory 1873

Leslieville Directory 1873

An 1882 Directory lists her as the proprietess, Greenwood’s Hotel, and she regularly applied to the County or York for a tavern license and got it.

18820420GL Greenwood Tavern Leslieville

Globe, April 20, 1882 Granting of tavern license

In 1883 Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show came to the Woodbine Racetrack during its first year of travel. No doubt Kate served many on their way to and from the racetrack. Her neighbour, Tom Beatty, drove the horse-drawn tramway that carried passengers along the Kingston Road from Ben Lamond to the Don River.

1883 City of Toronto Directory 1

1883 City of Toronto Directory for Leslieville

1883 City of Toronto Directory 2

1883 City of Toronto Directory for Leslieville

On May 22, 1885 The Globe reported that Catherine Greenwood had again been granted a tavern license.

In 1886, she was living at 1395 Queen Street East, but no longer operated the Puritan. Alpheus E. Brown took over the hotel and after that it passed through several hands, including Robert Milburn’s, until Richard O’Leary became the proprietor. On his death in 1891, it ceased to operate as a hotel and was torn down when Greenwood Avenue was widened. After she retired from the hotel, Kate Greenwood ran an ice cream parlour on the south side of Queen Street across the street from her son Frederick Greenwood’s house.

Frederick Greenwood House - Copy

The Frederick Greenwood House at Vancouver and Queen Street East. Photo by Joanne Doucette.

City Directory (Toronto R.L. Polk & Co., 1888), p. 580

City Directory (Toronto R.L. Polk & Co., 1888), p. 580. Catherine (Kate) Greenwood, 1411 Queen St E, Son Charles, worker in ice business, boards 1411 Queen St E, Son Frederick Greenwood, ice dealer, 1340 Queen St E, Son Samuel Greenwood, worker in ice business, boards 1411 Queen St. E.

City Directory (Toronto: R.L. Polk & Co., 1888), p. 580. Listing of Greenwoods in City of Toronto. Note:  Catherine Greenwood (widow of John) home 1411 Queen Street East, Charles Greenwood, ice, boards, 1411 Queen Street East, Samuel Greenwood, ice, boards 1411 Queen Street East. Frederick is across the road at 1340 Queen Street E. His home is there and also this is his business address

In 1892 she was living at 1411 Queen East where she died on April 27, 1897, at the age of 75. 1411 Queen Street East is probably the same house as 1395 Queen Street East, the street having been renumbered.

1884 Ashbridges creek in Goads Atlas

Ashbridges Creek in Goads Atlas, 1884.

This 1884 map shows one house across from the Wesleyan Chapel and that house was undoubtedly Kate Greenwood’s.

The most likely candidate and the only house that would be old enough is that at 1401 Queen Street East where the new Leslieville mural is going up right now. It is a classic centre gable “Ontario Cottage” though buried beneath ugly modern siding. The Ontario Cottage is a style of small house with three bays, usually one-and-a-half storeys with large windows and featuring that centre gable over the front door. They were usually rectangular with a centre hallway and rooms (often four) off the hallway. Many like this have later additions.

The Greenwood’s tombstone in St. John of Norway Cemetery reads:

“In Memory of John Greenwood Died Feb. 17 1868 Aged 46 Years Also his wife, Catherine Died April 27 1897 Aged 75 Years William J. Died Nov. 11 1882 Aged 25 Years Charles Died Dec. 31 1907 Aged 43 Years Elizabeth Died March 13 1932 Aged 81 Years”

John Greenwood’s sister Jane  searched, not knowing he was long dead, to find her long lost brother John. She advertised:

“Greenwood (John), COACH PAINTER, left Derby about 1849-50, to go to Toronto, America. Sister Jane would like to know. Daily Mail and Empire, Sept. 3, 1895.”

18950903DailyMailandEmpire John Greenwood

Daily Mail and Empire, September 3, 1895



By GTD Aquitaine (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Orient No. 339 Lodge Room was consecrated July 24, 1886 Photo by GTD Aquitaine (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



By Sam Herbert (1876-1966)

In the year 1884, Orient Masonic Lodge, having outgrown its lodge rooms at the corner of McGee Street and the Kingston Road, decided to erect a new Masonic Hall, and a site was procured at the north-west corner of the Kingston Road and Boulton Avenue.

A special communication of the lodge was held on June 30th, 1885 when the Grand Master, most Worshipful Bro. Hugh Murray with his Grand Lodge Officers, laid the corner stone. A procession was formed outside the lodge room on McGee Street and marched via McGee Street, Eastern Avenue, Scadding Street to the Kingston Road and Boulton Avenue. The procession was headed by the band of the Toronto Garrison Artillery. A large concourse of spectators witnessed the ceremony. It is interesting to note that both the buildings referred to are still standing and in good condition.

Atillery band

18850701 GL Orient Lodge Cornerstone - Copy

Globe, July 1, 1885

Grand Lodge of Canada 1885 18

Grand Lodge of Canada, 1885

Grand Lodge of Canada 1885 19

Grand Lodge of Canada, 1885

Grand Lodge of Canada 1885 20

Grand Lodge of Canada, 1885

Local Improvements and Electric Lights from Mud Roads & Plank Sidewalks Part 8

Local Improvements and Electric Lights


By Sam Herbert (1876-1966)


Toronto from the North East, 1882 Artist: Alexander Blaikley Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. R9266-48 Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana


Pape and Queen as it was ca. 1880 when 4-year old Sam Herbert moved there. (looking east along Queen, Pape is at left), painting by John MacPherson Ross


Detail from Corduroy Road Over a Swamp in Orillia Township, Ontario WARE, TITUS HIBBERT (1810-1890) Picture, September, 1844, Toronto Public Library

Now, going back to about 1885, after Leslieville was absorbed by the city, local improvements commenced.  Almost the first, was a sewer. Pape’s sideline must have been a corduroy road in its early because, because when preparing for the sewer, long logs were pulled out of the muck. They had been laid across the street, and were too waterlogged to burn. The men dug down to the solid blue clay for a good foundation. White brick was used in the construction and it was all man power. Later boys were paid thirty cents a day for keeping the workers supplied with barley water, and the same tin dipper was used by all.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wages for the men was a dollar and a quarter a day. They worked from seven A.M. to six P.M.


Wages for the men was a dollar and a quarter a day. They worked from seven A.M. to six P.M. “Worn Out”/”Épuisé”.  ca. 1920 Toronto, Ont. ? Credit: Albert Van / Library and Archives Canada / PA-126698

With the sewer completed, the ditches on either side were levelled up a bit. ·Water mains were the next item on the list, and when we were connected with city water through a small hydrant outside our back door, and all one had to do was turn a key, and have all the water required—well, we were right in the lap of luxury. It is true, the blamed hydrant froze up in the severe cold weather, but hot water poured on it was the remedy. The next winter we found that by building a wooden frame around the hydrant with only the spout and key exposed to the weather, and the inside of the box packed with sawdust, that we had an almost frost-proof water supply.

When the gas mains were laid it was a big improvement over the coal oil lamps that were in use, although more dangerous. One read every so often that so and so blew out the gas and a near tragedy was the result. Old habits die hard and it was easy to be forgetful and use the same method to extinguish the gas that had been used for the coal oil lamps.

With the advent of city water, cisterns, rain barrels, and wells gradually disappeared, although many still retained the rain barrel for the lovely soft water they had been used to for washing woolens, clothes, etc. If one had a rain barrel now, would it be safe to use the water, or what colour would it be, with the number of factories belching their acrid smoke and fumes all over the district. It is just as well that the down pipes from the roof lead direct to the sewer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As new homes were built, bathrooms were installed, and older homes were modernized. No more cold trips to the outhouse in all kinds of weather, but I think many of the older people missed the outside shrine where they could sit in peace, quietness, and meditate.


Then with the march of progress, the streets were paved. Block paving was the method then in vogue. The road was levelled. Horses pulling a scraper over it until it was brought within about a foot of the level of the sidewalk. The roadbed was then pounded by groups of men, two men to a pounder, which was a heavy thick post of hardwood, with a handle going horizontal through the post, and another vertical handle on top, the men grasping the top handle to guide it, and with the other handle–one man on each side, they would lift the pounder about a foot or fifteen inches above the ground and then let it drop.


Installing wood block pavement. The pounder is the post in the foreground. From


It was very effective, but hard work. After the road was pounded hard, gravel and sand was spread on it evenly, and this again pounded. Then the cedar blocks of various sizes, but all of uniform length were placed end up, and side by side, and again pounded. Then sharp sand was spread thickly over the top, and with the aid of push brooms, was worked into all the crevices until they were completely filled. Then a little more sand for good measure was spread on top, and with another pounding and levelling off, that portion of the road was ready for traffic.

New cedar block pavement Harbord Street - Robert Street to Spadina Avenue

New cedar block pavement Harbord Street – Robert Street to Spadina Avenue November 1, 1899

This type of paving; worked fine for a while, but the sides of the road which were not used so much, soon began to fill up with grass and weeds due to the fertilizing effect of the washed down horse manure, and such like refuse. The centre of the road which was used the most soon began to wear down due to the sharp calks on the shoes of the horses. But the block pavement had its day and served its purpose well.

More East End Road work

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Background by Joanne Doucette

19010802 TS Paving Queen St Toronto Star, Aug. 2, 1901

As the twentieth century dawned, people expected better and more from their City. In 1900 a typhoid epidemic swept Toronto. Finally the City had to take public health seriously. City Hall responded by building water filtration plants, using alum (aluminum) and chlorine to treat the water. In Leslieville people had welcomed amalgamation with Toronto, seeing it as progress. However, change was slower than expected. The East End’s main street, Queen Street East, was still a mess. In 1901 East Enders celebrated the paving of Queen Street East from the Don Bridge to the G.T.R. tracks: the boundary between Riverside and Leslieville. They gloried in the smooth asphalt, walking up and down on the asphalt all night, dancing and making merry. An old timer remembered driving oxen with a wooden cattle prod down the muddy trail that later became Queen Street East.

“Forty-nine years ago I drove down that street behind horned horses,” soliloquized Mr. James Hewitt, one of the early East Enders, as he gazed upon the gay scene last night. “My coachman walked—not because the walking was good, but because it was easier on the constitution that riding in those days, and it was fashionable then to operate oxen with a beech gad.”[1]

[1] Toronto Star, August 2, 1901


Queen Street East at Hastings Avenue, Sept. 30, 1910, showing an electric arc light hanging over the street.



Toronto Electric Light Company Steam Reserve and Battery Plant : close-up September 22, 1915

The old street gave way to electric “arc” street lighting. High poles were placed at the street corners and the electric arc light installed.


Queen Street East at Hastings Avenue, Sept. 30, 1910, showing an electric arc light hanging over the street. Photograph below by Julia Patterson.

A man made regular rounds each day, and lowered the light to within four or five feet of the ground, and then standing on a low wooden stool loosened the burned-out carbons and threw them away, where they were eagerly grabbed up by the usual small boy who would be waiting. The carbons made very good thick black pencils.


The carbon “pencils” or rods in an electric carbon arc lamp.

The man would then hoist the light, or I should say, pull it up to the twenty-five or thirty feet to its position, and go on to the next one. I find the dictionary gives the following description of an arc light–“a sustained luminous glow or arc of light formed between two incandescent electrodes. To form an electric arc”.

Victoria Park from MUD ROADS & PLANK SIDEWALKS Part 7



By Sam Herbert (1876-1966)

18780530 GL Grand OpeningFor a few years regular excursion steamers plied between Toronto and Victoria Park during the summer season. They were well patronized and the return fare was twenty-five cent s for adults.  Near the Victoria Park Dock, the wreck of the T.S. Robb remained for a long time. In the Park was a shooting gallery, and various forms of outdoor entertainment, also a high wooden tower. I don’t remember what it was for. It may have been a look-out tower of some kind.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At Munro Park, later on, there were various entertainment, singers, merry-go-rounds, shooting galleries, fortune telling, and so on. They all drew their quota of people in the evenings. The Toronto Street Railway extended its tracks nearer to the Park and ran moonlight excursions. It consisted of open cars with strings of coloured electric lights along the ides. Bicycles were in their hey-day, and hundreds of people wheeled to the park in the evenings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A trip around the Belt Line was another outdoor pastime that was very popular in the evenings. Open street cars with strings of multi-coloured electric lights strung along the sides made the trip from King Street, up Sherbourne to Bloor, along Bloor to Spadina Avenue, down Spadina Ave. to King and east along King to Sherbourne again. Of course, one could board the cars at stops en route. A popular saying at that time was that if a chap put his arm around a girl’s waist, he “was going around the belt line.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

19th Century East End Villages: Donmount, Riverside, Leslieville, Norway

Villages of the East End 1878

Villages of the East End, 1878 (1) Donmount/Riverside; (2)Leslieville/Leslie; (3) Norway

These are excerpts from various Directories showing the streets and villages of the East End. The area was also known as “Over the Don” or sometimes “The Goose Flats”. This lists the residents by head of household (i.e. the men). We still have lots of Canada Geese with us though their pickings aren’t from market gardens anymore. They’ve developed a taste for fast food.

1878 City of Toronto Directory Donmount1

1878 City of Toronto Directory Donmount Part One 1

1878 City of Toronto Directory Donmount2

1878 City of Toronto Directory Donmount Part 2

1878 City of Toronto Directory Donmount3

1878 City of Toronto Directory Donmount Part 3

1878 City of Toronto Directory Donmount4

1878 City of Toronto Directory Donmount Part 4

1878 City of Toronto Directory King St

1878 City of Toronto Directory King Street (now part of Queen Street)

1878 City of Toronto Directory Laing St

1878 City of Toronto Directory Laing Street

1878 City of Toronto Directory Lake St

1878 City of Toronto Directory Lake Street (now Knox)

1878 City of Toronto Directory Leslie St

1878 City of Toronto Directory Leslie Street

1878 City of Toronto Directory Leslieville1

1878 City of Toronto Directory Leslieville Part 1

1878 City of Toronto Directory Leslieville2

1878 City of Toronto Directory Leslieville Part 2

1878 City of Toronto Directory Lewis St

1878 City of Toronto Directory Lewis Street

1878 City of Toronto Directory McGee St

1878 City of Toronto Directory McGee Street. I have always considered McGee part of Leslieville and it was included in the early directories as part of Leslie. It appears the City of Toronto in the 1880s decided on the boundaries of Leslieville as if it were a southern continuation of DeGrassi — which it is not. Or maybe they simply liked to divide things into neat rectangular blocks when they could. In any case, it is not historically accurate and doesn’t make a lot of sense (My opinion — Joanne Doucette). The Leslies on McGee were Robert Leslie, George Leslie’s brother and his family.

1878 City of Toronto Directory Norway

1878 City of Toronto Directory Norway (Norway Village was the area around the corner of Woodbine and Kingston Road)

1878 City of Toronto Directory Palace St

1878 City of Toronto Directory Palace Street (Palace was part of Front Street).

1878 City of Toronto Directory Saulter St

1878 City of Toronto Directory Saulter Street

1878 City of Toronto Directory Scadding St

1878 City of Toronto Directory Scadding Street (now part of Broadview Avenue south of Queen Street)

1878 City of Toronto Directory South Park St

1878 City of Toronto Directory South Park Street (now Eastern Avenue)

1878 City of Toronto Directory Strange St

1878 City of Toronto Directory Strange Street (Strange Street south of the railway track became Dibble Street)

1878 City of Toronto Directory Wards

1878 City of Toronto Directory Toronto’s Wards

1878 City of Toronto Directory Willow St

1878 City of Toronto Directory Willow Street (now part of Pape south of Queen Street)

1882 County of York Directory and Gazeteer L1

1882 County of York Directory and Gazetteer Leslieville Part 1

1882 County of York Directory and Gazeteer L2

1882 County of York Directory and Gazetteer Leslieville Part 2

1882 County of York Directory and Gazeteer L3

1882 County of York Directory and Gazetteer Leslieville Part 3

1882 County of York Directory and Gazeteer R1

1882 County of York Directory and Gazetteer Riverside Part 1

1882 County of York Directory and Gazeteer R2

1882 County of York Directory and Gazetteer Riverside Part 2

1882 County of York Directory and Gazeteer R3

1882 County of York Directory and Gazetteer Riverside Part 3




By Sam Herbert (1876-1966)


Ashbridge’s Marsh, Lucius O’Brien, 1873

Ashbridges Bay teemed with fish and wild life. My favourite fishing spot was from the pilings outside the large ice house that was located at Leslie Street and Eastern Avenue, where the paint works is now located. It was a splendid place for sunfish, perch, bass, and catfish.

Two or three days a week after school, enough fish could be caught for a couple of good meals. This all helped out.

Sunset on Ashbridge's Bay. - [1909?]

Sunset on Ashbridges, about 1909. Bay, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 248.

Across the Bay on the north shore was Bill Lang’s Boathouse. There was quite a lot of marsh in between.


It seemed to be open season all the time for fishing, and almost every home contained a shotgun, some of them, the old muzzle-loading variety with shot, powder pouch, and ramrod as necessary equipment.

1877 Henri Julien

Illustration by Henri Julien, 1877

In the Fall, ducks came down in thousands to the Bay, and were shot for the market as well as home use. Many a duck hunter making quite a tidy sum from the sale of them, as well as providing for their own table. Duck hunting was not all fun, pushing out the boat, arranging guns and decoys, rowing out to the “Blind” in perhaps a cold rain, or sleet on dark morning. Then arrange the decoys, and make oneself as comfortable as possible while waiting for daylight, and the quack quack of the incoming ducks over your decoys. Many a cold and more serious illness could be traced to the annual or semi-annual duck hunt.


Cutting Ice, Ashbridge’s Bay with Ice House in background

In winter, skating and iceboating on the Bay were the regular pastimes. The icemen reaped their harvest at that time as well. Ice, eighteen inches to two feet thick would be cut in large squares, hauled out and taken to the icehouse where it would be packed in sawdust until the following summer. Small evergreen trees were placed where the ice had been cut, and were the danger signs, so that skaters and ice boats would keep clear.

Ice boats and ice cutting Toronto Bay 1916 NAC

Ice boats and ice cutting Toronto Bay, 1916, Library and Archives Canada

Some breath-taking speeds were attained with ice boats.

They had cushions and were quite comfortable, but fur caps were a necessity. People did not go around in their bare heads in those days even in summer.

The Bay and adjoining ponds provided most of the skating needs, and on Toronto Bay, Ashbridges Bay, and the numerous ponds adjoining the Don River “Shinny on your own side” was the game, only we did not have the machine-made sticks as used to-day for hockey, but one would go to the nearest bush and select the proper sized stick with a curve in it, bring it home and trip it up to their individual tastes.


Michael Hannaford, Scarborough Heights, 1883. Ashbridges Bay on the left with the City of Toronto in the distance.

In the marsh around the Bay, muskrat trapping was a recognized industry, and muskrat lined coats were very common, especially those with the large beaver collar, and when I say beaver, I mean beaver.

Beaver family scene

In the winter, when the rushes and reeds were dry, marsh fires were very common, and often the sky was darkened with the heavy black smoke, but very rarely any real damage occurred.

Don Valley Fishing

Fishing Don River

The Don River at that time was a winding crooked stream with many ponds near it. The water was clean and clear. Then it was decided to straighten the Don. It was surveyed, and soon the huge steam pile driver got to work sending down long posts side by side deep in the ground. These posts still form the shores of the Don although time has broken many of them away. I have caught many good strings of perch, sunfish and catfish while sitting on the posts of the newly straightened Don River.

At one time a ferry boat plied the Don River from the Gerrard Street bridge to the island. Captain James Quinn was in charge of the ferry “Arlington” which sailed between Toronto Island and up the Don River to the Gerrard Street Bridge. The Arlington was a fair-sized boat that would accommodate at the most about a hundred passengers.

This 1904 rendering of KATHLEEN by Charles I. Gibbons

“Kathleen”, Steam Ferry and sister ship to “The Arlington”, 1904, by Charles I. Gibbons

It was a nice trip, but the patronage did not warrant its continuance.

The Don was a wonderful place for small boats and canoes.

Don River, looking s.e. towards Don Jail, ca. 1870, artist unknown, TPL

Don River, looking south-east towards the Don Jail, ca. 1870, artist unknown, Toronto Public Library




Vast Changes Being Made in East End of Toronto


Haunt of Pike Fishermen, Pleasureseekers and Birds Passes to Man

(By J. McPherson Ross)

Globe, Tuesday, January 8, 1918

Looking n.w. to Toronto skyline in left background by John Willson 1899

Looking n.w. to Toronto skyline in left background. Painting by John Willson, 1899

Ashbridge Bay, as it appears on the map of Toronto, was a beautiful sheet of water when I first saw it in the summer of 1863, and was clean and good enough to drink, abounding in fish, and was the haunt of numerous wild fowl all summer.  In the stormy, rainy fall, it was alive with wild ducks of all kinds that came to rest on their southern flight and to feed on plentiful masses of wild rice that grew in numerous patches. The marsh covered the shallow waters of the eastern part of the bay at the commencement of the sand bar by the foot of Woodbine avenue, as this roadway is now called. When the racetrack of that name was first built the marsh growth ended where the deep water started, and began again intermittently a little west of Leslie street. It was quite a fine sheet of water, and at the time of speaking the lake had made a cut at about the size of the present entrance.

Ashbridges Bay John Willson 1900

Ashbridges Bay, John Willson, 1900

On days when the east winds were throwing up big breakers on the Island quite strong seas came sending over the bay, sufficient sometimes to wash out by the roots large poplars that grew on the street now called Leslie.  In those times several creeks added their quota of waters to the bay.  The overflow of Small’s Pond and a small creek at about Kenilworth avenue ended in the marsh, another one came through Ashbridge’s farm. One coming through Hastings’ and crossed the Kingston road and emptied into the gut, as it was then known. This gut was quite a sheet of water and formed a little harbor made use of by the fishermen who lived near it, and who ran their boats up the channel to the back of their lots which ended on the water.

Many a large sailboat might be seen those days at any time near the sidewalk on the Kingston road, later called Queen street. Quit a colony of fishermen lived near by, among whom we remember the names of Doherty, Laings, Marsh, Goodwin, Crothers and others who, if not fishermen, were duck-hunters or trappers. Or they also enjoyed the boating, fishing, and bathing privileges which were here in all their primeval abundance and purity of nature become becoming soiled and destroyed by the sewage and filth of the encroaching city.



Creeks to the Lake.

Another creek started near the Danforth road and rand near the sandpit down through several market gardens, crossing the Kingston road at the foot of Pape’s lane, by a big willow tree that grew there on the south side, and ended its journey in the marsh that came almost to the road.  This marsh was filled with willows, alders and other growths that made quite a thicket, and was the roosting places of many wood-ducks and other denizens of this safe, marshy, woodland retreat, such as the bittern, woodcock, snipe, plover, sandpipers, and crow blackbirds or grackle. In fact, here and elsewhere wild life was teeming, and the naturalists of those days might revel in the enjoyment of their favorite study.  The marsh continued south and was unbroken till it ended at the Island, then went westward, with the exception of a patch of clear water of several acres’ extent, known as Brown’s Pond, which skirted the shore edge of such properties as Heward’s, Gorrie’s, Blong’s, Clark’s and ended with Smith’s, which also ended on the Don River.

Charles Sheard

I omitted mentioning a creek that also started near the sandpit and ran through the gardens of Cooper’s, Bests and Hunters, crossed the road by the Leslie Postoffice. Here it joined a small creek that drained the nursery, and both crossed Leslie street under a bridge that has since been filled up by intersecting sewers.

Girls on Ashbridges Bay

A Place for Recreation.

The Ashbridge Bay and the marsh in those days was a very important feature as it furnished the residents of the neighborhood a place for recreation for old and young of both sexes. There were always plenty of boats owned in the vicinity, and for hire. In the long summer evenings boating parties were the favorite amusements till late at night. Music and singing filled the air and echoed along the shores. The plaintive strains of “Nelly Gray,” or “Willie Has Gone to the War,” to the accompaniment of accordeon or concertina, were usually the favorite songs, sometimes varied with “The Charming Young Widow I Met on the Train,” or “Molly Brown,” the last a pleasing melody of the time much favored by the sentimental lads and lassies of the day. Especially on the moonlight nights, the placid waters of the bay would be well patronized, and the air made melodious by the songs just mentioned, while in the darker reaches of the marsh you could hear the drooping notes of the coot and the harsh cries of the mudhen.

Peculiarly weir and picturesque would be scenes in the marsh before the spring growth had started, when parties would go spearing pike. Generally always two, one had to paddle, while the spearer would stand in the bow. An iron contrivance called a “jack,” filled with several pine knots in full blaze, was fastened in front of the boat, and threw a lurid flame on the dark waters below, revealing a gliding pike, attracted by the light and coming to his speedy death, for the skillful spearer impaled in on his barbed spear. On dark nights in early spring it was a common sight to see a dozen or more parties, with the jacklights flitting slowly over the marsh, like so many will-o-wisps luring the fish to their doom.

But when the marsh was frozen hard, busy scenes were enacted. Men could be seen cutting and gathering the marsh hay, to be used for bedding horses or for stuffing mattresses. Great quantities were frequently used for core making in the foundries of that time.

Joy of Skating.

The main part of the bay, when the ice was clear, and before it was thick enough for the ice harvest, would be covered with hundreds of people skating, and the merry shouts of the boys as they skated and played “shinny” made a lively and tumultuous sight, while ever and anon would come a booming sound as the pent-up currents of water underneath surged heavily against the imprisoned top. Oh, the joy of those days that the writer recalls—to be young and strong, with a sharp pair of skates fastened to your top-boots and the long straps securely crossed and buckled tight, and a clear mile of smooth ice before you to go bounding over; a strong shinny and a puck of hard maple to knock, dodging and twisting over the glassy surfaces. The joys of the present youth have nothing on those bygone thrills. As the ice got thicker the little houses of the fishermen would appear scattered over the bays, in spots selected, where the currents brought the wily pike. Here inside in the dark would sit a hardy fisherman, smoking his tobacco, black and strong, now mostly used for chewing as the lighter of yellow kind was not then in ordinary use. The water would be full of greenish light, and the fisher, either with hook or spear, watched this spot with catlike faithfulness, his patience being fully rewarded when he would land a seven or eight pound pike.


The Iceman Comes.

Shuttleworth and Kendricks map

When the ice got to be six to eight inches, then the icemen appeared and several parties would commence the winter harvest. Great ice-houses in those days lined the bay at convenient spots for floating in the crystal blocks. This continued for several weeks, and was a busy time while it lasted. They generally saved all that the modest city required in those days, and it was not till the mild winter of 1880-81 that efforts were made to secure ice, outside, from Lake Simcoe, for the usual supply. Ice was cut, though, for many years afterwards till it was finally stopped by the city officials as being unfit for use. Up till then crowds of men and teams were kept busy in the operations of the ice harvest by the different companies engaged in that business.

Trotting on the Ice.

Trotting races were held for many winters on a mile track laid out on the bay which used to be black with the crowds of sports that patronized this amusement. Wooden shacks were constructed on the ice for furnishing refreshments to the thirsty. Whiskey was cheap and plentiful and sold openly, along with beer, and joy was unconfined for those that liked their spirits. The surviving members of that class think back with pangs for those were the good old days! Trappers got plenty of muskrats and it was a common sight to see numerous figures out in the marsh with a bag on their shoulders and a spear-like weapon to dig out the rats from their winter houses or catch them in traps set for the purpose.

Polluting the Waters.

Ashbridge's Bay ca 1910

Fishing boats leaving the Gut, a little cove where the Loblaw’s Superstore is at Leslie and Eastern Avenue, Ashbridge’s Bay ca 1910

The first element to spoil the purity of the bay waters was the liquid excreta of the cattle byres which were built by the marshside a little east of the Don to use surplus hot swill, a by-product from the distilleries after the spirits were distilled. This waste liquid manure was run off into the bay and so sullied its waters as to lead to damage suits, which were entered against the company by boatmen whose business were affected, claiming they could not hire out their boats as the fishing was spoiled. Other parties also claimed damages on property grounds, claiming that they byres prevented sales of land, the renting of houses, from the very nature of the business and the general unsightliness of the plant or buildings. The claims were settled for certain monetary considerations accepted by the plaintiffs and the planting of several rows of quick growing trees to hide the unsightly buildings. The nuisance still remained and was a great detriment to the fair name of the east end from that day to this, besides hiding the pollution of a considerable area of the bay or marsh.

The opening of Eastern avenue and the building of the houses, coupled with the necessary sewage from the different streets, fouled all the water, which soon came to be little better than an open cesspool. This created such an outcry from the public that the Keating Cut was made along the face of the windmill line to make a current from the lake to the City  bay, which somewhat improved the sanitary conditions for a while.  The city began to fill portions of the front marsh with garbage and excavations which made solid land, but previous to this the Government made some improvements as a piling from the Don outflow over to the Island, which formed a roadway that enabled summer residents on Fisherman’s Island to go back and forth to their homes.  The boundaries of the marsh proper began to shrink and many schemes were advocated to improve and use the Bay.

Dumping April 24 1900

Dumping, April 24, 1900

Scheme for Improvement.

One that made quite a stir and attracted a good deal of public attention was the Beavis-Redway proposition, which proposed to solidly fill in parts and sell them for factory sites. The straightening of the Don, a much-needed improvement, was gone on with and drew attention to the bay portion. Drydocks and floating docks were partly gone on with, but the interest died away, and with the failure of the Beavis-Redway idea, and matters were allowed to stay still until the sewage disposal plants were discussed and, in spite of considerable opposition this abomination of abominations was finally located at the extreme east end, to be what is was supposed to be, and is to-day, a vile nuisance to the long-suffering neighborhood that had every undesirable business thrust upon them.  Every unpleasant enterprise suggested was sure to be located over the Don, such as oil refineries, tanneries, blue factories, packing houses, and, to brief, all that was nasty found an abiding place over the Don that already rejoiced in the jail, smallpox hospital, grease-rendering plants, dead animal receptacles, and many other occupations. The supine representatives in the Council for the east end were unable or helpless to combat.

Foundations for sewage plant.jpg

Foundations for sewage treatment plant, Coxwell and Eastern

The establishment of the septic tanks was the last straw, the crowning disgrace to be placed there. The poor old bay got is quietus as a place of recreation and became a place to be shunned, and what was a place of pleasure on holidays for many to enjoy a day of fishing or rowing, or sailing, or in the winter season for skating or ice-boating, became a place to be avoided winter and summer.

The New Life.

But let’s forget it and turn to what will be the proper future and what will drive the septic tanks to a more suitable situation – the great works being carried out by the Harbor Commission. Where the tall rushes swayed in the summer breezes, that swept over the marsh surface, or moved by the eastern gales, as the wavelets died or sank into calmness, amidst the thickening green, where the feathered and animal life pursued their natural ways so beautifully described by the their loving biographer, Sam. Wood, from the days when the feather Indians of the past trapped the wily duck and speared the toothsome pike, down to the last year or so, where nature reigned supreme, what a change has taken place! Great, broad paved streets, several of them running from the city gay, easterly, for nearly a mile, with concrete walks, flanking each side; trolley poles and tracks for street cars up the centre of the streets; immense factories, foundries, and munition buildings greet you on every hand. There are wide canals with concrete embankments, with broad platforms on the sides, all inside a few years; shipbuilding plants and several ships in various stages of completion.

Port Industrial areas. - 1976-1988

Toronto Harbor Commission plan, 1912

Wonderful indeed have been the changes that money machinery and men have accomplished. All these and more are to be seen, giving an earnest of what it will be when finished.

Railway Lands - new concept. - [between 1977 and 1998]

Toronto Harbor Commission at work

Gone are the muskrats.

Gone are the muskrat houses, gone are the acres of brown marsh grass that used to give weird lights when set on fire by the skaters as they lighted it for pure fun. Gone are the gleaming waters of muddy grey as they looked after an eastern blow. So go the times, as with a sigh for the memory of old rambles and boating excursions come into mind, we welcome the new order that has transformed this waste of water sand marshes into a busy hive of industry.  This is what those tall columns of smoke that towered over the lake or drifted with the varying breezes meant; the pound-pound of the pile-drivers as they drove the long piles deep into the muddy bottoms.

Catching turtles

Good-bye, old Ashbridge’s Bay, you are no more. Good-bye to the rubber-clad duck shooters and the skiffs. Good-bye, coot and coween and mudhen; good-bye, pike, catfish and perch; good-bye, killdeer, yellow-leg and plover, crane, loon and heron. Only the lazy, flying gulls that go sailing over from Toronto Bay and up the Don are all the bird-life or any other wild life, excepting the saucy sparrows that chatter and fight over some workman’s crust. Even their day has come, as the motor truck and speedy auto will soon drive their old friend, the horse, that furnished their principal sustenance will go also into oblivion along with many other things that live now in the classics of your faithful chronicler, Sam Wood. Peace to his ashes.

Globe, Tuesday, January 8, 1918