MUD ROADS AND PLANK SIDEWALKS: LESLIEVILLE 1880
By Sam Herbert
I would be useless to search for Leslieville on any map of to-day.
It simply is not there.
A Directory for the year 1871 gives it the following description:
Leslieville, a thriving village on the Kingston Road, Township and County of York, named after George Leslie, one of the first settlers and owner of extensive nursery grounds in the neighbourhood. The manufacture of bricks is carried on to a great extent. Stage, to and from Toronto, twice a day. The Montreal Telegraph has an office there. The distance from Toronto is two miles. Mail daily. Population about four hundred.
Our family came to Leslieville in the year 1880 and purchased a house and large garden on the east side of what was then Pape’s Sideline, just north of the Kingston Road. At that time there were only four houses on the street between the Kingston Road and the Grand Trunk Railway crossing, the rest was meadow and market gardens.
The following are mostly personal recollections with some history gained from local sources and incidents during my early life in Leslieville, and the Toronto of sixty or seventy years ago. I am still a resident on Pape Avenue and have grown up with this part of Toronto from the horse and buggy days to this era of Automobiles, Aeroplanes, Jets, Radio and Television.
For the early period I will use the names of streets as we knew them at that time. King and Queen Streets came only as far as the Don Bridge. From there easterly it was the Kingston Road. Broadview Avenue, south of the Kingston Road was Scadding Street, then Lewis Street, Grant Street, Saulter Street, Boulton Avenue, Strange Street, DeGrassi Street, McGee Street, Logan Avenue, Carlaw Avenue, — south – nothing north but fields and meadows. Pape’s Sideline, Willow Street, Curzon Street, Leslie Street, Lake Street, Laing Street, Greenwoods Sideline, and The Woodbine.
Brick yards and Market Gardens were the principle industries. The Leslie Nurseries were a unit in themselves. Almost everyone owned their own home, and most places had good-sized market gardens. We had quite a large one – about a quarter acre. We grew almost everything necessary for our own table, Apples, Pears, small fruits [berries] and vegetables, we had everything in season. Mother occasionally sold some of the surplus for extra pocket money.
We had chickens, rabbits, a couple of pigs, and at one time a Nanny goat. In the lower garden there was a large root house, and periodically throughout the winter months it was opened, and a supply of vegetables taken out. They had the fresh earthy flavour that is entirely missing in the vegetables sold to-day.
In the coal and wood shed, during the winter months there was generally a part of a hind quarter of beef hanging. We killed a pig each fall and some of the meat was used at once for roasts and headcheese. The rest was cut up and put in pickle. In the winter we always had a barrel of pickled pork and one of beef. Occasionally on Sunday Mother would cook a large piece of corned beef with cabbage. On Monday we would have cold corned beef with hot vegetables. On Tuesday there would be a change, but on Wednesday the meat would be cut away from the bone, and chopped fine in a wooden bowl. Potatoes and parsnips were boiled and mashed, then the cut up corned beef mixed in thoroughly with it, and placed in a flat baking pan, smoothed over, and several dabs of butter spread over it, and then put in the oven until nicely browned on top. Mother said it was “Calcannon” – I don’t know where the name originated – perhaps from her early home in the south of Ireland.
About head cheese
How to make colcannon
In the late spring, summer and early fall (roads permitting) a butcher, with his covered waggon, stocked with fresh meat, and a pair of scales would call once a week and sell direct from the waggon. As we had no ice, the meat was bought rather sparingly.
Oh yes, and for the same period of the year, a fish peddler came around every Friday, selling really fresh fish, caught locally, perhaps that morning.