1911 TPL Prince, Grocery Wagon
Grocery waggon, 1911, and “Prince”. From the Toronto Public Library Digital Archives.


By Sam Herbert (1876 – 1966)


In the early ’80s, a firm of three brothers who kept a grocery store on Queen Street near Seaton came through Leslieville soliciting orders, once a week. The following afternoon the groceries were delivered by another of the brothers in a canvas covered wagon. The name of the firm was painted on both sides of the cover, also the statement “Groceries and Provisions, Tea a specialty.” A grab bag was usually in each box of groceries, and I always helped mother unpack the box until I came to the· grab bag, then I let her finish the job.

1867 TPL Bay St, w side, looking north to King St W
1867 Bay St, w side, looking north to King St W. A confectioner’s delivery horse and wagon left and a grocery store right. From the Toronto Public Library Digital Collection.
1876 TPL Grocers trade card
1876 Grocer’s trade card. From the Toronto Public Library Digital Collection.

Drug store window 1892.jpgOur nearest drug store in 1880 and 1881 was near the corner of King and Berkeley Streets, it was kept by a druggist named Lee, and was next door to Little Trinity Church Parsonage. The building is still there. This will give an idea of the conditions in the early days.

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Background: Leslieville’s First Drug Store

by Joanne Doucette, Leslieville Historical Society


The Red Door Family Shelter at 875 Queen St. E., is being built on the side of Leslieville’s first drugstore and medical clinic at the southeast corner of Queen and Logan. It was built in 1888 and occupied by the Burgess family of druggists and doctors and was home to Woodgreen Discount Drugs for as long as I can remember. Edward Blong, wholesale butcher and one of the founders of Woodgreen Methodist Tabernacle, owned the property. The Burgess Drug Store and the office of Dr. John A. Burgess  were the building’s first tenants. The Leslieville Historical Society worked with the developer, Harhay, to ensure that the facade of the old drugstore was saved. It has been dismantled and will be included in the new building. Here is the rendering of the new development with the restored facade.

I helped prepare the Leslieville Historical Society’s own Heritage Impact Summary. In February 2016, Toronto City Council approved Harhay’s revised plans. This was the newly-formed Leslieville Historical Society’s first effort to preserve a threatened historical feature. We are currently compiling a list of Leslieville buildings that merit preservation.


More About the Burgess Drug Store

The drugstore at the corner of Logan and Queen in Toronto’s Leslieville had a fascinating history.  By 1889, the Burgess family had opened a drug store and medical practice at the southwest corner of Logan Avenue and Queen Street East. It was in effect, Leslieville’s first medical clinic. The story of that clinic follows below.

In the 19th century Edward and Margaret Blong lived at 881 Queen Street East, the site of Woodgreen United Church. The Blongs were Protestant Irish of Huguenot descent. Eduard Blong raised and butchered cattle both for the Canadian market and the British markets. He owned a large farm on the south side of Queen Street (then called Kingston Road) where the Woodgreen Community Centre and Church are now. His farm, like the Gooderham operation, was essentially what we would call a “feed lot” today. He, like most Leslieville butchers, had a stall in St. Lawrence Market. They had extensive grounds around their large home.

Samuel Thomas Burgess was born in 1828 in Ireland and died 6 March 1901 in Toronto. He married Mary Ann Foster Hastings (1841 – 1922) on 4 July 1860 in Toronto. The family lived in Markham at first where they had a store, but by the late 1860s they had moved to Toronto where Samuel worked as a salesman and later a dry goods clerk or, in other words, as a clerk in a grocery store.

They had four children: John Alfred Burgess (1862 – 1896); Frederick Thomas Burgess (1863 – 1920); Anne Foster Burgess (1867– 1947); and Herbert William Herkimer Burgess (1870 – 1931).

Samuel served as the “midwife” for his son Herbert’s birth (Aug. 29, 1870) as he probably did for all his children. In 1870 the family were living in Cabbagetown at 5 McMahon Street which was renamed “Ontario Street” a year or two later and later to Parliament Street and finally to Queen and Logan. While Samuel may have been an amateur midwife, the rest of the family were thoroughly professional medical people.

Three sons were in health care professions. John Alfred Burgess was a teacher first and then a doctor and a pharmacist. Doctors often became pharmacists in the 19th century, owning their own drugstores and dispensing their own prescriptions as well as those of others. His brothers Frederick and Herbert were both pharmacists.

The family were devout Methodists, members of the Woodgreen Tabernacle (which later became Woodgreen United Church), and typical of many Methodists of the time very involved in delivering the Christian Gospel to the community in deeds as well as words. There is an old saying, “What you do speaks so loud, I can’t hear a word you say”, but the Burgesses backed up their evangelical zeal with action. They probably located near to Woodgreen Tabernacle, a large, active and growing church that featured “hell fire and damnation” preaching because it reflected their faith and was their “church home”.

Historians all too often ignore the women in a family. That is always a mistake, but never more so than with this family. If you ask yourself, how did a dry goods merchant manage to have three sons so deeply involved in medicine? The answer lies with Mary Ann Foster Hastings, mother of the Burgess clan.

She was the daughter of John Hastings (1807-1889) and Maria Louisa Orr (1815-1892). Dr. Joseph Orlando Orr like the Burgesses originally came from Northern Ireland to rural Ontario. Dr. Orr settled in Bond Head between Newmarket and Barrie. His five nephews went on to become doctors. Dr. Rowland Orr practised medicine in Toronto as did Dr. Joseph Orlando Orr who was also the Manager and Editor of the Ontario Medical Journal. He was for a time a City Alderman as well. Dr. John Alfred Burgess was the fifth. His mother, Mary Louise Orr, was Dr. Joseph Orlando’s sister. Her brother Charles Hastings became famous as Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.


Herbert Burgess
Dr. William Herbert Burgess, 1905.

Dr. William Herbert Burgess, 1905. He was a pharmacist before he became a doctor. The family business was at 887 Queen Street East. A large part of sales at a drug store of the time was in carbonated beverages like Coca Cola which contained the narcotic coca; 7-Up which contained lithium; ginger ale which still contains ginger; and root beer which contained sassafras. These were originally drank for their medicinal qualities, but adding ice cream pumped them up to a whole new level.




Background: Grocers

What was a “Grab bag”? It was a small bag, often of brown paper,  holding a variety of small things such as candies or cheap toys. The bag was purchased with out the customer knowing what was inside. The store put the bags together, often one for boys and one for girls; sometimes the grocer included them free of charge in the delivery.  I remember grab bags at the Crippled Civilians’ store and how exciting they were. Once we had the grab bag we rushed out of the store to open the mysterious paper package and find the treasures within.

Arnold Bros, head office, 956 Queen E.. - April 20, 1926
Arnold Bros, head office, 956 Queen E.. – April 20, 1926. Today Value Village occupies this store.
20171109 Value Village Jd.jpg
Value Village, November 9, 2017 photo by J. Doucette
[A.E.] Gubb Brothers, 370 Rhodes Avenue, Roman Meal window.
[A.E.] Gubb Brothers, 370 Rhodes Avenue, Roman Meal window. Grocery stores carried “dry goods” such as flour, corn meal, baking soda, canned goods, but originally did not sell fruit and vegetables, fresh meat or fresh fish. A green grocer sold fruit and vegetables. A butcher sold meat. A fishmonger sold fish. A confectioner sold candy, etc.
Dominion store, 213 Wellesley St, grocery section. - April 15, 1929
Dominion store, 213 Wellesley St, grocery section. – April 15, 1929 Loblaws was the first self-serve grocery store. Early grocery stores were definitely not self-serve. A clerk, usually a man, served the customer from behind a high counter.
Arnold Bros, grocery section, 773 Yonge St.. - April 22, 1926
Arnold Bros, grocery section, 773 Yonge St.. – April 22, 1926. Arnold Brothers were an East End family and some of the first grocers in Leslieville.




Published by Leslieville Historical Society

Welcome to the Leslieville Historical Society's website. Please feel free to join us, to ask questions, to attend walking tours and other events, and to celebrate Leslieville's past while creating our future. Guy Anderson, President, Leslieville Historical Society and Joanne Doucette, local historian and webmaster.

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