The Secret History of Our East End Streets: 1 – 17 Austin Avenue

London, England has a BBC show, The Secret History of Our Streets. The series claims to explore “the history of archetypal streets in Britain, which reveal the story of a nation.” Our streets are just as interesting and our stories goes back millennia before Austin Avenue existed to when Leslie Creek was full of salmon and Anishnaabe, Haudenosaunee and Wendat gathered wild rice in Ashbridge’s Bay. I hope you enjoy this page. My research ends in 1919, a century ago. I have not explored the history of every family, Austin Avenue has more secrets to tell.

Here are some of those stories — those from 2 to 17 Austin Avenue

2 Austin Avenue

Walter Gray was born on November 9, 1857 in at Gray’s Mills, York Township, now part of the Donalda Golf and Country Club. He married Annie Emma Clifford on January 30, 1884 and they had five children in 11 years. The Grays had a grocery store at 2 Austin Avenue and lived above the store. They moved to 100 Boulton Avenue about ten years later.

His wife Annie Emma passed away on July 29, 1916, on Bolton Avenue, at the age of 49. They had been married 32 years. Walter Gray died on April 8, 1938, in Dunnville, Ontario, at the age of 80.

Son William John was born on December 19, 1885, in Toronto, Ontario. He Gray married Annie Mary Norris on June 28, 1907, in Toronto. They had two children during their marriage. He died in 1948 at the age of 63, and was buried near his parents. Annie Mary Norris died in 1960 and was laid to rest next to her husband. The Gray family plot is in Saint Johns Norway Cemetery and Crematorium, Woodbine Avenue.

Ironically both the Gray family homestead and Leslie Street School principal Thomas Hogarth’s house have been honoured with historical plaques.

2 Austin Avenue, Many of these small family businesses have been converted into homes. Globe, May 25, 1909

4 Austin Avenue

4 Austin Avenue was the home of Henry Bowins in 1919 and, in 1921, by widow, Mrs. Louisa (Beckett) Greenslade and her five children, ranging in age from 7 to 17. in 1921. Her husband, William Henry Greenslade, a market gardener, had dropped dead of a heart attack in 1915. The family lived in Etobicoke at that time.

6 Austin Avenue

6 Austin Avenue, Toronto Star, October 6, 1918

8 Austin Avenue

8 Austin Avenue William Robertson Hodge
8 Austin Avenue, William Robertson Hodge, Circumstances of Casualty
8 Austin Avenue, Globe, November 9, 1918
8 Austin Avenue, William Hodge’s death was reported on the day the Great War ended: now known as Remembrance Day. Toronto Star, November 11, 1918
8 Austin Avenue, discharge papers for John Christopher Waldron, marked “medically unfit”.

John Christopher Waldron married William Robertson Hodge’s sister Eveleen in 1919 and was lived with her, sister Jean, and their mother, Mary. Like his brother in law he was a tall man for the time (5’11”) and fit. He was an Irish Catholic while Eveleen Hodge was an Irish Protestant. Both were from Dublin. Unlike his brother-in-law, he was not conscripted but volunteered. Like his brother-in-law he was hit by shellfire. Clearly from the medical records doctors had a hard time identifying just what was wrong with Pte. Waldron, apart from flat feet which was easy. The blast buried Waldron completely under mud, timbers and rubble, causing a severe concussion and what was known as “shell shock “. He died in 1964.

10 Austin Avenue

10 Austin Avenue: Highway Robbery Globe, September 10, 1909

It appears that Mrs. Robinson at 10 Austin Avenue took in lodgers, as many widows did. Since the lodgers were mostly young men who moved frequently, it is difficult to determine just which Frank Mulhern was responsible, but it appears to have been Frank Beauchamp Mulheron (1881-1917) who moved to the U.S. permanently shortly after this assault occurred. Strong-arm tactics to hijack valuable cargo was not uncommon though this was particularly audacious. Often the motive was to re-sell the produce and sometimes simply to get something to eat. The perpetrators usually knew their victims and counted on intimidation to keep the victims from reporting to the police. Gangs were a reality back then too. Timothy Lynch of 51 Austin Avenue took the law into his own hands shooting those who robbed his orchard. But that’s another story.

10 Austin Avenue, Globe, January 2, 1917

Dudley Seymour Robinson was born on July 6, 1892, in San Jose, California, USA,. Both his parents were English. He married Gladys Elsie Moffat on October 6, 1920, in Toronto. They had two children during their marriage. He died in March 1963 in Michigan, USA, at the age of 70. In 1911 he was living with his widowed mother Rosina Alice Robinson at 10 Austin Avenue and working as a Foreman in a leather shop. Dudley Seymour Robinson enlisted on February 16, 1916 and sailed to England where he became an Acting Sergeant but injured his left knee while training. A torn meniscus kept out of the trenches, he was discharged from the army on Dec. 17, 1916 and sailed on the troop ship Metagama back to Canada, arriving in St. John, New Brunswick on Christmas Day 1916. He married Gladys Elsie Moffat in Toronto, Ontario, on October 6, 1920, when he was 28 years old and they lived in an apartment on Silverbirch Avenue. His mother Rosina Alice passed away at home 10 Austin Avenue on November 9, 1922, at the age of 55 from pneumonia. After his mother’s death Dudley Robinson moved to Detroit and died at the age of 70 in March 1963 in Michigan, USA.

William Edward Harrold, 14 Austin Avenue, is likely in this photo of the band of the 48th Highlanders.

14 Austin Avenue

William Edward Harrold was born in March 1873 in Monkton Combe, Somerset, England, his father, William, a wheelwright, was 54 and his mother, Amelia Ann, was 29. Though in 1871 the family owned their own home and even had a servant, Ten years later family was destitute and he was educated in a pauper school. In 1881 his father was in the Poor House as a pauper, as was William and his brothers, Alfred and Henry, but there was no sign of his mother. His father died in 1887. In 1890, at the age of 17, he immigrated alone to Canada. He was related to the Billing family, another Somerset family, for whom Billings Avenue is named. William Harrold married Ellen Sophia Eva Cox on June 15, 1897, in Toronto, Ontario. They had two children during their marriage: Alfred William Badgerow Harrold and John E Harrold. He died at home 14 Austin Avenue on November 11, 1936 of heart disease. Though he spent his working life in a foundry, his death certificate lists his true vocation: musician.

Nominal Roll and Paylist, band of the 48th Highlanders, 1904
Wheelwright Arms, Monkton Combe, Somerset, England

The Wheelwright’s Arms pub in Monkton Comb, now part of the City of Bath, was likely the family home of the Harrolds. To see photos of the pub go to: https://the-wheelwrights-arms-gb.book.direct/en-us/photos

17 Austin Avenue

Every family has stories and secrets. We don’t know why 17-year-old Kate Wellings mysteriously left home, alarming her parents. But perhaps the numerous articles about the Wellings family might hold a clue. My sympathies are with Kate. I was a teenage daughter of a man with some “unique” ideas, obsessed with politics and who wrote numerous Letters to the Editor. I was sometimes proud of him and sometimes embarrassed. Perhaps Kate felt the same or perhaps there was another reason.

The Wellings family were the first to live at 17 Austin Avenue and built the house there where Katherine “Kate” Wellings was born on January 31, 1887, but their story, like every family’s, goes back further.

An early map of Birmingham, England, showing Duddleston, now a downtown industrial area, but home to the Wellings family 150 years ago.

Father George Washington Wellings was born in 1855 in Birmingham, England, the centre of Britain’s steel industry. His grandfather had been a blacksmith. His father, George Wellings Sr., was a “steel toy maker”. However, at the time, “toys” were not the playthings we think of today, but the term meant small metal items like buttons and buckles, and was part of the jewelry trade.

In 1830 Thomas Gill described the production of steel jewelry in Birmingham, from cutting the blanks for the steel beads or studs, to final polishing in a mixture of lead and tin oxide with proof spirit on the palms of women’s hands, to achieve their full brilliance. Gill comments: No effectual substitute for the soft skin which is only to be found upon the delicate hands of women, has hitherto been met with.” from Revolutionary Players Making the Modern World, published by West Midlands History at https://www.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk/birmingham-toys-cut-steel/

George Sr. also worked as a gun maker during the 1850’s and 1860’s. This was a lucrative business during that period. Between 1855 and 1861, Birmingham made six million arms most went to the USA to arm both sides in the American Civil War. Not long after George Wellings Sr. father retired from gun making and opened a pub, The Wellington, in the Duddeston at 78 Pritchett Street. German aircraft bombed the area heavily in World War. The pub no longer remains.

For more about Birmingham’s gun making history go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/content/articles/2009/02/18/birmingham_gun_trade_feature.shtml

George Jr. became a jeweller specializing in engraving on gold.

George Washington Wellings married Anna Maria Johnson in 1875 in Birmingham. They and their five children immigrated to Toronto in 1884. They would have seven more children, all born in Toronto.

Walter was their first child born in Canada – at home 13 Munro Street. Dr. Emily Stowe delivered the baby. Florence was born at home 17 Austin Avenue in 1889 and was soon joined by sister Hilda Marie was born on October 4, 1891. Harold was born on July 14, 1893. Another son Howard George was born on January 1, 1896, but died two years later on March 21, 1898. Irene Wellings was born on September 18, 1897.

listing from the Canadian Trade Index 1900
Toronto Star, December 28, 1896

In 1896 George Wellings ran for Alderman for the first time and was beaten badly by brick manufacturer John Russell.

Toronto Star, January 5, 1897
Toronto Star, November 17, 1897

Wellings a proponent of the ideas of Henry George, popular at the time, but still on the fringes. For more about the Henry George Club, go to:

http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2006/0306gluckman.html
or
http://henrygeorgethestandard.org/volume-1-february-26-1887/

Toronto Star, April 19, 1901

A tireless activist, George Wellings persevered. In the days before social media, Letters to the Editor had to fill the need for expressing political ideas.

Toronto Star, December 11, 1901

Unsuccessful in his attempt to enter municipal politics as an Alderman, in business George Wellings prospered, renovating his home at 17 Austin Ave and building a new factory downtown on the site of his previous manufacturing plant.

Toronto Star, July 18, 1904
Toronto Star, August 22, 1904 Building permit factory George Wellings Mfg Co, 67 Richmond Street East.
17 Austin Avenue, Globe, May 19, 1905
17 Austin Avenue, Globe, May 19, 1905

Katherine “Kate” Wellings married Albert Edward Ward in Toronto, Ontario, on November 13, 1911, when she was 24 years old.

Toronto Star, September 16, 1911

Wellings Manufacturing Company continued to proper, turning out buttons, badges, etc., what were known as “toys” in Birmingham in the mid-nineteenth century. Many thousands of Wellings cap badges, buttons and medals went overseas on the uniforms of Canadian soldiers during World War One.

Kate’s husband died of a heart attack on January 8, 1927 at their farm on the 3rd Line West, Chinguacousy, Peel, Ontario.

Canadian Jewish Review, February 17, 1922
Toronto Star, May 30, 1931

George Washington Wellings passed away on May 31, 1930, in Toronto, Ontario, at the age of 75. Though he tried and tried again, he never succeeded in becoming a Toronto alderman.

Katherine Wellings married James Templeman in York, Ontario, on March 27, 1937, when she was 50 years old. Both were widowed. Katherine was living at 17 Austin Avenue at the time of her marriage. James Templeman was a truck driver from Todmorden Mills. Her mother Ann Maria passed away on April 12, 1938 at her son-in-law’s home on Oakdene Crescent. Kate Wellings died in 1960 when she was 73 years old. She is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. 67 Richmond Street East is now a Domino’s Pizza take-out.

To see all of this large table drag the bar below across. The table shows who lived where and when on this part Austin Avenue from 1887 when the street was born to 1921. The 1888 City Directory was based on 1887 date and there were no street numbers as it did not get mail delivery. Postal service required numbers. Joanne Doucette

1888 City DirectoryLot # Subdivision 549#1889 Directory1890 Tax Assessment Roll Occupier1890 Tax Assessment Roll Owner1890 Directory1891 Directory1894 Directory1895 Directory1900  Directory1903 Directory1904 Directory1905 Directory1906 Directory1907 Directory1912 Directory1919 Directory1921 Directory1921 Census
North
Vacant lots 3 frontage on Pape2Vacant lotsGray Walter, grocerGray Walter, grocerGray Walter, grocerGray Walter, grocerGray Walter, grocerHannigan & Gunn, grocersBest Wilbert EWells George A, Hardware
Vacant lots34Vacant lotsLowman CharlesLowman Charles ELowman Edwin CPettit John EPettit John EPettit John EPettit John EBurkholder Albert/Pettit John EKing SamuelBowins HenryGreenslade Louisa MrsGreenslade Louisa  
Vacant lots36Vacant lotsPerkins Charles EFortier William JOverdale Christian SOverdale Christian SOverlade Pauline MrsOverlade Pauline MrsMundy WilliamMundy WilliamVacantBruce CharlesBruce CharlesBruce Charles
Vacant lots38Vacant lotsField Emma GFarmery CharlesBooth AlbertBooth AlbertBooth AlbertHalliburton JamesPettit William HPettit William HBrittain Rev DavidHodge Mary MrsHodge Mary MrsHodge Mary  
Vacant lots310Vacant lotsVacantCosgrove John JMulheron Mrs SarahTurner JosephRobinson FrederickRobinson FrederickRobinson FrederickRobinson FrederickRobinson Rose MrsRobinson Rose MrsRobinson Rose MrsRobinson Rose  
White Henry312White HenryWhite HenryWhite HenryWhite HenryJarrett GeorgeDoxsee George WVacantCrawford Walter LCrawford Walter LCrawford Walter LMontgomery Norman HMontgomery Norman HMontgomery Norman HNicholson JohnMacdonald WmIreland LouisIreland Lewis
Vacant lots314Vacant lotsPrivate GroundsVacantKordell George HLiley HenryTaggart Thomas RMontgomery Norman HStewart William HStewart William HStewart William HHarrold William EHarrold William EHarrold William EWilliam Harrold
Vacant lots316Vacant lotsPrivate GroundsVacantStewart WilliamSimmonds AlfredSimmonds AlfredMurphy JohnRidley JosephRidley JosephRidley JosephRidley JosephRidley MarkRidley JosephRidley Joseph
LANEA LANE
South
Vacant lots4  frontage on Pape1Vacant lotsStore, s eStore, s.e.
Vacant lots43Private Grounds
Vacant lots45
Vacant lots47
Vacant lots49
Vacant lots711
Vacant lots713
Vacant lots815Unfinished houseTaylor EdwardClifford C HTaylor Edward STaylor ESClifford JamesFredenburg George AClifford Caroline MrsClifford Caroline MrsClifford Caroline MrsClifford Caroline MrsClifford Caroline MrsClifford Caroline MrsClifford CharlesClifford CharlesClifford Charles
Vacant lots817Wellings GeorgeWellings GeorgeWellings, Annie M. and George WellingsWellings GeorgeWellings GeorgeWellings GeorgeWellings GeorgeWellings GeorgeWellings GeorgeWellings GeorgeWellings George WWellings George WWellings George WWellings George WWellings George WWellings George W
Private GroundsPrivate grounds

One thought on “The Secret History of Our East End Streets: 1 – 17 Austin Avenue

  1. Thank-you for all your work on researching Austin Avenue. As a resident I do appreciate it. As a sometimes Family History researcher I know how painstaking it can be to dig up the gems that make our place to live a community. Thanks! I have shared this on the Austin Avenue Facebook page.

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