An Immigrant Family Story:  The Breckles Part One


A child playing in the gutter, Ladywood.

This is the story of the Breckles family who came to Canada like so many others did in the early 1900s. Escaping high unemployment and poverty in the industrial cities of Britain, they hoped for better overseas. Toronto was a mecca for many, including the Breckles. Let me be clear here. I am not related to this family nor do I pretend to know intimate details about their lives. This is just the story that the public record tells and I include it because I found that it was interesting both because a Breckles family was one of the first to live on Coady Avenue and because it moved me.

So let the story begin.

When Anthony Breckles was born on January 31, 1854, in Tunbridge Hill, Kent, England, his father, Anthony, was 26 and his mother, Elizabeth, was 25. He spent his early years in Ipswich, Kent, but by the time he was seven the family had moved to Birmingham in the Midlands where his father worked as a laborer.

Anderton Street

Anderton Street, Ladywood

Alexandra Street, Ladywood

Alexandra Street, Ladywood

right are three lavatories shared by the the court and the houses

Courtyard, Ladywood, right are three lavatories shared by the the court and the houses

They lived in the Ladywood, a densely inhabited neighbourhood of it long straight streets of closely packed row housing. Behind the terraces back-to-back houses surrounded grimy courtyards with outdoor privys. Ladywood was to gain the reputation as the poorest place in the United Kingdom. High employment, squalor, deprivation, and high infant mortality were facts of life there. From time to time, cholera epidemics swept through.

By the time he was 17, Anthony Breckles was working as an iron moulder while his father worked as an engineer’s labourer. The family of nine lived in a back-to-back house behind Number 7 Chester Street. About forty men, women and children crammed into six narrow, dark houses and shared three outdoor toilets.

7 WIlliam Street, Ladywood

Doing the wash in the yard, 7 WIlliam Street, Ladywood



Puddlers at work

Puddlers at work

Anthony Breckles married Laura Lee on March 14, 1874 in St. Johns Church, Ladywood. He was 20 years old and worked in a blast furnace. He would spend all of his working life as an iron moulder. Laura Lee was from Hinckley in Leicestershire where my own mother was born. They were married in Ladywood. Their son Thomas William was born in October 17, 1874 in Ladywood. Mary “Minnie” 1876–1949 was born on May 1, 1876, in Ladywood. George was born in February 1880 in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, England. Frederick James (1883-1918) was born on January 28, 1883, in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, eight miles northwest of Birmingham. In 1885 was born in Wednesbury followed by Walter 1888, Arthur 1890, and Lillian 1895 all in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, England.

staffordshire, wednesbury, lower high street in the early 1910s

White Swan pub

White Swan pub, Wednesbury

Anthony Breckles worked as an iron moulder at the enormous Patent Shaft steel works. Their home, 108 Church Hill, was a step up, still a terrace, but bigger and fronting a main road. In 1901 son Thomas was working as a gasfitter. The Breckles had seven more children. In 1901, they were still living in the same house and Anthony was still at the Patent Shaft works where he was joined by sons George and Frederick. George worked as a puddler while Fred was a laborer in the tube works.



Forge, Wednesbury


Patent Shaft Foundry

The Patent Shaft & Axletree Company at the turn of the 20th century

The Patent Shaft & Axletree Company at the turn of the 20th century

PatentShaft9On April 29, 1903 Anthony Breckles and Laura Lee, both 49, and Walter (13), Arthur (11) and Lillian (9) boarded the S.S. Kensington of the Dominion Line, bound from Liverpool to Quebec. Anthony was ostensibly immigrating to Canada as a farmer, though he had never worked on the land. Farm labour was in demand in Canada so “farmer” he was. Their son Thomas William was already in Toronto, living at 148 Carlaw, just above Eastern Avenue and working as a butcher. He and brother Fred would open a retail butcher shop at 692 Queen Street East next to the Broadview Hotel around 1909. Anthony also became a butcher and worked in a shop on Gerrard Street East.

Toronto, Canada's Queen City 1912 Broadview Hotel

Toronto, Canada’s Queen City 1912 Broadview Hotel

In September 1903 a Toronto court granted an injunction against the strikers of the Iron Moulders Union at the Canada Foundry. Anthony Breckles had attempted to prevent strike breakers from crossing the picket line at the plant on the west side of Lansdowne Avenue just north of the CP rail line. Globe, Sep 7, 1903.

Canada Foundry, Lansdowne Avenue

Canada Foundry, Lansdowne Avenue, three storey factory on right.


Canada Foundry, Lansdowne Avenue, right

In 1904 the family was living at 163 Pape Avenue. Anthony was still working as an iron moulder. Amy was working as a clerk. Arthur was an apprentice. Fred was a labourer.  George was a trackman for the Toronto Street Railway, the privately-owned streetcar company.  In 1910 Anthony Breckles was at 267 Booth Avenue.

192400000 Booth1

Son Walter was still at home working as a tinsmith. In 1911 Frederick James Breckles lived at 1 Coady Avenue and working in the butcher shop at 692 Queen Street East. By this time his father was suffering the effects of diabetes.

By the time of the census in 1911, the Anthony Breckles and his family had moved to 106 Galt Avenue. Anthony was working as a labourer in a factory specializing in making wheels while sons Walter and Arthur were working as tinsmiths. All the men worked 50 hours a week. Anthony earned $450 a year while son Walter earned 500 and Arthur 550. Daughter Lillian worked at home as a dressmaker.

His wife Laura passed away on September 17, 1915, in the family home on Galt Avenue at the age of 61. They had been married 41 years.

A Man dying of diabetes before insulin

Dying of diabetes before insulin

Anthony Breckles went into a diabetic coma and died on November 22, 1917, at 51 Belmont Street, Toronto, York, Ontario, at the age of 63, four years before Banting and Best discovered insulin. He lived long enough to see son Arthur marry Louise Powell on the 13th of June 1916 in a ceremony held at the Pape Avenue Baptist Church. Arthur was working in a munitions plant. He and his young bride lived at 62 Jones Avenue.

More to come…

1911 City Directory Breckles

1911 City Directory Breckles


A map of what was and what might be, 1908 Abrey and Tyrell Map

1908 Abrey and Tyrell Map

1908 Abrey and Tyrell Map in full. Sections are included (below) to make the map and the information on it more accessible.

Map of Toronto, 1908 info

I particularly love this is beautiful and detailed map, but it needs to be looked at with care since it is a map of plans and surveys, some of which were never built!

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From the Don River to Greenwood and from East York to Ashbridge's Bay

From the Don River to Greenwood and from East York to Ashbridge’s Bay

Greenwood to Coxwell, East York to Ashbridge's Bay

Greenwood to Coxwell, East York to Ashbridge’s Bay


From Coxwell to the boundary with Scarborough. Blue indicates the Village of East Toronto — an independent and separate municipality with its own town hall, services and council.


north of the Danforth include part of East York and the area known as Doncaster.


The northern part of East Toronto VIllage and the land occupied by the Toronto Golf Club. This has been surveyed and a subdivision planned, but that plan never came to fruition and many of the streets were never built, at least as configured on this map. Note the large Grand Trunk Railway yard and roundhouse. The area between East Toronto Village and the City of Toronto was called “Midway”.


From Ashbridge’s Bay and Lake Ontario to Kingston Road, including Small’s Pond (left), Glen Stewart Ravine (called “The Glen” on the map), and the village of Norway. Like Leslieville and Don Mount, Norway was a postal village and was not incorporated as a municipality, unlike the Village of East Toronto.

From Coxwell Avenue to Victoria Park, including the Woodbine Race Track, Kew Beach, and Balmy Beach.

From Coxwell Avenue to Victoria Park, including the Woodbine Race Track, Kew Beach, and Balmy Beach.

Some Leslieville Street Names

Leslieville Historical Society

1860 Tremaine's Map of the County of York, Canada West From Tremaine’s Map of the County of York, 1860

It is sometimes difficult to trace the origins of street names. Clearly most Leslieville streets were named after families who lived here or after the builders who put up the houses on the street. Only a few, such as Eastern Avenue, are more or less self-explanatory. Moreover, street names changed over time. Doel became Dundas; Kingston Road became Queen Street, etc. Street names were changed because citizens requested it (as with Erie Terrace with became Craven Road) or because amalgamation with the City of Toronto led to confusing duplication of street names. A number of streets in the newly annexed areas had the same names as streets in the old City of Toronto so those streets were renamed.

Street naming went through fads and suffered at the whim of politicians. In 1905, the City of Toronto’s Street Naming Sub-Committee (all aldermen) wanted all new streets…

View original post 2,653 more words

On this place: Riverdale Collegiate (cont’d)

Thomas Jennings brickyard 1890b

Boy labourers and men, Thomas Jennings brickyard on Jones Avenue (east side) between Danforth Avenue and Hunter Street, 1890’s.

Last of a clay bank Clay Worker

Last of a clay bank from the Clay Worker, 1891. This is the type of relatively shallow clay pit, dug out by hand that characterized the brick quarries south of the railway line. There the rich brick clay was near the surface. North of the railway tracks the brick companies used machinery to excavate deep holes down to the bedrock where they blasted out the shale with dynamite. Dinky locomotives, small train engines, hauled the rock up narrow gauge railway lines to the brick plant where it was ground into a powder, mixed with water and sand, and made into bricks.

Clay and the clay industry of Ontario slop method

From Clay and the Clay Industry of Ontario, 1906. 

Although large operations like those of Joseph Russell and John Price with heavy machinery dominated the industry by the time Riverdale Collegiate was built, small operations like this still continued using methods that had changed little since the Middle Ages.

The horse is working the first type of machine that was introduced to the brick industry — in the 1850’s. The horse walks around and around that beaten track, pulling that big piece of timber which turns a grinding wheel. The machine, a pug mill, grinds the clumps of clay into a powder. The brick moulder mixes it with water and sand and pushes it into a wooden mould (in his hands). He then dumps it onto the ground to dry in the sun.

The figure to his right is a young boy, probably his son. Often the women and younger children worked with the father but by this time it was not socially acceptable so they don’t appear in the photo. The children did much of the heaviest labour.

Clay Worker 1891 Laborers Hamilton

Photo from the Clay Worker, 1891, showing a Hamilton brick plant. I include it here because it clearly shows very young boy labourers as well as black workers. Leslieville’s labour force reflected the same reality. A number of descendants of those who came up the Underground Railway settled in Hamilton and Toronto. Many came to Leslieville and worked in the brickyards. Their descendants live still live here today.

Slide 18

With the mechanization of the brick industry after 1890, machines replaced manual labourers and teenage boys (many under the age of 16) replaced men. This is a sanitized image. The work was heavy, hard and, all too often, deadly. The boys breathed in brick dust and smoke from the kilns. Industrial safety laws were almost non-existent and many men and boys were mangled in the machines, often fatally.

Clay and the clay industry of Ontario 1906 Logan

From Clay and the Clay Industry of Ontario, 1906

Clay and the clay industry of Ontario 1906 downdraft kiln

From Clay and the Clay Industry of Ontario, 1906. These kilns burned wood for fuel. Riverdale’s high school students would have breathed wood smoke all year round, contributing to lung problems and paving the way for tuberculosis and other pulmonary diseases.

Clay Worker Vol 15 to 16 1891 2

Ad from The Clay Worker, 1891. This type of machine was the favourite in Leslieville’s brickyards by 1900.


I have adapted this 1913 illustration from a map by Coleman to illustrate a cross section of the surface deposits in the Leslieville area. 

The green is the richest clay and the best for bricks. It was found near the surface south of Gerrard Street and along the creeks, including Hastings Creek. Between Gerrard Street and the railway tracks the deposits were covered with sand but still not far below the surface. But north of the railway tracks the deposits were deeper. Brickmakers used steam shovels to dig through the sand to get at the good clay, but when they had used that up, they dynamited the shale (gray in the illustration) and made it into bricks.

1913 Leslieville Clay Deposit

1913 map showing the rich clay deposit (green) between Jones Avenue and Greenwood Avenue.

1913 Legend

1910 Devils Hollow labelled

1910 map with my labels. 

There is an urban legend that Myrtle, Ivy and Harriet Streets were named after local women (true) who argued so much that they could never meet so the streets don’t meet (not true). The deep ravine called “the Devil’s Hollow” had more to do with keeping the streets from meeting. The women were all members of local brickmaking families who actually seemed to have got along quite well.


Continuous kiln at the Russell brick plant. The Clay Worker, November, 1906.


The Clay Worker, November, 1906.


This is likely along Hasting’s Creek near Riverdale Collegiate. Note the orchard at the top of the bank. The Clay Worker, November, 1906.

Slide 22

The area was still quite rural in 1907 when Riverdale Collegiate began as can be seen in this photo of Pape Avenue looking north from about the railroad tracks.

Slide 23b

A cartoon appealing for British immigrants to come to Toronto. From the Globe, March 19, 1908. 

Canada’s immigration policy was openly racist and specifically sought white Scottish, Irish and English immigrants to counter the feared “Yellow Peril” — immigration from China and, to a lesser degree, Japan. This is clearly and, none to subtly, reflected in the poem below. John Wilson Bengough (1851-1923) was one of Canada’s leading cartoonists.

Slide 23a

British immigrants crossing the “Bridge of Tears” over the railway tracks at Union Station around 1911. It was called this because here people said goodbye to loved ones or cried because they had left everything they had to gamble on a new start in a new country. Everything they own is in their hands.

Most came in family groups like this. Mother has baby in her arms. Dad is at the back. Two teens carry the luggage and grandmother is at the back carrying another child. The grinning child on the right reflects the hope they had, but others don’t look so enthralled with Toronto.

Slide 24

At the same time that a Shacktown was growing outside the city, families like the Andersons built brick and brick-fronted houses like these west of Greenwood Avenue. The City of Toronto imposed stricter building requirements due to the danger of fire. The so-called “Fire Limits” required brick construction at least on the street facade and fire resistant cladding on the other walls. Much of that cladding was Insulbrick, a kind of asphalt impregnated with asbestos. There is still a lot of that material around, often covered with newer aluminum siding.

The Andersons, professional builders from Scotland, preferred to build solid brick, sturdy houses, like these three. Many of those still stand today near Riverdale Collegiate. (Photos courtesy of Guy Anderson)

Slide 25

After 1905 a Shacktown developed east of Greenwood Avenue on land that was still outside of the limits of the City of Toronto. A flood of impoverished British immigrants arrived here to start new lives only to find that while jobs were available (at least at first), there was no housing for them. So they bought lots at around $5 to $10 a foot of frontage and scrounged bits of lumber, old crates, tarpaper, tin and whatever could use to create their own homes. These are on Coxwell Avenue.

Slide 26

City of Toronto Building Construction Dates City of Toronto Works and Emergency Services, Technical Services, Survey and Mapping Services, Mapping Services. Produced by Patricia Morphet, September 2003 This map is on line at

Slide 28

From Goad’s Atlas, 1913, Plate 100, showing Riverdale Collegiate. Curzon Street was later renamed Bushell Avenue north of Gerrard. Bushell may have been named after a brickmaker named Bushell who was killed in World War One. After that bloodbath the City of Toronto renamed a number of small streets after particularly courageous men who died. Another such street is Dibble near Eastern Avenue and McGee.

Skating on Hastings Creek The Devil's Hollow

December 22, 1919 Boys playing hockey on Hastings Creek. Hastings Creek crossed the Danforth just east of Jones and cut a ravine at Ravina Crescent in “The Pocket” and another gully, known as the “Devil’s Hollow” between Jones & Greenwood.

The creek continued south through the Hastings’ farm (Hastings Avenue to Alton Avenue) and across where Greenwood Park is to enter Ashbridge’s Bay between Leslie Street and Laing Street. The City filled the ravine in a number of times and finally buried the creek in the sewer system in the early 1920’s.

A staff member at the East End Garden Centre recalled when her grandfather caught fish in this pond. Others have told me of their grandparents tobogganing down the hill or skating on the pond.

Slide 29

Cattle and pigs were driven along roads leading into Leslieville from very early in the 19th century. The men and boys who managed the cattle en route were called “drovers”. Later they were brought in by train. When they reached Leslieville the animals were let loose to graze on the nutritious meadow grasses along Ashbridge’s Bay.

Some were even fed on the leftovers from the Gooderham Worts Distillery. Then they were slaughtered by butchers in the many abattoirs that were feature of Leslieville’s economy. Of the cattle that were fed on whisky mash, it is said that they died happy.

Slide 30

This is looking west along Jones Avenue just north of Riverdale Collegiate. Heavy industry lined the track, including a pork packinghouse on the west side of Jones where pigs where slaughtered. The stench was incredible especially on hot days, making nearby houses and the high school even more uncomfortable in the days before air conditioning,

Contour Map 1908 Hastings Creek labelled

This map was published in 1908 and is based on surveys done in 1907.

Lazeby 1921 TTC close up topo map Leslieville labelled

Hastings Creek has now been put underground as part of the sewer system. The penciled in line just east of Leslie Street may indicate the path of the sewer. By this time the creek was heavily polluted with industrial and human effluent. But public health was coming into its own by the 1920’s and chlorination of drinking water, immunizations against infectious diseases, pasteurization of milk, and the invention of new drugs like penicillin began to revolutionize society in ways that we often don’t recognize today. Nonetheless, the teenagers of Riverdale paid a heavy price in the First World War and Great Flu pandemic that followed. I hope the short history of the Riverdale Collegiate site that I have written will help all of us appreciate young people more through understanding the area that they grew up in.

Slide 31

Globe, Sat., Aug. 31, 1907 On the former exterior south wall, now inside an atrium, a 1965 Toronto Board of Education plaque. This is what it says: “In co-operation with the Riverdale Business Men’s Association, the Toronto Board of Education persisted in building a school on Gerrard Street, named Riverdale Collegiate Institute. The original school, consisting of a principal’s office, library, auditorium, four classrooms and two science rooms, was occupied in 1907.”  Contrary to some sources such as Wikipedia, Riverdale Collegiate Institute was first called Riverdale High School NOT Riverdale Technical School. Riverdale Technical School, founded in 1919 on Greenwood Avenue north of Danforth Avenue was renamed Danforth Technical School.

Slide 32

Colourized postcard, 1907

Slide 33

Photo from The Report of the Dept of Education 1910 By the second and third years, classes had to be held in the cloak rooms. The first addition was completed in 1910 and consisted of the assembly hall and the eight classrooms to the north and south of it.

Slide 34

Photo from Report of the Dept. of Education, 1914. Additions were built in 1914, 1922, and 1924, in accordance with the architect’s original plan for the expansion of the school.

Slide 35

Architect’s blueprint showing planned extension to Riverdale Collegiate. City of Toronto Archives.

Slide 36

Postcard of Riverdale Collegiate after 1924 when additions were added to enlarge the school further. This is likely from an architect’s drawing prepared for that extension to the school.





On this place: Riverdale Collegiate…

Slide 1 Devil's Hollow 1919

Welcome to this presentation which was given at Riverdale Collegiate on May 1, 2019.

Did you ever wonder what was here in days gone by? Who lived here? What buildings stood here? Why did they build here?

This picture shows Riverdale Collegiate on the far hill on December 22, 1919. We are looking from Prust Ave. Landfill with large concrete rubble fills the ravine in the immediate foreground. The new Hastings Avenue lies in the mid-ground and just west of it, hidden from sight, is Hastings Creek. On the slope immediately east of Leslie Street  is an orchard with an apple storage barn (cold storage).

Slide 2

Lucius O’Brien, Among the Islands of Georgian Bay, watercolour, 1886. This painting depicts Anishnaabe families similar to the Mississauga people whose traditional territory included the site of Riverdale Collegiate. The Mississauga are a group within the larger Anishnaabe (also known as Chippewa or Ojibway people).

When the first white settlers came to the area around Jones and Gerrard the Kichigo family of Mississaugas helped them adapt to life here, welcoming them and sharing food and medicine. Many native people still live in Leslieville.

For more about the Mississauga of the New Credit First Nation go to:


Slide 3

Lieut. Governor John Graves Simcoe granted large parcels of land to people who supported the government of Upper Canada. Most of these did not actually settle on the land but held it as an investment, hoping to subdivide it later for sale. Riverdale Collegiate lies in Lot #11 which was granted to United Empire Loyalist Benjamin Mosely. (Mosely Street is named for him.) The writer of this article, Joanne Doucette, is herself a United Empire Loyalist being a direct descendant of Capt. Matthew Hawley of Connecticut.

For more about United Empire Loyalists go to

George Leslie by John McPherson Ross ca 1907

George Leslie attributed to John McPherson Ross ca 1907.

George Leslie attributed to John McPherson Ross ca 1907. George Leslie (1804-1893) was the founder of the small community that grew up around the corners of Leslie Street (named for him) and Queen Street East (then known as Kingston Road).

Leslie was a market gardener whose Toronto Nurseries became the largest tree-growing business in Canada in the 19th century. He was a public school trustee and a strong advocate for free education for everyone. His market garden was between Queen Street and Ashbridge’s Bay (south of Eastern Avenue) and Leslie Street and Caroline Avenue (named after his first wife Caroline Davis).

His home was at the northeast corner of Queen and Jones and Leslie Grove Park is the northern part of his arboretum and site of his greenhouses.

Below 1868 Gehle, Fawkes & Hassard: Reconnaissance Sketches of Toronto Area.

Slide 4b

This map was prepared by British army officers in order to secure Toronto in case the Fenians attacked the city. The curved line across the map is what is now the GO Train line (CNR) but was then the Grand Trunk Railway line, the first rail connection between Montreal and Toronto.

The note “brickfield” is just west of what is now Jones Avenue. Gerrard Street doesn’t exist yet but a faint line of dashes just below “Nursery Grounds” on the right of the map marks where the street will be in the future. The school marked on the map is the Leslie Street school still on that location today. The north-south street west of Jones is Pape Avenue and to the west of that is Logan Avenue. Mill Road is now Broadview Avenue. It was originally an indigenous trail.

The creek immediately to the east of Riverdale College (forked creek on the map) was Hastings Creek flowing through the Nathaniel Hastings farm. The other creek on the map was Leslie Creek and it began in springs just south of Danforth Avenue. Both creeks entered Ashbridge’s Bay where the Loblaws parking lot is at Eastern Avenue and Leslie Street.

Rembler Paul (1832-1916) was George Leslie’s brother-in-law, married to Elizabeth Davis (1831-1914). Rembler Paul was an English veterinarian, horse dealer and real estate agent. Gerrard Street East was originally called “Rembler’s Way” or “Rambler’s Way” after Rembler Paul. 

Slide 5b

Elizabeth Davis

George Leslie’s first wife, Caroline Davis (1820-1852), and her sister were the daughters of one of Toronto’s first police officers. (Both loved animals and are buried in a tomb on a mountain top in British Columbia along with the family cat.) 

for more about Rembler Paul and Elizabeth Davis:

Slide 5a
Rembler Paul

Leslieville showing Gerrard Street East (Late Ramblers Rd.) at top of map. Detail from Goads Atlas 1890 Plate 47

Property owners from the first settlers to the Toronto Board of Education.

Source: Book 489 Block 5 Lot 11 Concession 1

The first settlers on the site of Riverdale Collegiate — from Benjamin Mosely to James M Strachan (real estate agent)

From 1854 to 1890

1898 to the Board of Education, purchased for Riverdale High School

40 of Book 489 Block 5 Lot 11 Concession 1
Samuel Gerrard (1767-1857) was a fur trader, business man, financier and the second president of the Bank of Montreal. Gerrard Street was named for him.


For more about Samuel Gerrard go to:

Jones Avenue was first called Clifford Street after a well-known local family. It was renamed after John Jones (1843-1918) who was born in Glamorganshire, Wales, and became a sailor, coming to Canada in 1850. While he eventually became a city alderman, and Works Commissioner, he was a jack-of-all-trades: market gardener, brickmaker, real estate developer, community activist and He was lodge master of Leslieville’s L.O.L. No. 215 for seven years. L.O.L. means “Loyal Orange Lodge”.


For more about John Jones see

Irish Catholic naavies built the Grand Trunk Railway between Montreal and Toronto. It reached the east bank of the Don River in 1856. Many came during and after the Potato Famine of late 1840’s and settled in Leslieville where they worked as manual labourers or market gardens. Some became butchers.

Unable to get tavern licenses because the granting of license was effectively controlled by the anti-Catholic Orange Lodge, lack of a license did not stop many from serving (or making) liquor. Leslieville’s Irish Catholic created rough drinking places in barns or shacks, called shebeens. This barn on Jones Avenue photographed in 1928 would have been the kind of place the Duffys, notorious Leslieville bootleggers hosted shebeens.

For more about the Irish naavies who built the Grand Trunk Railway where GO Trains run today:

Four of these photographs are from the Globe, September 18, 1909  and show the area as it developed in the latter half of the 19th century. The three main industries were market gardening and small farms (hay stacks upper left), livestock (man driving cow lower left), and brick making, as well as sand and gravel extraction lower right). That is why I named my history of the area: Leslieville: Pigs, Flowers and Bricks. Sheep are grazing at the northeast corner of Greenwood and Gerrard in the photo top right!

To read or download free of charge my book, Leslieville: Pigs, Flowers and Bricks go to:

However, the gentleman with the beard in the lower middle photo was an unusual and intriguing member of Leslieville’s rural industrial economy.

Joseph Simpson (c. 1825-1898), a Jewish American immigrant, began a successful woolen mill in Leslieville, buying up large expanses of land to graze sheep. He was originally from South Carolina and had joined the 1849 gold rush to California where he made his fortune not digging gold, but selling underwear to the miners. 

Unwilling to fight in the Civil War, he came north to Leslieville and began a knitting mill at Coxwell and Queen. In 1872 he moved downtown and built a new knitting mill, now Berkeley Castle, at Berkeley and Front Streets, to produce high quality woolen underwear.

He grazed his sheep under the trees in Leslieville’s orchards including those where Riverdale Collegiate is today. Sheep acted as effective lawn mowers, cutting the grass short, fertilizing the soil, and removing the undergrowth that housed and sheltered the pests that attack apples. His fine merino sheep grew fat and happy while the apples grew large and shiny and orchard owners and wool merchant made money.

Joseph Simpson was one of the founders of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association.

Mr. Joseph Simpson was always an active member of the Jewish community, especially in its younger days, and throughout his life subscribed liberally to all Jewish charities. He also took a keen interest in civic and municipal affairs & never hesitated to combat any measures which he believed not thoroughly intended for the welfare and prosperity of the city of his adoption. He was often pressed by his numerous friends to enter public life, but he never consented. He was a very prominent and active member of the National Club, R.C.Y.C. shareholder, and member of the Athletic Club, and at the time of his death was one of the oldest members of the Board of Trade.”

“The Outstanding Personalities of Toronto Jewry During the 19th Century” From The Jewish Times, 1912 (as reprinted in The Jewish Standard, 1934) by S. J. Birnbaum

Sheep, small flock on hillside, November 8, 1926.

Ad, Apples, Apples, Apples from the Toronto World, October 12, 1885. An apple storage shed, 1908. A listing of some of the many varieties of apples available in the 19th century (from Toronto Nurseries catalogue)

A nineteenth century illustration of a now rare variety of apple, “Seek No Further”. US Dept of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library A man picking apples, Ontario.

The 1840’s were a golden age of greenhouses. For the first time, technology was available to make large sheets of plate glass and iron frames. Steam engines heated these “crystal palace”. The greenhouses and their crops amazed people. For the first time, fruits and vegetables became available and affordable for the middle classes year round.

In 1851 the great glass structure, the Crystal Palace, designed by Joseph Paxton as the centerpiece of the first Great Exhibition, was opened. Paxton was knighted for his efforts. This is Toronto’s very own Crystal Palace (Crystal Palace, 1871. Exhibition Place & CNE Archives).

Market gardeners near to Jones and Gerrard, 1890 City of Toronto Directory. For more about Timothy Lynch (highlighted in orange) read on!

To be continued…

Who Do We Think We Are? Re-examining Racism Through Imagery



4Plate 11Plate 12

Plate 13

Britain drew on the Empire to fight in the trenches. Men poured in by the hundreds of thousands from what are now the countries of India and Pakistan… thought they were not welcome as immigrants in Britain or the Dominions of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Plate 14

internet canadiansoldiersikhsdot ca/gallery.

Muslim Tommies

Muslim Tommies



William Peyton Hubbard, Canada’s first black politician



The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review, 1915


Major Taylor (1878-1932) “Born November 26, 1878, in Indianapolis, Indiana, cyclist Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor began racing professionally when he was 18 years old. By 1900, Taylor held several major world records and competed in events around the globe. After 14 years of grueling competition and fending off intense racism, he retired at age 32. He died penniless in Chicago on June 21, 1932.”

Bengough19280904GL Canadian Babyhood1retouchedjesus


Everywoman’s World, April, 1917



Little Black Sambo, The Globe and Mail, Feb. 3, 1956


William Ruffin Abbott, The Globe, January 11, 1848