City Engineers Map 1892 Showing the boundaries of the City of Toronto as “City Limit” in red. The lot lines still show, but streets hadn’t been built on them yet. The lot lines were the farm boundaries and had muddy lanes the farmers used to access their fields. Coxwell Avenue is a rough dirt road.
In the 1896 map, E.H. Duggan, a real estate developer, now owns the farms between Woodfield Road at the east of the Ashbridge Estate and Coxwell Avenue. He has subdivided the area directly west of Coxwell Avenue that includes Rhodes and Craven, holding it for future development.
Erie Terrace is not yet built on. Houses show on the map as little black rectangles. Rhodes Avenue is very faintly marked between Gerrard and the railway tracks. Upper Gerrard exists as does lower Gerrard but they are both not much more that rutted dirt trails. If you look carefully at the very bottom of the map at the lower right you can see an estate marked “E. Simpson”. A knitting mill was built there in the 1860s by one of the most enterprising and important business men in the area, Joseph Simpson (1824-1898). I will write a separate story about this intriguing Jewish businessman from Charleston, South Carolina who panned for gold in the 1848 California Gold Rush and came to Canada as a “draft dodger” because he did not want to fight for the Confederacy. Ernest Simpson, the E. Simpson on the map, was his son.
In the 1893 map Reid Avenue (now Rhodes Avenue) has been laid out north of the track. The subdivision has been registered (the numbers in the oval). South of the tracks no road has been opened up yet Erie Terrace (Craven Road) is now a registered subdivision (see the number) and has been divided up into tiny lots on its side. Coxwell Avenue has also been subdivided all along its west side to Danforth Avenue. Duggan intentionally developed Erie Terrace as a “shacktown” with tiny houses on tiny lots and no infrastructure. At the same time, he held back the farm to the west, intending it to be developed later for more lucrative lots with more substantial houses. That is why the west side of Erie Terrace (Craven Road) was not built on.
In this 1903 map, Erie Terrace is not yet built on. Houses show on the map as little black rectangles. Rhodes Avenue is very faintly marked between Gerrard and the railway tracks. Upper Gerrard exists as does lower Gerrard but they are both not much more that rutted dirt trails. If you look carefully at the very bottom of the map at the lower right you can see an estate marked “E. Simpson”. A knitting mill was built there in the 1860’s by one of the most enterprising and important business men in the area, Joseph Simpson (1824-1898). I will write a separate story about this intriguing Jewish businessman from Charleston, South Carolina who panned for gold in the 1848 California Gold Rush and came to Canada as a “draft dodger” because he did not want to fight for the Confederacy. Ernest Simpson, the E. Simpson on the map, was his son. Joseph Simpson grazed his own sheep where Gerrard Square is today. Only the best wool was good enough for his Toronto Knitting Mills.
Duggan has developed Ashdale Avenue as a slightly more upscale working class street than Erie Terrace (Craven Road). The backyards of the houses on Ashdale extend to Erie Terrace. There are no houses, therefore, on the west of Erie Terrace — just a few sheds. The houses are little rectangular squares. The ones in yellow (all of them) are made of wood or are roughcast (stucco and wood). Erie Terrace is on the right. There are, of course, shacks scattered all over “Shacktown” but they were not considered even houses by the those who drew up this map for fire insurance purposes. So they are not marked. Morley Avenue is Woodfield Road. Applegrove became part of Dundas Street in the 1950’s.
The subdivision and lot numbers are clear on this 1910 map, making it easier to research the history of individual houses. Robin Burgoyne of Caerwent House Stories is that expert on this.
Thanks to Toronto historian Kathy Grant, I’m aware of the problem with the plaque wording.
Here’s the back story. We did our best three years ago in terms of due diligence, believing our sources were valid and checking with various authorities. However, this was before the word was out there on the Net that this was very likely not Harriet Tubman’s words even though a scholar discovered that the quote didn’t begin to appear until 2007. http://www.harriettubmanbiography.com/harriet-tubman-myths-and-facts.html
Here was one of our original sources for the quote:
Barbara Lee, Renegade for Peace and Justice: Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks for Me, 2008 see p. 125
Our own [belated] search for original 19th century sources came up with nothing, no evidence that Harriet Tubman said this or anything like this. However, there is an eerie echoe from another leading Black American:
How easy, then, by emphasis and omission to make children believe that every great soul the world ever saw was a white man’s soul; that every great thought the world ever knew was a white man’s thought; that every great deed the world ever did was a white man’s deed; that every great dream the world ever sang was a white man’s dream. — W.E.B. Dubois, W.E.B. Dubois, Darkwater: voices from within the veil, 1920, p. 2
The sentiments in the quote purportedly from Harriet Tubman are still true though the quotes we have from her are generally pithy and too the point.
But the real value of the plaque is not that quote but the recognition of the people and families who came here and made their homes here after escaping slavery. Their lives were hard, marked by tragedy all too often.
I can personally vouch for the research on that and am more than happy to share the sources with anyone who is interested. If it brings a little more light to this history through this particular crack, then good.
“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven”.
Harriet Tubman, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman by Sarah Hopkins Bradford, 1869
PS We should say up front that the quote is “attributed to Harriet Tubman”.
We hope you will be able to join us for at 11:30 a.m. on November 19, 2019, at The Logan Residences, 899 Queen Street East. The Leslieville Historical Society and The Daniels Corporation will unveil a plaque recognizing the Underground Railroad and the families who made their way to freedom, forming a black community here from the early 19th century.
Here is the wording of the plaque:
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always
remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach
for the stars to change the world.” -Harriet Tubman (1822-1913)
Many families came to Toronto in the1800s to
escape slavery, violence and oppression in the American South. They
courageously followed the dangerous path to freedom via the Underground Railroad
and some settled here, near the corner of Queen Street East and Logan Avenue.
While a few returned south after the Civil War (1861-1865), many remained,
helping to forge the identity of Leslieville today.
This plaque commemorates these families: the
Barrys, Cheneys, Dockertys,Harmons, Johnsons, Lewises, Sewells, Whitneys,
Wilrouses, Winders, Woodforksand others who came here from Kentucky, Maryland,
Virginia and other States.
BY THE LESLIEVILLE HISTORICAL SOCIETYWITH THE
DANIELS CORPORATION AND THEIR PARTNER STANLEY GARDEN
In 1793 Upper Canada passed law banning the import of slaves (first such law in British Empire (9 July). The Abolition Act decreed slave children born in Upper Canada from this day forward are to be freed when they are 25. In the 1840s and 1850s a series of American court decisions and laws tightened slavery’s grip and made escape even more dangerous. Increasingly, refugees from slavery headed to Canada, many using the secret network known as The Underground Railroad, but most travelling alone or in small family groups with no help from anyone, using the Northern Star to guide their way.
By the mid-1860s 60 to 75 black people lived here,
out of a population of Leslieville’s population of about 350. We honor their
contributions to our community where their descendants still live and work
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.
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
8 Austin Avenue
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 1896 George Wellings ran for Alderman for the first time and was beaten badly by brick manufacturer John Russell.
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:
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.
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.
Katherine “Kate” Wellings married Albert Edward Ward in Toronto, Ontario, on November 13, 1911, when she was 24 years old.
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.
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 thislarge 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
The Agricultural Wealth of York County viewed From the Saddle of the Bicycle.
It is questionable if one out of every ten of those in this city who possess bicycles really appreciates a quarter of the opportunities for enjoyment which it places within his reach, and it is certain if he does that he makes little attempt to improve them.
With the average rider the question of largest moment seems to be that of covering the greatest amount of space in the least possible time, and in the runs into the country which he takes once or twice a week the terminal point of his trip, and the desire to reach it as soon as possible, usually possesses his mind to the exclusion almost of everything else. He is carelessly conscious, perhaps, of a pretty country through which he may be passing, but he is so indifferent to such matters that no considerations of this kind would tempt him to deviate from the straight road leading to his goal.
Toronto Bicycle Association, 1892
Toronto Bicycle Association, 1892
Toronto Bicycle Association, 1892
Toronto Bicycle Association, 1892
There are many, too, who are not constantly attempting to make or break a record, and who in their leisurely journeys succeed in obtaining all the benefit and delight which a healthy exercise and charming surroundings can give them, but who always keep to the same beaten track over which they repeatedly pass, oblivious to the fact that there is a wealth of scenic beauty lying all about them if they would only rouse themselves to seek it out.
There are indeed few cities which contain in their outskirts so many delightful spots as does Toronto.
To the north, the west and the east are successions of wooded ravines, and, running along the hilltops above them shaded and, in the main, well-made roads, from which may be obtained in hundreds of places outlooks over lake and stream and meadow too beautiful for the brush of any painter adequately to portray.
All the enjoyment, whether real or fancied, which can be gathered from contact with nature and from communion with her in the secret recesses of her home, are obtainable by the people of Toronto if they would but care to know what they possess. To the bicycle rider, especially during the long summer days, these charming places should be as familiar almost as the street on which he lives. A number of the points will be indicated in other articles, and in the meantime, several of the favorite runs on the wheel will be spoken of.
A POPULAR TRIP.
Among the popular trips from the city is that along the Kingston road to Whitby, to which place and back again a fair rider can “wheel” without fatigue in one day.
The road throughout almost is good; here and there occasionally heavy, and in some places cut up by the traffic which passes over it, but in general such as no bicyclist can reasonably complain of.
The most difficult part of it, by reason of the hills which have to be climbed, is that from the Woodbine to Highland Creek, but this, too, is the prettiest portion, containing many charming bits of scenery, and having in view the broad, blue stretch of the lake to the right.
Leaving the Woodbine, what is, perhaps, the least agreeable piece of the journey is immediately met with.
This is the half mile hill at Norway, which is certainly full of ruts at the present time and anything but pleasant wheeling especially to experienced riders. A good shower of rain, however, remedies this, and also lays the heavy dust; and when in this condition no better place could be found for practice in hill-climbing.
To the left of this hill, along which the electric road to Victoria Park runs, the deep and thickly-wooded ravine presents as charming a bit of scenery as could well be wished for, but at this point the rider is usually too much occupied to give it the attention it deserves.
At Norway the climb and the ravine both terminate, and an excellent run is offered to a considerable distance beyond the Halfway House, almost eight miles from the city.
On the short stretch from Norway to this point the road is gradually rising till the rider can command a view of the lake from the elevation of Scarboro’ Heights and especially on a fresh summer morning, before the heat of the day brings fatigue with it, the sight presented is worth a hundred-fold the labor of the run. The strong, fresh breeze from the water, carrying with it the odor of the fir trees over which it blows from the shoe; the awakening voices of the new day and the half-solitude of the country make up a condition of things the pure delight of which those who have never experienced it are unable to imagine.
At the Halfway House the rider usually halts for refreshment, and, perhaps, for breakfast or dinner. Many there are, too, who in the morning or evening run out here for the short trip, and when this is the case it is not unusual for them to seek the lake shore and enjoy a dip in the water. At this point, however, the land is some hundreds of feet above the level of the water, and the descent to the shore is somewhat of a task. From the Halfway House to Highland Creek numerous hills are met with, and one of them especially taxes the strength of the riders to surmount, but once over this part of the road the run to Whitby is easy and rapid.
The return trip is especially pleasant by reason of the fact that a great portion of it is down grade.
Instead of gong on to Whitby from the Halfway House, the rider, if he chooses, can take the side line across to the Don and Danforth road, and run by it to Woburn. This road is on the whole superior to the Kingston road, being built of excellent gravel, and not being cut up so much as the other, over which a far greater amount of travel continually goes. If the bicyclist should take this road, however, he would do better by running up Broadview avenue where he meets it, take the sidewalk as far as it goes, and soon on through Little York, than by way of Norway, as he would by doing so avoid the heavy climb at the half-mile hill. From Little York half way to Scarboro-station a long ridge of gravel on the centre of the roadway, placed there for purposes of repair, renders this part not quite as good as the rest of the way, but with reasonable care a path on either side can be picked out by the rider.
These two roads, however – the Kingston and the Don and Danforth – are well known and continually travelled by bicyclists.
LITTLE YORK TO WEXFORD
A trip that offers many attractions and can be accomplished in a few hours is from Little York straight north to the pleasant hamlet of Wexford, about three and a half miles’ run, and, after crossing the bridge over the C.P.R., west along the side line to Millen’s Hollow, nestling beneath the hills which enclose the east branch of the Don, up the opposite bank, and along for some miles further to the west fork of the Don, and on to the second concession, which is a mile and a quarter from and runs parallel with Yonge street; due south along the second concession to Moore Park road, and by way of Reservoir Park to Yonge street.
This run is principally over clay roads, and there is no more accommodation, by the way, than is afforded by forest shade and the pure water from the farm house pumps, but the trip is only a matter of from fifteen to eighteen miles and can be covered leisurely in two hours.
The roads are excellent during dry weather, except at the passages of the river, where the rider will find it to his advantage to dismount, at least in descending into the valleys, as the highway at these spots is steep, circuitous and rocky. After rain the road will be found less easy and pleasant to run on, as the farmers’ waggons are apt to cut it up while the clay is soft. The whole road, however, is full of interest to a visitor from the city, and the crossings at the river are picturesque in the extreme.
The run form Little York to Wexford gives one a fairly good idea of the excellence and wealth of the County of York as an agricultural section. The houses of the farmers are substantial brick structures, erected with some attention to style and possessing pleasant and tasteful surroundings. The growing or ripening crops evince the richness of the soil, and the sleek and contented stock show the care which they receive at the hands of their owners. The same condition of things, indeed, prevails all along the route, broken only by the wide and untillable valley of the river.
At the point at which the Don is reached jut about Millen’s Hollow the river makes almost a half circle, opening up a wide stretch of valley, along which between the branches of the trees one catches glimpses of the running water. It is indeed a pleasant place, seated in the shade, from which to enjoy the cool breeze and pretty picture, after a sharp run.
IN MILLEN’S HOLLOW.
In the hollow beneath is Millen’s factory, in which blankets and other woollen goods are made, and where the families who live there rejoice in coolness in summer and shelter from the blasts of winter. The road up the opposite bank can be made in the saddle by a good rider, but the average man will find more comfort and quite as much satisfaction in walking. The road to the other fork of the Don is somewhat sandy in places, but otherwise good.
Once across the other valley and on to the second concession there is a fine road and a beautiful run to the turn to Moore Park.
From the highway the rider catches a magnificent view of the southeastern portion of the city over the ravines running through Rosedale, and the eye travels with pleasure over house and garden and church steeple and away across the lake, dimly descrying the line of coast on the other side.
The sidewalk, of generous size and in good repair, which was laid down along Moore Park road during boom days, makes good way for the rider, and he takes it without hesitation, knowing that in that spot he is little apt to meet any pedestrians. A stop at Reservoir Park for a cup of water, a short run down Yonge street, and a two-hours’ pleasant ride is brought to a conclusion.