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New Toronto – Early History

May 20, 2020 (0) comment

The square mile that eventually became New Toronto, was originally part of the “Indian Hunting Grounds” inhabited by the Mississauga Indians. In 1787, the area was included in “The Toronto Purchase”, a deal that Lord Dorchester arranged for the British Crown; a purchase of a quarter million acres from the Mississaugas, stretching 14 miles along the shores of Lake Ontario, from present day Scarborough to Etobicoke and traveling 30 miles inland. The price? 1700 pounds sterling and some goods.

There is a historical plaque mounted on a cairn in Marie Curtis Park at the mouth of the Etobicoke River commemorating the Toronto Purchase. The plaque reads:

In August 1788, Alexander Aitkin commenced the survey of the western boundary of the lands purchased from the Mississauga Indians near here, at the mouth of Etobicoke Creek. Etobicoke Historical Board, 1988″

The Ojibways described the area between the Etobicoke and Humber Rivers as “Wah-Do-Be-Kaug” which means, “Where the black alders grow”. It was once spelled “Ato-Be-Coake” by the first Provincial Land Surveyor, Augustus Jones, and then eventually became Etobicoke.

In 1792, John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, designated nineteen counties in Upper Canada, one of which was York County. Etobicoke Township was part of York County.

Most of the early settlers of Etobicoke were part of the Queen’s Rangers. Simcoe chose this area to place the Rangers in order to protect the Capital of Upper Canada. In fact, in 1795, the Honourable Samuel Bois Smith was given a grant of 1530 acres, extending from what is now Kipling to Etobicoke creek, to as far north as what is now Bloor Street. Smith was a major in command of the Queen’s Rangers at Fort York. Smith’s house survived in Long Branch until 1955, and of course his name lives on today holding title to Colonel Samuel Smith Park. (Sam Smith by Robert A. Given)

After the war of 1812, discharged soldiers were given grants of lands in the area. Etobicoke was attractive to land owners, as the taxes were relatively low. The first land patent was given to a Sergeant Patrick Mealey, and his wife, Honor, on March 18, 1797, a lot west of today’s Royal York Road at the lake. My understanding is that the lots were about 200 acres each, so that would have pretty much covered the east end of today’s New Toronto. (Beginnings by Robert A. Given)

In 1799, a patent was given to Private Joseph Hunt. Hunt later became a sergeant with the 49th regiment of Foot, and was killed in action at the current site of Battlefield Park, Stoney Creek, on June 6th, 1813. (Historical Plaques of Hamilton-Wentworth). Hunt’s daughter, Frances E., married John Murchison (History of Toronto and County of York, Ontario).  Their son, Richard Murchison, owned land in the New Toronto area, according to the 1878 County of York map shown below. (It makes me wonder if Murchison’s land was part of Hunt’s original patented lot given the relationship).

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