Historicist: The People’s Champion
- Created by: https://torontoist.com/
- By-Line: Kevin Plummer
- Date: 09-07-2013
- Provenance: digitized & reformatted by Ted English
New Light on Toronto’s Oldest Cold Case – J.P. Radelmüller
By Eamonn O’Keeffe
The murder of John Paul Radelmüller is one of Toronto’s oldest mysteries and the city’s most enduring ghost story. His restless apparition supposedly haunts the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on the Toronto Islands, seeking justice for a long-ago crime.
Most who grew up in Toronto can recall the tale of the first lighthouse keeper’s demise:
The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
On the evening of 2 January 1815, soldiers from Fort York paid Radelmüller a visit for his bootlegged beer, sold to supplement his modest income. A dispute broke out, quickly escalated, and Radelmüller was murdered. The drunken soldiers, anxious to hide their crime, dismembered the corpse and concealed his remains near the lighthouse.
A dramatic story, but is it true? Newspaper publisher and historian John Ross Robertson was the first to record the legend nearly a century later in Landmarks of Toronto, as recounted to him by long-time lighthouse keeper George Durnan. But Robertson himself harboured doubts and suspected the whole yarn was a ‘fairy tale’. Though Durnan claimed to have discovered fragments of a coffin and part of a jawbone near the lighthouse in 1893, it was impossible to prove a link with his unfortunate predecessor. Much ink has been spilled on the case since, serving more to embellish this urban myth than to ascertain its veracity. This article aims to establish the story of Radelmüller’s demise as history, not hearsay. His ghost may or may not haunt the 13th step of the lighthouse stairs, but the fundamental details of the legend are fact, not fable.
Born in Anspach in modern-day Bavaria circa 1763, John Paul Radelmüller had brown hair, blue eyes, and stood 5’10”. He immigrated to England as a young man, serving for 16 years as Chamber Hussar to George III’s brother, Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester. After a brief return to Anspach, Radelmüller rejoined the Royal Household as a porter of Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and future father of Queen Victoria, accompanying him to Halifax in 1799. He later served as a steward for Sir John Wentworth, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia. But wishing to ‘redire [sic] a little before I die’, the aging Radelmüller quit and sought a land grant in Upper Canada, arriving at York on New Year’s Day 1804. J. P. Radelmüller’s Signature (1805)
Yet events did not go according to plan and his requests for Crown Reserve land in Markham amongst fellow German homesteaders were denied. Despite this setback, Radelmüller established a school to teach English to the children of these settlers and also served as an interpreter for the German community in Upper Canada. While based in Markham, he penned the German translation of an 1806 government-sponsored agricultural tract, Remarks on the culture and preparation of Hemp in Canada (1806). This pamphlet was designed to encourage farmers cultivate to cultivate hemp for export to Britain, where it was used to make rope for the Royal Navy. Radelmüller was appointed as the first keeper of the lighthouse on Gibraltar Point on 24 July 1809. John Paul Radelmüller married a young German woman named Magdalene Burkholder in 1810 and had one daughter, Arabella. He served at the lighthouse throughout the War of 1812, keeping watch for approaching vessels and maintaining the sperm whale oil lamp. Far from the unscrupulous bootlegger of myth, this former servant of royalty was well-regarded for his ‘inoffensive and benevolent character’. But whatever his personality, Radelmüller’s life came to a tragic end on the evening of 2 January 1815.
York Gazette Report 14 January 1815
Twelve days later, the weekly York Gazette brought news of the ‘horrid crime’, noting that the circumstances afforded ‘every moral proof’ of Radelmüller’s ‘most barbarous and inhuman’ murder. The notice added: ‘The parties last with him are the supposed perpetrators, and are imprisoned.’ But who were the alleged killers? According to court minute books, John ‘Blowman’ and John Henry were tried for murder on 31 March, with Chief Justice Thomas Scott presiding. Regimental pay lists prove that the accused were indeed soldiers: John Blueman and John Henry, both of the Glengarry Light Infantry, a unit that saw heavy action during the War of 1812. These men were not however the redcoats of myth: their regiment wore green uniforms modeled on those of the celebrated 95th Rifles.
Glengarry Light Infantry Private, 1812-16. (G.A. Embleton, Parks Canada)
Irish-born Blueman joined the Glengarries first, enlisting for three years on 9 March 1812. He served in the war’s bitter Niagara campaign, and probably fought at the Battle of Fort George in May 1813. Henry by contrast was a comparatively new recruit who probably never saw action. He was attested on 6 July 1814 at Montreal for three years’ service. A sailor born in Antrim, Ireland, Henry was 18 years old at enlistment. He had blue eyes, brown hair, a fair complexion and stood 5’4” in height. At the time of the alleged murder, Blueman and Henry may have been posted at the lonely blockhouse on Gibraltar Point, which guarded entry to York’s harbour. Robertson claimed that the small detachment garrisoned there often visited the keeper for drinks. The men stationed at this isolated post enjoyed much less supervision than their counterparts across the harbour at Fort York and were just over a mile’s walk along the sandbar from Radelmüller’s beer keg. In the dock on 31 March, both Blueman and Henry pled not guilty. The prosecution called seven witnesses, including David Thomson, a forefather of the billionaire Thomson media family and a mason who helped rebuild Fort York in 1815. Coroner Thomas Cooper also testified, filling in for his businessman father William, the official coroner for the Home District. At least three and probably four of the other Crown witnesses were privates of the Glengarry Light Infantry, presumably summoned to give evidence on the actions or whereabouts of Blueman and Henry on January 2nd. Unfortunately, history has not graced us with the proceedings of the trial, only the outcome: both men were acquitted of murder. Perhaps innocence was proven or mitigating circumstances established; there may simply have been insufficient evidence to secure a guilty verdict. On 15 April, the York Gazette announced: ‘No conviction of the supposed murderers of the late J.P. Raddelmuller.’ Irvine’s View of York, c. 1816, depicting the Lighthouse, Keeper’s Cottage (far left) and the Gibraltar Point Blockhouse in the middle distance (Art Gallery of Ontario, ID 2946)
Many of the details surrounding the keeper’s demise will forever be left to the imagination. The whereabouts of Magdalene and Arabella on the evening of 2 January, for example, remain unknown, although his widow did not testify at trial.
The death of a foreign-born lighthouse keeper across the harbour apparently merited scant attention from the people of York. Little correspondence has been found discussing the case; even the usually comprehensive diarist Ely Playter fails to mention the murder. Though writing almost a century later, Robertson provides the only account of the night’s events. According to Durnan family oral tradition, he wrote, the keeper was beaten to death for refusing to give the inebriated soldiers another round of drinks. Another version – that Radelmüller was murdered when the soldiers discovered he had cheated them by watering down their whiskey – has recently become popular, but is a modern elaboration on the traditional tale without any documentary basis.
Yet in the absence of further contemporary evidence, the central question of precisely how Radelmüller met his end can never be answered with certainty. That said, the corroboration of other facets of Robertson’s account by surviving evidence certainly bodes well for the overall reliability of the tale related to him by Durnan.
Radelmüller’s Cottage, c. 1908 (Toronto Public Library, Baillie Room, No. B 13-79)
Neither contemporary documents nor Robertson’s account discuss the precise location of the murder. Spine-chilling stories of blood oozing from the 13th step notwithstanding, Radelmüller would surely have hosted the soldiers in his keeper’s cottage, not in the lighthouse’s cramped staircase. Constructed alongside the lighthouse in 1809, this cozy cabin – a more likely setting for the night’s events – stood until about 1950.
The account in Landmarks of Toronto is the sole source for the common belief that the lighthouse keeper doubled as a bootlegger. Yet Robertson’s claim that Radelmüller’s beer was bought from a ‘brewery near Lewiston, N. Y.’ and smuggled across the lake to York seems far-fetched in light of the ongoing War of 1812, as patrolling warships would have made such long-distance rum-running hazardous in the extreme. If he was indeed a bootlegger, it is more plausible to suggest that the keeper, taking advantage of his isolation at the lighthouse, operated his own liquor still, supplementing his income by selling beer and spirits to the garrison of the Gibraltar Point Blockhouse.
But while investigation has supported much of the traditional legend, rumours of the gruesome fate of Radelmüller’s corpse appear completely unfounded. While a missing body makes for a better ghost story, neither Robertson nor any period sources describe the killers mutilating and concealing the keeper’s remains or even claim that Radelmüller disappeared at all. In fact, contemporary reports laconically note his ‘unfortunate death’ without displaying any of the uncertainty that would inevitably have arisen in the absence of a body. A close reading of Robertson’s account provides the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, clearly implying that Durnan understood Radelmüller’s corpse to have been respectfully buried, not hacked to pieces and scattered. The discovery of coffin fragments found alongside a jawbone in 1893, if indeed linked to Radelmüller, would support such a conclusion, but does not tally with a hasty burial by fugitive killers. Contrary to oft-repeated claims that the keeper was ‘never seen again’, all evidence suggests that Radelmüller’s body did not vanish in the first place, but was found, examined by the coroner and laid to rest near the lighthouse.
Blueman and Henry had escaped the death penalty but neither remained in the army for long. His term of enlistment complete, Blueman was discharged on 28 April 1815 while Henry deserted from the Glengarry Light Infantry on 30 June. Like many former soldiers, Blueman received a location ticket in 1816 for 100 acres in Sophiasburgh, Prince Edward County as a reward for his service. Although Blueman never settled there permanently, he later had second thoughts on homesteading. Blueman’s 1830 petition for another land grant was approved though no lot was apparently ever assigned to him. In 1816, John Paul Radelmüller’s widow and brother-in-law, Michael Burkholder, secured title for 200 acres in Reach Township in trust for Arabella in posthumous fulfillment of her father’s 1805 land petition. Just four or five years old at her father’s murder, Arabella grew up, married, and had seven children before her own death in 1844, aged 34. The story of John Paul Radelmüller’s unfortunate demise has become one of Toronto’s most cherished myths. The tale has no doubt been ‘garnished in the telling’, as Robertson warned, but nonetheless remains firmly rooted in fact. We may never know precisely how Radelmüller gave up the ghost on 2 January 1815, nor whether that ghost still haunts the Gibraltar Point lighthouse. But perhaps it does – if not in search of its dismembered corpse then at least in pursuit of its pilfered jawbone!
Interested in learning more?
Read John Ross Robertson’s account from Landmarks of Toronto, peruse one of Radelmüller’s petitions or check out selected primary sources related to the murder.
This article was nominated for the 2016 Heritage Toronto Awards
Written and researched by Eamonn O’Keeffe
The author is grateful to Steve Otto, Ron W. Shaw, Ruth Burkholder, Chris McKay and Winston Johnston for their advice and assistance.
Want to get in touch? Click here to contact the author.
New Light on Toronto’s Oldest Cold Case first appeared in the December 2015 issue of The Fife and Drum, published by the Friends of Fort York.
Note: John Paul Radelmüller’s name is spelled several different ways in both contemporary documents and secondary sources. John Ross Robertson termed him ‘Muller’ while the York Gazette called him ‘J.P. Rademuller’ and ‘J.P. Raddelmuller’. Other variants include Radan Muller, Radelmuller, Radenmuller, Rattelmullar or Radelmiller. However, as proven by his surviving signatures, the man signed his own name as J.P. Radelmüller.
 John Ross Robertson, Landmarks of Toronto, Fifth Series (Toronto: 1908), pp. 378-85.
 Ibid, p. 383.
 Phyllis H. White, Oaths of Allegiance sworn before William Willcocks, J.P. 1800-1806 and Robert Baldwin, 1800-1812, (Toronto: 1993), p. 14. See also manuscript Oaths of Allegiance, No. 82, John Paul Rattelmullar, sworn 14 May 1805, Toronto Reference Library Special Collections.
 1 January 1808, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 7, p. 2789. The Royal Archives at Windsor Castle were contacted in October 2015 in an effort to confirm Radelmüller’s royal service. Unfortunately, the archivists were unable to offer assistance as they held few records on the households of the Duke of Gloucester or the Duke of Kent for this period.
 1 January 1808, LAC, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 7, p. 2789-90.
 Ibid, p. 2791.
 Ibid, p. 2793 and 4 August 1804, LAC, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 3, pp. 1209-1212.
 For his date of appointment, see 7 August 1809, LAC, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 10, p. 4152. Regarding Remarks on the culture and preparation of Hemp in Canada, Radelmüller spent eight days in York assisting the printer and correcting the work; he was paid £4 6s for his services. See J. Dilevko, “Printing for New Communities in German and Gaelic” in P.L. Fleming, G. Gallichan and Y. Lamonde, History of the Book in Canada, Volume 1: Beginnings to 1840 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), p.290 and n.77, p.449.
 They were married on 20 March 1810. See Marriage Records of St James’ Church (now Cathedral), York. This was not Radelmüller’s first marriage: he wed Charlotte Horatia Sharp on 31 May 1792 at the church of St George’s, Hanover Square in London whilst still serving the Duke of Gloucester. See The Register Book of Marriages Belonging to the Parish of St. George, Hanover Square, in the County of Middlesex, Vol. 2, 1788-1809 (London: 1888), p. 78.
 The York Gazette, 14 January 1815, Toronto Reference Library microfilm.
 Archives of Ontario (AO), Court of Queen’s [sic–King’s] Bench assize minute books, Criminal Assize 1810-1819, RG 22-134-0-4, microfilm MS 530, reel 2, pp. 190, 192. The men were indicted by a grand jury on 29 March 1815 and tried by a petit jury on 31 March.
 The National Archives (UK) (TNA), WO 12/10800, Glengarry Light Infantry Pay Lists. The December-March 1815 entries for both Blueman and Henry note: ‘Detained by the Civil Power, York, Acquitted’.
 TNA, WO 25/579, Glengarry Light Infantry Description Book, p. 5, and 9 February 1830, LAC, Upper Canada Land Petitions RG 1, L 3, vol. 51, p. 29.
 TNA, WO 164/556, Niagara Frontier 1813 Prize List, p. 127.
 TNA, WO 25/579, Glengarry Light Infantry Description Book, p. 81, and WO 25/2201, Glengarry Light Infantry Casualty Returns, No. 19, June-July 1815. The former source notes Henry as a labourer, while the latter records him as a sailor.
 Robertson, Landmarks of Toronto, Fifth Series (Toronto: 1908), p. 383.
 While the number of men posted at the blockhouse in early 1815 was not noted in the Glengarry Light Infantry’s monthly returns, the Canadian Regiment’s returns record that Serjeant Donald Fraser and twenty men garrisoned Gibraltar Point on 25 April 1815. See TNA, WO 17/298, Glengarry Light Infantry and Canadian Regiment of Fencible Infantry Monthly Returns, and WO 12/10526, Canadian Regiment Pay Lists, March-June 1815.
 AO, RG 22-134-0-4, microfilm MS 530, reel 2, p. 192. The witnesses from the Glengarry Light Infantry were Privates John Moore, Joshua Pitt, Thomas Plested and ‘Lewis Newor’ – presumably Private Louis Naddeau. See TNA, WO 12/10800, Glengarry Light Infantry Pay Lists and Winston Johnston, The Glengarry Light Infantry, 1812-1816 (Charlottetown: Benson, 2003).
 AO, RG 22-134-0-4, microfilm MS 530, reel 2, p. 192.
 The York Gazette, 15 April 1815, Toronto Reference Library microfilm.
 AO, Ely Playter fonds, F 556-0-0-10, microfilm reel MS 87.
 See 5 January 1815, LAC, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 22, p. 9229-30, and 6 January 1815, p. 9236.
 Robertson, Landmarks of Toronto, Fifth Series (Toronto: 1908), p. 383.
 TNA, WO 12/10800, Glengarry Light Infantry Pay Lists, June-September 1815, and WO 25/2201, Glengarry Light Infantry Casualty Returns, No. 19, June-July 1815.
 21 May 1816, LAC, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 28, p. 12894.
 9 February 1830, LAC, Upper Canada Land Petitions RG 1, L 3, vol. 51, p. 29, and AO, Registers of warrants for land grants – military, RG 1-160-2-1, MS 693 reel 139, p. 49.
 AO, Second Heir and Devisee Commission, RG 40-0259, MS 657 reel 17, Claim of Arabella Radelmüller, and 14 May 1805, LAC, Upper Canada Land Petitions, RG 1, L 3, vol. 425, p. 24-24c.
 Arabella Radelmüller married Adam Rupert and died on 19 September 1844. She is buried under the name Ann Miller with her husband in the Maple United Cemetery in Vaughan, Ontario.
 Robertson, Landmarks of Toronto, Fifth Series (Toronto: 1908), p. 383.
The National Archives (TNA) Kew, London (UK)
WO 12/10800, Glengarry Light Infantry Pay Lists, 1815.
WO 25/579, Glengarry Light Infantry Description Book, pp. 5, 81.
WO 25/2201, Glengarry Light Infantry Casualty Returns, No. 19, June-July 1815.
WO 164/556, Niagara Frontier 1813 Prize List, Glengarry Light Infantry, p. 127.
Library and Archives Canada (LAC)
4 August 1804, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 3, pp. 1209-12.
1 January 1808, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 7, pp. 2789-95.
7 August 1809, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 10, pp. 4152-54.
5 January 1815, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 22, pp. 9229-30.
6 January 1815, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 22, p. 9236.
21 May 1816, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5, A 1, vol. 28, p. 12894.
14 May 1805, Upper Canada Land Petitions, RG 1, L 3, vol. 425, pp. 24-24c.
9 February 1830, Upper Canada Land Petitions RG 1, L 3, vol. 51, p. 29.
Archives of Ontario (AO)
Court of Queen’s Bench assize minute books, Criminal Assize 1810-1819, RG 22-134-0-4, microfilm MS 530, reel 2, pp. 190, 192.
Ely Playter fonds, 1815 diary, F 556-0-0-10, microfilm MS 87.
Registers of warrants for land grants – military, RG 1-160-2-1, microfilm MS 693 reel 139, p. 49.
Second Heir and Devisee Commission, RG 40-0259, microform MS 657 reel 17, Claim of Arabella Radelmüller.
Toronto Reference Library (TRL)
Manuscript Oaths of Allegiance, Special Collections, No. 82, John Paul Rattelmullar, sworn 14 May 1805.
The York Gazette, microfilm, 14 January and 15 April 1815.
Winston Johnston, The Glengarry Light Infantry, 1812-1816 (Charlottetown: Benson, 2003).
John Ross Robertson, Landmarks of Toronto, Fifth Series (Toronto: 1908), p. 378-385.
Phyllis H. White, Oaths of Allegiance sworn before William Willcocks, J.P. 1800-1806 and Robert Baldwin, 1800-1812, (Toronto: 1993), p. 14.
John Paul Radelmuller; John Paul Radan Muller; John Paul Radenmuller; John Paul Radelmiller; J.P. Radelmuller
Document: The Toronto Purchase (Treaty 13), 1805 & Toronto Purchase Specific Claim: Arriving at an Agreement
By: Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation
Provenance: From http://mncfn.ca/torontopurchase/
Fearing invasion from the new neighbours to the south (which came in 1812), the Crown felt it vital to secure a military communication route from Lake Ontarion to Lake Huron that did not utilize the vulnerable routes through Niagara, Lake Erie and past Detroit. In 1785, Lieutenant Governor Hamilton sent out John Collins, the Deputy Surveyor General, to explore the passage from the Bay of Quinte, up the Trent River to Lake Simcoe and then on to Lake Huron and to determine what lands would need to be purchased from the Mississaugas and Chippewas. Collins apparently went ahead and made “Treaties” with both the Mississaugas, for a right of passage, and with the Chippewas for land from Lake Simcoe to Lake Huron. The passage proved unsatisfactory and the Crown looked for a better route.
In 1787, Sir John Johnson, head of the Indian Department, called a council of the Mississaugas at the Bay of Quinte to distribute “presents” (trade goods such as blankets, kettles and gunpowder) to reward the Mississaugas for their loyalty to the British during the American Revolution. In total £1,700 worth of trade goods was distributed to all of the various Mississauga groups at three different locations across southern Ontario. At that Council, Sir John Johnson discussed a number of potential land sales along the north shore of Lake Ontario and in particular they discussed a potential purchase of the “carrying place” from Toronto to Lake Simcoe.
Although these discussions were later characterized as the “sale” of Toronto, and the £1,700 worth of presents were later characterized wrongly as payment for the Toronto Purchase, in actual fact, nothing was sold at the Council in 1787. The deed to the land that was “found” many years later was blank, with the marks of three Chiefs from the Toronto area on separate scraps of paper wafered onto the blank deed.
Although these discussions were later characterized as the “sale” of Toronto, and the £1,700 worth of presents were later characterized wrongly as payment for the Toronto Purchase, in actual fact, nothing was sold at that Council in 1787. The deed to the land that was “found” many years later was blank, with the marks of three Chiefs from the Toronto area on separate scraps of paper wafered onto the blank deed. There was no description of the land “sold” in the deed.
The only record which remains of the lands discussed in 1787 is contained in a letter written by Sir John Johnson twelve years after the fact in 1798:
ten miles square at Toronto, and two to four Miles, I do not recollect which, on each side of the intended road or carrying place leading to Lake Le Clai (Lake Simcoe), then ten miles square at the Lake and the same square at the end of the water communication emptying into Lake Huron this deed was left with Mr. Collins, whose Clerk drew it up to have the courses inserted with survey of these Tracts were completed and was never returned to my office…
It is important to note that Sir Johnson considered the purchase to be “ten miles square.” He is not certain about the width of the strip up to Lake Simcoe, but he was clear that is was either two or four miles on either side of the Carrying Place.
It is also important to note that the boundaries of the land as discussed with Sir John Johnson and the Mississaugas did not include the Toronto Islands. “Ten miles square” at Toronto would not have captured what was then the Toronto peninsula (the Toronto Islands did not become islands until a great storm later in the 1800’s).
Click here to view the Toronto Purchase Specific Claim – Arriving at an Agreement bookletWikipedia:
Notes from a Damp Island
Document: TICA handout, Notes from a Damp Island
Date: May, 2017
Provenance: This note was sent in May 2017 to all Islanders related to the Summer flooding event
Digitized by: Ted English, from an original copy. Posted by Eric Zhelka
Robertson’s Landmarks of Toronto – A Collection of Historical Sketches – excerpt Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
Lighthouse Keepers’ Cottages:
The Island School 1888-1978
Authors: Eva Beyerle and Emily Coleman, former students.
Provenance: From the archives of Ted English
Digitized by: Ted English
Document: “A Brief History” of the Island Public School, a four page document, from an original copy
Centre Island Association. (1951) The Ferryboat Follies, 4th ed. Toronto Island, ON
I am happy to join with the members of the Board of Control and City Council in extending every good wish to “The Ferryboat Follies Foundation” for the success of its Annual Show in Centre Island Clubhouse, the proceeds of which are used for the community programme of recreation for youth and children on Centre Island.
This is a worthy, voluntary citizen effort which, while presenting most enjoyable entertainment, contributes, as well, to constructive, recreational activities on the Island.
The members of the Civic Administration pay tribute to the officials of the “Ferryboat Follies” for their sponsorship of this public-spirited endeavour and express the hope that it will meet with every success.
H. E. McCALLUM
Mayor, City of Toronto.
Leslie H. Saunders, J. Louis Shannon K.C., The Late John M. Innes, M.B.E., David A. Balfour
Board of Control and City Council.
A Brief History of the Buildings and Businesses on Manitou Road, Centre Island, Toronto
MAIN STREET, CENTRE ISLAND, TORONTO, 1900s
AVENUE OF THE ISLANDS, CENTRE ISLAND, TORONTO
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BUILDINGS AND BUSINESSES ON MANITOUROAD, CENTRE ISLAND, TORONTO
BY EDWARD GUTHRIE
The walkways in the photographs above, taken by visitors to Centre Island in 2013-14 are located on strips of land which at one time supported a very lively business community. That community on Manitou Road provided a living for numerous families and basic services and entertainment for people living on the Island as well as visitors to the Island. However, by 1959 the buildings on the street were demolished to make way for the development of parkland to meet the plans of the Metro Toronto Parks Department. Businesses on the ‘Main Drag’, Manitou Road, Centre Island
In her book “More Than an Island” Sally Gibson wrote “By the year 1905 Manitou Road, which ran from the bridge over Long Pond to Lakeshore Road, was already known as the ‘business street of Centre Island’ – complete with a new freight wharf near the bridge.”1 “Until 1884 there was no store—– then tall, thin white- aproned William Clark opened his ‘pio- neer store,’ which was a plain, unpainted shop raised on piles and fronted with a little veran- dah located on the east side of what became Manitou Road.”2
According to the Goad map of 1890 the store was located opposite what later became Iroquois Avenue.3 Around 1894-95 “few businesses lined Manitou Road. The Island Supply Company was using William Clark’s old place to sell high class groceries, fancy fruits, nuts, bread, and other necessities” as advertised in the Mail and Empire.”4
The City of Toronto Archives contain two interesting records dated 1909. On the 4th of Decem- ber a K. Hyslop applied for a building permit with “plans for the Temperance Hotel, located on Manitou Road on Centre Island, for Mr. Oliver Spanner.”5 General notes associated with the application state “This hotel looks like a very pleasant house with verandah from the front, but it extends a long way back to the rear. There are two stories with 49 rooms.”
1 Page 127, More Than An Island, Sally Gibson,1984 2 Page 101
3 Page 107
4 Page 119
5 City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 410, File 1485, Box 140927
The second 1909 correspondence consists of textual records re: “application of Fred Ginn, Manager of Price Dairy at 33 Manitou Road, Centre Island , to lease more land on part of lot 22 of Plan D441” from a Mr. Solman.
MANITOU ROAD 1911
# 7? HANLAN’S BOAT HOUSE (James & Sara Hutchewson)
#13 NEW METHOD LDRY. ?
#15PUMBLECHOOT (Jane Dowely, Head, and Harry Williams)
# 17 STORE (Richard Glover, Mgr.) # STORE
#12 CITY DAIRY
#14 RESTAURANT (G.Orlando)
#18 HIAWATHA HOUSE (George H. Harrison)
#20 DUBLIN HOUSE
#25 HOTEL MANITOU* (Olive r & Maria Spanner)
#29 GINN’S STORE ( Frank Ginn ) SWISS LAUNDRY
#33 PRICE DAIRY (Fred Ginn) #35 GINN’S RESTAURANT #332 LAKESHORE, LAKESIDE HOUSE
#334 ELLESMERE HOTEL (PEIRSON HOTEL) (George Whitely, Head)
NOTE: Map from maps.library.utoronto.ca/FTP/ed/
V3-1911-179.tif *likely Spanner Hotel in 1911
Names from 1911 Can. Census, Toronto, Ward 4.
Note: Differences between names on map and Census.
CLARK PROPERY, MANITOU ROAD, 1909?
Sally Gibson continues “By August 1914, Manitou Road (also known as the Main Drag) boast- ed a wide range of services. Frederick Ginn now operated a grocery store as well as an ice- cream parlour. Ginn’s brother-in-law, Thomas Clayton, had opened a meat market next door. The Forsythe Laundry had (temporarily) joined New Method Laundry in an attempt to keep Is- landers clean. (In later years the Swiss Laundry and the Parisian Laundry joined in.) Oliver Spanner had created his grand restaurant.”6
MANITOU ROAD 1918
ENGLISH’S BOAT HOUSE CLARK’S YARD
NEW METHOD LAUNDRY PUMBLECHOOT HOUSE
WITTMAN’S GROCERY CITY DAIRY
PRIVATE HOUSE (LATER LAIRD’S) PRIVATE HOUSE (LATER BLINK- BONNIE)
SPANNER’S HOTEL SWISS LAUNDRY
GINN’S STORE CLAYTON’S MEATS
PRICE’S CASINO (DAIRY?) PIERSON HOTEL (MEAD’S)
BATHING STATION OR BATHS
PLAN BY TORONTO HARBOUR COMMISSION, 14 MAY, 1919
By the early 1930s the “Main Drag….was the commercial lifeline of the Island. Hanlan’s Point and Ward’s Island each now had a small grocery store, but all Islanders depended on Manitou Road as well as the delivery services of both Eaton’s and Simpson’s for supplies. Clayton’s Meat Market and the Dominion store provided groceries. Mr. Marshall ….provided pharmaceuticals. The Dominion Bank opened a branch. The Farmer’s Dairy and the City Dairy still vied for customers, while several laundries struggled to keep men’s white flannels and la- dies dancing frocks pressed. And several restaurants catered to the needs of hungry Is- landers – from the fine dining at the old Pierson’s Hotel…to the more mundane fare at the newly opened Honey Dew.”7
In the late 1930s to 1940s, beginning at the Manitou Bridge and looking south towards Lakeshore Road, on the left hand side of the street were the following businesses:
ENGLISH’S BOAT HOUSE AND REFRESHMENT STAND AND JACKSON’S BIKE SHOP
NEW METHOD LAUNDRY
PARISIAN LAUNDRY, LATER BREWERS RETAIL STORE PENGUIN CLEANERS (late 1940s)
TRUSTY”S BIKE SHOP (LATE 1940s)
LAIRD’S CLEANING AND PRESSING
CLAYTON’S GROCERY AND MEATS
COLE’S BAKERY, LATER MRS. HELEN GREY’S GIFT SHOP CITY DAIRY, LATER BORDEN’S
ACME FARMERS DAIRY
DOMINION BANK, LATER HUGHES BEAUTY AND BARBER SHOP DOMINION STORE, LATER HUGHES MARKETERIA
GINN’S RESTAURANT AND CASINO
SHERMAN’S REFRESHMENT STAND.
7 Page 182, More Than An Island
The 1935 Canadian Voters List indicates a staff of four working at the boat house; George White, carpenter, Bailey, boat builder, Edward Warren, handyman, and Thomas Mitchell, carpenter.
The Refreshment Stand, 1959
As time went on an addition to the south end of the storefront became a Bicycle Rental and Repair shop operated by Freddie Jackson.
The next building, a store front with residence behind, was New Method Laundry, oper- ated by Mr. & Mrs. John Russell McMacken, assisted by Leonard and Robert McMack- en. A pick-up and delivery service was available or articles could be left at the store- front. The laundry was shipped to the city in light wooden hampers about 3’ by 4’ x 3’ in size where it was processed and then returned. Mrs. McMacken worked at the city loca- tion and ensured that all laundry from the Island was processed in a timely manner.
In the early 1900s this property was leased by the Clark family, possibly members Tom and Margaret Clark of Clark Limited, which operated the T.J. Clark freight boat to and from the city to the Island. A map from 1918 shows a building and yard at this location with the name “Clark Yard”.
TOMMY MCMILLAN, JOHN MCMACKEN, EDITH MCMACKEN, RUSS RIELLY, JIM WATT. (ATOP DELIVERY HAMPERS)
Below; JOHN (RUSS) MCMACKEN ON BIKE , BOYS IN TRAILER (mode of delivery at the time, 1944-45).8
8 Photos courtesy of Edith Lang (McMacken)
Parisian Laundry operated by a Mr. & Mrs. Ted Wilson was the next building. Years later this building became the home of the beer delivery service of Hardy Cartage then Brewers Retail, operated by Johnny Orrick. Johnny also delivered ice for a sum- mer.
Brewers Retail prior to demolition, July 1958.
Hand written notes reflect data associated with demolition, ownership, condition of building and amount of settlement offered by Metro Toronto to owners.
In the early 1950s two buildings were constructed between the beer store and the hardware store. The first a one storey structure built by Chuck Singer as the Penguin Cleaners and shown as #19 Manitou Rd.
The second building was for Trusty Cycle.
In 1949 the hardware store was replaced as 43 Manitou Rd.
In relation to the demolition of homes and businesses Percy Miller long time operator of the hardware store described his experience with Metro in the October 2, 1957 issue
of the Toronto Star; “This place cost me $22,000 to build eight years ago, and I asked $35,000 for it from Metro because of the great business have built here. Do you know what they offered me? — and I guess I’ll have to take it– $17,000. I can’t start another business again. I don’t know what to do.”
Behind the hardware store was a large two storey house, no doubt originally a single family residence, but in my memory it was home to a number of families, much like many other large houses on the Island. This house had an unusual name, “The Bum- bleshute”. An earlier map of 1918 refers to it as the “Pumblechoot” And behind that was a small house, “Cozy Corner”, facing the lagoon that was the home of Lefty Fortner and his family of six children and a horse. I mention the horse because it was so important to him that it was allowed in the house during cold winter days. Lefty delivered milk during the winter months by horse and sleigh.
Next to Miller’s hardware was the building owned by Thomas Clayton, consisting of the grocery store and butcher shop. Mr. Clayton was a butcher by trade. At both sides of the grocery store were small businesses. The north end was Bob Laird’s Cleaning and Pressing business, and I remember a Cole’s Bakery occupying the south store for a number years then a Mrs. Grey operated a Gift Shop later.
This store may have been owned by a Mary Clark around 1903. A file exists in the To- ronto Archives consisting “ of textual records re: permission for Mary Clark, owner of a store and ice house on part of lot 22 at Centre Island, to lease her lot to grocer George Melhuish for the 1903 season. The store was on what became Manitou Road.”9 Check- ing maps of that era indicate that this was the only store which had an ice house on the same property.
9 Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 768, Subseries 2, File 43, Box 145254.
Photo 1954? (submitted to Island Archives , Ted Ring )
The buildings on Manitou Road from left to right; Brewers Retail, Penguin Cleaners, Trusty Bike Shop, Miller’s Hardware, Clayton’s Grocery, Borden’s Dairy, Dick’s Grill, Is- land Milk Bar (formerly Acme Dairy), Hotel Manitou.
The Toronto Archives contain a file, dated 19 February 1931, with the title “Dairy and store with dwelling over” a plan and specifications for a store and ice cream parlour with two apartments above, located at 35-37 Manitou Road on Centre Island for Thos. A. Clayton. This was for the construction of a large semidetached two storey building con- sisting of City Dairy operated by Mr . Crowhurst. In the mid 40’s Borden’s Dairy took over this business. The front of the Dairy contained a large room with a counter-type serving bar along one side and the rest of the room contained fancy wrought iron tables and chairs. It was here that one could buy ice cream sodas and sundaes . City Dairy was earlier located across the street on the corner of Iroquois Avenue.
Photo of Tom Hodgson at the rear of City Dairy , 941.
Note stacked milk cases, in foreground metal baskets for carrying bottles of milk.
(Tom became a noted Toronto artist. Photo taken prior to Tom’s entry into the Royal Canadian Air Force.)10
10 Photo by author
The other half of the building housed Dick’s Grill, operated in the ‘40s by Steve Preisinger, serving full course meals.
The upper floors of both buildings were residences and rooms for staff.
A large barn-like building used as an Ice House was located behind Claytons and City Dairy. The walls were insulated with wood chips and shavings and when the ice was drawn in during the winter months it was covered in wood shavings. During the sum- mer the ice was delivered by Roy Burton to the various businesses and homes. As time went on and refrigeration became available the ice house was demolished and re- placed by a warehouse for Claytons Grocery.
This photo from 1958 of Ted Ring shows a space between the hardware store and Island Milk Bar where Clayton’s , Borden Dairy and Dick’s Grill stood before demolition.
Then came Acme Farmer’s Dairy. . Beginning in 1928 Acme Farmer’s Dairy was oper- ated by Ed and Jessie Guthrie. The building located at 33 Manitou Road consisted of a small store in the front facing the street. Behind the store was small office and a room into which ice was stored to provide cooling for the milk storage room and the ice box in the store. As time went on this room contained refrigeration equipment. The rear of the building contained a small bedroom and a kitchen. On the second floor were four bedrooms and a deck over the kitchen. Access to the upstairs was via a door in the driveway. During the early 40’s a one storey addition was built to the rear of the build- ing to house additional ice cream cabinets. Ice cream (5 cents a cone) and milk (12 cents a quart) was sold at the storefront, Three men delivered milk to the Island resi- dences and milk and ice cream to the other businesses on the Main Drag, as well as to the variety of large picnics that came to the Island Parks. All of these deliveries made by hand drawn manpower, or bicycle. Milk for the picnics was delivered from the dairy in the city in 5 or 8 gallon metal containers. At the picnic the milk was either ladled out into paper cups or a hand pump was provided. The ice cream, delivered packed in dry ice in 5 gallon leather containers, was usually served in paper Dixie cups.
Acme Farmers Dairy under construction 1919.11
Note the building to the right of the dairy which must have been demolished before Mr. Clayton built the dairy bar, as noted above, in 1931.
11 Photo from City of Toronto Archives, Series 1317, Item 522
Number 33 Manitou Road. 1930-31
1940-42 Jessie and Ed Guthrie
The freight tug Aylmer in background. Ed Guthrie unloading milk off the freight barge 12
Eddie Guthrie in front of hand drawn cart 13
12 Photos by author
The Guthries spent their last year on the Island in 1949. A fellow Acme employee, Percy Emslie, took over operation of the business until demolition in 1959. Percy then con-
tinued to deliver dairy products to the remaining residents of Algonquin and Islands until his retirement.
AWAITING DEMOLITION 195914
13 Photo by author
14 Photos by E. Guthrie (author)
The next building to the south of the dairy was the Manitou Hotel, a three storey structure built 1909-1910. Number 27 Manitou Road.
According to the 1911 Canadian Census for Toronto South the hotel was operated by Oliver and Maria Spanner. A Toronto Island map dated 1918 refers to the building as the Spanner Hotel.
The following photo and description are from the “Canadian Summer Resort Guide Book” Published in 1912 by Frederick Smily, Toronto. Smily wrote “Hotel ManItou, Cen- tre Island’s newest and most up-to-date hostelry”…“The cuisine is unsurpassed and not to be compared with the usual run of summer hotel bill-of-fare. The Manitou is equipped with bathrooms, hot and cold water, toilet rooms, new grill and dining rooms, with hardwood floor, available for dancing etc. It is lighted by electric light throughout. There accommodation for 150 guests (200 in dining room), rates are $2.00 per day, $10.00 to $15.00 a week. Contact Mr. O.B. Spanner, Hotel Manitou, Island Park, Toronto.”
MANITOU HOTEL 1911
The Manitou Hotel was the largest building on the street, three storeys at some points on the front of the structure. The hotel contained a large sitting area on the left side as you entered the front doors with a small restaurant on the right. On the first floor access to rental rooms was made off a hall that ran down the middle of the building and at the back was a large room with hardwood floors where dances were held. During the 40s this room became a beer parlour.
Bill Sutherland and family were the owners of the Manitou from 1929 to 1959.
Bill Sutherlandwasseenasarealinnovator.Heopenedabeerhall,builtaminiature golf course, built a small stand out front from which he sold soft ice cream, bought a doughnut making machine to produce and sell fancy doughnuts, built a terrazzo out- door dance floor, known as ‘The Deck’, with a sound system for jitney dances, and at times brought in dance orchestras from the city, held Teen dances, had an archery range as well as the usual tennis and badminton courts.
MANITOU HOTEL 1958
Immediately behind the hotel was a two storey house which was divided into several
Note: All Advertisements are from the Centre Islander, 1945-46
During the 1940s Jack Fordham operated the Roselawn Dairy from a storehouse in the rear of the hotel and a small storefront in front of the hotel.
However, due to competition from the two larger dairies this business did not survive. Mr. Fordham then opened a laundry and dry cleaning business.
The next building towards the Lakeshore housed the Dominion Bank, Percy Hughes Barber Shop and a Dominion Store. As time went on Percy took over the whole building Which then contained the Barber Shop, a Beauty Parlour, a Variety Store and Hughes Marketeria. The back of the building and the second floor consisted of the Hughe’s residence and rental apartments.
The 1918 map of Manitou Road indicated Clayton’s Meat Store as the southern portion of a building and Ginn’s Store as the other portion, located where Hughes Groceteria was located in the 40s.
MANITOU RD. MERCHANTS (front of Hughes property, Manitou Hotel in background)); RIGHT TO LEFT; PERCY HUGHES, BILLSUTHERLAND, ART TYNDALL, & VINCE LAMANTIA. 1942.
According to the Assessment Rolls, June 1954 Hughes had leased the gift and tobacco shop to Alexander and Reta Dalby, and the barber shop and beauty parlour to Carlo Herto. Hughes continued to operate the groceteria until it became Morton’s.
Then came the large building occupied by Mr. Ginn as a restaurant, the Casino Dance Floor and a store front that sold soft drinks, ice cream etc. operated by Fred Sherman. The favourite drink at this refreshment bar was Root’s Beer sold in ice cold mugs.
The photograph below, from the 1950s, shows Hughes Marketeria, the Casino Restaurant, the Casino dance floor converted to a bowling alley operated by Kris Kantaroff, and the refreshment store front under the management of Chris Pavio. In the right background can be seen the bathing change building on Lakeshore Road.
Before renovations the Casino had a roof above the front first floor windows supported by decorative square pillars.
The assessment Rolls of 1954 show Agustino Lamantia as the owner of these buildings.
Across the street on the Lakeshore was the building housing City restrooms and bathing change house.
Let’s return to the Manitou Bridge.
On the ferry boat [north] side of the bridge was located the Park Manager’s, home Mr. William Potter, surrounded by beautiful gardens, and all the duck and other water fowl ponds and enclosures.
Of course one could not miss the old Merry-go-round operated by Mr. Reed, who also managed the picnic pavilion and a refreshment store. In earlier years the Pavilion was a very popular dance hall.
Returning to the Main Drag, immediately on the right was a small freight shed, part of the Freight dock where most of the goods arrive from the city by the tug boat Aylmer. The photos below show the changes in buildings that occurred over time.
This 1928 photograph shows the variety of two and four wheel wagons used to haul the merchant’s goods. An Acme Dairy wagon can be seen beside the shed on the left.
The buildings in the background are without signage. Over time they became English’s refreshment stand, New Method Laundry and Parisian Laundry.
The freight boat T.J. Clark delivered goods in the earlier period. 15
15 Photo by Ted Ring
Also moored at this dock was the fireboat the Charles A Reed.
The Fire Hall was the next building. The firemen of the time would ride a pair of Harley Davidson motorcycles to and from the ferry docks, the only motorized vehicles. Imme- diately behind the Hall was a horseshoe pitch. Often the merchants would play a game of horseshoes while waiting for the noon freight boat, Aylmer, to arrive.
Police Station and Fire Hall , 1950s.
One spring upon our return to the Island we found a new Police Station under construc- tion beside the Fire Hall, a small holding cell included.
There was many a fun filled pick-up ball game played on the small area park behind the police station, girls and boys included.
Iroquois Avenue branched off to the west next with the two storey Ye Wayside Inn situ- ated on the corner. Until about 1931 this building was the home of City Dairy.
The photo of the interior was included in this advertisement “Our plant at Centre Island, Toronto, equipped with refrigerating units, also Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlour.”
The building then became a restaurant owned by Mr. & Mrs. William Alexander, with residence above. A 1935 Canadian Voters List shows that a Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Din- don were also associated with this restaurant. This was later taken over by Mr. & Mrs. Wetzel who added a one storey building extension to the south which served as a cof- fee shop and refreshment stand. Latterly the business was under the ownership of Art Bowden and later still Fran Hutchinson.
YE WAYSIDE INN, 40 MANITOU ROAD
16Photo in poor condition, however shows coffee shop in 1940s.
In the mid – 1940s an outdoor bowling alley was built in the lot to the south of the Way- side Inn. The 1954 Assessment Rolls records Robert Andrews of 40 Manitou Road as an operator of an outdoor bowling alley. Jimmy Jones remembers, as a teenager setting pins at these alleys.
Mrs.AnnieLairdandhersonBobownedandoperatedthesinglestorey building,‘The Beeches’, containing a number of small apartments at 34 Manitou Road. The author and his wife spent their first winter on the Island here. Although, like many Islanders, we had no inside plumbing conveniences, we hauled water from a tap on the front lawn, which was left running all the time to avoid freezing, we survived the winter quite com- fortably with our small Coleman oil space heater, purchased from Buster Ward. The pipe did freeze one time and Bill Sutherland was called upon to thaw out the pipe using a car battery with wires attached to the tap at one end and the city connection at the other end.
THE BEECHES 34 MANITOU ROAD
In front of and to the south side of Lairds Raymond and Josephine Hamstead operated a fish and chip stand.
The photo below shows Mrs. Wetzel of the Wayside Inn delivering a pie to the Guthries. Note the hut in the background which contained four telephone booths. (front of # 33 -34 Manitou.)
The “Blink Bonnie” was the next building, a two storey house with a veranda across the front. The home was owned by Jean and Jimmy Watt’s grandmother .Over the period of time the building underwent numerous renovations and housed the Helen Gray Gift Shop and Toronto Laundry. In the early 40’s it was purchased from Mrs. Watt by Aquila Skene who operated a bicycle shop.
A major renovation to the original Blink Bonnie by Mr. Skene to accommodate a restau- rant operated by David and Christine Barton
Next to the Blink Bonnie was the restaurant Watt’s Coffee Shop owned by Mr. & Mrs. Fred Watt during the 1930s, a two storey building with rooms above the restaurant. From 1939 to 1943 the business was operated under lease by Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Jones. Then in 1944 Mr. Earle Reginald (Buster) Ward purchased the building from Mrs. Watt and opened the Honey Juice Coffee Shop.
Mr. Ward was involved in a variety of Island businesses prior to this venture; cartage and contracting, fruit retailer, the Island representative of Copeland Breweries in 1934, and of Canada Bud in 1935. He and his wife Nina lived over Perce Hughe’s store in 1934 and Mr. Ed English’s in 1936.17
17 From the Centre Islander, August 30, 1946
Following article regarding the Wards by Alan Woods for the Aug. 30 issue of the Centre Islander and printed in News from the Archives June 1996.
The next building to the south, # 20 & 22 Manitou Rd., was a single storey divided into two businesses. The first was Honey Dew, famous for their Orange Drink and Ritz Carl- ton Hot Dogs. You could buy a take – out order of Orange Juice packaged in a waxed cardboard container with the waxed paper cups included. The other half of the building housed Marshall’s Drug Store. Later (1938-39) taken over by Mr. And Mrs. Arthur Tyn- dall, who later again expanded and took over the whole building when Honey Dew closed. The Assesssment Roll of 1954 records Mr.Earl Ward as propieter of the drug store.
On the right; Watt’s Coffee Shop, Honey Dew, and Marshall’s Drug Store. ( late 1930s)
Thomas Clayton and his wife Elizabeth strolling in the high water in 1952. Note that the Tyndall name no longer appears on the drug store.
18 -20 Manitou Road, 1958
According to the 1918 map the next two storey dwelling was known as the Swiss laun- dry. However, as time went on the northern half became a store for Toronto Laundry and Dry Cleaners operated by Richard Barrett, and also Mrs. Redican’s Home Baking, and the other half Lamantia Brothers, Vincent and Peter, Fruit and Vegetables. During the early 40s the Lawless family who lived in the upper apartment opened the store as a tea room. In the photo above #20, beside the drug store, is seen as a coffee shop.
At the end of the street was the Pierson Hotel, formerly Mead’s, operated by Mr.Wier . A grand white three storey building with a veranda all around the ground floor and overlooking the lawn and bowling green on the east side and the lakefront on the south. Although the hotel had a Lakeshore address the Waffle Shop and Snack Bar had an entrance off Manitou Road. The rear property contained a number of smaller buildings which provided living quarters for the staff.
By the end of 1959 all of these buildings on Manitou Road had been demolished and razed.
Not all Island business was conducted on Manitou Manitou Road. Here are some adver- tisements from the Centre Islander of the 1940s.
Harry the Baker was popular.
Ken Sinclair and Henry Argent were among a number of men in the cartage business.
Some general ads follow.
A collection of hand carts used to carry goods from the freight docks to stores. The cart on the right with two large wheels was used by the dairies to deliver milk to customers. Circa 1928. It was the mid 1940 before trucks were allowed on the Island for delivery purposes, only in the winter months to start and eventually year round.
Edward Guthrie lived on Manitou Road during the spring to fall months from 1929 to 1948. Then spent 2 full years on Manitou and Iroquois Avenue. He knew most of the business men and women on ‘The Drag’ and during his teen years worked for the Tyn- dall’s at the drug store, Clayton’s grocery, New Method Laundry and latterly for Percy Hughes at his grocery store. On occasion he would help his father deliver milk and work around Acme Farmers Dairy.