Sunday, 24 May 2009

St John’s Ward--Chapter One

The first ward I tackled west of Yonge Street was St John’s Ward. St John’s was a large ward of working people, many of whom were either self-employed or worked on short-time contracts. There were workshops rather than large factories, and grocery and provision stores rather than wholesale grocers and provision merchants. Although the commonest occupation was still “labourer”, these were almost outnumbered by carpenters and cabinetmakers. Somewhere north of Osgoode Hall on the west of the ward was at least one stone and marble cutting yard. Hotels and taverns were very few, even on Yonge Street. There was no identifiable market.

The ward was quite densely populated as far north as College Street. From there to Bloor there were only 85 houses with schedules in the census. Yonge Street was well built up, but population was more sparse to the west. St Michael’s seminary covered a substantial area in what was then Clover Hill, and is now north of Wellesley and west of Bay.

There were less Irish people in St John’s compared to the numbers I found east of Yonge. What it did have was a large new immigrant community. Quite a number of families had answered the question of ethnicity with a “C” for coloured. International events had made their way into Toronto. The Civil War had begun in the United States, and a goodly number of slaves who escaped through the underground railway during the 1850s established themselves in St John’s Ward. Virginia and Maryland were very common birthplaces. There were at least two churches that catered to the black community.

I will be jumping around the wards in these descriptive posts. The wards have all been analysed, comparing the ages, birthplaces and religious persuasions of the inhabitants. I am working on an occupations comparison, but coding it is slow. The transcription of St George's Ward is complete and I am waiting for the St Andrew's films to arrive.


  1. Where can I find your transcription? I don't see if posted here.

    Thank you


  2. The transcription has not yet been published. It has not been proofread--no volunteers have come forward to try.
    However, if you want a lookup, please get in touch again with details and I'll see what I can find.