Pioneers and Settlers 1783-1910 (James Baby)

The Toronto Purchase: The lands comprising modern day Baby Point were purchased from the Mississauga First Nations as part of the Toronto Purchase in 1787.  Following the Treaty of Paris in 1763 that marked the end of the Seven Years’ War between France and Great Britain (when Wolfe defeated Montcalme at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham) the territory comprising modern day Ontario was ceded from the French (part of New France) to the British (renamed British North America and later Upper Canada).  The area was sparsely populated with the largest settlement being Sandwich (modern day Windsor) with French-speaking population of about 500 people.

In the years after the Americans defeated the British during the American Revolution in 1783 (capped by another Treaty of Paris) about 10,000 Loyalists fled for Upper Canada, where they began to settle on land recognized by the British Crown as ‘Indian Land’.  The settlers’ lack of legitimate land created challenges for Lord Dorcester who arrived in Quebec in 1786 just as British North America was being split into Upper and Lower Canada.  John Graves Simcoe was appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada in 1791. After deciding on the Bay of Toronto as the site of the new province’s capital Lord Dorcester arranged to purchase much of the land comprising modern day Toronto, including modern day Baby Point from the Mississauga.  In 2010, the Government of Canada agreed to a $145 million dollar settlement resulting from a land claim initiated by the Mississauga in 1986 disputing the terms of the purchase.

Land Petitions and United Empire Loyalists: As a flood of refugees migrated north after being driven from their homes in America following the American Revolution the Government of Upper Canada began granting land to Loyalists who fought on the side of the British.  Loyalists were conferred the title of United Empire Loyalist (UEL) and their children were conferred the title of Sons of Empire Loyalist (SUE) or Daughters of Empire Loyalist (DUE).  One such Loyalist was John Lawrence UEL.  Lawrence was imprisoned during the American Revolution and his cellmate was none other than John Graves Simcoe, also captured during the war.  The two became friends and Simcoe approved Lawrence’s petition for a land grant in 1797.  Lawrence’s land grant included the property from the modern day Old Mill to Dundas street.  Lawrence had intended to construct a gristmill on an island on the Humber River but he died the following year in 1798, as the new settlement began to gain economic importance.  It remains unclear if the gristmill was ever built.

IMG_20210323_180036James Baby Acquires the Lands Comprising Modern Day Baby Point: In 1820, Jacques (James) Baby purchased the 114-acre site comprising part of Lawrence’s land, at auction.  It is unclear who owned the property by this time but it was likely the estate of John Lawrence managed by his sons. Baby’s purchase of the land was for recreational purposes, the love of the gardens he maintained and for fishing in the nearby Humber River.

Baby was appointed Inspector General of Upper Canada in 1815 and moved to York (now Toronto) to take his seat in government. His appointment, like most of his contemporaries, was in recognition of his loyalty to the British Crown during both the American Revolution and the War of 1812, where he was a Colonel leading a militia and was captured by the Americans at the Battle of the Thames.  His primary residence was located near the intersection of King and Yonge Streets.  Making the trip to his country estate would have taken several hours by horse-drawn carriage in those days.

(Image:  Illustration of Jacques (James) Baby, public domain)

Baby was part of the ‘Family Compact’, an unofficial clique of Upper Canada’s ruling elite, who held true power in the province.  The Family Compact, including Baby, opposed the Act Against Slavery put forth by John Graves Simcoe in 1793.  This opposition resulted in a gradual phase-out until its complete abolition across the British Empire in 1833 rather than an immediate end to slavery.  Baby himself owned a slave named Therese, who was inherited by his brother Francois and ultimately sold to James.  It is unclear whether Therese ever set foot in modern day Baby Point as it was a second home.  Therese died in 1827 at James Baby’s York home, 6 years before Baby.

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(Image:  Appointment of Jacques (James) Baby to the Legislative Council for Upper Canada,1792. From the Jacques Duperon Baby family fonds, F 2128, MU 18, Archives of Ontario. Reproduced by permission.)

A rebellion was mounted against the Family Compact led by William Lyon Mackenzie (incidentally the first Mayor of York) in 1837.  While the rebellion was unsuccessful it caught the attention of the British government, who dispatched Lord Durham to get to the bottom of the troubles brewing in the colony.  Lord Durham’s efforts to unite Upper and Lower Canada were also unsuccessful but did produce the government that ultimately led to Confederation in 1867, Canada’s birth year.

Mills of the Humber River: The area surrounding the Humber River began to flourish in the 1800s as local economies grew around the mills.  The first King’s Mill (built 1793 at the site known today as the Old Mill) burned to the ground in 1803.  The last and grandest King’s Mill (same site as first mill) was built in 1848 but also burned in 1881.  At its peak in the 1840s, the surrounding village of Milton Mills was home to about 100 people.  The remains of the grist (flour and grain) mill could be seen until 2000 when they were dismantled and replaced with the current hotel whose foundations were modeled after the mill and even used some of the original stones.

Cooper’s Mill was built in 1807 at the end of Old Dundas Rd and today is the site of an apartment building across from Lambton House, an inn established in 1848 and used until 1988.  William Howland bought the mill in 1851 and changed the name of the mill and village (pop. ~500) to Lambton in honour of John Lambton, a former Governor General of Canada.  Howland himself was elected to the provincial Legislature in 1858 and later became a Father of Confederation and the second Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.  Old Dundas Rd continued across a bridge spanning the Humber River and the inn was used by weary travelers on their way to far-away places like London and Hamilton.

1.37 vphoto(42)The Bent Railway:  The ill-fated Bent Railway line was built in 1891 but was an economic disaster that lasted less than two years.  The tracks on the Humber loop passed almost directly where the Baby Point roundabout at the intersection of Humbercrest and Baby Point Rd sits today.  The track continued just to the east of Humbercrest to the north of Baby Point Rd.  The closest station was to the west of the intersection of Jane and St. Clair Streets.  Another part of that line passed through the Junction neighbourhood.  When the tracks were removed in 1983 a new neighbourhood was constructed surrounding the Baby Estate to the north, south and east.

(Image:  Plaque about the Toronto Carrying Place/Le Portage de Toronto)