As Toronto is Canada‘s second largest city, it is difficult to believe that it was once possible to catch Atlantic salmon in the Don and Humber Rivers flowing through it, or to shoot waterfowl on the bay between the city and its protecting island. Yet it was so on July 30, 1793, when John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada began clearing the site for the capital.
When Simcoe was appointed in 1791, the capital was at Newark, now Niagara. It was protected by Fort Niagara on the American side of the river, still held by the British as insurance that the United States would carry out the terms of the peace treaty. Detroit was also held by Britain for the same reason.
Simcoe felt sure that there would be another war between Britain and the United States and was anxious to find a new site for the capital because the present site was too close to the border. In February 1793, he began a memorable tour of the country he governed, travelling by sleigh over the backwood trails. When Simcoe stopped for the night he always had the members of the company sing “God Save the King.” His first stop, after three days, was at a Mohawk village on the Grand River, where he attended church with Chief Brant. He then continued to Detroit.
Although his first choice for the new capital was the site of London, he had to settle for the Toronto Bay area because it provided immediate transportation facilities. On May 4, he heard that Britain and France were at war, and feeling certain that the Americans would side with France, he decided to move as quickly as possible.
The building of what is now Toronto began on July 30. While it was under construction, Simcoe and his family lived in a huge tent that had belonged to Captain Cook who, with Simcoe’s father, had served with Wolfe in the campaign to capture Quebec in 1759. Simcoe called the new capital “York” in honour of the Duke of York’s victories in Europe.
- York’s Founding Fathers – Newmarket (digginrootsblog.wordpress.com)