The Martins in Mimico, 1848 -1921
Fact, Oral History, Speculation

James Martin (1796-1868) and Ann Brown (1794-before1850), living in Currie Parish, twelve miles from Edinburgh, Scotland had twelve children.  Six of those children left Scotland, and at least five of them settled in or passed through Mimico, Canada West/Ontario on their way to other locations.  This is the story of those five plus possibly one more and the time they and their descendants spent in Mimico.  It focuses on the family of James and Ann's son William, since that family's connection to Mimico was the most permanent one.

William Martin (b 1816/18), his wife Mary (nee Scott) and only child James (born 1847 in Leith, near Edinburgh, Scotland) emigrated to Mimico, Canada West in 1848, renting a 50 acre farm, located just west of Church Street (Royal York Road), Concession 1, west half of Lot 2, running north from Lakeshore Road.  Location is based on the 1861 Etobicoke Ward 1 Map, where the name "William Martin" is written across the property.   It appears the Martins rented this property. The Land Registry ledger does not record a Martin name at any time as owner of the property.  Also, an 1856 map of the Township of Etobicoke and an 1878 Map of Mimico, in The Historic Atlas of York County, Ontario, both identify the 1861 "Martin" property as belonging to "Murray."   Murray is the name recorded in the Land Registry ledger for that property.  It could be that the 1861 Etobicoke Ward 1 Map with the "William Martin" name recorded residents, not land owners. The 1851 census also notes two labourers on the property, Alexander (20 years) and Andrew (22 years), of Scotland.  As William's siblings included an Alexander and an Andrew, and because they were living with William, it is assumed that they were two of William's brothers.  Whether they came out to Canada with William is unknown.  There is no written or oral history in the William ancestry line of William having emigrated with any family other than his wife and child.  If the brothers were with him, that most likely would have been noted or remembered in some form, somewhere. We have two records indicating that William's father, James Martin was also in Mimico.  While there is no record of James Martin the elder (described in one place as a "carrier" in Scotland, and another place as a "farmer" - Harbour Grace Standard Nfld., William Martin Obituary October 1, 1887) living with William Martin in any census, the story of James the elder's son, Robert, states "...the father and children emigrated to Canada when (Robert Martin) was a youth of fourteen years,", making 1850 the year of emigration.  Note that the quote refers to "children" (source: Robert Martin's biography found by Brian Stephens, Kamloops, B.C.)  Secondly, we have a copy of the marriage certificate of Samuel Lindley and Anne Martin (daughter), dated at Christ Church, Mimico, December 20, 1853, with a "James Martin" signature.  As James the elder died about 1868 in Scotland, we can suppose he visited family in Mimico, but he did not emigrate permanently.  It is also known that his wife, Ann Brown, died before 1850, ... freeing him to bring his family to Mimico?  or visit his children overseas?  That property and the subsequent Lakeshore-Kipling property are generally referred to in family lore as large market gardens rather than as full-service farms.  In fact, the Agricultural Census of 1861 identifies William Martin as farming a fifty acre property, Concession 1, Lot 2, of which forty-three acres were under crop (spring wheat, barley, peas, oats, potatoes, hops and hay) and six acres pastured, and a one acre orchard.  The farm had a cash value of $4000.

Alexander Martin was in Mimico by 1851-52, as described in the census.  In January 1856 he married Elizabeth McLean at Christ Church, Mimico.  It is not known if they had their own accommodation or lived with brother William and his extended family after marriage. At some point they moved to the Meaford area of Ontario.  Alexander died in 1878 and was buried in the Meaford cemetery.  Elizabeth Martin (McLean) rejoined the Mimico story in that year, 1878, as a recent widow with adult children. Elizabeth McLean was born in Scotland October 3, 1828 and may have immigrated in 1850 (1911 census from Bonnie Anderson).  This information, however, conflicts with other evidence that puts the McLeans in the Mimico area as early as 1842.  The Ontario Land Registry ledger records the McLean name in transactions related to Concession 1 Lot 2 in April 1842, Concession 1 Lot 8 in 1854 and the Map of the Township of Etobicoke in the County of York (1856) on Concession 1 Lot 8.

Andrew Martin
is noted in the 1851-52 census as living with William and family in Mimico.  It is unknown whether he came to Canada by himself or with one or both brothers.  We have only two further references to Andrew.  One, he is a farmer of Upper Canada and two, he is buried in a cemetery in Berkeley, Grey County, Ontario.  (Email note from Bonnie Anderson, 2007).  William's grandchildren felt some continuing connection with their great-uncles Alexander and Andrew, since they did maintenance on the great-uncles' cemetery plots into the mid-twentieth century.

Martin (born March 15, 1836) came to Canada in 1851, "when he was 14 years old, ....and spent the succeeding 15 years upon his brother's farm in Canada."  This information would put him with William and family in Mimico until 1865.  However, the Canada West, Personal Census of 1861 identifies Robert Martin 24 years old (on his next birthday), living on his own in a frame house.  The Agricultural Census of 1861 identifies him as farming thirty acres of a thirty-six acre rented property wedged between Lakeshore Road and Lake Ontario, in the vicinity of (today's) Royal York Road.  His crops consisted of spring wheat, barley, peas, oats, potatoes, turnips and hay.  The farm had a cash value of $2000.  He moved to Kankakee, Iroquoid County, Illinois in April 1865.  On December 1, 1870, he married Catherine Young in Canada, returning to Iroquois County.  Mimico neighbours apparently maintained contact with him, since they first learned from him of James' death in Orillia twenty-five years later.

Anne Martin
, a sister, emigrated from Scotland.  Anne married Samuel Lindley at Christ Church, Mimico in December 1853.  It is not known when she left Scotland and she is not listed in the 1851-52 census as living with William.   She and her family likely moved to Toronto between 1861-63 as Samuel Lindley shows up as a teamster in the city directory for 1862-63 at 7 South Park (now Eastern Ave). (Correspondence (Aug 18/06, Aug/08) from Bonnie Anderson).

Janet Martin
(born 1838-39), a sister, emigrated from Scotland.  She died November 30, 1903 at the home of her niece Mary (Lindley) Hoult, 37 Howie, Toronto according to her death certificate FHL 1854187, 004392-1903 and was buried at the Necropolis in the same plot as her sister Ann and nephew James Jarvis Lindley (Ref: Necropolis burial records).

In April 1861 William Martin, who held a £550 mortgage (taken out in September 1855) on part of the Thomas Goldthorpe property (concession 1, lot 5 - east side of Kipling Avenue, running north from Lakeshore Road, Mimico), foreclosed with the help of Toronto's Read, Leith, and Read law firm and, as part of the settlement, took possession of the property (east half).  This is noted in the Ontario Land Registry ledger, dated April 5, 1866.  Also, "Family Stories-The Johnstones and Martins" by Helen Johnstone (daughter of Edna Martin) and William Martin (great grandson of William Martin and Mary Scott), notes..."This arrangement (living in Mimico and renting out the Orillia property) soon proved to be unsatisfactory so they decided to rent out their farm in Mimico and moved to Orillia."  Based on a "weight of evidence" finding, an 1878 map and one sentence in the "Family Stories" history, it is assumed that William Martin and family moved onto that fifty acre property, called Chestnut Haven..  1878 Map of Mimico, in The Historic Atlas of York County, Ontario, identifies the property as belonging to "William Martin" which is also consistent with the entries in the Land Registry ledger. 

In 1869, while still living in Mimico,  William Martin bought what was known as the Shingle Bay farm, bordering Orillia to the north and Lake Simcoe to the east, and rented that property to his wife's cousins, the Thorburns.  (Personal record, William Martin (1918 - 2007)). William paid $1300 to the Burkett estate for the 150 acre property (Land Registry Record), which is thought to have been the site of a landing in the time of the aborigines. (Source:  Notes on Sites of Indian Villages, Townships of North and South Orillia (Simcoe Co.) Reprinted from the Ontario Archaeological Report for 1903, by Andrew F. Hunter, M.A. Warwick Bro's & Rutter, 1904, p. 20.  It is not known where the capital for the Goldthorpe mortgage investment of the 1850s or the Shingle Bay purchase of the 1860s came from, although the Shingle Bay money (the property was bought with cash) may have come out of a legacy from James the elder's 1868 Scottish estate.  William Martin is routinely described in official and informal correspondence as a "yeoman".  Neither William nor James was called a "farmer", and James spoke in correspondence of the early-1890s of hiring men to look after his livestock.

In 1872 James Martin, William's son,  married Elizabeth Rundle in North York.  Her parents were John (a butcher) and Elizabeth.  Elizabeth, with her parents and four siblings, are listed in the 1871 Mimico census track along with the Martins.  As well, the 1861 Etobicoke Ward 1 Map shows the name "Rundle" written across a property bordering the Martin "property," making James and Elizabeth very close neighbours - she was literally the girl next door.  However, the marriage registry states "...married Elizabeth Rundle, 23, Toronto, York Mills ..."  The is no record of the Rundles owning the Mimico property (Concession 2 Lot 6 - Ontario Land Registry ledger).  They were probably tenants and so maybe the family moved sometime between the census day (April 2, 1871) and the May 1, 1872 marriage ceremony.  The ceremony was witnessed by Donald Hendry and Ellen Death, both members of Mimico families. (From "The Family of William Martin and Mary Scott," by Bonnie Anderson, August 19, 2006)- both the Hendry and Death families are noted in the 1871 census.  As well, the Hendry property, two lots to the east of the Martin rented farm, was the last "station" west of Toronto on the Underground Railway (The Aldernews - Etobicoke Historical Society - February 2007).  James and Elizabeth lived with his father and mother in Mimico. James swore in his father's probate application that he had lived with his father all of their joint lives (1847-1887). James was a talented amateur artist and was active in local organizations like the Temperance Society and as a Sunday school superintendent.  But he was apparently less gifted as a farm manager or financier, as we shall see.  He wore swallow-tailed suits while standing in his orchard, travelled back and forth regularly from Orillia to Toronto by train in apparent attempts to hob-nob with city society, and attracted his neighbours' curiosity by reading at home into the wee hours of the morning.  The family's Mimico friends through the last half of the nineteenth century were Hendrys, Murrays, Van Evereys, and Wards.  Mary Elizabeth (Minnie) was born to James and Elizabeth in 1873, Florence Edna was born in 1875, and Walter Scott was born in 1877 (died three weeks later and is buried at Christ Church, Mimico).  William's wife Mary died in 1874, and is also buried at Christ Church, Mimico.  Sometime between mid 1877 and July 1878, William moved his extended family to the Orillia Shingle Bay property.  This is based on the birth and death of Walter Scott in Mimico (March-April 1877) and the birth of William John in Shingle Bay, Orillia (July 1878).  (From William Martin (1918-2007) Personal Papers).  That property was apparently known colloquially as the "Great Martin Farm."  The Martin property in Mimico was then rented out to tenants.  The family has several copies of a lengthy poem about the property by Albert Edward Howard, a poem with that title.  See link for location of Shingle Bay and future "Springbank" farms in Orillia area.

While in Orillia, William John was born in July 1878.  His death two weeks later was preceded by that of his mother Elizabeth, both of whom are buried in St. Andrews St. James Cemetery, Orillia.  James' "Aunt Betsy" and her grown children then moved into the commodious Shingle Bay farm house, recently divided to accommodate the new arrivals, to help care for James' very young family.  Aunt Betsy or "Dear Aunt Betsy" as she is referred to in the "Family Stories" by Helen Johnstone, was the recently widowed Elizabeth McLean who had married Alexander Martin, William's brother, in Mimico in 1856.  That mansard-roofed, two story stone house still exists (2010) on the east side of Orillia's Memorial Avenue just off of Highway 11.

In 1881, James re-married Agnes Adeline Harvie of Orillia.  William was born in 1882 and Barbara Scott (Dolly) in 1884.  In October 1885 William sold the Shingle Bay property for $6545 to the provincial government on an expropriation and moved his extended family (including Aunt Betsy and her family) back to the Mimico farm.  "When mother (Edna) was eleven years old, the (Martin) family sold their farm to the Ontario Government for an asylum (later, in 2007, the OPP Headquarters.)  Most of the family, including William and Barbara Scott, moved back to Mimico."  From "Family Stories" by Helen Johnstone.  But eldest daughter Minnie was sent to live with her maternal grandparents in Dundalk, Ontario.  Minnie and Edna later attended Whitby Ladies' College in Whitby, Ontario.  William, by 1886, was not well and died in 1887 of hepatic cancer which, records suggest, had been diagnosed in 1886.  He is buried at Christ Church, Mimico.  (Death records-Ontario, York County, Etobicoke Township, FHL 1846467, Cert 021041-1888).  William and his wife Mary's tombstones have their own history at Christ Church, Mimico.  Despite the best efforts of grandson William Martin, the church removed the Martin bodies and stones for a building expansion in the 1960s.  Based on an old picture, William had new stones made and they were attached to the wall of the new structure at that time.  Following a second fire in the early 2000s, the remains of the church structure were demolished and a park was built on the old building site, adjacent to the cemetery.  The two Martin stones were placed by the church in the new park section.  In late 2009 the stones were removed by lay church officials.  In 2010 the family was told the stones would be placed back in the original location.  John Harvie Allan was born in 1887 and James Ward in 1889.  Robert Macmillan followed in 1891 and Agnes Gray in 1895 (both born in Orillia).

William's will directed his executors to hold all of his assets in a trust for his grandchildren, to which they could have access when two conditions were met: one, they turned 21 years of age and two, their father, James, was dead.  His assets (October 1887), as listed by James for probate purposes, consisted of $200 for household/personal items, $6000 cash (presumably the remaining proceeds of the Shingle Bay sale) and $6000 real estate (Mimico farm).  James, a life tenant under the terms of the will, could use the "interest" from the assets held in trust.  He was also directed to appoint an executor who would be responsible for dealing with William's assets (cash and land) after James' death.  Lastly, the will made provision for Aunt Betsy (Elizabeth Martin) - she was to be paid $100 per year until she died (February 1905) and that annuity was to be a charge on William's real property.  (She died February 21, 1905 as reported in both the Toronto Star and the Globe (Toronto), February 23, 1905; "At her late residence, Lake Shore Blvd., on February 21, Elizabeth McLean, wife of the late Alexander Martin, aged 73? years."  There is no mention of place of interment).  In probating the will and making James the executor, the Court directed that James have two sets of two sureties (to guarantee that James would fulfill the terms of his father's will), all four of whom had to have combined wealth of about $24,000.  While it is unknown why this condition was added, it is probably related to James role as his children's trustee and his lack of personal wealth.

In 1890 James and Agnes Martin moved the family to Agnes' parents "Springbank"  farm west of Orillia, leaving Aunt Betsy with her children and grandchildren on the Mimico property.  James paid $5000 to his father-in-law, William Harvie, for the Orillia property. William took back a mortgage of $3750.  The title to the land was registered in the name of James Martin, et. al., so it is reasonable to assume that he used his children's trust money, despite the direction in his father's will.  James died February 15, 1896 at forty-eight years of age in the midst of this kerfuffle.  Eight days later, a Bargain and Sale Agreement was drawn up for Mary E. Martin and Florence E. Martin, being of the age of majority, to sell their shares of the farm to their step-mother, Agnes Martin, for $1.00.  The sale was registered March 5, 1896.  The other children did the same on May 4, 1918.  Upon her death on January 28, 1943, Agnes bequeathed the farm back to her three sons still living there, John Harvie Allan Martin, Robert Macmillan Martin and James Ward Martin.  On his death in 1976, Mac (the last survivor of that group) returned Springbank Farm by will to the families of the other beneficiaries of the 1887 trust, Edna, William, and Dolly.  Springbank Farm had been in Agnes' family since 1829, and descendants continued on there until 2004.         Agnes' parents (William and Elizabeth Harvie) cohabited with the Martin family at Springbank until their respective deaths in 1909 and 1895.  That yielded a cramped household (including a hired man) of twelve people.   It may also have included Agnes' unmarried younger sisters Barbara (who did not marry) and Mary (who married in 1899).

In 1888, James prepared a will with the help of the Mulock, Tilt, Miller law firm of Toronto, which was not modified before his death in 1896  - he left all his  personal property to his wife.  There was no mention in the will of disposition of real property, even though he held his children's Mimico property in trust and in spite of his father's directive in his will.  Is this an indication that, contrary to his father's instructions in his will, James knew then that he would be selling the Mimico property shortly and hence there was no need for real property disposition in his will?

In March 1890, James prepared an unsecured agreement to sell the Mimico property (that is, his children's inheritance) to the Mimico Real Estate and Security Company (a land development company of Toronto and Philadelphia manufacturers) for $28,000 - an unfathomable 450% increase since the listing of the property in his father's probate application in October 1887.  The agreement of sale was subject to the approval of the High Court.  The Court made a number of changes, presumably to protect James' children and his Aunt Betsy - one, it directed that the Mimico house and one acre of surrounding land be separated from the sale agreement and that the severed property be retained by the Martins; and two, the Court also changed the bargain and sale agreement to a sale subject to a mortgage.  The payment terms were as follows: $5000 without interest upon approval by the Court, $5000 payable November 1, 1890 without interest and five consecutive yearly payments of $3600 (at 5% interest) due November 1.  The Court added that all moneys were to be paid into the Martin Trust being held by the Court.  James therefore realized none of the money personally from the sale of the Mimico property, and effective control of the trust was taken from him.  (It is the family's speculation that James was planning to "convert" his children's inheritance from land into cash.  Invested cash would generate income interest which would be necessary to maintain his considerable family.  Also, any value above a sale price of $6000 (as listed in William's probate application made by James) could be used by James as it would not be part of his father's estate.  As far as we know, James had no income or assets of his own, as he had always lived with his father and apparently did not work).

        See link   for a description of the Mimico Real Estate and Security Company.  See link   for New Toronto Mimico Plan 1890 that included the Martin Mimico property.

There is some indication that this agreement was in trouble as early as March 1893 - in a letter to Alexander Keith (of the Mimico Real Estate and Security Company, purchasers of his land), James explains why he did not drop in to see Alexander on his most recent visit to Toronto, quashing speculation on Alexander's part that James' lawyer had advised James not to see Keith.  The reason a lawyer might advise that would be to create some distance between the two, distance warranted by a clouding business environment.  That the agreement was in serious trouble was confirmed in a letter from Keith to Martin, dated January 1895, where Keith proposed new terms (longer payout period) and asked Martin to withdraw his court petition for specific performance of the deal, as it was causing the development company "problems".  Those exchanges must have been the result of posturing on James' part, since he no longer had the authority to do any of those things.  The deal was dead by late 1895, with the company being declared insolvent in 1897 (when an economic depression hit central Canada and suppressed the demand for new industrial lands like those planned for New Toronto) and, because of the form of the mortgage, unlike other land sellers in the area neither James nor the Public Trustee could repossess his father's farm for his children.  The development company was in bankruptcy the next year, although a restructured investor did go ahead with the New Toronto industrial lands project early in the new century.  However, the Martin land, less the house and surrounding acre, was lost to James and his family.  The final dollar value of the children's inherence is open to debate.  The $6000 cash was most likely spent by James.  Of the Mimico property they might have realized $5000 up front, $5000 November 1, 1890  and two yearly payments of $3600 (1891, 1892) before the deal fell through, plus $1000 for the sale of the Mimico house, for a total of $18,200 (compared to the $34,200 value it had in 1890).  However, we also know that widowed Agnes Martin, with approval of the Court, was withdrawing an unknown amount of money from the trust fund for the purpose of raising her family.  The trust fund was ultimately shared by eight children.  Those children's use of their inheritance money was modest, which suggests that they received a small amount of it.  Edna went to a ladies' finishing school and to nursing school, Minnie went to a ladies' finishing school, Ward bought a Model T Ford, Allan went to business college, Agnes bought a Heintzman piano, and Mac bought a swamp.

Aunt Betsy and her extended family continued to live in the Martin Mimico farmhouse.  See link Aerial Map for an aerial picture of the Martin Mimico house around 1905-1910 (white building left of centre).  She died in 1905, and her daughter, Elizabeth Martin Rice and her husband James (a carpenter) bought the house from the Martins, William's grandchildren.  Aunt Betsy's death would have had the legal effect of releasing the Martins from one of the provisions of William Martin's will - namely the support of Aunt Betsy for the duration of her life.  It is probably no coincidence that subsequent to her death (and that of the eldest trust beneficiary Minnie, also in 1905), there was a debate within the Martin family about selling the Mimico property - whether to sell the property at all (instead, wait for it to appreciate in value), whether to sell it to Cousin Elizabeth (Lizzy) Rice (Aunt Betsy's daughter) as either a 'sweetheart' deal (recognizing all Aunt Betsy did to take care of the Martin children) or at its full worth (to maximize its value as part of a trust fund).  That the property was part of the original assets in the grandchildren's trust probably accounts for it having to go to the courts for adjudication, where its sale to Cousin Lizzie Rice for $1000 was approved.  Three of the Martin beneficiaries, William, Edna and Dolly wanted to sell the property to their Rice cousins while the youngest four plus Minnie's widower (Dr. William Mahood of Sioux City, Iowa) did not want to sell it that way.  The provincial Official Guardian represented the under-age-of-majority children.  Aunt Betsy's great-grandchildren, the Boyers of Detroit, Michigan, continued to visit the Martins in Orillia into the mid-twentieth century, and took sight-seeing trips with them on the Muskoka Lakes steamers and to see the Dionne quintuplets in Calendar, Ontario.  In 1921, Elizabeth sold the property to William Baycroft for $9000, who transformed it into a funeral home.  Thus ended the Martin years in Mimico.

In 1947 William Baycroft sold the property to the Ridleys who eventually tore down the old structure and built a new funeral home on the site in 1972,  where it stands today (2010) at 3080 Lakeshore Boulevard West.  See link Ridley Funeral Home  for pictures of the Martin Mimico house in 1921.

More can be learned about the Orillia phase of the family's life (1890-2004) from F.W. Harvie, The Harvies of Orillia (St. Catherines, Ontario: Lincoln Graphics, 1977) especially pages 145-156.  There is one living descendant in the fifth Canadian generation of the family, six in the sixth generation, and six in the seventh generation.

Although William Martin's granddaughter-in-law, Eva Anderson Martin, later spent about fifty years at Jane Street and Bloor Street (Toronto), his great-grandson William Martin and family later spent about thirty years at Islington Avenue and Bloor Street (Toronto), and his great-great grandson Blaine Baker currently lives at Royal York Road and Lakeshore Boulevard in Mimico.

         The existing family knew the bare bones of this story, including most of the relevant names and dates, and could have written a one-page version of it a couple of years ago.  But many of the details and a couple of key elements had been forgotten or suppressed.  It grew to its current length comparatively quickly, primarily on the basis of readily available government records.  This family left a big public footprint, mostly because of controversial, inter-generational wealth transfers.  They also moved people and things around quickly and regularly over the course of a couple of generations.  It is hard to know how representative of their time and place they were in that respect, but the family seems to have compensated for it by adopting a more-or-less sedentary and introverted lifestyle in the succeeding generations.  International syndicates of industrialists, public trustees, official guardians, chancery courts, continental economic depressions, provincial land expropriators intent on creating insane asylums, ten and twelve children families, and trans-Atlantic immigrations have not generally been part of the daily lives of these people's descendants.

James Duncan Martin, with the assistance of Blaine Baker
Great Great Grandsons of William Martin
November 2010

William Martin
born about 1816
died 20 Jan 1874
Alexander Martin
died 1878
Mary Scott Martin
William Martin's wife
James Martin
Son of William Martin
Mary Scott
Agnes Harvie
wife of James Martin
Elizabeth McLean
"Aunt Betsie"
wife of Alexander Martin