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“[Lieutenant Governor John Graves] Simcoe’s greatest achievement as a road builder was also planned to serve military purposes, but in serving those objectives it also provided the impetus for settlement of Simcoe County. In planning to build Yonge Street, Simcoe was looking for a short cut to Georgian Bay, the jumping off point for the most western British fur trading post at Michilimackinac, where lakes Michigan and Huron meet. Such a land link between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe would then allow easy access to Georgian Bay via water and would avoid a much longer water passage on Lakes Erie and Huron. Writing to secretary of State Henry Dundas in October, 1793, Simcoe advised that ‘I have ascertained by a Route hitherto unknown but to some Indian Hunters, that there is an easy Portage between York and the Waters which fall into Lake Huron of not more than thirty miles in extent, and through a County perfectly suited for agricultural Purposes.’

By the time he wrote the letter in October, Simcoe was already on his way with a group of soldiers, surveyors and Native guides to follow the old Carrying Place Trail north from the mouth of the Humber River to Lake Simcoe (originally named Lac aux Claies by the French and renamed by Simcoe after his father, although some say after himself). This route followed the marshy areas along the Holland River and did not meet Simcoe’s expectations but on the return trip to York he found the route that his new military highway would take: south from Holland Landing, via Bond Lake and the branches of the Don River. According to military tradition, the 33-mile (53 km) road was carved through the bush in a straight line from York to Holland Landing.

Surveying and clearing started at Holland Landing early in 1794 but Simcoe had to send his work crews, his Queen’s Rangers, to Niagara in 1795 to meet the threat of an American attack, and the project was delayed. The road was completed by February of 1796, after Simcoe contracted with renowned surveyor August Jones to get it finished. He also relied on assistance from each settler along the route, who was required to clear six acres of land within a year and provide some road building labour. Simcoe also had convicted petty criminals removing tree stumps. The ‘Stump Act’ of 1800 would formalize the practice of using convicts, alcohol offenders mostly, to remove stumps on public road projects.

As was typical, as soon as it was built maintenance became an issue for the new link to the northern districts. On its completion it was a stretch to call Yonge Street a road, with many stumps not removed and sections sinking in the marshy areas. Trees, brush and other construction debris remained unburned. There was no public money to maintain the road and no early settlers on the route to do the work for free.”

– Robert Bradford, Keeping Ontario Moving: The History of Roads and Road Building in Ontario. Toronto: Ontario Road Builder’s Association, pp. 13-14.

Image: Titus Hibbert Ware, “Corduroy Road Over a Swamp in Orillia Township, Ontario.“  September 1844. Pen & brown & blue inks, grey wash, over pencil.

Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Room, M 1-17.

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“Fifteen Years’ Imprisonment,” Toronto Globe. November 11, 1918. Page 09.

Stiff Sentence Is Imposed Upon Giovanni di Francesco

Two Others Announced

Giovanni di Francesco, found guilty of manslaughter in connection with the death of Dominic Zangarie, whom he admitted killing on a plea of self-defense, was on Saturday sentenced by Mr. Justice Riddell to fifteen years’ imprisonment.

William Nicholls, who pleaded guilty of doing grievous bodily harm to Martha Hassal, was sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary. Nicholls had been released on parole from penitentiary, where he was serving a term of two years for housebreaking. The unexpired term will run concurrently with his ten-year sentence. As the prisoner left the dock, his young wife, who was sitting in the court, on failing to attract his attention, fainted, and had to be carried out.

Everett Struit, who was charged with Nicholls, and whom the jury found guilty of attempting to do bodily harm to Martha Hassal, was sentenced to eighteen months in the Ontario Reformatory.

Two Years for Pearsall
William Pearsall, found guilty of criminal negligence arising out of the death of Joseph Hughes, who was killed when the car which Pearsall was driving turned over on Danforth avenue last July, was sentenced to two months [sic] in the penitentiary.

In announcing the sentence, his Lordship declared that the driving of motor cars by men under the influence of liquor must stop. ‘It is bad enough,’ he continued, ‘to be at the mercy of those naturally reckless or too young to be in charge of motors without having men under the influence of liquor driving through our streets. You were guilty of manslaughter, but I am not going to whack the jury over your shoulders because of their mistaken clemency.’

‘There is no law that allows a man to drive fifteen miles an hour,’ said Mr. Justice Riddell Saturday, on postponing sentence on Norman Cowie for a week in order that more inquiries might be made. ‘The law says he must not exceed fifteen miles an hour, but in some cases that is too fast. Auto drivers must think.’

Cowie was found guilty of criminal negligence in connection with the death of Sarah Livingstone, who was run down and killed by his motor car.

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“Two Mercer Escapees Nabbed In Hamilton,” The Globe and Mail. October 19, 1948. Page 05.

While crews of police cruisers searched the King St. W. vicinity of Mercer reformatory yesterday, two escaping women inmates calmly took a streetcar to the western city limits.

There, an obliging motorist, not noticing their white institutional smocks, drove them to the Humber River approach to the Queen Elizabeth Highway.

A cache of clothing, believed by police have been arranged by friends, enabled the escaping women to rid themselves of the reformatory apparel. A second motorist picked them up and took them to Hamilton, where, less than three hours after their escape, they were arrested.

The two, Camille Dinwoodle, 38, of Toronto, and Audrey Greenfield, 27, of Hamilton, were detailed yesterday afternoon to move garbage. They moved the garbage out and kept going. The matron saw them heading for freedom, gave chase and lost them. The pair clambered over a fence to railway tracks and escaped down the right-of-way.

While police searched, the couple took a streetcar to Sunnyside. Two rides later, they were in Hamilton at Mulberry and Railway Streets where detectives, alerted by Toronto police, picked them up.

‘Where did you get those coats?’ Hamilton police asked the women. They got no satisfactory answer. They will be returned to Toronto today.
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Hamilton, October 18 (Staff). – Whether they objected to putting out the garbage or whether they wanted to see the profusion of autumn color along Hamilton’s Mountain, Camille Dinwoodle and Audrey Greenfield didn’t say when they were picked up.

Det.-Sgts. Clarence Preston and Orrie Young, informed of the girls’ escape by radio, were cruising in the Mulberry St. area when Det.-Sgt. Preston, who knew one of the girls, saw them. They made no attempt to escape when approached by the police officers.

They were lodged in Barton St. Jail, and will be returned to Mercer tomorrow.

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“10 Years in Jail Escapee’s Price For 13 Free Days,” The Globe and Mail. October 8, 1948. Page 05.

In 13 days, David Cameron, 24, committed offences which netted him a prison term of 10 years. Magistrate Thomas Elmore sentenced Cameron yesterday for the latter’s armed robbery of a taxi-driver; breaking into a service station; attempted break-in of a second station; carrying an offensive weapon, and escaping from Burwash reformatory.

Cameron was given the 10-year-term for his robbery of taxi-driver John Kusian. Terms on the other charges against Cameron were made concurrent. The 10-year sentence will be consecutive to a three-months term the accused is now serving for a conviction registered in May.

Cameron escaped from Burwash Reformatory in September. The total sentence, which included the concurrent terms, amounted to 17 years.

‘You have had seven previous convictions before all this,’ His Worship told Cameron. ‘It is fortunate that no one has been injured.’

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“Escaped from Burwash; Sent To Kingston,” Ottawa Standard. October 8, 1918.

Two Young Men Start Early on Downward Career.

Sentences of two years in Kingston penitentiary were meted out to two young men, Joseph Claro and Norman G. Williams, who pleaded guilty in Tuesday’s police court to escaping from Burwash Industrial Farm. The two seemed thoroughly repentant for their action, but the court thought that their chances for parole would be better at Kingston than at the institution they had just left.

Young in Crime
Norman Williams is but 20 years of age. He was sentenced at Toronto to serve a term for the theft of an automobile. On the 24th of September he escaped from custody and when caught was taken back with just a warning. On October 4th, he escaped again in company of Joseph Claro, alias Joseph Cleroux. This man has a bad record, with a previous term at the penitentiary, time in local jails and a reform school, and a lengthy sentence at Burwash ahead before his elopment. He and Williams escaped from the Industrial Farm, made their way along the rail line, evading the guards searching for them, and absconding with a motor car in Copper Cliff….
[damage in original]
….consecutively with the sentences they were serving.

‘Notwithstanding your youthfulness you are dangerous characters to be at large, and if I send you to Kingston Penitentiary I think they will be able to help you there,’ Magistrate Askwith declared.

Their recapture Tuesday afternoon was effected by Inspector Joliet and his squad after an exciting chase through New Edinburgh. Shots were fired by the detectives.

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“Youth Leaves Jail To Work Out Fine,” The Globe and Mail. October 7, 1948. Page 02.

At the request of Major Alec MacMillan of the Salvation Army, 16-year-old Terry Smith of Sackville St. was released from Don Jail Tuesday night. Terry, convicted of ill-treating a kitten, was unable to pay a $50 fine, and was sentenced to 10 days in jail by Magistrate Thomas Elmore.

Major MacMillan said Terry was a ‘good boy,’ and would work to raise money to meet the $50 fine.
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“Faces Sentence In Taxi Robbery,”

The Globe and Mail. October 7, 1948. Page 02.


David Cameron, 24, will be sentenced today by Magistrate Thomas Elmore after being convicted yesterday of robbing taxi driver John Kusian about two weeks ago. Kusian charged that Cameron had placed a butcher knife against his back and robbed him of $16.

Cameron faces sentence on four additional charges; Breaking into a service station on Fleet St., possession of an offensive weapon, attempted break-in of a second service station on Front St., and escape from Burwash Reformatory.

Cameron, 24 years old, escaped from reformatory on Sept. 9, and was said to have committed all the misdemeanors since the date. He pleaded guilty to all except the armed robbery charge.

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“Jail Farm ‘Trusty’ Beaten Up on Street,” Toronto Globe. September 8, 1916. Page 06.

Hendry Rodebar, 94 ½ Front Street east, a ‘trusty’ at the Jail Farm, was brutally beaten last night on Front street east by Timothy Kelly, 18 Milne street, who was a prisoner on the farm while Rodebar was serving his term. Constable Jarvis came upon Kelly, who was ‘putting the boots’ to Rodebar in the most approved waterfront fashion, to the apparent satisfaction of lodgers from the ten-cent bed-houses. Rodebar is alleged to have talked too freely to the prison officials when he was on the farm.

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