The focus of this website is on memorials in educational institutions in Toronto, however, from time to time we come across memorials in unusual places making them difficult for researchers to find. Some are also threatened. The scope of the For King and Country has expanded slightly to bring a few of these strays into the fold.
Aura Lee Club (ALC-CL)
Location: 205 Avenue Road, Toronto, Ontario M5R 2J3 (east side of Avenue Road; north of Davenport Road; south of Roxborough Street West)
NOTE: The six-character postal code—a system gradually introduced across Canada beginning in April 1971—would not have been used during the time of the club’s existence, but helps to pinpoint the location for today’s readers. From the 1840s to the 1890s, Yorkville Brick Yard operated here. Ramsden Park, one of the city’s oldest and largest green spaces, stretches behind the commercial buildings on this part of Avenue Road over to Yonge Street.
Pre-1998 municipality: Toronto
Type of organization: Men’s Club—Camping, Sports, Literary Pursuits, Bible Study, and Social
Started as a summer camping group, the club took its name from “Aura Lee,” a song popular during the American Civil War, and adopted as the club song. (Elvis Presley used the same tune in his 1955 hit “Love Me Tender.”) The first camping trips to Lake Joseph, District of Muskoka, were followed by hundreds of further explorations of lakes and rivers, especially in northern Ontario. Club president, James Edmund Jones (“the Chief”) recommended “the best possible” maps for these ventures (especially if no local guide was available) such as Sir Wm. Logan’s maps published in 1857—noting, “There is a copy in Toronto Public Library and in the Parliamentary Library at Ottawa. Toronto survey maps may be purchased or traced at the Legislative Buildings, Toronto.” Jones’ book on camping advertised two Toronto sources for camping materials: Rice Lewis & Sons Limited, Sportsmen’s Requirements, corner of King and Victoria streets, and Marshall’s Maps of the Muskoka Lakes and the Lakes of Ontario, sold by Michie & Co., Grocers and Dealers in Camping Supplies, 7 King Street west. Michie & Co. also offered “a number of charts not for sale, but we cheerfully place the information they contain at the disposal of our customers.” Club members sometimes travelled across Aura Lee Lake in Algonquin Park, but we have found no reference connecting the name of the lake with the name of the club. A Tom Thomson painting—Aura Lee Lake, Spring 1916—is now owned by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario.
1903: Athletic club formed—first composed of members of a Bible Class at the Church of the Redeemer (Anglican) at Bloor Street and Avenue Road. A deed of trust stated that the religious branch of the club was to be in connection with the Church of England in Canada. Liquor, gambling, and blasphemous language were not allowed. The annual fee for active members was five dollars. Members were proposed and seconded in writing. The Literary Society trained members as speakers for Sunday afternoons. Members’ friends were welcomed. Cricket was played on rented grounds until almost three acres (1.214 hectares) of land were bought near the corner of Avenue Road and Roxborough Street. On Thanksgiving Day, a group of “boys” began digging a drain to convert an existing ash heap and duck pond into an athletic park.
1904 Jan 27: In spite of a snowstorm, the “school room” of Church of the Redeemer attracted a crowd for a fundraising evening of “songs, choruses, minstrel entertainment, dialogues, etc.” and a debate by four members of the Aura Lee Literary and Debating Club. The issue: Resolved, that the most satisfactory solution of the liquor problem is to take the traffic out of the hands of private individuals, as has been done in Sweden under the Gotenburg system. The affirmatives won. In time, more than six thousand dollars was raised for leveling the grounds; building fences, shelters, and a rink.
1906 Dec 2: The “new wing” of the clubhouse opened by Dillon Wallace. (Phone number: North 3560.)
World War I (1914-1918): See below under “Memorials transcribed” for a description of a privately owned memorial to sixty-three Aura Lee members who died. See also our October 5th, 2016 blog post: A Memorial Mystery—Solved. https://torontofamilyhistory.org/kingandcountry
1907 Feb 9: In the social and personal section of the Star, the club advertised an “at-home” to be held the following day.
1916-1925: Many references to the club appeared in the sports pages of local papers, especially about Aura Lee’s hockey teams which competed in the Ontario Hockey Association. (Their home rink was Arena Gardens—also known as the Mutual Street Arena.) The junior team won the OHA championships in 1916, 1917, 1922, and 1925; twice won the Eastern Canadian championship in 1922 and 1925. They played local schools such as Harbord High School and De La Salle Academy, but also competed against the Hamilton Rowing Club, the Berlin (later Kitchener) Union Jacks, the Iroquois Falls Paper Makers, and many more. (There were references to elimination “playdowns” rather than playoffs.)
1925 Apr 9: The burden of taxes and increasing maintenance costs forced the club to close. Aura Lee trustees presented the Avenue Road property deed to the governors of the University of Toronto. Formal transfer and a public ceremony of recognition to follow. The Aura Lee grounds would provide a “sorely needed” athletic field for the pupil of the University Schools, who were expected to carry on the Aura Lee motto of clean sportsmanship. Many UTS students had been members of the club. Of the 63 members who died during the Great War, 13 had been UTS students.
1925 Apr 27: The last annual general meeting of the club was held at the home of Robert Parker, 26 Lowther Avenue. Financial affairs wound up. There was no discussion about the transfer of the club property to the University of Toronto—presumably because of the arrangements made on April 9.
1934: Reunion of Aura Lee Old Boys’ Reunion at the Carls-Rite (formerly the Grand Union) Hotel, Front Street West at Simcoe Street.
1967 June 7: Norman A. Keys, Q.C. “one of the surviving old-timers who with pick and shovel helped to level-out the grounds of the old Aura Lee Club” suggested in a letter to the Globe and Mail, “It would be a nice tribute to the many Aura Lee members who served in the First and Second World Wars if this fragment of the Ramsden Park could be called Aura Lee Park.” (As the club had closed before the Second World War, presumably Mr. Keys was referring to former members who kept in touch after 1925.)
1968: Use of the former Aura Lee grounds by the University of Toronto Schools ended.
1975 Nov 1: Unveiling of a plaque to go with a Ramsden Park fountain in the area formerly known as the Aura Lee Club. The family of Magistrate and Mrs. James Edmund Jones and the University of Toronto Old Boys’ Association had placed the fountain. Mr. Jones had died in 1939; his daughter Mabyn (Jones) Topp unveiled the plaque. Canon Owen Pritchard, rector of the Church of the Redeemer, dedicated the fountain.
Aura Lee Club Year Book 1906 [Toronto s.n. 1906?] 19 p. ill. (Includes names and addresses of members.)
The Aura Lee Gazette. Toronto: Aura Lee Club Vol. 1, no. 1 (May 1904)-v.2, no.2 (May 1905). Available at Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Toronto Star; Globe and Mail. (Used to find numerous articles.)
The Society Blue Book, Toronto, A Social Directory 1920. Dau’s Blue Books., 1920. The directory lists 86 Toronto clubs for this year.
Jones, James Edmund. Camping and Canoeing: What to Take, How to Travel, How to Cook, and Where to Go.Toronto: William Briggs, 1903. 154 p.; ill.
Sandor, Steven. Illustrated Guide to Hockey Sites & History. (The Hockey History and Sites Series) Toronto: Heritage House, 2007. 158 p.; ill.
ALC-CL-a: (WWI) Bronze. 1914 / 1918 / “Our Comrades / Who / sixty-three in all / “Played the game” / Even unto death / “Their lives they risked and gave / Very soul of life to save / And by their own great valor / And the grace of God they won.” (quote from) John Oxenham. Two columns; given names followed by surnames. One name (William B. Yuille) is centered below the two columns.
New Toronto Soldiers’ Comforts Association (NEW-AS)
During World War I, many communities formed associations to send goods to their troops. The New Toronto Soldiers’ Comforts Association sent thousands of parcels overseas. Lists of donors appeared in the Toronto Star during and after the war’s end. Examples of comforts arranged: electric fans; scrim curtains; toothpaste; toothbrushes; shaving materials; playing cards; cigarettes; chocolate; socks. At war’s end, the association used $800 cash left over to construct a fountain as a permanent memorial to those in their community who died on active service.
We have tracked the various locations of this memorial as follows:
On June 3, 1920 the fountain was unveiled at its first location—the southwest corner of Lake Shore Road and Eighth Street—outside the Brown Building. The Brown Building, surrounded by a stone wall, housed various municipal offices and the jail. (The building has since been torn down.) Eight hundred people attended the unveiling by Mrs. Edward Janes, president of the local association. Rev. A.S. Madill of St. Margaret’s Anglican Church said of the men, “They proved themselves worthy of the great British stock from which they sprang.” Rev. Harold Toye of Century Methodist Church offered a prayer of dedication. A.E. Boyer, president of the local branch of the G.W.V.A. thanked the women. Wives and relatives of the fallen were given a place of honour at the gathering; two New Toronto Boy Scout troops formed a cordon around the fountain. The New Toronto Brass Band played national and martial airs, and “God Save the King.”
The fountain then moved—we believe—to Rotary Park, at the bottom of the hill between Eleventh and Tenth streets, on the Lake Ontario shoreline. It was closer to Eleventh Street; south of the Rotary club house; north of a small zoo that was by the hillside under the homes on Eleventh Street.
The fountain was moved again—or possibly stored—at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 3, Seventh Street, on the east side, north of Birmingham Street. In the 1960s, this was the marshalling area for Remembrance Day parades, and poppy distribution. The parades began with the local Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, and Air and Sea Cadets. At this time, there was also a large concrete cenotaph at the New Toronto Town Hall, in the remains of the Fifth Street School; north-west corner of Fifth and Birmingham streets.
The fountain and cenotaph next appeared at the new site of Branch 3 Legion on the southwest corner of Birmingham and Eighth streets, when the Seventh Street building was torn down to make way for the Islington Avenue extension.
The fountain is now located (since about 2016) at Flight Lieutenant David Hornell, VC Legion, Branch 643, on Judson Street, Etobicoke.
Website: www.newtorontosoldiers.blogspot.com (Michael Harrison has done detailed research on Great War soldiers of New Toronto. We highly recommend this site.)
Memorial described: NEW-AS-a (WWI): The fountain is about seven feet (2.134 metres) high; weighs 626 pounds. One plate bears the names of those who died. Another plate is inscribed: Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. The third plate reads: In memory of those who fell in the Great War. Erected by the New Toronto Soldiers’ Comforts Association. Descriptions of the original dedication appeared in the Toronto Daily Star—June 3 and June 4, 1920. Recollections of the subsequent moves provided by Sharon Kettlewell Stewart of Mimico, and Martha Jackson, of Etobicoke.
Wesley Mimico United (Methodist) Church (MMU-CH)
Location—historic building: 2 Station Road, Etobicoke, Ontario, M8V 2P9 (corner of Station Road and Mimico Avenue—which is south of the Queensway, and runs east off Royal York Road)
Location—administration centre: 2405 Lakeshore Boulevard West, Unit 405, Etobicoke, Ontario, M8V 1C5
Alternate or former names: Wesley Methodist Church, Mimico; St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church; Wesley United Church, Mimico
Pre-1998 municipality: Etobicoke
Type of church: United; (before 1925 union) Wesleyan Methodist; Presbyterian
Listed under the Ontario Heritage Act, but not yet designated under the act, the future of this Norman-Gothic building is currently (2018) uncertain. The congregation meets in Mimico Centennial Library, 47 Station Road, and sometimes pairs with Martin Luther Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2379 Lake Shore Boulevard West, especially for community outreach activities. We do not know where the war memorials (WWI and WWII) are held, but have used photographs to index the names for our website.
1862: Property acquired for a Methodist church to be built on Church Street (now Royal York Road) across the street from the old Mimico school house. Circuit ministers had served earlier Methodists. Some of the main family names were: Hendry; English; Gauld.
1864: Church building completed.
1890: A manse was built on the south side of Mimico, east of Wheatfield Road.
1922: The church became too small, and was sold to the Town of Mimico for municipal offices and council chambers. The new “Station Road church” was designed by architect Charles Batstone Horwood and his son Eric Horwood, both members of the congregation when at their summer estate on Mimico Beach.
1925: Church union of Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists.
1927: The new united congregation used the Station Road building. Presbyterians who chose to stay out of the union revived the Mimico Presbyterian Church, and used the old Presbyterian Church building at the corner of Mimico Avenue and Church Street (later Royal York Road).
1953: Addition extended the building closer to Mimico Avenue.
1964: Centennial of the former Methodist segment of the congregation. A published parish history included a history of the Presbyterian segment.
2012: Celebration of 150th anniversary. Plans were already underway to demolish the building—except for the tower—and replace it with a residence for seniors. Declining membership and the changing demographics of Mimico had forced this decision.
2013 Apr: Application made to Etobicoke York Community Council for the adaptive re-use of the heritage church building for a new worship space, community uses, and 30 seniors’ apartments.
2016 Jan 30: Wesley Mimico Place, a senior-life ownership condo, was expected to take over the building, but the plan fell through. The more than $580,000. raised from government and church sources was not enough to carry the project.
2017 Jan 1: Building sold to a Montessori school. Although the stained-glass windows were a part of the heritage designation. and of the sale, they were apparently removed before the school took over.
Published history: The Story of Wesley-Mimico 1864-1964.The United Church of Canada
MMU-CH-a: (WWI): Framed illuminated list. Black and white photo in gold-coloured oval—with banner above reading: King George V. The photo is between two coloured, stylized flags. Heading: Mimico Methodist Church / Roll of Honour. Two columns; random order; given names followed by surnames. No key. Red stick-on stars apparently indicate those who died.
MMU-CH-b: (WWII): Illuminated list designed by A.J. Casson “For King and Country / Member of / Wesley United Church, Mimico / Who have volunteered for active service / with / Canada’s fighting forces. Four columns. Alphabetical order. Surnames followed by given names or initials. Key: a black cross indicates: Killed in Action; a red square indicates: Missing. List does not indicate which war, but the presence of a World War I memorial, women’s names, and the use of an A.J. Casson document, indicate World War II.